April 18, 2011

5 ways to make your blog appealing

We are giving here 5 important points you must keep in mind so as to make your blog appealing and also eminently functional. We'll talk about the visual appeal of the blog, leaving the content aspects for some other post.
We also give snapshots of some blogs whose design we found out of the ordinary in their visual appeal.

a simple, matter of fact, news blog
1. Choose a template that suits your type of blog.
All major free blog services give a variety of templates to suit different types of tastes and needs. Taste can be your personal preference, but when applying a particular template to your blog, you need to care about what suits the blog as much as your personal preference. The same style won’t suit a dance blog, a cookery blog, a news blog and a medical blog. Also go for colors and color-schemes that will go will with your blog.

As a broad rule,
(i) for blogs on films, dance and music, personalities, photography, etc use a template that can accommodate stylish background images, big photos, videos and social networking elements;
a borad format news blog
with big slide show

(ii) for blogs on very serious topics such as research, use a template that has a broad column for text and another narrow one for links;
(iii) for blogs that target interaction and online discussions, use a template that looks more like forums – place to introduce the subject and drop-down display of comments on display;
(iv) for news and current affairs blogs, use a simple style that can display posts prominently and has an archive display that shows a large number of old posts chronologically and also a list of posts based on labels/tags;
(v) if you are a young person and your viewers are of your age group, do make your blog ‘funky’ by all means, but not to the extent that it hinders reading or navigation. Remember that a blog is for communication, not for confusing people. Also remember that being experimental and being scatterbrain are two different things;
(vi) for very personal musings, use a background that reflects your mood in general.

2. Use photos, sketches and video, and use them creatively.
text brilliantly separated
from other elements
Use photos and use them creatively: look at photos in all the posts that will show up in your homepage as one beautiful album, rather than looking at photos individually only. Unless you have a serious blog, use photos copiously – they reflect your mood, emphasise the emotions in the accompanying text, give context to information, guide the reader into the post. 
Why not use photos or paintings or forests, flowers, rain, fire, sea, river, waterfall, destruction, rising or setting sun, full moon, shadows, abstract art... to emphasise the mood of your poem, short story or musing?

During our survey of the Indian blogosphere, we found that many bloggers stuff their blogs with photos too big for their columns, and sometimes they copy photos from the web without caring for copyright.

Do not use long photos on blogs unless there is a purpose, such as a special photo on a photo blog. Even if you need to use a long photo, take care that the viewer does not have to scroll the screen for seeing the photo in full.

Give a nice caption to each photo even if you feel the photo does not need a caption.

Drawings and paintings, pencil portraits and cartoons make excellent visual elements on websites, but only when they are used sparingly and when they serve a special purpose.

lively header, neat columns
Giving a clickable video on the homepage is a good idea if the video communicates better than words and photos. For example, nothing can beat a video, even of passable quality, on your personal blog than the first steps of your baby or your receiving an award or an important speech of yours. But remember, video can slow down the blog. Videos are also likely to distract the viewer’s eye from other equally important items on the blog.

For posting your own photos and videos rather than linking those available on the net, you need to host them on the web. There are a number of sites on the internet that allow free hosting of content.

update: We've carried a number of posts giving tips on different aspects of images in blogs; you can see them all by clicking on this link.]

3. Arrange elements well.
Consider elements on the blog as the items in your drawing room.
flower decor around the
architecture blog

In an earlier post, we have given three designs that suit blogs very well. Do follow them when applying a style on your blog.

Do not clutter the blog with numerous elements. Keep an element because it goes well with the blog, not because you found it free on the web. Each element must also serve a purpose. Do you keep bed-pillows, bath tub and tooth-brushes in your drawing room even if they are the best in the world; if not, why do that in a blog?

big slide show,
posts arranged in photo blocks
Group elements or keep them separate depending upon their nature. For example, keep social networking elements together. Keep Adsense or other advertisements where they suit the best and do not irritate the viewer.

4. Give relief to the reader’s eyes.
Write text that is big enough for reading, especially when there is a lot of text on the blog. Keep the font  especially big if the blog is for old or visually challenged people.

Play with font type, size and colour, but only to the extent it suits the style of your blog.
good photo, 
header in solid background

5. Be distinct in style.
Use distinct styles rather than depending on the templates given free by the blog service provider [ Blogger, Wordpress, Livejournal]. If you cannot design one yourself, you can use free templates made available by good Samaritans on the web. However, before choosing such a template, remember that you might not be able to expand functionality on or modify these templates later unless you know some html / xml.

Even when you use the basic styles given by the service provider, there is scope for experimentation, especially with margins, background photos or colour schemes, header photo and lettering, display of comments, etc. There are a number of ‘hacking’ sites that guide bloggers on how to add new features on the blog. We give a word of caution, as always, here too: (i) use these ‘hacks’ only if they are essential and suit your blog, and (ii) back up your blog before applying a ‘hack’ so that if something unwanted happens, you can revert to your old blog.
title on one side can add style
a distinct visual personality
playing with columns and background