August 2, 2011

Is the best content of your blog in these 10 inches?

Updated in November 2015.

What is the most important part of any website


The posts, the title bar, the post headers, the colorful theme with cute caricatures that you applied to the blog recently, the next-gen animation , the scroll…? The powerful text that keeps your blog apart from others? The comments that your friends make on your posts? What's that you like the most about your blog?

Yes, all these are important; the content, the widgets, the design, interactivity, the landing page, advertisements, social buttons. One consideration, however, is of utmost importance whatever you think beyond content / widgets etc. It is the top 10 inches of space on your blog – the part of your blog that shows up when people open it in their browser. It tells the world who and what you are. To your regular visitors, it is your ‘Nice to see you again’ placard; to a stranger, it’s ‘Hi, welcome. Meet your friend’ poster. 

When you open a blog, what you see at first on the screen is the top of the webpage. [They call it 'above the fold' in newspapers.] You need to scroll down to see the elements that do not show up in the top frame. Isn't it? Yet, when we review blogs, we find that most bloggers pay no heed to this single most important aspect of website designing.

Remember the placard thing we said above? If you show the placard/ poster but do not immediately tell the visitors what is on offer on your blog, they will pass by. If as a seller/ friend/ service provider you tell them your offer but ask them to climb stairs to reach your door, they’d prefer to go to the shop/ house/ dormitory that is in front of them without the need to climb stairs. In the case of websites, they’d do so without blinking, as the next door in the www is just a click away.

So, what are we arriving at? We are repeating what we said before, so that you don't miss the point.

In simple terms, you need to showcase your best in those top few inches of screen space. People will scroll down if they want to, but you cannot force them. Even if they love your blog, they will feel irritated every time they need to scroll down the page to find the gem they need to see.

A proper design does not necessarily mean a riot of colors and flowers and animations – though in some cases, these might be suited the best. In all cases, the design has to be appropriate for the type of blog, writing style and content, and visitors’ profile. [That explains why we have given weightage also to design in our blog ranking.]

What’s the most appropriate website design for the top 10 inches?


The design of the top 10" has to be effective in showcasing your most important assets. For this to happen, the top of the blog must have (a) a well-composed title, (b) pithy description of the blog [should also serve SEO], and (c) an appropriate background for the title space, blog, posts and widgets. It should not be too bland in case of fun blogs and too gaudy in case of very serious blogs. The entire space should look balanced and should not be upset when the posts change. It should not look cluttered. It is even better if you can place a menu-bar with main categories shown below the title.

The title space should brand your blog and the rest of the space should reinforce the brand with content and visuals.

One or more posts must show up in the top 10 inches. At least the post title(s), and a text passage or an eye-catching graphic/ photo or video.

example of a simple blog design
A simple top design
What about the sidebar(s)? You need to put latest posts, latest comments, a label list or some other content that presents some of the most important resources in the blog. 
website and blog design
The most viewed parts 
of a blog

If your blog has more than two columns, put the more important elements in the left sidebar. Generally, instead of putting external links there, keep your own links [e.g. label list] in the left column. 

We have put on the linked post an attention map of websites. It tells us which areas of a website are looked at by surfers more than other areas. Notice that the top, center and left of the top 10 inches of a website/ blog invite the most attention.
blog design
Top 10" of a blog 
with low functionality

Do not waste these 10 inches in a huge title bar that only shows a graphic and the title. Don’t waste the side space on widgets that hardly add value to the blog. Look at the blog on the left and decide for yourself whether this rather colorful blog - with its big title photo, the cute animation strip,  the large video and external links - is any effective in instant communication with visitors. [Obviously, we dare not link this site even after changing its title.]

design of a news blog
A simple news blog
Look at this simple blog on news and analysis. It wins with its simplicity and is very effective in giving a glimpse of its analysis and its archives.

Look at the blogs of top bloggers. You will find that they usually have simple designs. Even when they need to have many widgets, they accommodate the most important ones in the top 10 inches. Why blogs, do look at professional websites. If they are colorful and experimental, there must be some purpose that outweighs other considerations. In any case, no professional website would embellish the blog at the cost of functionality.

A rather extreme example of showing the best on the homepage is websites just as wide and tall as a small screen. In some cases, they have just a welcome message or a big photo or slideshow on the entire page (another extreme) and in some, they fill it up with many links. Such website design, in our considered opinion, is not normal and should be used when it is seen to serve some specific purpose (e.g. announcing release of a new car).

You create the blog or website with love and your heart (and of course, head) into it. But you must not let its design hide what it must show upfront. Good use of top ten inches of the website is one of the best and natural SEO practices that are very effective.