Creative people should be sales people because design is a function of selling. -Duan Coetzee
Imagine for a moment that you are about to walk into a really important business meeting at a corporate office in New York City. This meeting is the epitome of professional, and you’ve taken great strides to look the part.
However, when you arrive at the meeting, you notice that one of the attendees – someone who you know to have really great ideas – is dressed in cargo shorts, flip flops and a hoodie.
Amidst the suits and high heels, he looks totally out of place. And even though he has great ideas and is really smart, no one takes him seriously. All because of the way he looks.
Why Design is (Almost) as Important as the Words
Whatever people say – appearance DOES matter.
It might not seem fair, but it’s realistic. Appearance matters, and the way you present yourself can really make or break a big meeting, job interview, or whatever you might be vying for.
And while this issue of an underdressed professional can easily be solved with new clothes, the same scenario can be applied to the blog posts you post on your website.
You can have the best ideas, the greatest content, but if it’s not presented efficiently or designed well, no one is going to read what you have to say.
Again, not entirely fair, but definitely realistic.
In order to give your content the best possible chance of being read, you need to focus on the design. Design counts. And great design helps convert.
Here are some of the key blog post design elements you should consider:
Good design is a lot like clear thinking made visual. -Edward Tufte
The Headline –
It’s been said that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline of your blog post, but only 2 out of 10 will continue reading on to the actual meat of the content. This means that you really have to grab your readers’ attention quickly, and hold on to it tightly!
Now obviously, one of the main ways of doing this is to WRITE a catchy, attention grabbing headline that really stands out.
But the other way of course is to pay attention to its DESIGN. So don’t just rely on the WordPress headline (it’s not very interesting). Why not create a graphic or a banner? That’s precisely what we do at SLICE--we use Canva to make great headline banners that often can even ‘double’ as Facebook ads if we decide to send paid traffic to the post.
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to design, is that people no longer read like they used to; instead they simply skim looking for the general gist of an article. That’s why how your words are placed on paper are so incredibly important.
One of your best friends in playing the ‘Skimming Game’ are subheads. Subheads by their very nature split the text into ‘chunks’, making the text much easier to read.
Think of a subhead as a lighthouse. They break up the ‘shoreline’ allowing people to navigate through the text, understand quickly what the content has to say and highlight the most important points in a quick glance. .
Whatever people say – appearance DOES matter.
People are visual by nature, our brains process visual content 60,000 times faster than regular text content. It kind of just makes sense to include some images in your blog post!
Plus images--like subheads-- help to break up the text a bit and draw your readers’ eyes further down the page.
Images are one of the easiest and most powerful elements in your design toolbox.
However, use them sparingly...and select them wisely.
Avoid boring ‘we’ve seen it a thousand times before’ stock photography.
Look for unique, original images that highlight the point of your blog post rather than detract from it.
White Space –
Take a cue from Google whose home page has always been completely empty.
White is powerful.
Contain the natural human tendency to crowd.
Make sure there is (lots and lots) of white space everywhere--on the sides and tops and bottoms of sentences, paragraphs, headlines, graphs and images.
Your content should not feel like a 6 o’clock traffic jam but a relaxing country road.
Bullet Points and Lists –
Bullet points are kissing cousins with subheads when it comes to being your blog’s best design friend.
Bullets help pull out key points and really kelp the reader skim. It draws the reader’s eyes through the text, breaking down the content into manageable chunks.
Color Contrast –
Once again (like with fonts) a word of caution. Color can be used to great effect but you also don’t want to go crazy. Too many wild, bold colors will distract the reader. Strategically placed colors however will attract the readers’ eyes to any information you want to highlight.
Short Paragraphs –
Long, flowing paragraphs might work for an essay or college paper, but large blocks of text really don’t convert well on the web. Attention spans are short, and there are a lot of things to distract your readers from actually reading a lengthy paragraph through to the end. Make your content easier for them to digest by ignoring the traditional rules of English, and incorporating short paragraphs – even as short as one sentence at times!
What is the ONE mistake everyone makes with their blogs?
Links that Stand Out –
Instead of using text like “click here” to link to related content within your post, try actually using real words that are interesting to your readers to link. For example, instead of saying “click here to learn more about headlines” you could just naturally include a link in a regular sentence, like “Writing catchy headlines (LINK) is simple when you learn the correct formula.”
Social Media Share Buttons –
Make it easy for your readers to share your posts by including social media share buttons and ‘click to tweet’ invitations which include surprising facts or contentious ideas.
To get a better idea of these ideas in action, why not get inspired by two awesome blogs whose great content is matched with superb design.
- Images – Take a look at the images and how they are incorporated within each blog post. You’ll notice that they really help break up the content and enhance the text content.
- Headlines– As you scroll down the home page, the headlines of the blog's posts really stick out. They’re interesting, and likely will make you want to click to read more.
- Short Paragraphs and Lists – You’ll also notice that there aren’t a lot of long paragraphs, but instead quite a few short ones and even some bullet point lists. This, as we’ve mentioned, helps to break up the content and increases readability.
- White Space-This beautiful blog doesn’t feel crowded; all the white space makes it feel elegant and premium.
- Images – The images are well integrated and really represent the story that this company is trying to tell throughout their website. They’re interesting and break up the content nicely. They also range from photos to graphics to charts which makes the content more engaging and complete.
- A Cohesive Brand – You’ll notice that everything on the site really flows and all the branding matches well. This is important for not only readability, but also for brand recognition in general.
- Easy to Skim – All the important thing are easy to find and everything is broken up well into sections, which make the entire site really easy to skim, yet not miss out on the critical details.
What can you do to make sure your blog post is read?
To wrap it all up, just remember that the appearance of your blog matters just as much as the actual text – you’re going to go through a lot of effort to write something brilliant, so you might as well take the time to make its look equally compelling.