We’ve heard the old guidelines a million times: large, beautiful images, minimal copy, and at least a few hyperlinks to other websites. To acquire blog readers, you must create a perfect storm of great, relevant content with a headline that’s interesting enough to warrant a click—in other words, a compelling post.
In a world where online readers don’t have the time or patience for your blog, you want to make them have time and patience for your blog, because it’s important. However, no matter how important it is, if it’s difficult to read visually? They’ll navigate away in a nanosecond.
This means that when you begin to write a blog, visual readability must be a priority. The font needs to big enough, columns should allow for 10-15 words per line, the lines should be spaced widely, and the screen should be as high contrast as possible. Fonts should be kept to a minimum (no Helvetica + Times New Roman + Comic Sans, trust me on this one), and the screen shouldn’t be cluttered.
Be purposeful about your banner ads, email subscription popups, and click-throughs to affiliate websites if those are something you’re including. An engaging, visually appealing design that makes your posts easy to read can make a huge difference in web traffic (not to mention, SEO). Marketing blog Distilled notes that “making readability the primary focus of our blog will result in measurably higher engagement (time on site, pages per visit) and sharing will increase such that we will see an increase in visitors to the blog as a whole.”
However, a visually stimulating blog is nothing without good copy. If the article is not interesting or relevant, no amount of good design will save the day. Take Inc. Magazine, for example. It is one of my favorite daily reads; they have fantastic, engaging content, but their site design is, frankly, horrific. The bright pink banner ads covering every piece of space that isn’t filled with content, the tiny words and large bolded words, the difficulty scrolling down the page and a not particularly clear indication of the menu.
It’s a visual nightmare in an age where online readers hope to see large images, white pages, crisp fonts, and simple, clever, accessible design. However, I still read it if the article is right. They use outstanding writers that transfer the print feeling of Inc.’s publication online tremendously well. On the other hand, lifestyle blogger Oh Joy! does everything on her blog that Inc. doesn’t. She has a simple logo, large, gorgeous images, a small search menu so that content is easy to find, and social media-friendly, pinnable links.
What’s the happy medium here? How can you drive traffic to your blog (and in turn, to your website and your online store or wherever your goals may lie) without spending an unrealistic amount of time on it? If you don’t have a designer dedicated to your blog, constant updates may not be financially feasible, so work from the outset to create a clean, sustainable design that’s easy to read and won’t require frequent updates.
In terms of visual readability and good copy, the most beautiful blog in the world can’t drive users without the content to match it. I’d say that in a very close race, good copy comes out ahead. However, do your copy justice! Make your blog a place that people want to visit because it’s a pleasant, useful experience.