The Basics of Blogging - Appearance is Important (Well, When You're a Blog, Anyway) - CookieBreak Skip to content

The Basics of Blogging – Appearance is Important (Well, When You’re a Blog, Anyway)

Happy Tuesday, friends and familiars! <3 Are you surprised to see me pop back into your mailbox again? I know these posts are supposed to be bi-weekly, but the 5th seemed far too early to call that it for the year. So, here’s another one 🙂

Whatever your reason for blogging, your site will be seen by people. If you’re not okay with that, you may want to stick to a good old notebook diary, because once your blog is live, people will be able to find it. Not including keywords and not optimising your SEO doesn’t mean you’re invisible to the rest of the interwebs. Someone will find you.*

Chances are, though, you want your visitors to come back, turn into readers, and hit that follow button. To achieve that, your blog needs to be easy to navigate and easy to look at.

*Insert creepy music.

Your blog is your little corner on the internet, true enough. But you won’t be the only one reading it, and if you want visitors to come back, what you blog about needs to be easy to read. Your favourite colours might be lavender and pink, but your post’s font is not the right place for creative freedom.

*

I get what you’re saying. It’s your blog, you should be able to do whatever you want. And if pink writing on a green background is what you want, then your readers should be cool with that.

But, friends, while your blog is your blog, it’s not just your blog.** You’ve chosen to put something out there, in a place where anyone anywhere can view what you’ve created. When you’re just starting out or have created your blog as a fun experiment, you might not care so much, but if you’re serious and want to treat blogging as a potential business***, your blog’s appearance needs to appeal to the majority, not the rainbow-barfing minority.

*  Every time I load this post, I think this is an error message. I should probably have chosen different colours.
** Wow, girl, have some tea, that’s confusing af oO
*** Or even just as an interesting place where your readership can grow! You don’t need to shoot for a paying business right away–or ever. In that regard, you do you.

I don’t mean in-post links, like this: *ahem* Did you know I’ve written and published two books? Check them out here. *ahem*

No, I mean links to all your other sites, like your Instagram and Twitter profiles.

When someone reads a post you’ve written, they might just like it enough that they want to connect with you elsewhere. But chances are they won’t search your blog for ages (or at all, if we’re being honest) just to find your social media links. So they need to be easy to spot, and easier to follow. On CookieBreak, you can find my links in a number of places, so no matter where you are you can easily follow me around the social media-verse.

But, I hear you say again, can’t I just search for your name on Twitter or Instagram?

Sure you can! With my name that’s easy enough to do, because I use my actual name across all social media platforms. But not everyone does that. Someone might use their business as their Twitter handle, for example, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It’s also perfectly reasonable if you don’t want to try several names hoping to find the right one.

And if you think you found the right one, how do you know it really is the right profile? What if it doesn’t say in the site’s bio? What if you don’t know the blogger well enough to recognise them in their profile photo, which may well be different to the picture on their blog?*

It’s so much easier to just give your readers links where they can find them. Like, on the left or right-hand side of your blog. Or under every blog post.

Or wherever you want, really, as long as it’s easy to spot and your visitors don’t have to go hunting for them.

* I feel another post might be in order…

Your blog might have an About Me page, a Subscribe page for your newsletter, or a Get in Touch page where your readers can contact you privately, but having all that is no good if your readers can’t find it. May sound logical, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve found a blog I liked, only to struggle to find its pages. Often when that happens they’re hidden away in the top right (sometimes top left) corner behind three little dots which blend in so freaking well I didn’t even see them right away.

It’s off-putting, friends. My blog catch-up list is growing constantly, so I’m not likely to add any blogs to that list if I can’t navigate them easily.

Most blog templates allow you to have a bar for all your pages either at the top or on the site. Mine are on the left.

Do that.

Hiding them away might make your blog look tidier, but if you can’t include your pages, what can you include? Show them off, friends. Besides, they’re part of your blog’s content. And that’s what you want to show your readers, isn’t it?

A static front page (I have one, take a look!) isn’t a must. You don’t need to have one, especially if your blog is young and hasn’t seen its first snow.

More importantly, don’t set a static front page for the sake of having one, or because you think it makes you look more professional. If it doesn’t add anything or helps your readers in some way, you don’t need it.

At the moment, my front page shows my most recent book release, its links to Amazon and Goodreads, its reviews on Goodreads you guys can scroll through, and my short bio. Come January, I want to change a few things, but what I have now still makes sense as a front page. It’s not there just because.

This doesn’t happen often, but every now and again I come across a blog that has no clear way for me to follow it. No subscribe button. No follow-with-your-email button. Not even a handy Follow button.

At the start of this year, I moved my blog from WordPress to a self-hosted site which means I no longer get the handy Follow button, because that’s a WordPress thing and CookieBreak is no longer a WordPress blog. But I still have an easy option to follow my posts on the left-hand side.

Following your blog shouldn’t be difficult. If someone enjoys your content enough that they want to follow you, it should be easy.

I already talked about this a little bit last week, when we looked at how often you should post. While I focused on individual blog posts then, it applies to your whole blog, too.

If your personality is bright and cheerful, then there’s no reason why your blog can’t reflect that.* If you love pink, then you can absolutely have a light pink background! Not in your posts, but on your blog–I have a very mild yellow.

I do recommend you stick to light colours because they’re easier on the eyes, but really it depends on your blog. If you sell punk rock clothes and you’re known for a bright pink theme, then that might suit your blog a lot better than pale pink!

In regards to being professional… That’s a topic deserving of its own post, I think. Watch out for that in January–for now, just remember to be polite and yourself 🙂

*Just not in your font colours.

Don’t post about your dinner on Monday, rant about your parents on Tuesday, moan about having too much to do on Wednesday, post a book review on Thursday, and then post gardening tips on Friday. It’s confusing and your readers won’t know what your blog is about. If you want people to come back, it needs to be clear what you want to say.

CookieBreak is about my books and writing, so that’s what you find here. If I wanted to write a post on parenting while working full-time*, this wouldn’t be the right platform for it.

If you have a good reason for writing out of your usual niche, exceptions can be made. Perhaps you’ve been absent because mental health issues have been making it difficult? You could blog about how to juggle your area of expertise and your health concerns while explaining while you’ve been gone a while.

*Not that I’m in any way qualified to write a post on parenting while working full-time. My only child is my cat, and my day job is part-time.

No one wants to read large chunks of text. Break up your posts into several paragraphs (I believe the usual recommendation is no more than two or three lines per paragraph, but don’t quote me on that), and fit in a picture or two if you can. Better yet, take the pictures yourself–that way, you don’t need to worry about copyright infringements!

I know I could do better on this, so one of my CookieBreak New Year’s resolutions* is to include more images. The banners I have now break it up just fine, but a bit of colour can’t hurt, you know?

That doesn’t mean, however, that having more images than text is a good idea. You need to get the balance right. One picture every two-four paragraphs is enough.

*oh, don’t roll your eyes at me.

Speaking of images, I love a post with a gif or two. My all-time favourite review for my debut novel had gifs, and it works so beautifully. Take a look <3

Gifs are also a good way to get your point across. Said review is a better example than anything I could give you, so just go check that out 😉

I gave CookieBreak a huge make-over only a couple of months ago in January*, and I can already think of a few changes I’ll be making in the new year. I want my front page to show off what you can find here, for one. Yes, I’m an author and you can learn all about my books here, but you can find other things here, too, and right now my front page doesn’t reflect that.

I have a list with a few other changes I want to make, too.

As your blog attracts more readers and grows, chances are the design you started with isn’t cutting it anymore. There are no secret algorithms determining this, by the way–if you feel your blog needs a makeover, take out your best make-up and go nuts. Browse new layouts. Play with colours**. Work on it until you’re happy.

You can review your blog once or twice a year and make changes then, or you can do it whenever you feel your site needs it. Completely up to you.

* Wait, it’s December? January is almost a year ago? WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN
** Within reason, of course. No pink on red, remember?

And there you have it! Have you got anything to add to this list? Any questions? Did you find it easy to find a style for your blog, or were you trying several options before finding the one? Pour yourself a tea, have a cookie, and talk to me 🙂


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All gifs came from giphy.

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Published inA Writer's Musings

One Comment

  1. Good tips there Sarina, I’ll make sure I keep this handy 🙂

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