Most blog platforms come with some basic blog designs. They may call them templates or themes or something similar, and usually they are not bad although some customization is pretty common. I often see some common mistakes, and hopefully you will be able to avoid them after this discussion.
1) Include an “about me” page or at very least have information about you in your sidebar. Make it prominent and make it truly about you, not some resume-like page.
If people find your blog and like what you have to say, they’re going to want to know something about you.
2) Have contact information easily visible: an email or maybe even a phone number. Your email can be displayed as a graphic to prevent spammers from harvesting it easily. You can always use a different address than your main address if you like. You could use a throw away address such as a yahoo or a hotmail address.
Visible contact information will make you seem more real and although people may occasionally contact you, it will be far less often than you might think.
Robert Scoble, one of the more popular bloggers on the planet, has his phone number listed and he doesn’t get that many calls. I have my number listed also, and I might have somebody call me every two or three months. When it’s that infrequent, it’s a pleasure to talk to somebody who has taken the initiative to reach out to you.
3) Include a picture of yourself. Blogs are personal, even business blogs, and people who visit yours will want to know what you look like. It’s also easier to built trust if your picture is visible. No, you don’t absolutely need a picture, but it’s strongly recommended. Sometimes people might think you are hiding something if you don’t have one.
4) Some of your blog posts are going to be much more popular than others (you may be surprised which ones they are). I call these your classic hits.
Don’t bury your classic hits, your most popular blog posts. Highlight them somehow. You might for example have a most popular posts section in the sidebar. That’s what I have, a most popular post section and I list my most popular posts based on the ones that are read the most.
Other people do it slightly differently. For example, Brian Clark at copyblogger.com has a “Popular Articles” in his sidebar and under that he lists his most popular blog posts. Yaro Starak, on his blog Entrepreneurs-Journey, calls his most popular blog posts “Popular Articles” and lists them at the very top.
Somehow or another highlight them. You might do something as simple as create a category called “most popular” and include popular blog posts in that category.
5) Don’t have a blog banner that is too big! The banner is the top portion of your blog that goes across the top. It might have a picture of you there, the name of the blog, perhaps some graphic — they vary quite a bit.
You don’t want your banner to be big. No one should need to scroll down to see your content. People decide really quickly when they first reach a Web Site, and that includes blogs, whether to read orleave.
6) Make sure your blog is visually appealing or at least not ugly.
Avoid bright colors. Stick to reasonable fonts like Times New Roman and Arial. Have someone with a good eye look at your blog, preferably a graphic designer. Everytime I start a blog and I’ve started dozens for myself, for friends, and for clients, I always get a graphic designer to at least look at it after I am done.
The problem is that it might look OK to you or me, probably neither having a particularly good eye nor appropriate training, but it still might look really ugly to others. Having a graphic designer take a quick look at it is good insurance.
7) Remove any random junk you have from your sidebar that serves no purpose.
Some blogs are just so busy: they have one, two, sometimes three sidebars just crammed full of all kinds of stuff. With some of it you wonder why is it there. What purpose does this serve? Now in my opinion calendars are a prime offender. What good is a calendar there? Some people like them, but to me they serve no purpose.
Empty space in a blog is not only allowable, but it’s a good thing. It helps focus eyes on what is important, which is your content and hopefully the few things you choose to put in your sidebar.
Most blogs start with a basic template which is then customized over time. These tips will hopefully help you that with customization and help you avoid common mistakes with blog design.