Chadtennant.com has come a long way in less than a year. My traffic and affiliate income are steadily increasing, and my writing skills have improved significantly (Thanks, Grammarly!). I’ve received several compliments on my site’s design for its simplicity and easy readability, which encourages readers to return. I owe my site’s evolution to a focus on continuous improvement and want to highlight several ideas to help improve your blog and user experiences.
What the #%$!?
Some bloggers make it difficult to understand what’s going on upon arrival to their sites. Their themes and value propositions are unclear and ill stated. A new visitor to your site should be able to figure out your topic(s) within 60 seconds. Any longer and the visitor may go elsewhere or return to search results.
Using the tagline field in WordPress (Settings > General), I state “Online Business // Personal Finance // Lifestyle Design” in the top half of my homepage. This makes it fairly obvious what my site is about which is also supported by H1 meta tags and category listings at the bottom of every page. As a result, a new visitor to my blog can quickly surmise that I discuss online business development, making money online, personal finance, lifestyle design, and related topics.
Is your blog suffering from menubarasitis? Menubarasitis is the condition of having more than one menu bar. In rare cases, webmasters provide visitors with three menu bars to navigate their sites. All kidding aside, one main menu bar is all you need as more than one causes confusion and moments of click paralysis for the visitor. If you decide to use two menu bars, perhaps labeling a tab as “Start Here” will offset any uncertainty.
Similarly, too many sidebar widgets create unnecessary distractions. Your blog’s focus should be on value-added content first and promotions second. I made a revolutionary decision to eliminate sidebars altogether, but I still appreciate the money they can generate and value they can offer. Two to four active widgets are enough, and they don’t all need to be banner or affiliate ads. For instance, widget #1 bio, #2 social media buttons, #3 advertisements, and #4 categories. Also, the placement of too many ads may send the wrong impression and turn visitors away for good.
Five to ten categories are sufficient. Too few doesn’t make sense and too many will create categoryasitis which is a distance relative of menubarasities. Remember, your goal is to make it easy for visitors to navigate your site and find what they want.
Your posts are the bread and butter of your blog, so you do want to give a lot of thought to them ongoing. My goal is not to overwhelm or underwhelm readers, but to strike a balance between value and ascetics.
Avoid creating dreaded walls of text. Rather, break up your content into small and easily digestible chunks or paragraphs. After I complete a post, I review it to ensure large blocks of text are eliminated. Sometimes I have to change or add content, but the revision is worth it to enhance readability. Furthermore, use brief headings to introduce different sections and thoughts in your posts. This helps the reader to process information and scan for what they’re looking for.
Images and videos are alive and well. While I see many websites incorporating images, something is left to be desired on the video side. My strategy is to publish a post then recycle the content into a video for YouTube. Then, I’ll embed said video into the post so that visitors can read and watch as per their preferences. However, I don’t do this all the time; only when the video will compliment the post and when the topic has high viewership potential on YouTube.
Flat graphics, images, and design are here to stay. According to Wikipedia “Flat design is a style of interface design emphasizing minimum use of stylistic elements that give the illusion of three dimensions (such as the use of drop shadows, gradients or textures and is focused on a minimalist use of simple elements, typography and flat colors. Designers may prefer flat design because it allows interface designs to be more streamlined and efficient. It is easier to quickly convey information while still looking visually appealing and approachable.”
I purchased a flat icon set of 315 images from Creative Market, and for free flat graphics, you can visit freepick.com. I like the seamless look of flat images. Also, I focus on adding affiliate banners that offer the same integrated appearance. Conversely, in-your-face banners are out of style, for example, three-dimensional blinking banners. Try to avoid these unless your conversion rates suggest otherwise.
Ensure your site is fluid and consistent from one page to the next. To some degree, a visitor should know what to expect regarding your site’s layout as she navigates through it. For instance, as you browse my posts, you’ll notice that my banners and images are similar in design, typography is consistent as well as how content is displayed. I’ve removed having to reorientate from page to page.
Nothing is more important to the longevity of your blog than capturing email addresses and growing a list of subscribers. I wrote about my one-two punch in using Thrive Themes and AWeber which is proving successful. A faux pas I often come across is the utilization and implementation of too many opt-in forms. Furthermore, I’m seeing a reluctance to invest in premium lead capture plugins with thousands of folks sticking with the dull and boring WordPress plugins, for example, SumoMe and Mail Munch. If your blog is a vital part of your business activities, invest in it. Visually appealing opt-in forms will convert better than the opposite (Left – SumoMe, Right – Thrive Leads).
Yes, you want to have multiple opt-in forms strategically placed throughout your site, but you don’t want to bombard your readers nor do you want to seem desperate. I use scroll mat, footer, and exit intent opt-in forms for a total of three. Also, I feature a “Join In” tab exclusively for opt-in purposes and have a few post-specific forms. Any more than what I have could ruin the user’s experience.
Tens of thousands of webmasters are still not using responsive sites. Responsive sites adapt to a user’s device, for instance, laptops versus smartphones versus tablets. If your blog is not responsive, it will lead to frustrating user experiences. For example, having to continually swipe to read a paragraph since it stays static across mobile devices. Hundreds of free and paid WordPress themes have been created with responsiveness in mind. Also, you can learn about mobile responsive WordPress plugins here.
Designing your blog isn’t a one-time event; it’s an ongoing activity to discover and implement best practices. It’s also critical to base your design decisions on click metrics where possible. I encourage you to stay up-to-date with site design and marketing trends and to keep tabs on your competitors for ideas.