How to Clean Up Your Blog and Make it More User Friendly

{Not a blogger? Scroll to the bottom of this post and help us bloggers out by sharing your thoughts and answering a couple of questions.}

When I am consulting for blog designs, one the the most frequent requests is to help “clean up” the blog layout. If you’re a regular visitor, you may notice that I’ve recently made some changes to my own blog over the past few days in an effort to make my blog more clean, streamlined and user friendly.

Blog design is just like interior design. It’s subjective – Everyone has their own personal taste. But there are things you can do to optimize your reader’s experience when they visit your blog. I mean, you want someone to stick around when they visit you for the first time, right?

We all know that content is King, but if your blog is too cluttered, no one will even see it.

Here are a few changes I’ve made to help make my blog more user friendly and reduce visual clutter.

1. LIMIT THE BUTTONS IN YOUR SIDEBAR and POSTS

I can’t tell you how many times I visit a blog and there are thirty buttons cluttering the sidebar. Not only is this not visually appealing, it creates a slower load time for your blog. Place buttons from your favorite blogs in a separate page or post, and link to it from your menu bar or sidebar.

This goes for party posts as well. You may have a huge list of linky parties that you like to join in when you can, but if you don’t link up to each of those parties on a regular basis, consider just placing text links or buttons only for the parties you link up that particular post to. If you prefer to use the party buttons, use this tutorial from Gwenny Penny during the Beginner Blogger Series last spring to help streamline the buttons in your post.

2. CREATE A GALLERY OF YOUR FAVORITE PROJECTS or RECIPES

When someone new visits your blog, whether through a Google search, or Pinterest, or from a linky party, they obviously stopped by because you offered something they were looking for. Make it easy for them to explore your blog by offering a gallery of your favorite or most popular posts and projects.

If you look at my menu bar, you will see that I have links for “Projects” and “Recipes.” Each of these links leads to a static page with an image gallery.

If you have a linky subscription, this is pretty easy to do by just creating a private list of your own links. (This is the way I did it).

However, if you don’t have a linky account, you can use this tutorial I found at Laura’s Crafty Life to create your own project gallery, then link to them from your menu bar or sidebar.

This would also be a great way to replace the labels cloud you may have in you sidebar. (Ask yourself – Do I ever use those when I visit a blog?)

3. HELP YOUR READERS FIND YOUR MOST RECENT POSTS

Some readers only stop by once a week, or even just a few times a month. What??? Make sure they don’t miss a thing by adding a recent posts widget.

I’ve added a recent posts widget to the top of my posts. I’m really excited because I’ve been wanting to add this for a while and I finally found a great (and super easy) tutorial at Blogger Plugins. I love this because it allows visitors to see what they’ve missed if they’ve been away for a few days, and it shows photos from the posts rather than just a link list like the Blogger Archives gadget.

4. CONDENSE GADGETS IN A TABBED WIDGET

This is my other favorite thing about my blog right now! Placing all of those gadgets in your sidebar, it can sure get cluttered up quickly. 
I contained my Email subscription, search bar, and buttons all in one this gadget so they’re no longer taking up so much prime real estate in my sidebar. You can contain up to four gadgets in this box. That frees up a ton of space!
Tutorial found at Blogger Sentral.
5. ENCOURAGE COMMENTS BY MAKING IT EASY

Please, please, please do not require me to decipher a bunch of skewed letters in order to comment on your blog. I really, really want to leave you nice comments, but half the time it takes me three or four tries to get the letters right, and by then, I’ll probably just leave. Posts and tutorials on how to do this have been written on countless blogs, but Shannon at Fox Hollow Cottage says it best. (click the image below to be taken to the post).

6. LIMIT CUSTOM FONT USAGE

There are tons of cute and fun (and FREE) fonts out there. I mean, just looking at dafont.com makes my head spin. But it’s not necessary to use all of them on your blog, or in your header & menu bar. It becomes crazy busy with all of that to look at, and the eyes don’t know where to focus. Also, be sure to include white space. Trust me, white space is your friend!

source

Consider limiting to two or three fonts in your header, sidebar, buttons, etc. In general, the most complimentary font combinations are one serif and one non-serif font. (Examples of serif fonts are Times New Roman, Garamond, Trajon Pro; Sans Serif fonts are Ariel, Tahoma, Impact). With fancy, swirly and handwritten fonts, you would want to pair them up with something a little more modest. Basically you want complimentary but contrasting fonts rather than fonts that look similar.

Also, when it comes to the fonts in your posts, research has shown that sans serif fonts (Ariel, Tahoma, Verdana) are easier to read online, and serif fonts (Times, Garamond, Trajon) in print.
7. MAKE IT EASY FOR ME TO CONTACT AND LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU

Sometimes when I’m inspired by a particular post, I want to ask a question or share something personal that I’d rather not leave in the comments. But I need a way to do that. Place a link to your email in your sidebar, or better yet, your menu bar.

You could also add it in your About Me page. What, you don’t have one? Create a page that I can easily find so I can read more about you, your likes, why you blog, and what your favorite Starbucks drink is.

I’m working on updating mine, but you can find it here: About Me (Kristin, Simply Klassic)

8. LOOK AT THE BLOGS YOU LOVE, then LOOK AT YOUR OWN BLOG

How often do you really LOOK at your own blog? I mean, you look at other blogs all the time, right? Take some time to really look at the design and layouts of your favorite blogs and see what truly appeals to you. Take notes. Bookmark (oh my, am I dating myself?), I mean PIN your favorite designs. Then when you are ready for a new design, you can show your ideas to your designer, or take those inspirations and design for yourself.

(Remember, if you’re in the market for a new design, I’m your girl! I will be taking a break during the holidays but am currently placing inquiries on a wait list for January 2013)

I hope that you found some of these ideas helpful, and I’d love your feedback.

What, besides content, makes a blog stand out to you, especially on your first visit? (good or bad)
Is it the general overall design, or is there something specific?

Is there anything that really bugs you about a blog’s design, or are you able to focus solely on the content?


(Please refrain from referencing specific blogs in your answers. Thank you!)


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Kristin

Kristin

Owner at Yellow Bliss Road
Hi! I'm Kristin and I'm the creative mind behind Yellow Bliss Road, where you'll find tons of recipes, free printables, and a little decor and DIY thrown in for good measure. Life can be complicated, so I am all about simplifying wherever I can - from food to decor to DIY - because I believe that it doesn't have to be elaborate or extravagant to be amazing. I am a single adoptive mom with a daughter in Preschool and a son in Kindergarten. My kids are a handful, I'm exhausted and most days my house is a mess - and I'm okay with that!
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