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!
Kristin
Kristin
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Comments

  1. says

    I agree with Kristen, the flashing things do get old also the word verification. I have been on 5 blogs, new to me, this past week and all had the verification on, honestly I don’t mind doing it but when I do and it keeps coming back that I’m doing it wrong when I know I’m right well, it sure gets on the nerves.lol

  2. says

    Thanks Kristin! You know I love my blog’s design (duh), but there’s lots that can be done to streamline it too. Especially adding the projects/recipes page – I think that’s the most annoying thing about a blog I like is when I can’t search or find other great projects from the same person. I’ll be bookmarking this page for when I have time to fix my blog up!

  3. says

    Thank you so much for all of this great advice. As soon as my son gets out of class, I am going to send him right to this post and have him do some updating for me. (haha) I told you that I am not very computer savvy.

    You are a great help and smart lady. Thanks.

  4. says

    Y’all know my blog needs lots and lots of work! gonna read this over and over until I can figure out how to do it! LOL – now you can tell folks you’re teaching an old dog new tricks!

  5. says

    You have such an amazing talent and I love that you share a wealth of information with your readers. Precise easy steps on how to have a wonderful blog! Especially for us gals who happen to be among your loved friends you help us tremendously with your talented skills.

    Great post I loved it!
    Your magic is working and I will probably end up giving in to FB and Pinterest OY!

    xoxo
    Kate

  6. says

    For me? I am super turned off by when I reach a blog and I can’t read the whole post at one time – like if there’s a graphic and I need to click to read more. That super bugs me. Especially when the part I can read is a picture and it doesn’t describe what I’m going to see after the jump.

    I love blogs with lots of white space and where the writer seems passionate about what they do, but real at the same time. Like someone you could be friends with, you know?

  7. says

    Me too… I hate blogs that require me to Click Here to read the rest of the post. My other pet peeve is blogs that take too long to load.

    As for the word verification, is there another way to keep spammers from trying to flood the comments on my blog? I had wv turned off for awhile but I spent all day moderating those spam comments.

  8. says

    I am totally pinning this! Not for myself (someone made me a GREAT webpage), but for all these bloggers who need a little help!

    And I am digging that Recent Posts widget… I think I’ll be adding that baby tonight!

  9. says

    I think we can get too wordy.

    Less is more.

    Spacing makes for easy-reading.

    Bold certain things that you want to hightlight.

    Be yourself.

    I’m a beginner and don’t get very many comments. That’s discouraging because I don’t know if people are reading.

    Either way, I LOOOVE your blog. Follow you daily and on FB.

  10. says

    I like to see a date on blog posts so that I know straight away if something mentioned (or offered) in the post is still current and relevant. I’m finding new blogs a lot through Pinterest, but of course you can land anywhere, anywhen.

    Glenda

  11. says

    Sometimes I think my blog is ‘too clean’ and because I’m so new and the other blogs I follow and love have all this bright text or buttons or links in their sidebars I felt like I needed to as well. Now I just don’t know what to do. lol

  12. says

    You are so sweet to share this info with all of us and although I am going to try playing with my blog tonight I know that I am going to have to call you the beginning of the year to make my page all pretty. LOL.

    Personally I just don’t like when I am reading and the video/pop up keeps blocking my space. I don’t think that everyone has control over it b/c of their ads. So while I don’t like it, I do understand it.

  13. says

    Great post Kristin! I totally agree with all of your ideas. So…now I am wanting a little bloggy makeover. Let me know as soon as you are open again for business! For your Recent Posts, when I try to add the widget it is all over the place. How did you get your along the top and all lined up? Have a great weekend!
    Jenn :)

  14. says

    Great tips! I went to my blog twice while reading to fix things. Thanks so much! I am totally drawn to how visually appealing a blog is–your update is really nice. I am looking for a way to respond to comments (on Blogger) so that my reply goes on the blog and to the commenter’s email. Any ideas?

  15. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for all these great tips! I’m constantly looking for tutorials and tips on blog design. I’ve switched over to WordPress, and I’m wondering if you know how (or where I could find a tutorial) on making a tabbed widget similar to yours for WordPress? I’ve been wondering for a long time how they do that! Thanks again.

  16. says

    Great post, Kirstin! I think many of your suggestions I’ve been searching out to find and I love the resources you’ve given. Thank you. I know that many say not to clutter your sidebar with pictures, but one of the problems with that is bounce rate. I have found that if I keep large pictures on my sidebar of more interesting posts, as soon as someone comes over they will stay longer and visit more pages – putting my bounce rate SUPER low and amount of pages go up. So, even though it probably LOOKS nicer to have less on there, I’ve decided to put more to increase my pageviews :) I really like freeing up more space, though, with the plugins that you have shared so I’m going to use some of those!

    It is SO refreshing to see others stay with Blogger, too. I often feel so much pressure to switch to WP and it’s so much more costly in so many ways. I LOVE that there are more and more ways to make Blogger look more professional and look like a WP platform without cost or having to hire an IT person to make my every move :)

    Becky B.
    http://www.organizingmadefun.com
    Organizing Made Fun

  17. says

    Kristin,

    Thanks for this post. Makes me want to look at some things I could do to simplify my blog. I am really taken with the tabbed widgetse you use. Unfortunately, I have a self hosted blog, so I doubt the instructions would work for me. I hope that I could find some way of doing this without doing a lot of coding. I have pinned your post and will come back to it. Also, am going to Follow you.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

  18. says

    These are all great tips! Thank you for linking to my image gallery tutorial! I found a link to this post on Pinterest. One thing I can add when designing your blog is to load it in all of the web browsers – in particular Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Firefox. My blog looked great in Google Chrome (the browser I use myself), however, when I looked at it in Internet Explorer some of the stuff on there was really wonky! :)

  19. says

    I have really enjoyed reading this….for such a long time I have struggled with my blog as I like things to be easy, clean and approachable…so I have just cleaned up my blog and it’s even better though still needs much improvement till I’m happy! Now to just figure out the silly html to get the margins right and I think I may just be ok for a while! :)
    Thanks for this posting, I have learned a lot! :)

  20. says

    Thank you for all this great info!! I am newish to blogging … & this question may be a silly one. I only link up to a few parties, but I am trying to do a little more of it. However, I do not know when I publish a blog that I will necessarily link it later in the week. What’s the best way to go about this? Should I go back to my certain blog & add the link/blog button? Some blogger link up to a million parties. I can’t figure out for the life of me how that works! Seems uber time consuming. I figure there’s just something I don’t know about. I do like your idea of putting them on a separate page. Help or advice anyone, pretty please?

  21. says

    Wow! Great ideas! I’ve been needing to clean up my act ;) but have been too busy in the real world. But, after reading this this afternoon, I have attacked my blog with a vengeance, deleting and redoing and whateverall. I am having a problem though with the tabby thing. I cut and pasted it and added extra tabs, but I’ve got a real mess. Most of the tabs, are linking to the WRONG links. I know it’s not your widget, but do you have any ideas? I am so not technical.

  22. says

    My blog is fairly new, but I think that I have applied most of your tips already. I stalk those with experience to learn more and thank you for your great tips to help others. It is confusing and frustrating to read and follow many blogs. Even one that I was just on, who is a seasoned follower, has their follow button wa-a-a-y down at the bottom of their side bar. I, also, like to see both sidebars used to avoid long scrolling.
    Maybe you can take a peek at mine, when you have some time. I just have to follow you, now!

  23. says

    I need some direction, pretty please …anyone in the ‘know’ here?
    I was attempting to add a photo to my blog post & it’s telling me I am out of space. Wondering do I have to buy space {$2.49 a month} or go another route.
    I googled this & have read for about an hour, even made a flickr acct thinking that free service may solve the problem, but I’m thinking it may not.
    I need some help here! =)

  24. says

    Wow! This is THE best post I have read for blogging tips! I thank you so much and can’t wait to be able to apply several of your tips to my blog. As I was reading, I was making mental notes on how badly I need to change things!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I am following you by email and Google so i don’t ever miss your posts!

    ~ Darlene
    http://www.stork1.blogspot.com

  25. says

    Great post! I just discovered your blog and I love it. The layout is sooo cute. If I ever have some extra cash, I’ll be contacting you to redesign mine. Also, I have to say your adoption story is very inspiring.

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