As Time.com reports, 55 percent of users spend fewer than 15 active seconds on a web page. If you’re going to capture readers’ attention and keep them engaged, what do you think will do the trick first?
Is it your catchy headline?
Is it your first line of text?
Is it that killer content everyone is telling you to write?
While quality content definitely does something for your blog, it isn’t the first thing that’s going to keep web users on your page.
What is, then? The answer is your blog’s design.
Forbes.com says that in business interactions, we have all of seven seconds to make a good first impression. The concept can also be applied to your blog.
If your blog’s theme seems less than professional, it will turn readers away instantly the same way your clothing might when you enter a business meeting. What if your content is cluttered and readers are pulled in every direction, unsure what to look at first? If a reader can’t find an answer to his or her question or can’t navigate your website well, you can bet he or she is going to get the heck out of dodge no matter how good your content is.
So, you know your blog design matters in order to make a good first impression. What techniques exactly can you use to improve your design?
Whitespace is the area around your paragraphs, texts, and graphics. Essentially, it helps break up your content and direct your readers’ eyes down the page. Having a generous balance of whitespace and content on your blog can give it a clean appearance and reduce the overwhelming effect of too many graphics and crammed text.
Whitespace also creates the concept of “chunking.” With space between each section on your sidebar, for instance, it shows readers that each piece is separate. This makes it easier for a reader to find what he or she is looking for.
Format Your Text for Scan-ability
Let’s face it: Most blog visitors aren’t going to read your content word-for-word. If you’ve made it this far in this blog post, then congratulations! You’re a member of a very elite group.
Instead of reading word-for-word, most people will simply scan a page for the most important information. That’s where your whitespace can come in handy; it makes scanning different chunks easier.
Other methods you can use to promote scan-ability – or the ease at which readers can scan and read your text-include:
- Using subheads to highlight key points.
- Keeping your paragraphs short.
- Breaking up your content with lists like this one.
- Bolding important points sparingly within your text.
- Offsetting prominent quotes.
- Using contrasting colors sparingly.
- Making important sidebar text bigger.
Minimize Your Color Scheme
Too many colors, or too much of the wrong color, can throw off a reader. Using every color of the rainbow can look great in theory, but then how does the reader know where to look first? Too many colors overstimulate the senses and make your site feel crowded.
Similarly, you’ll want to use colors strategically. If you want to draw attention to one aspect on a page, such as a newsletter signup form, then it’s best to keep your main colors minimal and then highlight that particular section with a bold color.
It’s best to stick with 2-3 main colors on your site. Above all else, be sure that your text is easy to read. A dark color on a light background is usually best.
Clear Your Sidebar
An overly active sidebar will only confuse your readers because they won’t know where to look first. Furthermore, if you have widgets on your sidebar that you don’t need, it only clutters your content and makes it less visually appealing. A few things worth having in your sidebar include:
- A search bar
- A subscription form
- Social media links
- Links to categories
- Contact information
You can also put ads in your sidebar, but avoid placing too many where it becomes a nuisance.
It is worth getting rid of calendars, recent comment widgets, stats widgets, and other similar sidebar options if none of your readers use them.
The bottom line is to limit your sidebar to what is most important and useful to your readers to make navigating your website easier.
Organize Your Navigation Tabs
Instead of cramming all of your pages into a several lines of tabs at the top of your website, organize your navigation tabs strategically. This simple tip will help simplify things for readers and help them quickly find what they’re looking for.
Start by choosing the most important pages to display on your top navigation panel. Your home, about, and contact pages are among the options you should keep visible. You can set other relevant pages as sub-pages that appear in a drop-down menu when a user mouses over that tab.
Remember that not every web page on your site needs to appear in your navigation panel. This will make it a lot easier for users to find what they’re looking for without having to weed through these pages on their own.
Use a Mobile Responsive Web Theme
Mobile technology is growing so fast that in 2014, people were using mobile apps to access the Internet more often than they were using desktop computers. With more web activity going mobile, it is time to make your blog mobile-friendly, too.
Why? Mobile users have a hard time navigating desktop-only websites, so they’re more likely to abandon your site if they can’t read it or click on links from their mobile device.
A responsive theme is one that detects what type of device a reader is using and then adjusts the look of the website to work best on that screen. A responsive theme might resize images, adjust the navigation bar, and move the sidebar widgets around so that reading your content is easier for the user no matter if they’re accessing your site via tablet, smartphone, or laptop.
Setting up a responsive website can be as simple as installing a new plugin – such as WPtouch Mobile Plugin – or redesigning your site with a theme that’s built for all devices.
When you only have mere seconds to create a lasting first impression, directing your readers’ eyes to the right places and making your blog feel welcoming can have a positive impact.
Start with the tips above to keep your readers engaged in not only your content but in your blog and business as a whole.