In all my time blogging about how blogs are written and what the essance is regarding blogging. There is one thing I have yet to write about when it comes to blogging. It's an overlooked…thing. It's something that alot of us make mistakes on especially when we're new to the world of putting out lives out here online.
It's what I call "Layout Bloat" and it's just as important as the reasons you blog.
Layout bloat happens when we have this sudden urge to put everything we want right there in the main page of our blogs. It's understandable especially if you're blogging for the first time. I mean…seriously, who wants a dull looking blog which contains posts about our lives which we also think is dull looking?
None of us do which is why it's perfectly normal to do such a thing like that and end up with a sidebar full of cluttered stuff like a chatbox, your Flickr links, the never ending blogrolls and buttons and some really…weird…things. All that and not to mention how some people get a little carried away with their adsense and just plaster it all over their page like some spam blog on a coffee high.
It really defeats the purpose of blogging in the first place because it completely overwhelms the reader with information overload and the last thing you want is for a first time visitor to be his or hers last visit to your blog. The point is making a layout work for you has to has to first answer this one question.
What is the most important part of blogging?
I can tell you it's definitely not the sidebar or the ads.
It's the content and all that you blog about it. It doesn't matter whether or not you belong to the primary, secondary or tertiary blogosphere, the the most important part of your blog are the posts you write and because of that…everything your layout says…has to point to the content at hand. It's not the easiest thing in the world…but maybe I can give you a few ideas on what seems to work.
- Keep it simple – The hardest part in preventing layout bloat is definitely the urge to put down everything onto one page because when dealing with blogging applications like Blogger, you only have one page to put everything down, but that's not the point. If you can spread it out over a couple of pages, do it. Keep flashy animations that don't relate to the posts to a bare minimum. In fact, don't put it at all unless there is a point to it. A blog's like is about its posts. Don't make anything else seem more important.
- Ad when necessary – Unless you know that your blog is generating over 1000 hits a day and you got a steady stream of regular readers, there is no point in bombarding your blog with ads that serve no purpose but in shooing your readers away. PPC (pay per click) ads work when people click on them…not on how many ads you can actually stuff onto one page. Don't make this mistake. You might actually get MORE money with less ads than with more.
- Easy navigation – Spend time to understand a user friendly intuitive navigation. Depending on your blog, the reader might want to browse through your previous posts or have a quick glance to the most read or commented posts or just want to know what's being actively discussed at the moment. Having a detailed archive or an accessible search funtion or a reason to be interactive can make the difference between a one-time visitor and a repeated viewer.
- Practical Sidebars – No one cares for scrolling too much. Having sidebars that appear when needed or required helps maintain the interest of the reader to other parts of the blog (Example: Why would anyone need links to other blogs on their post pages?). Another way if your sidebar is too long and you have no other way of seperating the information out is to make them contractable and expandable when needed. Works best with an intuitive navigation and lets the reader focus on the post first before exploring the sidebar.
- Contrast colours – A rainbow coloured theme blog is harder to read than a blog that has about 2-3 colour themes. Stick with what works. A white background and black wordings unless you know what you're doing. Its easy on the eyes and focuses on the content again.
Now I could go on and into cross browser compatibility and the perfect layout for blogs, but the point of all this is for you as a blogger to customise your own layout the way you're most comfortable with while putting the importance of the blog up out front. After all, if your posts are a reflection of who are, then think of the layout as your house and the way you arrange it tells a bit about who you are as well.
At the end of it all, make sure your content is king, because that's what being a blogger is all about. Putting your posts out there as a part of who you are and hopefully and eventually people will come back time and time again because of what you write.
A whole lot better.