There are many things bloggers can do, but even more things that blogger shouldn’t do and one of those is clutter up your blog with too many ads, images, and overly busy backgrounds that distract readers from the content of your post. Here are some tips bloggers should follow when designing the layout for their blog.
Less is More
The less clutter you have on your blog, the more people can focus on the content. You want the reader to notice your “header” and then be drawn to the content almost immediately. Unless you are trying to showcase an advertisement or affiliate ad on your sidebar or header area, you want the readers eyes to gravitate toward your article naturally. You can do this by making sure your font and text clearly stand out against the background area, this is why 95% of the blogs use white background with black text, it contrasts and stands out.
Keep your blog background to a minimal, if you must use patterns or a photo then edit it in a paint program and either make the image faded (black) if you use a black background for your blog, or white if you use a white background for your blog. By making the image/picture or background fainter you want it to not be as noticeable or draw the readers eye as much as the content/post area. Nothing distracts a reader more than having a splash of colored images, pictures or items to look at all over the page that distract from the article.
Animations = Distraction
Again, unless you are really focusing on a user clicking or paying attention to something other than the content area, animated banners, gif’s and backgrounds are very much a distraction from reading plain text and even when reading text the animated gif’s will cause a readers eyes to notice them and pull attention away from the content. Use with caution and deliberate intent, not just for fun or to try and “brighten your blog” as you can cause more harm than good. A year ago I visited a blog that always made “pixel” rain fall all over the page while you visit, these pixels would rain over the entire page including the post area and sometimes obscure the text as the rain passed over it. This is not a good way to keep a reader interested in reading your article.
Reduce Page Load Time
Again, less is more and the faster your page loads and the reader can read your content the better. If you must use a background image then make sure you use a “gif” file which is much lighter weight and significantly smaller to load in memory than a jpg or png file. (though you are limited in image quality and how many colors, often you can find a balance). You want to minimize the number of scripts that call external blogs, especially ones in post that cause distraction. I myself have too many items that load from external sources and am working to sculpt the page load times of my blog (though my page load times are about 50% better than they used to be). You have to keep in mind that more readers are starting to visit from mobile devices which don’t have as fast connections as cable modems, and if your page loads quick over broadband it may be much slower from a mobile phone browser.
You want to make sure that you draw your readers into your content before they go looking elsewhere, often a reader will quickly scan the rest of your site to see “what else” is on there after finding your article from a search engine. I am not going to show examples of “bad websites” because I don’t want to offend anyone, but I do want to point out Ileane’s blog Blogging Wire which recently updated themes and uses a theme which very much draws a users focus directly to the content by making the sidebars very minimal and making the post area stand out in clear contrast. It is worth looking at for an example in how to draw a readers attention to your post area.