I make my living making websites usable and user-friendly, so I know a thing or two about good design. I spend a great portion of most Sundays using that knowledge to help other bloggers on WordPress’ Community Pool post.
A few things come up every week, so I thought I’d distill the common mistakes people make down into the top five.
1.) It’s too long.
I find that the sweet spot for posts – before I start to get bored and skip around – is between 300-400 words. I think the outer limit is about 500-600 words. If your posts are longer than that (I’ve seen some around 2500 words) you’re going to lose readers before they reach the end.
- Cut out repeats – If you’re saying the same thing a different way three paragraphs in a row, cut two paragraphs
- Kill your darlings -That line might be really clever, but if it isn’t working hard on its own, cut it.
- Serialize – If you have a lot to say, consider breaking your post into two or three, and giving people a reason to come back.
2.) It’s not scannable.
A huge block of text, with no line breaks and no pauses, is incredibly difficult to read. If your theme uses a small font, or your writing style means you skip out on capitalization or punctuation, it’s even worse.
- Use line breaks wherever possible.
- Try to keep paragraphs to no more than three to five medium-length lines. (One or two is better.)
- Put connected information or steps into bulleted or numbered lists
- Use photographs or other imagery to break up longer texts and add visual interest. Speaking of…
3.) There’s no visual interest.
Yes, blogging is about words. But it’s also about imagery. If you have no imagery, or your content is on a plain black or white screen, not only will people lose interest more quickly, they’ll think your blog is boring or unprofessional.
- Look for themes that have color or a creative feel to them.
- Use featured photographs (if your theme supports them) to add interest to your home page as well as your posts.
- Try and include at least one photograph for most posts, unless the post is really short.
4.) You picked the wrong theme.
I see this all the time. People have a very creative subject matter like poetry or fiction, and they choose a very utilitarian theme with a grey background and simple banded header.
Look for a theme that matches your style and subject matter. WordPress lets you preview a theme with your content in it, for free. Here’s how:
- Go to the Dashboard and click Themes.
- Filter by Premium or Free, and then scroll through.
- When you see one you like, hit Preview. This will show your content in the theme, with no commitment to buy.
5.) Your content is all topsy turvy.
Whether it’s because you’ve centered your text, or because your images are too small, having an unbalanced page makes your blog very hard to read.
- Center- or right-justified text is very hard to read. Always left justify your text, even if your photos are centered.
- Center your photographs in the body of your post.
- Use the “Advanced Settings” on your image or your graphic program to make your images as wide or almost as wide as your post’s body.
These are general rules, and it’s okay to break them if you know you’re doing it and have a good reason. But in general, these are the basics for clean, easy to read posts that make users want to come back.