4 Things Audrey Hepburn Can Teach Us About Good Blog Design
I’m not a designer, but I know what looks good and what doesn’t. And most mommyblogs don’t look good. Hell, most blogs don’t look good–they’ve got hideous color schemes, there’s too much going on, the font sizes hurt your head, there are disturbing pictures or blurry pictures of snarky cats all over the place. Like it or not, your blog is going to be judged by its appearance just as much as its content. In fact, its appearance will probably be construed as being reflective of its content, like it or not. Even if people read you in feed readers most of the time, they’re not going to think much of a blog that is poorly put together. The aesthetics of a blog factor into your reading experience and you can gain (or lose) readers in a split-second based completely on how your blog looks, no matter how fantastic your writing is. Do you think that its a coincidence that some of the most popular blogs are also very well designed? Think again.
So what can you do about it? You’re not a designer, either. You don’t know how to code, and you can barely figure out how to put that meme button in your sidebar! Well, never fear, friends: the rules of taste are as applicable to blogs as they are to fashion and personal grooming. And who better to teach us how to make the most of what we’ve got than one of fashion and popular culture’s most endearing, enduring style icons, Audrey Hepburn?
- “It’s that wonderful old-fashioned idea that others come first and you come second. This was the whole ethic by which I was brought up. Others matter more than you do, so ‘don’t fuss, dear; get on with it.'”–Audrey Hepburn
The key to good blog design (and good blog writing) is to always keep in mind what your readers want and need from their time on your site. Is what you’re adding (or taking away) going to add to the reader’s experience in a positive way? An example of this from my own blog design is that, in its previous incarnation, ABDPBT used a grey patterned background for the margins of the site, and used a serif-font for the text. Though I liked the way the site looked at the time, it occurred to me that there was too much going on on the site–serif fonts are harder on the eyes, and the grey background, though it was a cool effect, distracted readers from the content. The content is why people come to your site, and you should make it easy for them to come to it.
Now you don’t have to go crazy with this idea of looking for what’s in your blog for others. You’ll note that I have advertising on my site, which is unlikely to add anything positive to a reader’s experience (although not impossible). But you might consider limiting it. I used to have a lot more banner ads on my site, and after seeing one too many ads with cellulite or yellow teeth on them, I decided that whatever (tiny) amount of money I was receiving for running the ads was being far outweighed by the damage I was doing to my brand by associating my site with aesthetically repulsive images.
So ask yourself: do I need that extra ad? Will another button or badge in my sidebar add anything to my site? Does the header picture display the kind of taste level that I want to associate with my site? And What Would Audrey Do?
- Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it’s at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others.–Audrey Hepburn
When you hit a snag, it can be tempting–very tempting–to hire somebody to design your blog for you. And sometimes, it might pay to have a particular problem or design challenge professionally handled, particularly as your blog grows in size and readership. But the more involved in the design aspects you can be, the more your blog will come to reflect your personality, which is what blogging is all about, and this is one of those ineffable things that appeals to people about blogs over more corporate writing sources like newspapers or online magazines. You should exploit this personal aspect as much as possible, and by keeping your knowledge base on design growing, you can better afford to advance the different things your site offers to your readership.
- “There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl’s complexion.”–Audrey Hepburn
There are things that come with success that can ruin your blog. More ads, more PR reps knocking on your door, the pressure to put up buttons and awards, or share links with people, both for fun and profit. All of these things are potential minefields for your design, and by extension, they are potential minefields for your popularity. It’s great to expand into new things and add new features to your blog, particularly when those things increase the accessibility to your content, without detracting from the pleasantness of the design. But at every stage of the game you should be considering how commercial opportunities will affect the design of your blog–both from a design aesthetic standpoint, as well as from the viewpoint of the readership’s enjoyment of the blog.
- “I decided, very early on, just to accept life unconditionally; I never expected it to do anything special for me, yet I seemed to accomplish far more than I had ever hoped. Most of the time it just happened to me without my ever seeking it.”–Audrey Hepburn Now, building a blog and a blog readership is a lot of work–it doesn’t just happen. But on the other hand, there’s something to be said for doing the work that has been put in front of you and letting go of the rest. Trust the process. Accept that things tend to work out the way they are supposed to. Be the best you that you can be, build the best blog that you can build. And let the rest come out in the wash. I know, it’s a little touchy-feely, but it’s good advice.