Much is written about how to ‘design blogs’ (as a whole) but another element of ‘blog design’ that I think is just as important, yet not written about much, is the design of individual blog posts.
How blog posts ‘look’ is so important. I’ve seen the power of ‘polishing’ posts time and time again.
Image by Darwin Bell
I still remember the time that I took one of my early posts on my Digital Photography blog and polished it up. The original version of the post was largely text. It had one image in it but it was fairly bland and was more there to illustrate a point than anything.
The content remained almost identical – but I added 5 images to the post (images that still illustrated the point but eye catching ones), added sub headings to each paragraph and reformatted one section into a ‘list’ rather than just a block of text.
I then republished the post at the top of my blog as new.
The result was amazing!
The next day the post had 50+ comments, was on the front page of Digg and it was being linked to by blogs everywhere. The old version had received 2 comments and had previously gone largely unnoticed.
This is the power of paying attention to how your blog posts look.
Why Polishing Blog Posts Works
There are a number of important reasons why polishing blog posts is worth putting a little extra time into:
- First impressions – in the same way that your overall blog design conveys messages to readers about what your blog is about and whether they should subscribe – the formatting and design of single posts says a lot about you to first time visitors.
- Grabbing Attention – loyal readers may rarely visit your actual blog if they follow it via RSS so one might not think post design matters – but in actual fact post design has a massive impact in the realm of RSS where there is little to set your posts apart from others. A good picture or clever use of formatting can really grab the attention of someone scanning through their feeds.
- Reinforce Content – visuals in a post can reinforce points that you’re using within content. Illustrative images, video, charts, graphs, tables etc – all will connect with visual readers in a way that text cannot.
- Connect with Web Reading Habits – most web users don’t ‘read’ content word for word. They scan content, looking for elements of web pages that draw their eye and for keywords that connect with what they are interested in. As a result the way you design your posts can be the difference between someone actually ‘reading’ your post or just glossing over it.
How to Polish Blog Posts:
Following are a number of areas that I consider when polishing blog posts. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d add to the list – I’m sure there are plenty more.
- Images – images on posts are gold! They draw the eye and grab attention, they illustrate points, they inspire, they engage the imagination and they connect with visual learners. In a largely text based medium – the use of good image can set a blog post apart from the crowd – learn to use them!
- Charts and Diagrams – similarly, good charts, graphs and diagrams add depth to content and give posts a visual point of interest.
- Formatting – one of the big mistakes that I see guest posters submitting posts to me making is that their posts come to me largely as large slabs of uninteresting looking text. Most people don’t ‘read’ content online – they ‘scan’ it. As a result you need to work hard to break up your text and draw attention to important points. Using lists is one way of doing this, as is using bold, italics, font size and color, blockquotes and other formatting techniques.
- Sub Headings – I am a fan of sub headings – rarely a post goes by that I don’t put <h3> tags around some important part of my post to draw the eye, start a new section or break up a slab of text. One quick tip I’d give on sub headings is to think about them in similar ways to ‘post titles’. The purpose of a subheading is to get people to read the text under it – so ‘craft’ sub headings using some of the same techniques as we mentioned in our post on crafting titles.
- White Space – a simple line break or a little extra space around an image can have a big impact upon how your post looks. Let your content breathe.
- Short Paragraphs – one edit that I often make with posts submitted by others on my blogs is to break up paragraphs into shorter ones. This makes posts seem less overwhelming and more achievable for readers to read.
- Break Posts Up – at times after writing a post it becomes clear that you’ve written something that is simply too long or covers too much territory. Rather than publishing it – breaking it down into a couple of smaller posts can do wonders for how the post looks to readers. Many readers would much rather read two single posts that are more focused than a longer rambling one that covers too much ground. This is actually what I’ve done with this very post – originally it was the 2nd half of my post on Quality Control but I realized that while related, the topics were perhaps a little too different to cover in the one post.
- Highlight and Reinforce Main Points – pay attention to using some of the above techniques when it comes to your main point and call to action. If your post is a long one – it can actually be useful to repeat your main point numerous times within your post (in the introduction, main body of the post and then as a closing sentence).
What would you add to this list of ‘post design tips’? How do you ‘polish’ your posts to maximize their impact?
Further Reading on Quality Control and Polishing Your Blog Posts:
- Creating Scannable Content
- Designing and Formatting Blog Posts for Readability
- Using Images to Take Your Posts to a New Level
- Format Blog Posts for Readability and Legibility
- 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good For Getting Traffic to Your Blog
- 5 Powerful Techniques to Help Your Posts Stand Out
- How to Design Your Posts to Guarantee they get Read
Read the Full Series
This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.