I’ve built more websites than I can remember, and honestly, most of them were pure garbage. The remarkable ones were the product of the lessons I learned from all those failures over the years. Any designer or developer worth their salt will admit not every swing is a hit.
I am going to lay out the key things on which you must focus to have an outstanding finished blog. This list has changed over the years, but there are a few things that stay constant no matter what year it is.
But I have a gift! If you don’t want to sit and read another long article, I will boil down everything I’ve learned over the past 25 years into one word. If you want to create the perfect blog or any website for that matter, the one thing you must achieve is this:
If you do anything, keep it simple. When I started building websites, everybody was putting loud tiled backgrounds and animated gophers all over their pages. Did I do it? Yes! But if I could go back and talk to myself before I put up a site with blazing yellow and green text, I would tell myself to keep it simple.
If you are still reading, let me drop some value on you. The first lesson I’m going to give you is essential.
What is the purpose of the blog?
If you are going to spend the time and effort to build a blog, you better know the reasons you are putting this piece of art on the web in the first place. Someone telling you that you should is not enough.
- Will this blog act as a portfolio for your creations to help you get work?
- Is this for visual creation like graphic design, photography, or UI development, or are you showcasing your writing? The design of these blogs will be much different because you have different goals.
- What do you need the blog to do? Do you want clients to book gigs (services) right from the website, or will you direct them somewhere else? Is this a home or a hub?
- Will you be selling products from the blog?
- Do you have a mailing list? Do you need one?
Get crystal clear on your reasons and what you need your blog to do. If you don’t know why you are doing it, it’s better to scrap the whole thing and save yourself the heartache.
Who is your audience?
Knowing your audience is especially important if you plan to market or sell from your website. You need to be laser-focused on who you are trying to reach before you decide what you want your site to say or how you want it to look.
Every part of the development and design process should a fixed on your audience.
WordPress or not?
I love WordPress. But there are some instances where other web platforms perform better. If you want the ease of use and setup, Squarespace or Wix may work better for you. But if you want raw power and control over everything, WordPress is what you want.
If you do use WordPress, please don’t make your website look like everything else out there on the web. There are thousands of themes that have beautiful interface designs that are usable and accessible. Remember the main focus — simplicity.
Everything I do on the web nowadays is WordPress. Why? Because it’s so easy once you get past the curve. You can cut development time in half because everything you need, in the form of plugins, is already built. There are times when you will need something custom, but it’s better not to start at square one.
Rules that make or break a blog
The design or theme should be simple. If you are a visual artist, your theme may be more graphics intensive. The design and functionality should be straightforward. Don’t surprise your audience, unless surprise is the aim of the blog.
I’m a writer. Look at how simple my blog appears. I intentionally kept the graphics to a minimum because I wanted my audience to focus on the words. Remember your reasons and design accordingly.
- Less is more — Don’t give your audience too much to do or see when they arrive on your blog. They will decide in the first few seconds if they want to stay or go, so don’t make it easy for them to go. A captivating image or simple call to action is good. Walls of text and loading screens are not.
- Design with accessibility in mind — Your blog should be accessible, which means that someone with a vision or hearing impairment should be able to interact with it easily. The disabled user should be able to navigate even if they are using a screen-reader or magnifier. If you follow some standard practices for accessibility, your website will be more usable for everyone that uses it, even if they don’t have a disability.
- Start a list — I can’t begin to stress the importance of capturing email addresses from your audience and fans. Once a person comes to your blog and leaves, they will forget about you. But if you capture their email address and sign them up for your newsletter, you have access to their valuable attention. You can’t put a price on that kind of contact!
- Check it daily — Your blog should be free of errors — bottom line. There shouldn’t be any grammatical issues, all graphics should display correctly, and your fans should not face any errors. This seems like common sense, but this blog is your brand and your image. It should be perfect, and nothing says amateur like a website full of errors.
This list is not complete, but it outlines a few of the main things you should focus on when you are building your blog.
Your blog will be a crucial asset for your brand. It is a place where people can come to get information about you, and a hub that you can link to when you are marketing on social media.
Your blog is an investment in time and money, treat it will respect and use it to the fullest extent.
You will thank me later.
This article was also published in Medium.