Tuesday, July 24

Concerning Blog Design and Aesthetics

I know, I know. You're probably wondering why I am writing about design. Because though we may be writers, we still need to appeal to the public audience. A book needs a great cover to attract its readers, so does a blog. Yes, I want to touch on the subject of designing your blog platform.

First of all, we must understand the purpose of a blog. You probably already know the answer: Your blog is a publicity platform for you. It's free. It gives you infinite exposure on the world wide web. It is where you start "spreading the word." But before all that, there must first be "the word." That's right, you must first start writing about things that matter. I'll reserve the topic of what to blog about for next time, but today, I want to particularly talk about the look and feel of your blog. Yes, today I am all about superficiality. What your blog looks like is as important as the things you blog about.

Like a book, your blog needs to be easy to read. After all, the main purpose of a blog is to be read. If you stifle that purpose, you will have failed in providing your reader with the utmost experience in blog-reading. Though this may seem a little trifle to some, I think it is worth the discussion.

The first things we see when we open our eyes as babies are colors. Our vision is blurry, our cognitive senses muffled. But one thing we can recognize is color. We may not know what it is, but we see it--the blurry bleed of colors all across our eyes. And as we grow older, we start to make use of the colors we learn to love. We start to match our clothes according to colors. We love coloring books, we plan our weddings based on colors. Yes, colors are very important. So, when you design your blog, let the first thing you do be color-matching.

Like color matching your clothes, you must know what works and what doesn't. While color-matching is essentially a subjective matter, you must now see things from your readers's perspectives. After all, they are your audience, without which your blog will have no purpose, unless you write solitarily for yourself.

Unlike printed matter on which the color and saturation of a certain color is determined by the amount of ink used and brightness of the paper, the way your blog looks depends heavily on computer screens. And since we all know very well that not all computer screens are created the same--some are dimmer, other way too bright--depending on user preference, it is important that you pick colors that read well across all screens and all levels of brightness. While all the elements around your blog post can be complimentary in color, the actual part where the text is must have a certain level of contrast. This is where the golden rule of color contrast comes in.

The rule of color contrast is simple: only use font colors that will produce a mid-level contrast against dark colored backgrounds instead of a stark color contrast. Example: If you have a black or dark background (mostly fantasy blogs and such), never use a white or a bright colored font. Believe it or not, it hurts the eyes just after the first sentence. Just know this: if your background is very dark, then you must avoid font colors like white, red, yellow, and anything primary and bright. Instead, you will want to use light gray and pastels as your font colors. But my advice is to keep it simple, like a book. Keep it light or warm gray. Your readers will thank you for it.

Now the rule is a little different when it comes to light or bright backgrounds. This is the time to use a higher-level of contrast. A white background goes very well with a black font. However, a dark gray works better. Whatever color you choose for the font, make sure you don't bring the contrast all the way to the max. Bring it down a few notches until it is comfortable for your eyes. And if it passes your comfort reading level, then it should be sufficient for your readers. White colored backgrounds are always easier to work with than dark colored ones.

Let's talk about layout for a second. While there is no fixed rule, my advice is to keep it simple, yet elegant. Don't use a busy layout with moving GIFs and images that go everywhere on your blog. While it is important to advertise your book cover, it is also as important to not over clutter. Use only elements from your cover art that help connect a universal theme for your blog instead of using every element there is. Make sure the elements don't distract from the post itself. And make sure all of the navigation fonts on your blog is clear and readable. For me, simplicity is the best policy.


One thing I really love about Blogger is that it allows readers to subscribe via email. Make sure you add that to your blog (if you use Blogger, that is) by adding the gadget on your layout settings. Once that is done, place it on the top of your blog. I've subscribed to a few blogs via that method, and I must say, it is such a pleasure to have my favorite blogs sent to my inbox every week. It is also easy to read and convenient. I often read on my smart phone, so it works extremely well for me.

Comments are important on your blog. Whether they are good or bad, they do spark discussions about your blog posts. And when people are talking about them, you have done a good job. Of course, it is always advisable to only write blogs that will encourage a healthy discussion, so as not to sabotage your reputation online.

In order for us to encourage open discussions, remove all securities on the comment settings of your blog. This means no Captcha Phrases, no mandatory sign-ins, and no pre-existing accounts required. This way, you open doors to more comments and possible discussions. Yes, once in a while you will still receive some spamming, but Blogger or Wordpress should be able to catch it for you. If not, just go and delete them. After all, you should be monitoring all of the comments on your blog anyway.

This is important as writers: Do not ever delete readers comments unless they threaten the national security of your country. And in that case, you should be reporting it to the police or FBI. Hopefully, things don't go that way. And if it does, consider that as something to add to your future book's plot line.

Never retaliate or go on the defense when you have negative comments. Always be courteous and thankful, no matter how much you hate that comment, or don't agree with it, never, ever, ever start an argument, or worse, an online fight-a-thon. Just express your thanks and act fairly as a good moderator should. You'd be surprised to see how many people will come to your defense if that ever happens.

Well, that's it, folks. I hope this post helps you in your blog design and interface. And if I've missed anything, please feel free to add. I'd love to hear your comments and how you make your blog work in terms of esthetics and functionality. Do share. Until next time, have a blast of a week!


Teri Harman said...

Great post! We all need this stuff. I am constantly evaluating how my blog looks, trying to keep it professional.
Thanks, Chris!

David P. King said...

A truly epic post, sir! The fun thing about blogging is it's much like editing - you can never stop improving it. :)

Christopher Loke said...

Thank you, very much everyone. Glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Admiring the persistence you put into your site and in depth information you provide. It's good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same outdated rehashed information. Wonderful read! I've bookmarked your site and I'm including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Christopher Loke said...

Thank you for bookmarking my blog and following me. I try to write articles I'd love to read as a writer. And if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

Marjorie Bertrand said...

thank you for all these interesting tips

Christopher Loke said...

You're welcome, Marjorie.