You could argue that when it comes to writing, the essence is far more important than the presentation. But although this principle might work for textbooks and novels, it won’t for online blogs.
Keep in mind that design is a major factor in user experience. Design affects the growth of your readership. Unless you are a popular person with authority in a specific industry, you cannot expect to attract or compel readers with a subpar design.
A surefire way to a great-looking blog is to hire a professional design agency. This route, however, requires a minimum investment of $1,000 according to this post at Connective Web Design. While the cost is high, you are sure to get a design that is streamlined across all pages. You can also get custom features, such as animations, interactive forms, and other visual elements.
On the other hand, site owners with design and coding experience can concoct something visually appealing with a content management system such as WordPress. Still, you might be a blogger without the necessary skills or the budget to hire a professional team. In this case, it is best to hack your way into achieving a brilliant and functional website. Below are ideas on how to do so.
Learn to Create Attractive Images
Nowadays, you do not have to be a designer to create amazing graphics for your website. All you need is a small budget for stock images, an editing tool like Photoshop, and the right techniques.
Keep in mind that you should at least learn the basics of Photoshop. These would include cropping, resizing, blending, using brushes, and creating simple shapes. You can refer to a free guide such as this post on Lifehacker to learn these abilities.
To start building your graphics, make sure you have a library of stock visuals from websites like ShutterStock and Unsplash. You can also head to Creative Market for icons that will help you customize your design.
Make sure you have an idea of what to visualize, how to represent it, and which design elements you should use. For example, do you want to visualize a statistic? Do you want to represent it with a graph? Will you use a picture of a famous person for your design? All it takes is a bit of creativity and imagination to come up with combinations that work.
Make Your Blog Load Faster
Compromising the loading speed of your blog is one of the biggest problems of site design. Although the design is important, remember that your main goal is to provide an excellent experience for your audience. You need to avoid giving your visitors the “hourglass syndrome” by presenting them with a sluggish website.
First and foremost, make sure you use a hosting solution that adequately matches the volume of traffic on your blog. A shared hosting has enough bandwidth for a new blog with little to no traffic, but you need to consider upgrading to VPS hosting once your site gains traction.
If you are using WordPress, you should also make sure you know the best practices for boosting site loading speed. As a backbone for your design efforts, make sure you use effective compression to take full advantage of your host’s bandwidth.
Utilizing lazy load is also a great way to use resources more efficiently by focusing them on elements “above the fold.” You can easily take advantage of these strategies with the help of plugins. This leads us to the next and final design hack.
Get Help from Tools
One of the reasons why WordPress is the recommended content management system for bloggers is the availability of plugins. These are tools that help you create functionality and develop visual elements without writing a single line of code.
Now that you know how to create custom graphics, you need the right plugins. Look for plugins that will seamlessly integrate graphics into site elements such as CTA buttons, image sliders, and popup forms.
Below are some of the best plugins you need to consider for your blog:
- Huge-It Slider – This plugin allows you to build sliders using the visual editor and generates shortcodes so you can embed them anywhere in your site. You can also customize the slider’s loading icon, animations, navigation options, and scaling.
- WordPress Calls to Action – If you want to convert your visitors into subscribers, a good strategy is to hit them with calls to action. You can use the WordPress Calls to Action to quickly build and deploy CTA buttons using your custom graphics.
- Photo Gallery – You can use the Photo Gallery plugin to highlight your prized collection of visual content. There are several viewing options, such as slideshow, compact album, and blog style. These will ensure your gallery fits the design scheme of your blog.
- The Events Calendar– The Events Calendar plugin allows you to build a highly interactive calendar with plenty of customization options. These options include but are not limited to different views, Google Maps integration, tool tips, and template tags.
With the right tactics, you do not need to have deep pockets or pro skills to have a beautiful blog. Keep in mind that a blog should be treated as the digital extension of your personality. If you want to connect with the larger online community, make sure everything about your blog—from the design to every written word—represents “you.”
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