A few years ago many website designers used to incorporate as many bells and whistles onto sites they were designing as they possibly could. Unfortunately back in those days many people had dial-up and they could not enjoy these features. Adding flash to a site may look fabulous but these days it really only works for music sites and perhaps Disney. You will find very few sites at the top of the Google SERPs that contain flash these days. This is what Google says about the use of Flash:
“Googlebot can typically read Flash files and extract the text and links in them, but the structure and context are missing.”
Some studies have shown that human beings don’t actually like sites built with Flash anyway. Their first impression is the only reason your site exists is to sell them something, consequently even if you have written the most interesting and useful articles, the reader will leave quickly.
The term “less is more” applies. Some people who were getting poor results from their blogs have experimented by removing a lot of the advertising, and have found that their bounce rate has improved and click-through rates have increased dramatically.
One thing you can do before designing your blog is to go and look objectively at other people’s designs. That is not to say you should copy them, simply find blogs that you find pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate.
Ease of navigation is extremely important to the reader. If they cannot find their way around your site easily, then guess what – they’ll leave. Navigation buttons should be obvious, and the titles of categories should be written not only with SEO in mind, but with your reader in mind also.
It’s a fact that people find it easier to read dark type against a light background. Remember we have an aging population as well, so make your type large enough that it can be read easily, 12 or 14 point is best.
Having too many ads and other nifty graphics may look great, but you should also remember that those graphics have to load – the more you have, the slower your site will load. The great thing about using WordPress is that it’s easy to experiment. That’s not to say you should change the design of your site every other day because that will simply confuse regular visitors. If you find that ads and graphics are slowing down your site, remove them until you find the right balance, making your blog not only Google-friendly but user-friendly too.
If you are building a list from opt-ins, your opt-in box should be obvious and placed “above the fold”. Some folks use animations to direct people’s eyes toward their opt-in box and these work very well.
Striking a balance between what the Googlebots are looking for on a site and what a reader needs shouldn’t be too difficult. Google doesn’t make it difficult, and if you haven’t read the rules, go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/ and familiarize yourself with what Google wants.
Have you stuck with your original blog design, or have you experimented to find what works best? Can you offer any tips for those just starting out and building their first blog?