Do you write a tarot blog (or actually, any kind of blog)?
Want to make it prettier?
One thing about which I get *a lot* of lovely feedback is the look and feel of Little Red Tarot.
I’m glad, because I put a lot of love and energy into designing and building this site. Little Red Tarot is my online home, and I want it to be as fun and warm and welcoming as my real home when people come to visit.
It’s an ongoing process – I add pages and functions or fiddle with the code regularly, in a continuing effort to make this blog look and feel nice. And yeah – I’m a web designer, so I’ve got plenty of skills in all of this. But aside from one single day-class in basic CSS, I learned everything I know about web design by myself.
Everything you see on this site I learned by Googling, reading design blogs and watching YouTube. None of it is rocket science.
If you spend lots of time writing your blog but never give the design much thought – or just don’t know where to start with the basics of good design – there are loads of things you can do to improve your site’s look and feel.
Here are some really simple tips and ideas…
I bet the websites you most love to visit, the ones which feel like good places to hang out, and the ones where you stick around to read loads of content, have plenty of white space. Space between lines on a page or post, space between the main content and the sidebar, space between widgets and menu items… lots and lots of space makes your website easy on the eye and clearer to read.
If you have access to your site’s code and are confident with things like padding and margins, you can increase white space this way. If not, look for themes/templates which have an uncluttered, spacious feeling.
Y’know what else? The ‘white’ of my website isn’t actually white. It’s a very, very light grey, to make it that little bit easier on the eye, without compromising readability.
Have a nice colour scheme
God that sounds so cheesy. But it’s true. Some websites are just explosions of colour and that’s awesome…but it’s hard to get it right. Easier than this is to put together a palette of colours you like (which don’t make your eyes hurt,) and use these consistently throughout your site. As you can see, I have a very minimal red-and-grey colour scheme which I totally love and which obviously fits with the name of my website.
Here’s a helpful post about creating a style guide for your blog by Sarah Morgan on XOSarah.com
Use lots of (decent) photos/images
Because everybody likes pictures!
It was hard to illustrate this post with photos, so I’ve gone to the trouble of adding screenshots instead (if there were no pictures in this post I wonder how many of you would read to the end?)
I try to use landscape photos so as not to take over the entire screen, and resize them to be the same width as my posts (640px is a standard blog-post width) so they look neat and aligned. And when I do want to share tall images, where possible I put two side-by side, as in this post, where I wanted to share lots of separate tarot card pics:
Using images helps to break up your post which makes it easier for people to read…and keep reading.
We’re so damn lazy when it comes to reading the internet, there’s always another thing to click, another distraction, another way to not finish reading the post. Pictures entertain readers and keep them engaged with what you’re saying.
I do a lot of photography which means I’m never short of pics for my site. It’s worth getting into habit of taking photos of things you find beautiful or meaningful, so you can build up a cool image bank to pretty up your posts.
This might be useful too: 30 free stock photo resources for bloggers.
Use headings and sub-headings
Again, be aware that people’s online attention spans are embarrassingly short. Think of this as a whole different type of reading style – more like magazine-reading than books.
Often, people want to skim over your post (the way you flick through a magazine), clocking the headings to check your post is relevant before they dive in properly. Break up your paragraphs with headings to help readers see quickly that your post is something they want to read!
On this site, posts start with a Heading 1 (h1) title, then a main heading/opening line in h2, and sub-headings throughout the post in h3. Sub-headings are especially useful for list posts, like this one.
Make your paragraphs shorter
This isn’t appropriate for every blog of course – some are rambling by nature and that’s cool too. On this blog, I have a mixture of snappy short-paragraph posts, and long, prosaic posts too. Both work for me :)
Two people who write in such short paragraphs it seems like they’ve kinda invented a whole new way of writing are Leonie Dawson and Alex Franzen. Both frequently publish posts in which almost every paragraph is a single line…and whilst this sounds ridiculous on paper, on screen, it’s incredibly readable, drawing you down the page easily and really capturing you in the post.
Clear out your sidebar
Another thing you’ve probably heard plenty of times. Blogs with cluttered, busy sidebars make it really hard to know what I’m supposed to be looking at and frankly, it’s just too much.
Pruning your sidebar is a good way to get rid of unhelpful distractions and show your readers what you really want to share with them. It needs to be important if it’s going to pull their eyes away from your actual post! I change my sidebar widgets regularly…and I still think there are too many.
I also experiment. I recently added a ‘recent comments’ widget to show the latest three comments visitors had left – because I wanted to celebrate a recent increase in commenting. But it takes up a lot of room and if I don’t see any real benefits, I’ll remove it.
Ask yourself what is the purpose of every widget, link, image or *thing* in your sidebar. Is it helpful to your readers? Does it direct them somewhere important? Or is it just there because you thought it was cool, or by default? Have a think about whether there are things you could remove from your sidebar.
Here are some sites where I regularly pick up tips and ideas for my own sites:
Dana Fox shares loads and loads of practical tips on icanbuildablog.com (cos guess what, building a blog is what it’s her whole website is about!) Her html cheat sheet is especially helpful for in-post html when you want to fancy up your formatting, and there’s loads of stuff like adding sharing buttons, creating graphics and other helpful how-tos.
Sara Morgan at xosarah.com also shares blogging tips each week which can really make you think about your own site’s design and functions. She also does a regular Q&A session in the comments of her posts – you can ask one question about your blog’s design and share a link, and Sarah will check out your blog and give you a tip. Which is really cool!
Alex Franzen has shared 10 cutting (but IMHO spot-on) ways your website is breaking her heart. Admittedly I did use the words ‘coming soon’ on my own site pre the launch of the Alternative Tarot Course…
Sarah Von Bargen’s website is full of practical tips, focused more on making the best of business websites, but with plenty of advice for ‘just bloggers’ too.
So what do you do to make your blog look and feel nice?
Share a link in the comments so we can all have a peek!