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Avoid Simple Mistakes and Fallow Golden Rules  

Good blog design is something that can be achieved relatively easily by sticking to a small set of guiding principles and avoiding some very common mistakes. Excellent blog design skills are born out of years of experience, dedication and plenty of hard-learned mistakes. Fortunately, being truly excellent at blog design is not a pre-requisite for building a fantastic blog and the lessons learned from those mistakes can be passed on without the hardship.

This post contains some of the principles which I have learned the hard way and the easy way. Each principle is fairly obvious but so many designers ignore them for one reason or another and the consequence is a hard-to-use, poor looking blog that is difficult to manage and fails to make the top 1000 in Google. Many of us are using free blog providers which have very few templates that we can chose and most of them even don't look professional. Un professional blog design will repel visitors and they wont come back.

1. Keep Everything Obvious

Visitors to a blog expect certain conventions, breaking these is a great way of losing visitors. People expect to find the navigation at the top of a blog or on the left hand side. Logos are mostly found on the top left. Much research has been conducted into how people view and use blogs. The good news is that you do not to know all of this; instead look at how larger companies such as eBay, Amazon, Google, Microsoft structure their pages and the language they use, then emulate them.

2. Limit Colours

A blog using too many colours at a time can be overwhelming to many users and can make a blog look cheap and tacky. Any users with colour blindness or contrast perception difficulties may even be unable to use the site.

Limiting a palette to 2 or 3 colours will nearly always lead to a slicker looking design and has the added bonus of simplifying your design choices, reducing design time.

If your blog uses blue and yellow together or red and green then it may present problems to anyone suffering with colour blindness.

3. Be Careful With Fonts

The set of fonts available to all visitors of a blog is relatively limited. Add to that the possibility of a user having a visual impairment then the options become even smaller. It is advisable to stick to fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Courier, Times, Geneva and Georgia. They may not be very interesting but your content should be more interesting than your font and if it can't be read, what is the point of having a blog?

Black text on a white background is far easier for the majority of people to read than white text on a black background. If you have large amounts of text then a white or pale background is far more user friendly. Always ensure that there is a good contrast between any text and its background. Blue text on a blue background is okay as long as the difference in shade is significant.

Verdana is often cited as being the easiest to read on the screen. Georgia is probably the best option for a serif font.

4. Plan for Change

The ability to add or remove content from a blog is fundamental to the ongoing success of it. Having to rewrite the entire blog page each time you want to make a small change is sure fire way to kill your interest in your own blog and will negatively impact your overall design and usability.

Understanding how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), avoiding unconventional layouts and complicated backgrounds will all help enormously.

5. Be Consistent

Again, don't make your visitors think! About how to use your blog at least. If your links are coloured red ensure the the same convention is used on all sections.

By using CSS correctly you can make most of this happen automatically leaving you free to concentrate on the content.

6. Keep it Relevant

A picture is better than a thousand words but if the picture you took on holiday is not relevant to your Used Car Sales website then you should really replace it with something which reflects the content or mood of the post; a photo of a car perhaps!

Avoid the need to add images, Flash animations or adverts just because you have space. This wastes bandwidth and obscures the intentions of your blog. If you absolutely must fill the space, then exercise your imagination to find something as relevant as possible. Keeping your content focused will ultimately help your search-engine rankings.

7. Become a CSS Expert

Cascading Style Sheets should be any web designer's best friend. CSS makes it is possible to separate the appearance and layout of your blog from the content. This has huge benefits when it comes to updating and maintaining your blog, making your blog accessible and making your blog easy for search engines to read.

8. Avoid Complexity

Using standard layouts for your blog will save you development time and make your blog easier to use. Pushing the boundaries nearly always leads to quirky behaviour, cross-browser problems, confused site visitors and maintenance headaches. Unless you really do like a challenge then avoid complexity wherever possible. Many standard layouts are freely available online with much of the boring, repetitive work already done for you.

The principles above all border on common sense and are well known to most people, yet so many blog continue to deviate away from them and suffer as a consequence.

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