I’ve touched on this before, but I want to focus on the particular design challenges of a blog and how concentrating on four pages can increase engagement and hold readers on your site for longer.
Blog Design is All About the First-Timer
If somebody’s been to your blog a hundred times, they know the drill. They can find what they’re looking for.
The first-time visitor isn’t sure what you’re all about and you have precious little time to educate them.
1. The Home Page
The first time reader will usually enter through a search engine or link and will land on a blog post. If they like that post, their next step will often be to click on the home page.
You now have less than 10 seconds to grab and hold their interest.
Of course, every website has a homepage by definitions. But how have you structured yours? What’s on it? What message does it send?
A typical blog homepage is just a list of blog posts. You might get lucky and one of the first three posts happens to pique their interest, but let’s not count on luck.
You have some choices here.
- You can have a static home page that describes your blog’s purpose and how you will add value to your reader. The blog itself would then be a click away from the home page.
- You can have a small box above the blog to send the same message.
- You can put a short blurb at the top of your sidebar with a link to learn more.
I chose the latter option, though I’m not going to claim it’s the best one for all situations. Your choice will be influenced by your topic, your audience, and your own preferences.
2. The About Page
I described this page in some detail in my design basics article. Suffice it to say that this is a very high traffic page and you want to spend some time crafting it. I’ve re-written mine almost monthly so far and I’m still working on it (have a look and drop me a line with some feedback, I’m still not crazy about it!).
The most important point is that this page is about your audience first, your site second, and you third. It’s not an autobiography!
If you can describe a person’s problem better than even they can, then they will assume that you have the answer.
3. The Start Here Page
One huge problem with blogs is that great content gets buried quickly. Most blogs don’t read like a book, and it can be overwhelming to new readers.
You should have an archive widget or page, and breaking things up into categories and tags can help, but the best solution for the new reader is to be led by the hand through key articles in a logical sequence.
Again, your Start Here page will be different from everyone else’s but this is your opportunity to think about what posts you think that your new readers should sink their teeth into first.
As soon as I published my Start Here page, my bounce rate dropped by 20% and my older articles started to see more traffic. It quickly became one of my most popular pages.
4. The Resources Page
Everybody loves a good resources page. Even many of my favourite sailing blogs which simply describe the day-to-day goings-on of some adventurous family in the South Pacific have resource pages, and I always check them out.
Here is a great opportunity to provide value to your readers. What products, books, courses, websites do you use and recommend?
People are inundated with too many choices and it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. As they come to know and trust you, they will truly appreciate your opinion on what works (and what doesn’t).
This is also a great revenue opportunity. If you are an affiliate for products you love or selling your own products, then list them on the Resources page along with plenty of free or non-affiliate products.
My new Resources page currently lists 21 resources with a brief description of each. All but eight are free.
It took me a lot of trial and error (and hunting around on many other resource pages) to narrow down my list, and if I can save somebody a few hours of research, then I’ve made their lives a little better.
Each page will show up in your menu bar. I think it’s important to keep your navigation simple, so don’t load up with too many pages.
You may want to add a page for post categories, your own products, a forum, or some other special feature of your blog. Don’t overdo it, though. Less is more when it comes to blog design!