You need a sidebar – a narrow margin down the right-hand edge of the page. For all the stuff I’m going to tell you about in the rest of this post. Yes, the right – it’s easier on the eye. And one only. That’s easier too.
No picture of you
Published books include a picture of the author and blogging is even more personal. We want to know what you look like. And not a cartoon or one of those weemee avatars. Don’t be bashful. Use a photograph.
If you’re worried about spam and your blog platform doesn’t offer an easy email form, write your email address so that bots won’t recognise it – see mine in the sidebar.
No other places to find you
If you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google Plus, put your profiles in the sidebar. Okay, I haven’t featured Google Plus even though I’m on it, but I haven’t a clue what I’m doing there. If you contact me on Google Plus you won’t get any sense out of me. And I keep wanting to call it Circles.
Hidden Twitter handle
Twitter is one of the best ways to share posts. Once I joined, my readership rocketed.
I retweet a lot of posts and like to credit the source, so my followers have the option to follow the original author as well. But I’m less keen to credit if I have to hunt every line of a sidebar to find an ID.
On some blogging platforms, you can include your Twitter handle as part of your username (like I have). And while we’re at it…
Leaving your user name as ‘admin’
Blogs are personal. Even if every post is written by you, readers prefer to see your name, not the default ‘admin’. It’s easy to change if you hunt around in settings for your username. And add your Twitter handle.
Not putting an internal search box
If readers are looking for something, they don’t want to guess where you might have posted about it. Give them a search box.
Not enabling comments
Most blog designs allow comments by default, indeed it’s hard to turn them off. But in the last couple of days I found my way to two new blogs and wanted to let them know I’d enjoyed their posts. Even though they asked in the signoff for comments, there was no way to do so! Make sure comments are enabled.
Not including subscription info
Not everyone wants to type your URL each time, or even come to your site. Lots of people like to keep up with blogs in a reader or by email. Don’t miss out on them.
Leaving the blog untended
As I said in my previous post, blogs need to look inhabited. If I come across your blog and see you haven’t posted for a month or so, I wonder if you’ve abandoned it.
No one minds if you unplug to get on with other stuff, so long as you let people know you’ll be back. In summer I took time away to finish edits on My Memories of a Future Life, so I left a ‘gone fishing’ notice.
Some design themes are over-colourful, or light text on a dark background. These might work well for illustrative blogs, but are murder to read if most of your content is text. The trouble is, they look so tempting. I fell in to this trap when my self-hosted blog got hacked and I moved (long story). I went skipping around the WordPress wardrobe and picked something that looked groovy. Oh it was yummy. It went with my hair. You were all really nice about it too. But a few brave souls pointed out it was a migraine to read. The good news is, it was easy to change.
Next time I’ll look at blog design in more detail, including customising, bought themes and an extremely brief discussion of hosting options.
In the meantime, if you’re a seasoned blogger, what faux-pas did you commit when you started? Are there any you didn’t, but you notice on others?