A Professional Theme Can Work Wonders for You!

In the Internet, there are millions of blogs, hosted in platforms such as Blogspot, WordPress, Typepad, Movable Type, etc. Also, there is a big list of self-hosted blogs. The troubling secret is that not even 99.99 per cent of these blogs actually make any money, or are actually worthy at all. There are a terribly few blogs out of these millions that make some big bucks (TechCrunch, Problogger, Shoemoney, etc). Others don’t even make a mere 100 dollars a month.

There are thousands of useful blogs out there, though the number of even remotely successful ones is still so low. Here we will look at a theme’s influence on your blog’s success.

Theme Is as Important as the CMS

WordPress’s elegant CMS (Content Management System) is believed to be the best—most search-engine-friendly—CMS out there. That’s why the WordPress powered blogs rank top in the search results. However, each CMS has its own merit and you can of course rank your Blogspot blog above a WordPress blog in the same niche.

But when it comes to the design of the blog, people look at various aspects. An elegant design will keep your reader amused, and would make him surf more inner pages of the blog. In my particular example, I occasionally visit PublicLiterature.org, a site to which I contributed once, and read some of their articles. It’s a lot healthy and pleasing to the eyes to read from an elegant design, than a garish bright one with too many ads.

The Blog Loading Time

Surveys give a daunting figure to us on website loading time. Most of the visitors to a page wait about four to ten seconds for the page to load fully; if the content doesn’t load in that time, they will just leave, giving you a bounce.

Bounce rate is very important for webmasters—something they as possible. A bounce is a visitor that leaves your site from the entry page itself, without going deeper. It is an should strive to keep as lowindication of bad user experience.

When it comes to user satisfaction, the most important thing is content. And I stress ‘content’. The content is not advertisement, but the article for which the user searched and landed your site. This content is what the users are looking for, not the advertisements.

In my last design, the template was a peculiar 3-column one with main content in the middle and two equal-width sidebars, one on each side. The problem was that the three columns loaded in the order from left to right. So the main content would load after the left sidebar has fully loaded.

What if this sidebar were full of advertisements? It may help me get some ad clicks (user frustrated waiting for the content clicks some ads). But it will turn out to be such a bad experience that the particular user may not return at all.

Now in this new design, you see the main content wrapper is on the extreme left. Now the content will load before the sidebars. The user will find the article he came here for and be satisfied (and will bookmark or subscribe to feed).

A Tweak Done in This Template

At first, in this template, I had a darker background, almost black. (#443B34 is the hex code). This background caused a small trouble. Though my content loaded just fine, it was loaded on the main background. The post body wrapper, which has a white background, would load after the content and background and certain other objects have fully loaded. This caused the black text to be displayed on a rather black background for a short while, and the user, not being able to read the post properly, would have to wait some more time until the white post background has loaded. That means the user lost a fraction of time.

Now, I changed the layout a little and tweaked the main background, without disrupting the top link list or any other part of the blog. I put a lighter shade (#EBEADF) for the main background. Hence, when the blog loads, the content on the main background will be visible, so that the user can read it while everything else will still continue to load. And as the user approaches the second sentence of the post, the blog will have completely loaded.

I advise you to do a similar tweak and give your readers the content first and then advertisements. This can make a huge difference to your blog’s user experience.

Template Choice

When choosing the appropriate template for your blog, consider a number of factors.

1. Shopping around


If you have enough money, Revolution offers some cool, professional templates for you to purchase. Another place to look for is WP Remix (from which my blog theme comes). These templates are mainly for WordPress-powered blogs. However, there are a number of places providing free-host blog templates. You can find just by Googling the appropriate term.

The important thing to note is the loading time of the template. Avoid any bright, flamboyant designs, if they load slower. Always consider the user experience first. Avoid any template that references several external files such as JavaScript, Stylesheet, images, etc.

2. Best Free templates

For those who don’t use self-hosted domains, and who are still stuck in free domains, use some elegant templates like the one I have used. You can find the details of this template here. Alternatively, there are sites, which offer free templates for all blog platforms. However, paid templates always work faster and better than the free ones.

3. Your Uniqueness

If you visit sites like Problogger, JohnChow.com, Copyblogger, etc., you will know this. There are a million Blogspot blogs, which look so similar. None of these blogs gives you something to remember them again. However, when you go to Copyblogger (which secured the best design award), its the wonderful, elegant design itself sticks in your mind, reminding you again of the blog; and the specialty of DoshDosh is that all the blog posts have images of cute animated characters. These specialties tempt you to visit them again.

As a first step toward uniqueness, design your own favicon, and put it in your blog (here is the how-to on adding favicon to Blogspot). The favicon is a small icon you see on your browser’s address bar, when a site loads. Every self-hosted site has its own favicon, while all Blogspot blogs have a common dull ‘B’ favicon, and of course, all WordPress free blogs their cool ‘W’ favicon (which however is the same for all). The first step in brand building is designing a great favicon.

This unique favicon will also show up in your blog’s feeds highlighting yours among other feeds.

As the next step, make changes to your template (even if it’s quite unique) to match your blog’s content. This is a very important step to take. Professional designs you can purchase from Revolution and others are sold to many other bloggers as well. So, you should either hire a template designer to build a completely unique design for your blog or make necessary changes yourself to the template you purchased. I have edited this WP Premium template to match well with various CuteWriting features.

4. Flamboyance and Exaggeration: Too Many Objects

When we talk about too many objects, I tend to compare DoshDosh and Engadget. DoshDosh is of the blogs that I admire merely for its simplicity. It’s way ahead of Problogger or even Copyblogger in terms of simplicity. The user that visits DoshDosh will find it extremely easy to navigate among very few objects arranged neatly.

On the other hand, take a look at Engadget, with that “I graduated in” banner (ugly as anything) on all three sides. However, they have done a proper work on their loading: the content loads quickly before all advertisements.

Build a design with as few external objects as possible.

5. The Template Shows Your Blog’s Personality

Blogs have a personality of their own. Just as your dress and your manners show your personality, the blog’s theme and its response to user requests show its personality. When your blog is well dressed, well mannered, and quick enough to respond, your visitors will like it (some may love it). Just so, dress your blog up well.

6. People Visiting You Just Due to the Theme


Never underestimate a theme, since there are people who will visit you merely to see your theme again and learn something from it. People love to see good-looking themes again and again just as they love to see good-looking people. So, merely due to the design, they may visit you more often. I occasionally pay a visit to A List Apart, DoshDosh, JohnChow.com, PublicLiterature.org, etc., just to see their design. Those themes are such eye candies that you will always be tempted for a revisit.

Conclusion

While you can make something with a year-long effort, you can mar it in an instant. The site you build up shows what kind of person you are on the Internet; so, tend it appropriately and give something valuable to your users than take their valuable time for your ad revenues. Having a better design for your blog takes a week at the most, and it’s effect can last your lifetime.

Related Post:

Theme Redesign and W3C Validation

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

1 Opinions:

  1. Yep, design has everything to do with eye appeal. Similar to 'curb appeal' its human nature to like to look at 'pretty things' or things which have strong visual appeal. Good post.

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