One of the most important decisions which will affect the success and popularity of your blog should be made right at the beginning, and it involves the layout. Many independent entrepreneurs and small companies spend little time planning the layout of their blog and simply pick a theme they like from the WordPress library. It may look great for the specific example displayed on the screen, but it may not be the right choice for your particular blog.
Here is why: each blog layout is designed to showcase a specific type of content in the best manner possible. Photography or video blog posts have a portfolio type layout, with minimalist background details, allowing viewers to focus on the artwork itself and even expand it to full screen. Blogs focusing on written content have a column-based layout, just like newspapers and magazines, in which the width and space between rows, the font type and size are key elements.
So, what is the golden rule to use when you are about to pick a layout for your blog? There is no such one-rule-fits-all, but there are some pertinent considerations to keep in mind:
- Trust Your Instincts
This is the first rule to obey – if you look at a test page of your future blog before you publish it and something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to realise that the header of the layout is too large and overbearing, that images outbalance written content, or that the graphic and colour schemes are not a right choice for your niche and tone of voice.
Take your time tinkering with a specific layout (paid premium layouts allow you lots of freedom in customising them) or try out various free themes before you identify the perfect layout and can go ahead and purchase a paid version with this specific layout.
- One, Two or Three Columns?
The typical layouts for blogs focusing on written content feature one, two or three columns. Each such layout influences the way your content is displayed:
One Column Layout: this layout is most frequently seen in personal blogs. The content is displayed in counter-chronological order (the newest post on top). There are no sidebars or graphic elements (images, videos, other media or widgets) to the sides of the main column. This basic layout is probably not your best choice if your blog is a mix of written posts, graphic elements and other media formats.
Two Columns Layout: the visual display of this layout includes a main column and a sidebar. The sidebar can be used to create easy navigation within the blog or include links to your social media accounts and other digital properties (product microsites, special landing pages, etc.).
Three Columns Layout: this type of layout allows great flexibility in creating a balanced mix of written content, graphics, links and third party widgets. However, you must be careful when selecting the width of the main column – if it is too wide it is difficult to browse the content, while if it is too narrow it requires too much scrolling.
- Formatting Styles
Each layout includes a specific formatting style for headings, subheadings, lists and paragraphs. Some layouts include dramatic headings overshadowing the subheadings, others focus on white space and minimal formatting to allow easy reading on any device. And while some layouts display images and other media in a seamless manner throughout the text, others make it difficult to create a good text/graphics mix.
- Colour Schemes
The colour scheme of your blog layout has a great influence on how visitors perceive it and browse its contents. A vivid colour scheme which includes strong contrasts is eye-catching at first, but will create eye fatigue if people have to read your articles for a few minutes. On the other hand, a low contrast (beige on white, or grey on black) will make it nearly impossible to read your texts.
A complex texture of the background will compete with your visuals (photos, videos) and it is generally not recommended for any kind of blog, just as too many graphic elements (decals, graphic separators between page items, etc.).
- Focus on Simplicity
Leaving the best for last, always strive to pick a simple, fast-loading layout for your blog. We live in an age where people will not wait for a page to load more than 2-3 seconds. After all, there are plenty of other options. A layout which includes too many graphic elements and widgets will look cluttered and take time to load. By contrast a layout with a minimalist design looks neat, professional and will load fast even on slower internet connections.