Whether you want to boost your business’ SEO rankings or just write about a subject you’re passionate about, a blog is a great way to get your ideas into the online marketplace. And, while every blog starts small, you want to prepare yours for eventual global recognition with a professional design that makes you stand out. Good blog design can reduce bounce rates, increase page views and earn more links to your site—and it isn’t necessarily expensive. Here are four tips that will help make your blog stand head and shoulders above the rest.

#1: Make your focus clear

Your blog needs a theme that is easily understood, and a design that is highly navigable. You may have amazing material to share, but if your blog looks off-topic you’ll confuse your readers. For an example of a simple theme, check out the Beer Can Chicken blog. Can you guess what the topic is?


Winning design in the Beer Can Chicken blog design contest by lagun83

Want to know how to make great beer can chicken? Then this is your ultimate resource. The minute you land on this website you know exactly what to expect, and not just because of the giant chicken photo: this blog also has four categories and a search box.

That last brings us to ways you can help visitors navigate your site:

  • Left align your text: This is important, especially for going mobile. It’s much easier to take in information if the text is easy to read.
  • Put all links in one color: Your readers will get frustrated if they have to hunt for links to your other great content.
  • Include tags, categories, and groups: Think about the things people interested in your topic are likely looking for. Got a beer can chicken site? Create a category for rubs. And, whatever your theme, be sure to include a search box.

#2: Give your designer plenty to work with

When you create your design brief – whether for a 99designs contest or in working with an individual designer – you’ll describe in detail the look you want for your blog. Include a collage or “mood board” that shows images and colors inspired by your theme to share with your designer. It doesn’t have to be a work of art – think of it as merely a tool to help get your designer’s creative juices flowing. Sampleboard is one great online resource for doing this – take a peek at some examples the site offers up.

The founder of MessyNessyChic, an engaging blog about Parisian fashion and design, attached this vibrant, moody collage to her 99designs design brief:

She also provided the designers with a list of websites that inspired her as well as images of vintage postcards and signs from Paris. The result is a cohesive, stylized and on-message design that conveys the mood and aesthetic she was after:

Winning design in the Messy Nessy Chic blog design contest by alansmithie

Another great thing about Messy Nessy Chic: social sharing links, search and tag functions are all visible and easy to use.

#3: Help your target audience find you

There is no point putting blood, sweat, and guts into a killer blog post if you’re not reaching people who want to read it. It’s true that quality content matters, as do SEO techniques. SEO is “search engine optimization” and refers to the many strategies for placing keywords, links and headings to maximize a site’s ranking by search engines. But there are also a few design tips that will help you appear at the top of search results:

  • Use a Google-friendly font: Google only indexes sites in fonts that it can crawl. So, choose your font from Google’s own web font collection.
  • Use your main heading wisely: Search engines privilege a page’s main or “h1” heading, so this should reflect your core message in a concise five to nine words.
  • Stay social: Make your social sharing links obvious. These increase your reach when readers start sharing your content, and also improve your chance of getting valuable backlinks to your site.

PrintingForLess.com may not sounds like the sexiest topic, but the company’s blog is loaded with helpful tips about printing trends and problems, making it a valuable resource for customers:


Winning design in the PrintingForLess.com blog design contest by dan2003

The design also incorporates everything described above: it has a punchy heading, social sharing links and highly readable text. This might not be the most stylish blog on the planet, but you can bet it pushes valuable traffic to the site.

#4: Prepare for your mobile future

Mobile browsing is set to overtake fixed web browsing in 2014, so you want to “future-proof” your blog for readers on the move. Mobile may not be a big concern for you just yet, but it’s much easier to build from mobile up than it is to streamline a lot of content down. Consider using your business logo as your core design element, since ideally it conveys your key messages in distilled form (for more, check out Dorit Magidor’s blog post on designing your website from the logo up).

Chic Wear Chronicles is a newly designed blog that’s future-proofed with responsive design (that is, it automatically adapts to different browsers and screen sizes). Notice that the logo is 50% of the mobile site’s screen. Chic Wear Chronicles has incorporated a tagline into the logo so that on every device and on every screen, visitors know what the site is about:

Winning design in the Chic Wear Chronicles blog design contest by stefan.asafti

A good blog begins with a topic that the author genuinely wants to write about. But where it succeeds with readers is in having a design that is clear, navigable, and user-friendly. With a good designer and these four tips, your blog will promote your ideas and your business well into the future.