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Kind and Friendly Formatting

Pity your poor readers.

Image via Pixabay

Playing with your blog design is a lot of fun. Frankly, it’s much more fun than, say, writing. Why come up with 500 words when I could change my theme fifty times? I could post today…or I could redo my menus so that each tab is a different color of the rainbow! And yes, I would like a slowly revolving gif of a monkey riding a hippo in my sidebar, thank you.  

Fonts, colors, backgrounds, widgets, CSS, galleries: the tools and options for presenting your words and images to your readers are endless. It’s a good idea to make your site look pretty and visually compelling, but more is not necessarily better.

Remember, your readers primarily want to be able to read your posts without getting a headache, having to click around endlessly, or waiting for five minutes for your site to load.

When you’re changing up your blog design, it’s best to make choices that are considerate of your readers. Here are some things to think about:

Background

Most themes have a simple background by default, which you can change to a color or pattern, or even replace with an image you particularly like.

A unique background can set your theme apart, but it can also make your text impossible to read. If your theme has a solid post content area, and the background appears as a frame around it, you can go a little nuts with the pattern.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.21.46 PM

However, if your theme displays the background directly behind your text, it’s best to stick with a solid color that doesn’t obscure your words.

Fonts

If you have the Premium or Business upgrade, you have the option of changing your fonts. And regardless of upgrade, you have some formatting options in your toolbar, such as text color and style.

Put some thought into your font choices: is the text primarily to get attention (site title, headings), is it text that readers will need to spend some time reading carefully (body), or is it somewhere in between (captions, menus)?

Colorful fonts can be difficult to read, as can overly tiny or large font sizes. While it might seem boring, there’s a very good reason the vast majority of text, whether in print or on the web, uses a standard black font on a white background.

Alignment and Spacing

Typically, we read left to right (except for right-to-left languages, such as Arabic). Our eyes naturally scan left to right on a screen or in a book without our even having to think about it. For this reason, centered text is very difficult to comprehend, as you might have noticed while trying to read this paragraph here.

Also, big blocks of dense text can be hard to parse, particularly on the web where we’re used to skimming between blocks of text first, then narrowing in on what interests us.

Keep these things in mind when you are structruing your posts. Unless you’re captioning an image, it’s best to stick with left-alignment for text. And if you have a longer post, break it up with some internal headings or pagination.

Page Load

Not everybody has a speedy internet connection, and the more content you put on a single page, the longer it will take for your readers to load your site.

Here are a few tricks to speed up your site load:

Obvious Irritations

The ability to include music, video, and even interactive elements is part of what makes the internet so much fun. You don’t have to limit yourself to words alone to create an experience for your readers: you have multi-media tools at your disposal!

However, it’s easy to abuse the bells and whistles. Few things will make a reader close a tab faster than music or video that automatically plays when your site is opened. Pop-up ads or banners that obscure your content infuriate everyone, and too many distracting animated gifs and icons in your header or sidebar can turn your site into an eyesore.

Here at WordPress.com, we don’t allow some of the more atrocious tricks (such as pop-ups), but you can still ruin your site if you’re determined. So be sure to use a light touch with anything that squawks, sings, dances, or rotates.


 

None of this advice is intended to discourage you from expressing yourself. You need not limit yourself to the web design equivalent of decorating with beige.

But when you’re getting fancy, keep the reader experience in mind. Your site design should complement your posts and images, not distract from them.

Did I miss any good tips for reader-friendly layout and design? If so, please share them in the comments!

 

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  1. “Remember, your readers primarily want to be able to read your posts without getting a headache, having to click around endlessly, or waiting for five minutes for your site to load”.
    Very very true!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I have to say, it can be very easy to lose long hours of your life tinkering and playing with blog format, widgets and the other bells and whistles!

    There’s definitely an argument to say that, for some of us, it’s what we do when we really should be writing (after we’ve done the washing up, polished the cat, and re-categorized our music collection in alphabetical order, of course!)

    Having said that, a good spring clean every now and again is a great idea.

    I changed my theme to ‘suburbia’ a couple of months back and it did wonders for my blog – my new found pride in the way my blog looked rekindled my motivation and I’ve been posting (hopefully quality!) 3 or 4 times a week ever since.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Yeah. Playing with themes is so much fun… 😀 Changed my theme 3 days ago and it took me around 4 hours to try different themes and finally cho
    ose one.
    Hope it looks good. Creative Criticism Appreciated. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Additional tips:

    The color of your title and tagline should be legible. A simple background does not help things if there’s not enough contrast between text and color. (That’s also true is you simply use a solid background color instead of a background image.)

    Also along these lines, white (or bright) text on a dark background can be difficult for readers with weaker eyesight. If your target audience is college students, it’s probably fine.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Totally agree with all you say. I have one question: a friend told me that italics are not used in web copy because they are hard to read. As an “old school” editor, I use them for titles of books, films, for foreign words, etc. Are they really a no-no, visually? Thanks

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I just love, love, LOVE the worst internet page of all times. It reminds me of the internet pages in the early nineties, ha ha ha! Thank you for the tips, they sure make a lot of sense. Very helpful. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Could not agree more about the automatic music and video playing – drives me insane! The same with pop ups – one of my favourite blogs has a follow us on Facebook pop up that obscures my screen every time I look at their blog on my mobile, even if I dismiss it it seems to have a habit of coming back. Is it rude to tell them how annoying it is?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should tell them, they are probably just pushing for facebook likes and don’t realise that it’s irritating there readers. Personally if you were to visit my blog and more than one person complained or advised me about something then you could almost guarantee that it would be gone within a week.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. really useful reminders of things many of us have read somewhere at sometime but then forget when we lose ourselves in the possibilities of a new theme or in the quest to “brand” our blog with a distinctive look. thanks for this post

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have changed my theme a few days ago, and found that it’s just perfect for my blog. Neat, not so distracting, and the black font and white background! In no way am I going to change it for a few months (or maybe more)!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I played with so many themes before discovering simple is really better. Then the background image/colour became a big deal afterward. Nothing seemed to work until I just went for blue–which by the way complements the theme (twenty eleven) quite well. Perfect colour too–not too dark, not too bright and anyone (I hope) can see the black texts should their browser act up once in a while.

    Design does matter a lot. So it is advisable that everyone plays around with that a bit before settling. If black on white seems way too boring, you can try Quintus theme and a variety of others I hope that shows black on cream. I think that’s a lot easier on the eyes.

    Great tips this new year, Elizabeth.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I LOVE the photo optimization idea. Mine are way too big, so I will click to one of the recommended sites. I plan to upgrade my site this year to change the typeface. It’s always been frustrating for me since I was a graphic artist back in the day.
    Thanks so much for the tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Agree with every point. Although, what ever you’ve mentioned here in this post, I’ve already done it about a month back.

    Thank you, nonetheless, for the wonderful tips 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Most excellent !!! I’ve had to stop following a couple of interesting blogs because my aging eyes can read only black on white. And the simpler and cleaner, the more likely I’ll linger to actually read posts or view compelling photo posts. All that side stuff is white noise.

    (Obviously not all will agree!!)

    I do SO appreciate Word Press not allowing pop-ups!!

    Liked by 6 people

  14. “Readers primarily want to be able to read your posts without getting a headache, having to click around endlessly”

    So true! Internal links and site navigation takes a lot of time setting up (at least for me) but it really helps by giving people many ways to click around the site.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a spot on post. There’s a way to be playfully unique with your blog’s design without being an eyesore! Something else I would add is that when experimenting with design, consider how it all will look across a variety of screens and devices too. Phones, tablets, and computers all have different sizes, contrasts, and requirements for easy navigation. And remember that above all else, your content is the star! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point, more and more people will be experiencing our sites on mobile. Luckily, most of our newer themes are responsive, but it’s still good to consider it. 🙂

      Like

  16. In the beginning when I was uploading my gallery widget, I didn’t know that I can also re-size images. The outcome is I have collection of pictures on their original pixels and four thousands pixels each is a bit too much for one gallery of more than fifty photos. I’ve been planning to re do them one of these days but I know how tedious and time consuming the task is and I keep putting it off.

    Like

  17. The only time I used coloured font is for subheadings in a blog post..to break up text. And it’s always the same colour shade: dark green. To catch reader’s attention without being too visually distracting to the eyes.

    Like

  18. I tend to only fiddle with small areas of my site here and there. Large changes (like a complete theme change) is great and all, but only on the very rare occasion.

    You might love change and to spice your site up every now and then, but your readers generally don’t. They like to stick with what it familiar and changing things up too much might ruin their experience.

    I take my own personal experience with GameSpot. Prior to their site layout change back in circa. 2014, I had really liked using the site. It was easy to find the stuff I wanted. The new layout however hides all the stuff I was interested in and displays less information on the front page/category pages than was previously available. So I now stick with IGN.

    Something to consider.

    Same with WordPress changes. Every now and then things change (like the new Stat page) and although there might be one or two things I like about it, it usually removes a few features that I enjoy. I still use the old Stat page because it displays ratios and view/visitors with a simple hover-over instead of having to click each individual column on the graph.

    Liked by 2 people