As you look at creating a business blog, try not to just consider the graphics side of blog design, but instead think about all of the elements that go together to make a successful business blog. The key aspect to the design is that it should make certain that your business blog supports the business goals that you are looking to achieve with it.
Use your blog’s “prime real estate”
To make this happen, you need to ensure that you place the elements which are most important in achieving these goals in the most prominent places. These are areas which are going to be viewed most often by your readers – generally, these “prime real estate” areas on your blog will be in the header and at the top of the columns and, to a lesser degree, all of the area “above the fold” (ie. what you can see on screen without scrolling). Use these areas carefully when designing your blog.
What should be the focus?
There is no single answer as to what should be there, simply that it should support the business objectives of your blog. So if you are looking to increase subscriptions to a free download, course or newsletter, then make sure that the sign-up box sits prominently at the top of your page. Likewise if you have a special promotion or service to push or perhaps a book that you want to publicize, then make sure that there is a clear link there through to a page where you can talk more about it.
Some key elements to consider
However, in addition, these are the areas of blog design that I believe should carefully be looked at, with a brief overview of why that’s the case:
Profile and contact details At the end of the day, the goal of 95% of Business Blogs is to encourage people to engage in dialogue with you – so make it easy for them to do so. And while you are at it, take the opportunity to let them know a bit more about you!
Navigation and usability While you want to use the key areas for the elements that you particularly want to promote, you still need to make it easy to find all the information that it contains. As a basic, use categories and archives sensibly and let the blog software do the work for you.
Blogging software generic templates The templates supplied with blogging software are the basic building blocks for a blog – in most cases, a common denominator which, by its very nature, needs to be all things to all people. It supplies a good basic format but can never give you the real benefits which will truly differentiate you from others and allow you to promote your key business elements properly. If you use a template, take the best from it but then make it your own.
RSS Subscriptions / Signups Just like an ezine subscription box on a normal website (in fact, make sure you have one on your blog – they work well together), RSS subscribers are important or even key to developing your business blog. So make it easy to subscribe and give them options such as specific chicklets or subscribing by email – incentives such as a free eBook to RSS subscribers are an added bonus.
Onpage advertising It’s so off putting having to wade through adverts to get at the posts and it’s the posts that are going to do the real work for you – if you have to include ads then keep them clearly differentiated. Ideally, unless you really need to directly monetize your blog, don’t include them. You’ll get all the benefits you need from the extra business your blog generates.
Make it easy to leave comments You want to encourage dialogue, so don’t make it difficult for your readers to leave comments – having to log-in or fill in a CAPTCHA just puts up additional barriers. However, make sure that you don’t allow rubbish comments either which could damage your blog. Ah, so much to think about!!
Search Box It’s important to include a Search facility on your site – by its very nature, a blog focuses on your most recent posts but is meticulous about storing everything that you write. It’s the cumulative information that is the real value – both to your business and to your readers. So it’s important that you give readers every opportunity to access it and the Search function is of course at the center of that.
Categories and Archives Keep the names relatively short and where possible have them contain some of your keyword phrases. Like the Search function, these are key ways for readers to explore what you have written in more depth
At the end of the day, making sure that you have the basics in place is key – after all, you want it to be successful for you and fulfil your business objectives. So get the design right and make sure that it helps and not hinders what you want you blog to achieve.
A blog is wonderfully flexible, despite first appearances, so incorporate different side bars on different pages where necessary and ensure that they help reinforce your business objectives. A business blog is a tool (albeit a very powerful one) so make the best use of it you can and make sure that the blog design supports the business goals … and not vice versa.