Why Your Post Style and Structure is Killing Your Blog

51 Intelligent Opinions, Leave Yours.

Ruins

Something a lot of bloggers don’t realize is that how your posts are presented is often just as important as what they say.

It sounds crazy but it is true.

Humans are very visual creatures. And we are also very judgemental and impatient.

Imagine rocking up to a job interview in flip flops and shorts. They wouldn’t even listen to your credentials.

Imagine going speed dating and having a big booger hanging out your nose. It wouldn’t matter how funny and charming you were.

Finally, imagine trying to give speeches with a stutter like this one.

Blogging is a lot like all of these examples: you have to make good first impressions and then you have to keep people interested and engaged with the way you deliver the content.

Let’s jump in.

What am I doing wrong with my post style and structure?

Okay so let’s take a look at where it is all going wrong and what problems it is causing. As always, if you have anything to add or reckon I’m wrong please leave on of your awesome comment-essays. You know who you are.

1. It’s different every time

One of my pet hates is when I start to read a blog and every post looks different. It is just too hard to follow and get into over time.

I always think this is a little bit like your favorite TV show. Imagine if every week the format of Scrubs or 30 Rock changed. Different introduction length, different story-telling format, etc. It would make it really hard to bond with.

Having different blog post structure and style is a good way to lose the traffic that you get.

2. It has no flow

Flow is a really hard thing to define but you certainly know when it isn’t present.

Sometimes I read a blog post and it feels like I’m driving up and down hills, having to change gears every few seconds. It’s painful.

Other times I read a post and it’s like kicking the car into top gear and cruising along a freeway. Beautiful.

So how do you fix the flow? Hard to say.

Part of me thinks it is a mix of stylistic issues like bullet points, paragraphs and headers and content issues like organizing your topics, using the right images, etc.

I’ll show you some examples of posts with amazing flow below.

3. It is the wrong font and font size

Really? Is there such a thing as the wrong font and font size?

You bet there is.

Some designers spend their whole careers studying the use of typography and how people respond to different fonts. I’ve read studies where million dollar advertising campaigns were drastically improved by changing the font and its size.

So where do people get it wrong? With this stuff:

  • Too small to read
    Most blogs use a small font size because it looks sharp but then anyone over 30 struggles to read it. Make it a minimum of 14px (or 16px!) like this site.
  • Sans serif and serif are badly combined
    You need to combine sans serif and serif headers and body copy in the correct way. Too much of one thing is difficult to read.
  • Incorrect spacing
    The spacing between lines and paragraphs is too small. White space is your friend.

I’ve got some cool solutions to all this stuff down below.

Did you know?
Studies have shown that serif fonts are much easier to read than sans serif?
- Click to Tweet This Quote!

4. Your images distract instead of enhancing

We all know that an image is worth a thousand words. But no one ever mentions that those thousand words can be all bad ones if you use the wrong image! Click to Tweet This Quote

I’ve written about how images affect your blog before so I won’t rehash all of the points again. Basically though, you want to avoid:

  • Cutting the left of the content
    This is a big design no no that I see all the time. You never want images to break the left hand line of your content. It is too distracting.
  • Changing sizes
    When images are always different sizes and shapes it really affects the flow and the visual appeal of your blog. Keep them all the same so people know what to expect.
  • Decreasing your authority
    Cheap images that are clearly from a free stock site or a cheap gif meme really decrease your authority. If you really value your blog post try to make sure it has nice photos.

Let’s make those 1000 words work for us instead of against us. Again, I’ll have some more help below.

5. Your content is not framed properly

Have you ever seen a beautiful work of art that is totally ruined by a terrible frame?

It seems to happen all the time.

Your content is like art; original, inspired and begging to be looked at. But if your frame is ugly or out of shape you can totally ruin what is on the inside.

It sounds shallow, I know.

But we all do it.

We’ve all been to blogs and left two seconds later because it was just too ugly to look at. Design matters. Colors matter. The length of your content area matters. These are all part of your content’s frame and that frame is an important tool for keeping your readers focused on what you are saying.

How to do post style perfectly

What I want to do now is show you some examples of blogs and websites that get their post style and structure really right. Not all of them tick all the boxes but there are some important lessons here.

  • Consistency
    Zen Habits is an example of a site where it is the same all the time. You know what you are getting. This is quite remarkable considering it has a lot of guest posts and sites that do a lot of guest posts are often the worst offenders. I also really enjoy the way the Australian political site The Punch displays each post and author in the same manner, regardless of topic.
  • Flow
    Neil Patel is someone who has wonderful flow. He uses images to draw the eye down and organizes his thoughts and ideas in to steps and dot points. You always know where you are. Jon Morrow also flows better than almost any author. I think one of his guest posts on Problogger was like the biggest blog post in history.
  • Font size
    One of the best articles you’ll ever read about font size is all about how anything less that 16px is a costly mistake. Compelling points but frustrating if you really don’t like big text!
  • Sexy fonts?
    Brian Gardner wrote a short but very cool piece about what a sexy font face looks like. I totally agree.
  • The best images
    The best image use, in my memory, was by a guy called Maki at a blog called Dosh Dosh. But that died a few years ago and no one knows why. He used awesome anime characters and scenes to illustrate each post and paragraph. You instantly knew it was a Dosh Dosh post. One classic example is the biggest blogger around, Dooce, who uses images as posts as well as to highlight parts of posts.
  • Clean and beautiful frames
    Some of the best frames in the blogging world are at Social Mouths, Think Traffic and ViperChill. These are designs that keep you focused on the design or the mailing list and don’t distract you from what the words are saying.

What does it for you?

What part of a blog post’s style or structure really turns you off? And more positively, what examples do you have of people who are doing it really right?

Photo: © Witr

 

Ramsay WROTE THIS

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51 Comments... Leave yours.

  • Loralee

    I write and edit for several websites. My comment re: this post is that I would add one more point, and that is that the post must be well written. Even if it’s a causal, upbeat, modern blog, if words are mispelled and grammar is just bad, as opposed to relevent slang, it’s jusst bad. See what i mean?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Have I made some typos in this one again? :-0


  • Zimbrul

    You are not bad at withdrawing attention either.
    Blog Tyrant has got one of the best combination of content flow and styling because both are top quality.
    I said it before: your blog is very easy to read due to perfectly balanced line heights, typography and colours.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Zimbrul.


  • Zimbrul

    I was going to ask you what theme are you using?


  • Geoff Reese

    Thanks for the info here. First impressions are important and you never get a second chance to make one.

    Thanks for the links. They helped as examples but I also got some helpful tips in other areas.

    Stay Strong and Be Inspired.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Geoff.


  • Tesh

    “The spacing between lines and paragraphs is too small. White space is your friend.”

    Unless it’s two spaces after a period, apparently.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I’m not sure what you mean Tesh…


      1. Tesh

        Sorry, I wrote that in a rush.

        I wholly agree that white space is a Good Thing, and an important element of design. Negative space gives the eye a place to rest and also aids communication. It’s almost like the “body language” of written communication; subtle but still important.

        It’s a pet peeve of mine that despite that premise, there’s a modern crusade against two spaces after periods and colons. It strikes me as short sighted and almost authoritarian, and I’m always annoyed that browsers and most web design actually strip out the double space.

        I’m the artist, I’m the author, I’m keenly aware of the spaces I put into my text and why. It bothers me when browsers or blogging software take some of that control away.


  • Sheyi | Ivblogger.com

    I’ve read countless number of blog posts today and this is the second epic post I’m reading plus it’s the best.

    Hearing about socialmouths here for the first time and apart from their theme which is fantastic, they have articles that are sweet too.

    Sheyi


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Yeah Social Mouths is really good. I highly recommend them.


  • Marcus

    Being a writer, typography is my favorite part of design. The first thing I do when installing a new WordPress theme is to adjust the font settings to boost readability. Out-of-the-box, most fonts are way too small and hard to read. Like the designers see writing as mere filler for their layouts. If the theme doesn’t make it easy to change those font attributes, I switch to another theme.

    Bnonn at the Information Highwayman blog was a big part of raising my awareness on how important typography is. His article about how no font size should be less than 16 px (which you linked to) is an excellent read.

    Chris Pearson, creator of the Thesis theme for WordPress, has a handy resource called, “Golden Ratio Typography Calculator.”

    http://www.pearsonified.com/typography

    Type in your font size and column width, and it will present you with optimized recommendations for your typography.

    From a content and typography standpoint, Lifehacker is a shining example. It’s got eye-catching photos, clean design, and useful content. So good that it’s easy to get sucked into reading about productivity rather than being productive.

    For an example of one of Lifehacker’s longer pieces, search for “How to Choose the Perfect Pair of Headphones.” Loads of information, beautifully presented.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Awesome resources as always Marcus. Thank a bunch.


  • TJ

    Great post BT, you know how I love art references!

    The only thing I can add to this is that when bloggers have a guest post, they need to clearly mention that it’s a guest post.

    There should be a little intro for newer readers, especially first time visitors. Never underestimate the importance of a good segue!

    This also applies to references inside a post. You can’t assume readers have read everything you’ve ever written. Often before I hit the “publish” button I ask myself this question:

    “If somebody was visiting from the moon and they happened to land on my site and start reading, would they understand what I’m talking about?”

    Your fan in MN
    tj


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      That is a really good point TJ. How are you anyway?


      1. TJ

        It’s a fine summer here BT, thanks for asking. Us moms have our hands full with kids though so not a lot happening blog wise!!

        This is a good post BT, the way the post looks (image, font, white space, etc) is really just as important as the content itself. It might even be more important. There used to be a lot of sites that were black with white text and they were SO hard to read. It could have been the best content in the world, but I wouldn’t stick around to find out.

        Your “booger in the nose” analogy was classic. I love when you write fun stuff. Keep up the good work!


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Noted: more boogers.


  • Isla McKetta

    Great post, BT!

    I think far too little attention is paid to images on blogs when really they are the first things that attract our attention.

    You’re totally right about re-sizing so images fit the theme and not going for cheap stock. It’s also important to make sure the images aren’t out of focus (unless it’s obviously intentional) and that they are sized to load quickly. If I’ve scrolled past an image because it’s too slow to load, I won’t scroll back up.

    Thanks for keeping the internet legible.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Good point about small image sizes. Thanks Isla.


  • Allie | Ramblings of a WAHM

    I’m off to change the size of my font right now….

    ……

    Ok. I’m back. Great tip. I had it larger then switched around my theme and banner a bit so I changed the font size. I didn’t like the new size but read somewhere that it needed to be smaller. Huh? Older eyes can’t read it. And my eyes are getting older, lol.

    And, yes, images are huge for blogs these days. Especially with the advent of Pinterest.

    ~Allie


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Your font size still looks pretty small… ;-)


  • Glynis Jolly

    I agree with all but on aspect — the font to use. Although the Georgia font is pretty, do you realize how hard it is to see for people who have eye problems as simple as astigmatism? Ariel may not be sexy but it’s a lot easier to read. Whose going to read your blog if the font is giving them a headache?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Really? I have an astigmatism and I prefer Georgia. It seems softer.


  • LPogue

    Studies have shown that serif fonts are easier to read on paper, and sans serif fonts are easier to read online. Even though modern monitors don’t have much flicker, at least not that we can notice, there is some there. The serif fonts on a screen cause eye fatigue, but on paper, they help lead the eyes across the page.

    I enjoyed reading the article.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey there. Do you have a link for a study? I’d love to see one.
      Thanks.


      1. Brian Lang

        Here’s a link to an interesting study. Ironically, the font size on this page is a bit small in my opinion:
        http://www.surl.org/usabilitynews/32/font.asp


  • Ralph | Niche Websites

    I must admit I love images but I don’t use them enough on my own websites. I do want at least one image per post..

    It has been a “struggle” to get the right theme, more because I just get excited by so many others out there that I am like “wow that would be great for mine”..

    Like your own theme here Ramsey.. very schmick..


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I reckon if you aren’t satisfied with your theme you should spend some cash and get an original one designed Ralph. That way it perfectly suits your needs.


      1. Ralph | Niche Websites

        Yeah fair enough.
        Although I might not know for sure what I want :)
        But will see :)


  • liz@lifedreaming

    Hi BT

    All very good points.

    I’ve changed my style slightly to include more subheadings when you mentioned it. I find that the subheadings break up the text and can draw people through the story.

    I love images and try and put in 3 to 4 in a post.

    Where did Dosh Dosh go? I LOVED both the images and the rare content of their post.

    Have a good weekend BT

    Liz


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Maki supposedly just got bored of it all and stopped writing. Strange considering he probably could have sold that site for $100k plus.


  • kenneth ifeanyi

    Nice one and i would follow the same pattern with my new blog.Every post should have a flow.Dont try to about write everything!


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Totally agree.


  • Jeevan Jacob John

    I was always thought about delivering the post as an important aspect of blogging. But, I haven’t been that consistent with post style. I like consistency, but at the same time, I like variety. What I used to do was write as I like, with freedom, the post style used to depend upon the topic and my mood – If I am writing it like a rant, then I would leave a lot of white space, small sentences. But, soon I realized changing the post style for every post isn’t a good thing to do for my readers.

    So, what I do now is follow a style for some time (say like 2-3 weeks or a month) and then change it (this applies to posts that I write for my blog, for guest posts, my style is entirely different).

    It works for me and for my readers (I haven’t had any complaints so I think they like it).

    I have experimented a bit with fonts too (Since I use Headway theme framework, I can switch all the fonts at once). I like Georgia and Trebuchet MS for my fonts.

    These days, I don’t use images for my blog posts (Except for my guest posts and my posts at another blog I manage). Sure, images can help us to get more traffic, but to me, images has done more negative things than positive (they have attracted junk traffic from search engines – which skewed my tracking stats and made my blog experiments a lot more harder to do).

    Anyways, thank you for the wonderful post, BT!

    Jeevan Jacob John


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      That’s a really good point about junk traffic. I was once getting close to 2,000 unique visitors a day for a photo I had of Arnie. Totally useless for me though…

      Thanks for the great comment. Hope to see you around more.


  • Jamie Alexander

    Things that annoy me:

    Including words that don’t need to be there
    Speaking as a computer rather than a person
    Too much words per line
    Lines too close together (BlogTyrant is ok but quite close, no offense)
    Crap articles that don’t teach something
    Articles that are rehashed from different sites all the time
    Really bad spelling and grammar
    Paragraphs too big
    Not enough contrast between words and background (grey :( )
    Too short
    Too long if not excellent

    I’m sure I can thing of more, lol. I see a lot of bad blogs and a lot of good ones.

    I like BlogTyrant and it’s one of the good ones. Sadly, some are not so good.

    That’s an interesting point you make about pictures being different sizes. I use different sizes on mine because I think it’s a bit different. I’ll keep an eye out in the future and see if people don’t like it.

    Cheers


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I really like your typography Jamie. Line spacing is perfect.

      I think you should have a sans serif font for your titles though. No big deal.

      :-)


      1. Jamie Alexander

        Thanks Ramsay,

        I’ll look into it once I Google what sans serif means, lol. I know it’s the opposite of normal serif.


  • Sherryl Perry

    You have some great tips here and your post shows that you practice what you preach. White space is so important and using heading tags helps so much. (Plus, by using keyword rich headings like you have, it helps with SEO too.)

    One thing that some bloggers do that I do not agree with is that they display their entire post on their home page. I think it’s too cluttered plus they’re missing the opportunity to entice someone to read another article if the one that they’re featuring has missed the mark with them.

    Thanks.I’m sharing this where I can and sending it to a couple of people who I know could really benefit from it.


  • Jamie Swanson

    Pretty sure I just broke at least one or two of the image rules you just posted about in that guest post I sent you. Whoops. ;) Feel free to edit as desired.

    Great post, by the way.


  • Filip @blogadept.com

    I read the article from my mobile phone (not a smartphone) and the links are the same color of the text and are not underlined, so it is very hard to track them. I have a Nokia c2 and I’m browsing with Opera Mobile.


  • Austin

    I’m in the middle of redesigning some of my sites that under perform. Theses are sites that I started a good while ago and look very amateur. I’ve decided to invest in quality design for these sites as they provide great content if the readers can get by the terrible design and amateur feel.

    I will be making sure my designer reads this post!


  • Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon

    Great tips here – some of which seem obvious now but I didn’t even think of them until reading this post ;) The best tip for making posts easier to read in my opinion is to use headings, subheadings, bullet points, etc. to split up your content and make it easier to scan and navigate through. Avoid a massive chunk of text at all costs – I know if I see a post that is all writing with no headings or other ways of breaking it up I usually don’t read it 90% of the time – just my laziness ;)

    Thomas


  • Lewis LaLanne

    I love how the Georgia font flows on this site Ramsay. I think it’s Georgia. Whatever it is, I likey.

    When it comes to a blog design hell bent on converting visitors into subscribers, I find it extremely hard to not recommend taking advice from the Conversion Rate Experts site.

    That opt in box they use (that we modeled) combined with our free gift combined with our content has ABSOLUTELY KICKED ASS!

    It absolutely told us we were doing something right relevant to not interrupting the flow of one of the main objectives of our site – make a great impression that inspires our perfect prospects to want to stay in the loop of what we’re producing.

    If you know about Neil, I’m sure you already know about them but if you’re interested in building your email list, you must listen to them about that opt in box design of theirs.


  • Puneet

    hi there, i have started a new blog http://reviewsheview.blogspot.com/. Can you please comment about the post style. Is it alright?

    When should i apply to adesense, is there some such time period and traffic needed. Also what should be the %of organic traffic and no organic traffic for adsense?
    thanks


  • Fay Foster

    I have also just started a blog and probably doing everything you say is wrong. Cheap images, different writing styles etc. However, I am loving the blogging process and as a writer (not really but trying)I like to have variety and have loved finding funny photos to go with it all so am feeling confused. So far only reaching friends and family.Not trying to make money (though that would be nice). Its called Floundering along with Fay at faysmusings.blogspot.org.

    I am considering moving to wordpress.org and having a self hosted blog but feel I need a blog consultant to help me set it up, move content and also advise on content, style etc. Is there such a thing?
    Help, I have so many questions it is not funny and the more I research I do the more confused I get!


  • Colette

    Great, post. Agree totally about font sizes. Eyesight acting up on me that that I’ve reached the big 40 so the bigger the better for me :-)


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