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?
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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.
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.
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