Web design is a highly versatile field of creative work, many would argue that a design is never complete, until of course, the designer himself is satisfied. But, how much of our own personal desires can get into the way of creating an attracting and converting design that’s built for the users of our community?
Learning to design for optimal performance doesn’t have to be a difficult task, it can made to be an enjoyable process, as enjoyable as the process of sharing information. Reading web design books is a strenuous process, and not everyone has the financial requirements to afford great quality books anyway. Having designed dozens of WordPress blogs myself, it’s clear to me that there are certain parts of designing a WordPress blog that kind of repeat themselves over many designs, and do so because of their usability in the design that I am building.
I’d like to share with you the following 10 design tips for optimizing the user experience and usability for your WordPress blog. These tips will range from direct design optimizations, to tips on how to make your blog more accessible through technological design aspects such as web performance.
1. Create a picture of your audience
A good design is always going to reflect the identity of a particular audience. Gaming websites usually go for a lot of image and video content, and their website backgrounds are usually in dark colors, while simple writers like simplicity, and build designs that focus only on writing. Create feasible connections between your design and your readers, and use that as a foundation for the design you are going to build. WordPress blogs come under many different categories, such as: business, corporate, magazine, sports, portfolio, etc,. and each one has a unique approach to design, because the audience stems from a unique industry.
2. Select an extendable theme
The free WordPress theme repository has some wonderful selections of free themes to choose from, but if you’re aiming for that sleek professional look, SketchThemes might have something for you as well.
With the huge influx of WP themes in recent 3 years, it helps to understand the selection process of an extendable WordPress theme:
- Look for framework-less themes to save yourself from overwhelming your design senses.
- Try and find a theme that has a Customization panel in-built, to help you make changes without adjusting code.
- Always check if the theme is going to be mobile responsive. Mobile design is important!
Learning to code can be tough, but it’s doable, although for a beginner who is looking to style their WordPress blog, it’s best to select a style that can represent your ideas for the future.
This also brings me to one of the most important trends in web design right now.
3. Mobile optimized designs
Smartphones aren’t just beautiful gadgets to wave at your friends, smartphones much like personal computers have sneaked into our lives to become indispensable parts of them. In just a few short years, smartphones have climbed to the top of the ladder of the number of searches being concluded on search engines. And this number will continue to grow as countries like India are opening up to greater mobile accessibility.
Responsive and mobile optimized designs are essential for your success. Although no new WordPress themes are being published without some form of mobile support, it can go a long way to understand how mobile designs work.
4. Select only essential plugins
Web performance is part of your design, if the design is properly structured, then there should be no performance issues, but unfortunately many bloggers are still struggling with making their sites load fast, while understanding that Google counts website speed as a ranking factor. One of the biggest reasons why WordPress blogs tend to be slower than any other website, is because of plugins. Generally, the overuse of useless plugins that do nothing but slow your blog down.
Ask yourself, do you really need 20 plugins to run a simple content blog? You probably don’t, and if you want to analyze the plugins that take up most of your server resources, I recommend using the Plugin Performance Profiler (P3) to get a more clear picture of how much memory your plugins are eating up. Doing this analysis thoroughly will greatly increase the performance of your blog.
5. Intuitive navigation
Website navigation is in many ways the simple aspect of your blog that determines how your blog works, and how others can access parts of your website that aren’t on the homepage. A badly composed navigation is going to create high bounce rates (people leaving your website without visiting other pages), and decrease the amount of content that is exposed to search engines.
An intuitive content navigation will consist of:
- Header navigation — create a simple navigation in the header of your blog, populate it with links to your business pages (about, contact, policy), but also include pages to content categories for easier access.
- Internal content navigation — when writing new content, remember to utilize your keywords to point out to other pages on your blog, this helps to promote content that isn’t on the front-page, and also favors Google rankings.
- Categories & tags — while using categories and tags widgets can seem like a design disaster, it’s actually going to help your readers to find the content that they are looking for, in turn decreasing your bounce rates, and increasing readership.
What navigation steps have you put in place to ensure that your content is easily accessible for everyone?
6. Visual content
The human brain can process visual information tens of thousands of times faster than text, and unless you are a creative writer using a simple WordPress text theme, you are going to need to start integrating visual content in your blog posts to make the design apperance that much more appealing. Whether it’s a catchy featured image, or using statistics and data reports inside of your posts, visual content will go much further than just look appealing, but also is going to increase your social media shares, which will bring in organic traffic.
7. Test your designs
Whenever you are adding new features to your blog, make sure that you test these features for their optimal performance. For example, if you are adding a newsletter subscription module to your content/widget areas, check back every few days to see if there are any new subscriptions coming in, and if there are not — you will need to rethink the positioning and try again. The process of having to test this manually can be avoided by implementing an A/B testing strategy. There are tons of WordPress plugins available for free download to help you with testing multiple design simultenously.