How can I make my blog better?
It's the question I've asked myself hundreds of times. From the minute I started my first blog back in 2005 (those heady LiveJournal days), I wanted whatever I created to be the absolute best it could be. I learned HTML to write LiveJournal and Myspace layouts; I taught myself rudimentary graphic design skills to create my own icons. My tastes (as well as my platform of choice) evolved with time: I moved on to Wordpress, then Blogger, then Squarespace. I kept finding new ways to make my blog better.
I am, by no means, an expert in the blog world. I write as a hobby, as well as professionally, but there are still many things I don't know about when it comes to blogging. I wouldn't call myself a standout success story; I've never gone viral and I don't count myself in the group having thousands upon thousands of followers. I do, however, consider myself to have vastly improved my blog since 2005 and even 2008, when I started Locked Out (my first semi-successful blog).
Here are just a few things I've done to make it happen:
1. Pick a Platform.
Pick one that works for you. I hated Wordpress the entire time I used it (granted, I was using the free website and not hosting my own site); I hated it even more when a blog post of mine (that I'd written in about 5 minutes) was picked for their Freshly Picked feature, leading over 50,000 people to my blog in one morning. It was a nightmare and I was mad they hadn't asked me to be featured because I would have undoubtedly said no. I moved to Blogger and I stayed there for five years.
I loved Blogger: it's integrated with Gmail and it's incredibly easy to use and customize. I loved being able to easily change my background or header without having to use complicated HTML. I also loved that I could create simple CSS customizations. I really enjoyed Blogger, but after a while, I outgrew the platform: something about it felt too simple after a while and too childish. I was also ready to move on from my blog at that point and my heavy fashion and lifestyle focus.
Squarespace has been a really enjoyable site to use: I find the variety of templates easy to use and customize, but they also always look professional. Over the past year, I've tweaked my website into one that I find incredibly visually appealing, while still retaining aspects that are professional and still individual to me.
Your platform of choice doesn't matter to anyone but you: if you find it easier to use than any other platform, then stick with it.
2. Keep It Simple
It's really easy to go overboard with the wild designs. A frilly, girly, and highly colored layout was popular during the Myspace days, but currently, the easier it is to read a blog, the better. That means limited, easy-to-read colors and fonts, white backgrounds, and limited graphics. It can be tempting, especially on platforms like Blogger and Squarespace where you have hundreds of fonts to choose from, to go crazy or pick the cutest font you can find--but please resist that urge. Future readers thank you.
3. Limit Pictures
Sometimes, I get really embarrassed about the number of outfit photos I used to post: each post included at least 10 photos. 10 photos! Of the same stupid outfit! I drive myself crazy. Not only are so many pictures absolutely unnecessary, it makes your entire blog load slower than it needs to. If you need to post photos, limit yourself to five or less. Really. I promise, this will change your blog for the better.
4. Use Free Stock Photos
It can be tempting (very tempting!) to use websites like We Heart It or Tumblr to find beautiful photos for your blog. The problem with these two websites is that it's nearly impossible to find the original owner after a while--so you can't actually credit the person responsible for that piece of art. Instead, you contribute an Internet culture of posting and reposting the same images over and over so that the original owner is forgotten in a mass of links. Instead, try out some free stock photo sites or mailing lists (like Death to Stock Photo). I've written about my favorites before here.
What are some steps you've taken to improve your blog in the past? Share with me in the comments or on Twitter!