Ever since I started blogging on WordPress, I’ve been looking for different ways to improve my blog. There are many things you can do with WordPress as it offers many great tools and features. The question is which ones work best for you and how you can use them to improve your blog’s usability and accessibility.
Note that content is still the number one element attracting your readers. No matter how great your site looks, it doesnt mean anything without good content. However, having an easy to navigate blog will certainly allow readers to fully appreciate your content.
Below is a list of simple Do and Don’t tricks to help improving your blog’s appearance and usage.
- Use representative title. Simple to say but hard to do. This is one of the most basic but crucial way to attract readers. I dont mean to go for catchy trend like “Top 10 things etc.” but at least have a very clear simple representative title. Think of it as the heart of your post, your entire post condenses into 10 words. P/S: catchy tittle does help.
- Use pictures to illustrate your idea and story. “A photo is worth a thousand words.” Adding a photo would make your post much more interesting to read. You cant really go wrong with photo unless you use too many photos.
- Show follow buttons (WordPress and email). A must have feature on your site. Make sure they appear at the most convenient location. For the longest time, I didnt have the follow via email button (duh).
- Show most popular posts. Best and only way to surface your best work based on number of views or likes (likes works better for me because of my horrid views). Make sure it’s visible on any post (side bar is a great place).
- Use category and sub-category to organize your posts. WordPress has great support for categories and sub-categories. Be specific so readers know exactly what to expect when they browse on it. For example, instead of just “Travel”, use specific destination like “Japan”. A better way is to make “Japan” a sub-category of “Travel”.
- Use Category widget to show post history. Having a Category widget is the best way for reader to navigate through your blog. Unlike Archive widget, which groups your posts by date, Category widget groups all your posts by topics. Make sure to show sub-categories and post count as well.
- Use tags to improve your SEO. Tags are one of the best and fun way to index your posts. Reader can also search using those tags. If you dont know what SEO is, time to read up. #tagsmart
- Use top menu to highlight best part of your site. Top menu is another popular way to organize your blog. You can use it to highlight the most important thing you want your readers to see. You can put almost anything there: page, post, category, tag, post type, link.
- Use mobile-support theme. 90% of your readers are looking at your blog on their phone now. Make sure your theme looks great and easy to use on mobile devices.
- Design your blog for scrollers. Modern websites are following the “scrolling” trend, where users just scroll through the content of your site. Make sure users dont have to scroll so much their fingers fall off. Some scrolling-friendly feature: collage image, read more tag.
- Use “Read more tag” to compact your posts. For those who dont know, this tag puts a “read mode” option on your post and hides the rest of the post. This is to allow users to skim through your content easily. I made a mistake of not using this and my home page looked like a never ending spaghetti.
- Test your site on a phone. Now that you buy this whole go-mobile idea, make sure it works the way you expected on your phone!
- Have a Home page. This serves like “Recent posts” list on your site. It confuses me when I see a site without a “home” page. Where am I supposed to click now to go to your home page?
- Have an About page. You should always have an About page so readers can get to know you better.
- Use About widget. As if About page is not enough to advertise yourself, you can put an About widget in the reader’s face no matter which post they are on.
- Auto publish new posts to social networks. Auto sharing your new post on social media network is pretty convenient. Make sure all your connections are up to date and working. It has a drawback: if you accidentally publish your post, like I did with this post, you’ll have to clean up the trails.
- Show all sharing options. Sharing is a great way to make your post popular. Be it WordPress, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, always have those options ready for your readers.
- Put relevant reference to your other post. A simple trick to surface your other work. See what I did at the beginning? I casually conveniently mentioned my post about what you can do with WordPress and pretended it’s not intentional. There I did it again.
- Dont cluster your site. Simplicity is the best policy. Do not use too many top menus, categories, and widgets. Only keep the best and most useful to your readers (not yourself). Be selective.
- Dont use too many categories. One common mistakes I’ve seen is people use too many categories (20+), making it impossible to sort out which one to view. If your blog has lots of content, use sub-categories to create a hierarchy instead of a flat category list. 2-level or 3-level is ideal.
- Dont forget to open link in new tab. If you refer a link in your post, make sure to enable “open in new tab” option so readers are not redirected away from your main article. Try any link in this post.
- Dont use too many photos. Photos take time to load. Use selective handful of photos for each post, unless you are making a photo story like this lovely Japan photo itinerary.
- Dont use slide show. Talking about pictures, slide show may seem a cool fancy option to show multiple pictures. In reality, it’s slow, hard to use and sometimes doesnt work at all. Best to use collage format, easy to scroll through.
- Dont use drop down option. Drop down menu is another example of fancy but hard to use feature, especially with long list. Unless you have a very compelling reason to do so, avoid using drop down menu as it requires extra tap and hides the content. A better alternative is just a simple list, for example, category list and archive list.
- Dont use archive widget. Listing posts by year/month is a thing in the past. Use category widget instead.
- Dont restrict user comments. Interaction is key to keep your blog alive and help blogging community grows. Not allowing readers to comment is a sure way to kill your blog.
There go my 3 cents (because 1 $US is almost 1.5 $CA now (>__<). Note that those are just suggestions and they may not apply to you. In fact, some of the items have been moved from Do to Dont (Slideshow and Archive widget for examples). Mistakes were made, lessons learned.
Again, most important thing is for you to have fun and enjoy blogging. So keep pumping out great content and dont let any rule restrict your personality and creativity.
Thank you for reading. Let me know if it works (or not).
Here is a potato for you.