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We put a lot of demands on a reader’s attention when they stop by our blog.
In fact, I’m willing to bet that we spend a lot of time
obsessing rearranging elements on our blog in hopes of increasing pageviews, adding subscribers or increasing time on site.
By trying to figure out all the different ways we can get people to do things, we often miss one important truth about human behaviour – we can only click one thing at a time. And often, the more choices we have, the less likely we are to choose anything at all.
With all that tinkering, have you asked yourself this one critical question?
What’s the single most important thing that I want readers to do when they arrive on my blog?
If you don’t know what you want a reader to do, then readers certainly aren’t going to know and naturally, that action is not going to happen.
What Do You Want Your Reader to Do?
At first, thinking of your blog in terms of what action you want people to take might seem weird. I mean, don’t you just want them to read it?
Of course, reading is very important BUT you may also want them to do these other things too. Different bloggers have different preferred actions so you’ll need to decide on your goals to figure out yours:
- Subscribe to blog (so they can keep coming back to read your blog)
- Follow you on social media
- Read most recent post & comment
- Read past content and explore blog
- Read your About Page
Design to Encourage Preferred Actions
Now this is the fun part! Once you’ve decided on what you want people to do on your blog’s homepage, now you get to design around that goal to encourage people to do it.
When someone lands on your blog for the first time, it should be immediately clear what you want them to do. Even if you’re not a designer, this isn’t as hard as you may think!
Most bloggers start and end their design process with doing the same thing that everyone else is doing. While in the beginning, this is often a good place to start, it’s time to take it up a level with your blog and stand out from the crowd.
1. Kill the clutter: By far, the easiest way to focus a reader’s attention on one specific item is to remove things that aren’t working or aren’t necessary on the page.
Do you have ads in your sidebar that make no money? Take them down and free up some real estate for things that work.
Do you have a badge, widget or button for every single blogging community and affiliation under the sun? Gather them on a separate page of your blog or put them together in a small grid in the sidebar so it’s not so distracting.
2. Create Visual Emphasis: Once you’ve cleared out all the extra stuff that doesn’t need to be there, you’re ready to start drawing attention to that one preferred action you decided on earlier.
You can draw attention to something on your blog with a lot of different techniques and we’ll discuss a few here. Try out some and see what works for your style and brand.
- Color: Try using a single color for all “clickable” elements on your blog like buttons and links. Are your links blending too much, is there a pop of color you could introduce to your subscription sign up box or your buttons?
- Shape: Unusual shapes draw more attention that standard squares and rectangles. This doesn’t need to be a starburst shape to work, contrasting straight edges with curved ones can make a certain element stand out too.
- Relative Size: Bigger things stand out, that’s pretty obvious but you don’t have to use a 50 point font to have a headline gain attention. Size matters more in how things all relate together on a page. If something is bigger in comparison to the other elements around it, it can stand out without looking garish.
- Contrast: Our eyes naturally pick up on things that are different in a group of like items (Remember those childhood activity books, what thing doesn’t belong? That’s pretty much what contrast is all about.) You can draw attention to your preferred action by using contrasting colors for headings, different fonts (serif vs sans-serif), different textures or shapes.
- Use of White Space: I love me some wide open spaces and that extends into web design as well. After you cleaned out some clutter on your site I hope you found some white space because you can use it to highlight a preferred action for your readers. Placing a call to action in a location on your blog that isn’t filled up other things draws attention to it naturally.
- Placement: In blog design, it’s important remember that we’re all looking at the site on monitors and not the entire page at once. Placing important items – like your preferred reader action – closer to the top of the page is a big part of it getting noticed.
Measure, Test and Repeat
The whole concept can be boiled down into simple points:
- Decide on the single most important action you want people to take when they arrive on your blog.
- Highlight that area, action or link in some way so that it sounds out visually and gets attention.
This is simple but far from easy. You may notice some resistance when you start to remove items from your sidebar or par down your navigation options. The quickest way to overcome resistance is to measure the outcomes you get once you follow the steps. Once you see some success, it makes all that house cleaning worth it!
For example, if you’re optimizing for subscriber sign ups, take your numbers for the last 30 days and contrast them against sign ups for the 30 days after you make the changes. (Don’t forget to use a percentage of subscribers based on traffic for a fair measure. This would be total unique visitors divided up the number of new subscribers for a given period.)
Everyone’s blog and audience is unique so measuring any change is vital to knowing what works and what still needs work.