The look and feel of your site is of vital importance and so you want to make sure it is not going to confuse people and put them off, this can be done by following a few simple steps.
I am a big fan of ensuring the articles you write can be accessed from any page of your site, remember only around 10 per cent of your readership will visit the front page, so offering a list of your most recent articles is important.
Think a little about how you read a website and you'll realise that the section of a site that is at the top of the screen is the most important, it is described as being "above the fold", and so you want to see the list of articles high up the page.
The same can be said for comments, for a couple of reasons, the first is that you are highlighting the valuable knowledge your readers have, but if a comment is left on an older piece this means it is highlighted to others.
Some blog services, such as Blogger, place a block of text as an About Me in one of the columns of your site and this is taking up valuable space which could be used better.
Instead set up a simple link pointing to an actual about or profile page and place this up near the top of your site, and include a link to your home page and email address as well.
I would also look to place a search box high up the page as again it offers readers a simple way of tracking down your work, usually you will find these on the right hand side of websites.
And don't forget to promote both your blog's RSS feed and if you've set one up a simple sign-up form for your newsletter.
But don't have your search box and newsletter sign-up form too close to each other, if you can place them on separate sides of your site all the better.
If you want to check up on some of these different elements then please see, the right online tools for your blog.
Naturally if you have a static website that you are looking to promote through your blog then again a link to this from one of the columns of your site is a clean and tidy way to make sure people see it.
Repeatedly linking to the static site from within articles can become very tiresome for readers, and some search engines may even penalise you for it, but with a link in one of your columns and the occasional mention in a piece people will soon click on through.
But what about all my buttons, badges and associated bits of website "bling", you ask?
As you can see I am a big fan of plain and simple websites, you don't see spinning buttons and flashing graphics in the margins of a book, but if you are going to include such things on your site place them towards the footer of the page.
Also remember that search engines look for text in links as one of the ways to determine what the page being pointed to is about, they can't read words on buttons and graphics.
Ultimately if you are spending time writing articles, and helping your readers discover corners of France, you want this to shine through, so a clean and tidy almost "minimalist" design will mean people are not confused and are much more likely to come back for more and tell others about your site.
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I would also add that you should have your RSS feed button or link as high as possible on the page. RSS is another way visitors can keep track of your latest posts.
Posted by: Bob Toovey | 01 March 2008 at 11:40
Hi Bob, must agree that making it as easy as possible for people to read your new articles is very important.
All the best, Craig
Posted by: Craig McGinty | 01 March 2008 at 19:15