Design Usability Tips Your Readers Will Love


image by kennymatic

They say ‘don't judge a book by it's cover' but as fashion bloggers, we all know the importance of superficial beauty and structure. With all the blogs out there, and many of them using templates from free blogging platforms, it's easy for blogs to look the same-same. While developing a brand and design language is post in itself, here are some guidelines to increase your blog's usability…

Where am I?

It's helpful to developing a branding strategy that the readers can easily identify the name of the blog. I've noticed that many blogs have interesting headers, particularly in the fashion blog genre, the ‘collage header' is great but sometimes actual name of the blog is obscured. Even if a blog's name is prominent, there is a chance someone will miss it… so don't make it more difficult by obscuring the name.

The navigation is an important part to helping your readers explore your blog and spend more time on your site. It should be easy for your readers to locate your ‘about' page, ‘contact' page, your RSS feed. Most blogs don't have complicated structures, but a generally speaking, the page you want should take around two clicks, preferably less.

Where's the beef?

The content is the most important part of the blog, but over time, it's easy for the content to be visually obscured by clutter. Clutter accumulates by adding a link here, an affiliate badge there, a twitter widget on the sidebar, a list of useful posts… the ever growing blogroll. Some magazine formats coupled with ads and badges sometimes make it difficult to find the actual content. Limit the number of ads, badges, widgets on the home page and clearly separate from content. Content should be spotted ‘above the fold,' meaning one shouldn't have to scroll down past the header and several ads to get to the actual post. A reader will be turned off if they can't instantly see the content when they land on your page.

Keep the clutter to a minimum by moving some elements off the homepage. Over time a blog can build a lengthy blogroll, so it's perfectly fine to move it to it's own page, as well as other types of link lists that act as resources for your readers. Giving the links their own pages will give them space for your readers to really browse through them, and if the pages are easy to find in your navigation, nothing is lost. Links I've moved off my home page are my archives, fashion resource sites, my ‘about' page, and press mentions. This allows more room for advertising, popular post information, search and RSS to be featured prominently without overbearing the content.

To Register or Not To Register

Registration is a tricky thing, sometimes it's necessary, like for forums, if you have social media user profiles, services… etc. However, some blogs require a user registration to leave comments. In my four years of blog reading I haven't wanted to comment anything so badly I would register to say it. People generally don't want to give out their information, so don't require user registration unless absolutely necessary, and if it is absolutely necessary… make sure that your reasoning benefits the reader (not you), that it's easy to register, and the captcha is easy to read (if you must use captcha). I have literally not registered for things because of the impossible captcha.

Play that music?

Do not play music automatically. It's not respectful to the user who, a.) might be listening to their own music b.) be in a place where music is inappropriate like a library, cafe or work c.) may not like your taste in music or d.) may not be in the mood for music. There are all kinds of music players tapes out there which the user can opt to listen if they want to, but don't assume they want to hear it.

Listen to Your Readers

Your readers will let you know troublesome design flaws… constant emails wondering where the archives are, a distracting background, or if there was a search option. When I changed my blog template, I recieved these emails, and a background that worked on my computer didn't work on for a lot of other screen sizes, so I changed it… but I wouldn't have known if I didn't receive the emails and comments. So don't take these complaints personally, because they will help the blog evolve.

Most of all, it's important to know that usability isn't set in stone, it evolves over time, as your blog evolves, so don't be afraid to try new things, and don't be afraid of change. Most of all, have fun with it… as the experiments usually lead to new growth and new ways of relating to your readers.


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30 Responses

  1. EJ

    Regarding autoplay music: hear hear! I can’t STAND it when any website has it, it feels so intrusive. Unless I have to or REALLY want to be on that site, I close the window/tab immediately.

  2. Fajr

    Great post! I just redesigned my blog and used so many of these tips. It’s so true that a great layout can do wonders for your blog. I was using the Morning After (the theme you use on The Coveted) it was a little to labor intensive for me. Check out the new layout and please let me know what you think…

  3. Jennine

    ❤ EJ… its amazing how many websties do that, i blame myspace. though some blogs have cool songs, it still always startles me.
    ❤laetitia… mine too, i always have things to update. it’s like a garden.
    ❤fajr…oh i like your new digs… yeah that’s a problem with morning after, but i think i’ve tweaked it to the point where it’s not really the same theme. i still like it though.

  4. Edith Purdy

    I feel the same re music. I tend to read a lot of blogs at work under the guise of, errr, work and when music starts playing I can’t pretend that I have been staring at that spreadsheet or fact checking.

  5. Ondo Lady

    I dislike music on blogs as well, especially when I have the volume up loud so it scare the life out of myself and whoever is in the room with me. I have no idea what purpose it serves, if I want some music I can just open up my iTunes.

  6. lisa

    Fantastic usability tips! I work in software and I tried to keep my blog layout as user-friendly and uncluttered as possible. Also, I definitely sympathize with the annoyance over auto-play music. One of the blogs I frequently read has an embedded player, and whenever I log on to leave a comment, I immediately pause the song before it starts playing. So irritating!

  7. Laetitia

    Thanx Jeninne!! This will actually really help – my blog is all over the place right now and I totally agree that it should be an eye-catching thing!

  8. Jillian

    Ugh THANK GOD!
    I work as a graphic designer (it’s my day job haha) and we NEVER let our clients do auto starting music. It is very annoying to customers and it saddens me to see a great blog have auto start music! Especially when the player is hard to find and u don’t know how to shut it off! haha

    I’m so glad u mentioned that 😉 A+

  9. Andrew Laws

    See, sometimes less really is more!

    And as for auto-play music, let’s leave it well it started, as horrid midi files on teenager’s websites in 1995!

  10. Mallory @ MissMalaprop

    Great post! I agree on all of the above. I actually just finished redesigning my blog because it had gotten WAY too cluttered. I’m liking the clean new look a lot better now!

  11. Jennine

    ❤edith…haha, i did that for a while at my old job, but i wasn’t very good at hiding!
    ❤punky…really? i’m excited to see!
    ❤ ondo…haha i always yelp when i’m startled, which sometimes startles other people in the room… it’s a domino effect!
    ❤lisa…oh i have a few favorites that play music…and as much as i love them, i do the same thing.
    ❤knitkicks… the battle of the clutter seems to never end, both on and offline.
    ❤andrew… yes, that is true, i’ve always been amazed how consise some people get… it takes talent to do less, and still have everything you need.
    ❤ mallory… i just saw it! great work!

  12. Maegan

    I absolutely hate when I open a blog and music starts blaring at me. I immediately turn off my sound and sometimes just leave the page entirely.

    Great tips.

  13. stina

    i’ve spent a lot of hours reading through every single article, & i’m loving it! you give such great advice jennine. i’m so happy i found this site!

  14. Juliana

    Hi everybody! I’m Brazilian and I love monitoring international brands trends like YSL, Chanel, Gucci. In common, beyond the glamour, the three produced fashion movies in recent seasons, Loved them because now you can see the trim of the clothes in motion. In Brazil, unfortunately the content of disclosure of the collection is still not yet widespread, but it already exists. The designer of the brides, Mariana Kuenerz is super sensitive and reminds me the great old classics of Hollywood. Worth a look:


  15. Luz

    Great tips Jennine!!!
    I read this entry a while ago, and for some reason I ended up reading it again today. It just makes soo much sense to me now!
    I had the autoplay music player, so I just changed its configuration is so true that we don´t have the right to make people listen to what we want!
    Also I got a bit nervous about the clutter. Do you think my blog is too clutter? Would you change anything?

    Thanks a lot!!
    .-= Luz´s last blog ..Autoliniers comics : ) =-.

  16. Elle

    Totally agree with the automatic music playing. A BIG NO NO. It’s really irritating and it drives away readers.
    Great tips! thank you.
    .-= Elle´s last blog ..bloglovin =-.