Yes, a blog is only successful as its content, but if your platform looks like a joke, it really won't matter how good the content your presenting is. In other words, design is still, and will always be, an important aspect of blogging. The web is obviously a visual medium and if you turn your potential audience off with a poorly-designed blog, you're only hurting yourself.
It should be noted that design is more than just the look of the site. The site's feel, that is how it navigates and the overall theme need to be considered as well. These concepts were discussed by Bob Dunn at BlogWorld under the guise of how to keep from losing subscribers, which should give you an idea of how important design is in relation to your blog's success.
One of Dunn's first talking points concerned the blog's header. Use graphics. Use images. Use pictures. Use something that speaks to your audience and relays the message of what your blog's trying to accomplish. Most importantly, make your blog header your brand.
Navigation is another aspect to play close attention to. If visitors can't get around your site in an intuitive manner, they be visiting for very long. Some suggestions include drop down menus, although, don't make these too convoluted. The longer it takes for a visitor to find what they are looking for, they won't be a visitor for very long. Use categories in your drop downs, Dunn offers these thoughts, "Catagories are like chapters in a box. Tags are like the index."
Tag clouds and bottom-page navigation is something to pay attention to as well. Bottom-page navigation, which can include various links for contact pages, return to top commands, categories, and the homepage, just to name a few. Dunn also suggests the bottom-page navigational links are also search engine-friendly.
In regards to sidebar navigation, it's important to avoid redundancy. Be creative and offer your visitors choices of interest, not just links back to the index page.
RSS feeds and contact pages are additional design elements to keep in consideration. Syndicate your content, which gives your audience an easier way to access it. RSS readers are still an important part of the web user cycle, so don't ignore it. The same is true for a contact page. While this may seem like common sense, clearly enough people ignore this aspect that Dunn can still discuss it in his session. If you visitors can't get in touch with you, then they probably won't visitor much anymore, and it's a pretty sure bet they won't spend money on products you offer.
Moderate the blog comments, especially if your trying to attract a diverse audience. Visible spam comments in a good blog post take away from the quality of the content at an exponential degree. Captchas help prevent bots from ripping your comment stream apart, and if you're using WordPress, the Akismet plugin is an essential accessory if you're serious about fighting spam comments.
The content of the human comments should be considered as well. If your audience is comfortable with adult language, then you can be a little more liberal. If not, keep the comments at a PG-13, if not PG level.
Don't forget your About You page either. Give the audience something to go on about their author. Share a little bit about yourself and the goal of your blog and the business its attached to. There's nothing wrong with a straight forward approach. Your audience will appreciate the honesty.
For 5 years, WebProNews has partnered with BlogWorld and New Media Expo, the world’s first and largest new media conference, in an effort to broadcast how new media can grow your business, brand, and audience. Stay tuned to WebProNews for much more exclusive coverage.