About 10 years ago, blogging just started to become popular. If that first sentence doesn’t make you feel old- get away from your computer and go live your beautiful youthful life- what are you doing here?! Just kidding, grab your peppermint pumpkin latte (or whatever the kids are drinking these days) pull up a seat, and stick around! It’s time to learn about modern blogging, and what the hell that even means!
In the early 2000’s, blogging started to grow from the sphere of politics and journalism, and into what it is today: anybody’s portal to the world.
In 2005, there were about 64 million websites in the world
Today there are over 672 million websites in the world
To say that the internet has changed, or that the amount of bloggers out there has grown would be the understatement of the year. The numbers are staggering, but not at all surprising. To be a successful blogger these days, you really do have to keep up with modern trends. In everything we bloggers do, things are constantly changing. Social networks, responsive design, the insane increase in mobile users are just a few that I’ll be covering in today’s post. So strap yourself in for a very informative post that will probably be irrelevant to you six months from now. I wish I was kidding.
Modern Design Features
Okay, let’s start with design. Before people even read your content, they are going to notice a few things about your blog: What it looks like, how user friendly it is, and whether or not they can even read what you wrote on their smartphone. SEO will not help you if someone clicks on a search result only to find out that they have to zoom in, and scroll right to read each line of text. A lot of people are still resistant to responsive design, but I think that argument is over, the ship has sailed, Elvis has left the building. (I have more of these, but I need to get to my point). Here are (in my opinion) the most important design features that a modern blog must have:
- Flat design. I don’t see this design trend leaving, and here’s why. Back when computers were a novelty, the user interface needed to make sense to people. So they made sure certain things resembled real life in the way they functioned. That’s why your file folders look like actual files that you’d find at your doctor’s office, and that’s why the save icon is still a floppy disc. Buttons needed to look like buttons so people would know to press (click) them. Now that three year olds have their own personal i pads, there’s really no need for a computer function to be explained by a detailed graphic. A flat button that says click here will do the trick, and looks a lot nicer.
- Responsive or mobile friendly design. I definitely don’t see this as a trend any longer, but a necessity. Like I said above, if someone visits your website from their phone (and there’s about a million % chance they will) and can’t immediately start reading, then you are not worthy of their affections and they will find someone else. By the way, here’s some research to back up that million % claim. Okay, okay so I exaggerated. But the fact that 58% of adults own a smartphone almost makes my million % claim 100% true. It’s statistics.
- WordPress. This one is bound to be controversial, and is just my opinion. And let me say before you get out the pitchforks that there are a lot of amazing blogs that use blogger. As a web designer, blogger just baffles me. WordPress is a little harder to learn at first, but makes just about everything a million times easier and faster to do once you learn it. I’m open to discussion on this one, as I’m sure many of my Blogger using friends would disagree with me.
- Widgets that match your theme (or at least don’t clash with it). Custom CSS is something that just needs to be done on some sidebar widgets. A lot of them come out of the box not looking so hot because the developer (bless their hearts) was concerned with making the thing actually function. The developer also doesn’t know which theme you’re using, so there’s not way they could make a plugin that matches your theme. A lot of bloggers nowadays have learned some basic HTML & CSS so they have the power to customize anything that goes on their site. If you’re interested in learning some of the basics, W3 schools is my recommendation for a free resource beginners. If you’d rather learn by video, and have a little time and money to invest, take a look at this course from Skillshare.
Design Features That Date Your Blog
- Drop shadows, text shadows, 3d buttons. Oh- and that fugly Paypal button! Dear Paypal: Can you change that already? It’s not even in line with your re-brand. Flat design is where it’s at. Want to sell stuff from your blog without that ugly Paypal button? Here’s a post I wrote last week that might help.
- You site isn’t mobile friendly. A good rule of thumb is: If people have to zoom and scroll, they won’t. Don’t make your readers work to read your posts.
- Blogger. Specifically, the google friend connect and Facebook widgets on your sidebar. You know the ones that show everyone’s faces? Yikes, old school!
- Non matchy widgets, and a cluttered sidebar. Make sure that everything you put on your sidebar is something your readers will want to see- and isn’t covered up by a bunch of clutter and mis-matched hodge podge.
Modern Blogging Strategies
Okay, you’ve got your design covered. Maybe there’s a couple of things you could tweak, but what about your actual content? A beautiful design does not a good blog make. You need substance, and you need it now more than ever. Remember all those websites out there? Yeah, people have lots of options, and you are vying for attention along with hundreds of millions of sites. Intimidated? Don’t be. Along with those millions of websites, there are billions of internet users. You have a voice that only you can share with the world- and that kind of authenticity is what modern blogging is all about. If you create your content with passion, and that charm that only you can bring to the table, you will find your people, and your people will find you.
- Excellent Content. Design is definitely important to get readers to stick around long enough to read something- but content is where the real test happens. Will you create content that creates loyal readers and followers?
- Beautiful photography, or eye catching blog graphics.This is especially true for DIY, food, and fashion blogs. The bar has been raised by sites like A Beautiful Mess and of course, Pinterest. Pinterest has shown us just how important visual information is to our readers- so don’t ignore that! Since I write about blogging, business and such, I create graphics that are in line with The Blog Loft’s brand, that convey information on what the post is about.
- Email list building with lead magnets. Nobody knows what a newsletter is anymore.
Great examples of lead magnets are e-books, or free downloads that are related to your blog topic. You don’t have to give it all away for free, in fact don’t. Build a product, then give a piece of it away. The people who sign up to read your e-book chapter are more likely to be interested in reading the whole thing. Ahem. Now might be a good time for you to look at the top this blog and enter your email to get a free excerpt of my new e-book! An official announcement will be coming out next week, and I’m really excited to share more about it with you! “Write Gooder” 5 Weeks to Escape Your Creative Block will be available for sale Nov. 28th (my birthday!).
- Modern social media strategies. Putting up a few icons and saying “Sign up to my newsletter” isn’t enough. Social networks are always changing their policies and algorithms so as a blogger, you have to stay on top of things. Using sites like Hootsuite to schedule your posts on social media can also help you save time and your sanity.
A few ways to stay current on social media
Twitter chats: Some of my favorites are:
Simply search the hashtag on Twitter, find out when the next chat will be held, and jump in! The host of the chat will ask a series of questions, giving everyone time to answer. It’s a really fun way to spend an hour and interact with other bloggers!
Since Facebook only shows your posts to a certain amount of your followers, there are a lot of blogger support groups on Facebook you can join to learn, get advice, and interact with other bloggers. It’s not all about self-promotion, remember to be social. Help people out, join in discussions, and answer questions.
A few Facebook groups I belong to are:
Google + Communities & Google + Chats
I haven’t experimented with Google + as much as I should, mainly because I’m addicted to Twitter. But I am going to be joining a hangout this week with the incredibly supportive, and rapidly growing group: #fireworkpeople (Facebook , Twitter). I will say though, that meeting someone through video chat can be a powerful way to form supportive relationships in your blogging community. The first time I ever video chatted with other bloggers lead to the formation of the idea of The Blog Loft- so you never know what you’ll miss if you don’t put yourself out there!
Old Blogging Strategies That Date Your Blog
- Poor photography, or blog graphics. I struggled with photography so much that I switched to stock photos and graphics. I really admire bloggers who can snap those beautiful photos!
- Social strategies that aren’t social. Saying “Please follow me” or “Help me get ___ followers” isn’t very social. Try interacting with followers, and building relationships. Not sure where to start? Check out this post on How to Build Community on Your Blog!
- Saying “Subscribe To My Newsletter”. A newsletter is something you send to your grandparents at Christmas time. People use so many different social networks in so many different ways today, that it’s important than ever to build an email list. If a person has signed up to your email list, they have made a conscious choice to allow you into their VIP club of people they want to hear from. Use your imagination and create something for your readers that would be worth them letting you into their club.
So what exactly is modern blogging? Modern blogging is beyond the words you type. It is the way you interact, the way you think about design and photography, the way that you create an experience for your readers that they won’t want to forget. A modern blogger understands that she has something to say that no one else can say the way she can- and she’s not afraid to say it. A modern blogger knows that readers’ expectations are high- and she brings everything she’s got to the table every time she posts.