Image by HAM Guy
This is a guest post by Hans. Visit his blog,, for more blogging tips, or you can subscribe to his feed here.

We used to hear that content is King. I agree with the fact that creating original and valuable content is a critical element to succeed online.

However, I would like to add my 2 cents: content is King but the container – the web space design – is not far behind! I really like metaphor, because it often helps us understand what the concerns really are. So let me bring you into the following metaphor.

Let’s say you are single for a moment. You hope to meet the perfect girl. You already have in mind ALL the characteristics that make that person special and perfect for you! So you decide to go to a bar. The lights and the music are just great! You take a seat at the bar and you drink your glass of vodka. Then, you see her: she is perfect! Just like she was in your most beautiful dreams!

We will stop the tape here and take few minutes to really understand what happened. The magic words are: you see her. This is a normal and natural reaction; to base our thoughts and behaviors on external stimulus. Maybe your perfect girlfriend has several characteristics, e.g. to be loving, smart and active. I know, this is the most important for you! However, the fact is that you have to be attracted by somebody before beginning to learn more about who she is and how amazing her personality is!

Your blog is the same; if your design is clean and attractive you’ll be able to catch the attention of your visitors. This is a critical moment you have to take care of. Then, you’ll be able to reveal your personality and give your visitors an excellent reason to subscribe to your blog!

The first thing to admit is that perception is, by nature, subjective. This is true for both your blog design and your content. Beautiful and attractive design is not the same for everyone. And again, original and valuable content is not the same for everybody. However, one thing is sure; you must do something you’ll be proud of! Then you’ll find that promoting your blog will be easier.

Let’s clearly define what will influence the first impression of your visitors:

  1. Appearance. This is the cosmetic part of your blog. The biggest challenge is to make it attractive! The appearance of your blog includes your logo, the colors, the fonts, and many other elements. This is a part of your design that will require lots of time, but it’s worth the extra effort.
  2. Usability. The more usable your blog is, the better the browsing experience will be. A usable blog is user friendly. If your blog is well presented and well structured, they won’t have to search anything and you will win points! :smile:
  3. Clarity. Remember that a confused visitor won’t stay on your blog for a long period of time. Being clear is very important. Try to be explicit when you are presenting something on your blog. For example, insure that your section titles match with the content of those sections. This is something very basic, but so important!
  4. Headlines. The headlines of your articles could be read very quickly. Be sure that your headlines are relevant to the content. If your headlines are catchy, they will hopefully hold the attention of your visitors. This will prick their curiosity and they will start to read your work.
  5. Language. When reading your content, your visitors may notice some language mistakes. Doing few mistakes could be normal but if there is a big quantity of mistake, your blog may be discarded by many visitors. To avoid that, write your posts on a text editor with a spell checker or ask somebody to review it before you submit it.
  6. Authority. Your authority can be easily judged by your visitors based on the comment counts and the subscriber count. The comment counts could quickly be found by browsing your blog. However, your subscriber count (feed readers) won’t be available unless you integrate the Feedburner chicklet. I would recommend integrating it when you reach 500 or more subscribers.

In summary, don’t forget that you never have 2 chances to make a good first impression. Catching the attention of your visitor is not an easy task, but if you spend some time to pass through that list above, you will increase your chances to retain them. Note that this is also a matter of experimentation and it may be dependant on your niche. Give yourself the time to experiment and to learn more about the overall design concepts.

From Michael: I’ve written before about what a user needs to see from a first impression, and how you can use the fold to achieve that. Hans has listed 6 more factors that influence a first impression. What else influences your opinion of a blog on first page load?

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