Content in the form of journal writing is something we’ve all decided we need – it’s how brands tell their stories and independent writers muse about the world. But in 2016, with content being displayed nearly equally on desktop and mobile, what’s a blog supposed to look like? Here’s some thoughts on the state of blogging from someone how lives a good deal of his life writing and reading blog posts.
You can find data about sidebar usage all over the place, but my personal browsing trends indicate that 97.2% of blog sidebar information is pure noise (much like that stat). Unless it serves a very specific nav purpose, I don’t even look at sidebars. Sidebar CTA? Never clicked on one. “Featured posts?” I barely even know what that means. And the only ads I’ve ever clicked on are the ads from The Deck (seen here) because I like what they stand for.
The real knock on sidebars though is that on mobile, they either have to stack above the body content or under the body content. And if your sidebar has multiple objects, you really can’t expect a reader to scroll past all of it. You can either have a stacked nav that displays poorly on mobile or a utilitarian nav that displays poorly on desktop. Or you could just have no nav at all. That’s probably the best solution.
One column blogs are interesting beasts too though. Just do a Google search for “characters per line blog” and you’ll find not only research, but articles arguing which research is most relevant. To sum up most of it, you don’t want too many or too few characters per line, you don’t want your line lengths so long your eyes have to track lines too much, and you really shouldn’t have any more than 2-3 items under each post, like CTAs, “read next” links, and comment sections. Medium certainly isn’t perfect, especially for bloggers looking to establish a personal brand through blogging, but it checks most of the boxes for what a blog should look like (just pick any post to see the template in action). If you’re just straight blogging, that’s a template that works.
For a brand that sells a product though, the problem with big fonts and limited content density is that your blog will inherently look different than every other page on your site. You can’t sell shirts for instance with 18 pt font and large amounts of white space… unless you have a minuscule product list. I guess that’s fine, but the real dream of a blog is to seamlessly integrate it into the site. Blogs are too often visibly separate entities that are magically supposed to generate sales, but from personal use, they’re just a place I end up at through links, then leave when I’m done with the content. When the design is completely on its own, people tend to treat it that way.
To make a blog actually generate sales, it needs to look like the rest of the site, it needs custom CTAs per post that drive readers to do something very specific, and maybe some kind of interesting integration into product pages themselves. You can’t just slap a generic company CTA at the end of some random content on an obvious marketing page that looks like it on an island. It just doesn’t work.
I’ve got quite a list of things I need to do for the iwantmyname blog now. These stream-of-thought posts are quite therapeutic.