Have you ever watched a sports team dominate a game? Star players are important but it’s the collective effort of the individuals working fluidly together towards a common goal that delivers the win. Content operates the same way. Strong writing is the star player but the win won’t happen without the contributions of good design. And both writing and design must work together to achieve readability.
Today I’m going to focus on the readability of a specific type of content; blog posts. Blog posts get the spotlight because of the explosion of their popularity in the past few years. Moreover, with an increasing number of businesses and individuals realizing the power of content through blogging for professional and personal gain the ability to create winning posts is more important and competitive than ever.
Dissecting Blog Post Design
Blog post design does not have to be fancy. It does however, have to exist.
For the sake of an example, let’s say you have the most perfectly articulated blog post ever. In its most basic form it will be a block of text. There is nothing enticing about a block of text that makes a person want to stop their world and read it. That’s what paragraphs, titles, and sub-headings are for.
At its most fundamental level this is where writing starts to meet design. Basic? Yes. Easy? Not always. If you’ve ever written anything you know that organizing the design to improve readability takes work.
- Titles demand knowledge of your audience and the necessary effort and wit to reach them in a few irresistible words.
- Paragraphs require command of the language so you achieve a natural flow that keeps your ideas organized and the reader happy and engaged.
- Sub-headings need to be written as a content road map, simultaneously giving the reader direction while drawing them further into the content.
And The One More
Do the basics listed above and you have a decent blog entry. But there’s one more thing you can do and it doesn’t require writing a single word.
Include an image.
When coupled with words images can evoke humor, wit, seriousness, sarcasm, or creative interpretation on the topic — whatever you wish. They get the reader to stop, look, and read…or at least spend a few seconds absorbing the title. An image brightens up a post and makes it more approachable. Your writing may be great but your writing with an image can deliver the win.
I’m speaking from experience. My newsletter, Really Useful Content benefits from the use of pictures. I wouldn’t dream of posting something on Spice Sherpa without an image. Your own experiences also count. What attracts your attention more? An article with a picture…or without?
Free Image Resources
There are a number of ways to include images. Here are 4 suggestions:
Take your own. Snap a picture, download it, then post it. Unless you’re a professional photographer this method is suited for more casual blogs. You should still feel comfortable enough with a photo-fixing software to auto-correct the lighting before posting.
Flickr.com is a social photo sharing site. I use it for Spice Sherpa. Pictures here range in quality but you can search the Creative Commons to find images for non-commercial use. (Just do an advanced search and click the Creative Commons button.)Flickr photos tend to lend an edgier feel to a blog post. Always provide attribution to the photographer. Here’s an example of an image I used from Flickr.
Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons from Wikipedia. You’ll find everything here although the picture itself will always be a surprise. This is a great source for images whose copyrights have expired and have a historic twang. Government supplied images are also abundant here. There are also photographers who generously include their work to the Creative Commons. Give these folks the attribution they deserve. Here’s an example of an image I used from the Wikimedia Commons.
Dreamstime.com is a recent discovery of mine. These are higher quality professional-caliber photos. Dreamstime provides photos for a small cost or for free. The price for free is registering for Dreamstime and a watermark on the royalty-free image. If the image has a busy or dark background the watermark isn’t too visible. But if the image has a light background then consider paying the small fee for the HD, non-watermark version. The image in this post is a free Dreamstime image.
Now you have four resources for finding your own images. So please do your thoughtful, well-written content a favor and improve it with an image.
Photo Attribution: Melinda Nagy on Dreamstime