When a reader first lands on your website, they make an immediate judgment about the page. Readers are quickly trying to figure out if your site is reputable and if it will have the information they’re looking for. Layout and formatting set the mood for your site. The layout and formatting of your site also makes a huge impact on your pageviews, bounce rate, and return visitors.
So how can we use formatting to establish you as a credible source and gain more pageviews? Here are 7 ways to optimize your formatting and layout:
1. Design an effective header: Upon opening a new page, a reader usually sees the header first. This header should make it clear what your site is and what it’s about. Generally, a header shouldn’t be more than 250 pixels high. A clean header clearly stating what your site and post are about reassures the reader that they are in the right place. This will help reduce your bounce rate.
2. Increase shareability: Make every post shareable. Shareable icons need to be easy to find on every page. People will only spend a few seconds looking for these icons, so make sure they are easy to see. This will increase your social shares, and ultimately, your pageviews.
3. Have a clean sidebar: Try not to jam-pack your sidebar full of buttons or posts. A clean side bar is more visually appealing. Fewer buttons also draws the reader’s focus to those few important buttons, instead of being overwhelmed by options. If you want to include more buttons or links, you can put those in a footer.
4. Keep your post content in the center: Keeping content in the center of the page helps a reader’s eye naturally move over the content. Readers are used to content in the center of the page. They are also used to looking for additional links and buttons on the sides of the page.
5. Don’t be afraid of white space: White space can frame your content and draw a reader’s eye to your text. White spaces give your reader space to scan the page (and online readers are always scanning!). Think about Google’s search page. It leverages white space to draw your attention directly to the search bar. This is a great way to keep your reader focused on what’s most important – your content.
6. Fonts can be fun, but readability is most important: Readability should be #1 when it comes to making font decisions. With long bodies of text, sans serif fonts tend to be easier to read online. Simple fonts are best for body text. Once you choose your body text, choose complimentary fonts in your title and header. You could pair a bold font with a thin one, or a cursive font with an all-caps font. More dramatic fonts can work in a header or title, but we recommend always keeping body text simple.
7. Don’t make ads an afterthought in your design: Space for ads is frequently overlooked in layout design. Even if you don’t currently have ads on your site, you may want them in the future. From personal experience, we know that designing an ad-friendly website from the beginning is much easier than having to reformat things later on. Ideally, when you are implementing ads you want a content area wider than 730px with a sidebar of over 300 px. If you need margins of 10px, then you should format a sidebar of 320px design.
And lastly, as important as design is, make sure the layout isn’t overpowering your content. Formatting and layout is useful to direct a reader to the correct content and provide a great user experience. But at the end of the day, a reader is on your page because they want your valuable content. Let the focus be on your content and use formatting to enhance a reader’s experience with your content, not distract from it.
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