First off, if you understood the title for this, then yes, “Updatery” is a word. Secondly, if you’re serious about your blog or website, hire a professional to do it. You wouldn’t attempt self dentistry, would you? That said, here are a few things you can do yourself to spice things up and make the blog a bit (or a lot) better without any technical or creative skills.
Figure out who you are. Easy right? Obviously not, but this is important – not only to the design of your blog, but also to how you write on it. People will judge your site upon first glance (people are shallow like that)- so make sure the way it looks properly reflects your style and attitude. A nice logo can help. So can clear (and professional) photographs of yourself. Your personal brand should be something that you own and live. Authenticity (or a lack thereof) always shines through, so make sure the look of your site is an honest reflection of yourself.
Less is More.
The biggest mistake most people make with their website is trying to add too many moving parts to it; just because most blogging software has thousands of plugins doesn’t mean you should use them all. The same goes for your sidebar- you don’t need six pages of widgets so people can navigate the website in every way imaginable. Keep everything to a minimum- that makes it easier for people to find the important bits (if you make money from your site, that’s a definite important bit). And if you are attempting to fiddle with the design- keep things clean, clear and flowing. After all, people are coming to your blog to read your content, not be wowed by your burgeoning graphic design skills.
Connect with Others.
Make sure what you write in every single blog post is compelling enough for others to want to discuss it, share it, and follow it. This is more important than how your blog looks. Write about topics you’re passionate about. And then, make sure visitors have options to comment (on the site or via Facebook), share (through social media) and subscribe to it (through RSS feeds, email newsletters, etc).
Here are a few things you can do right now without being an awesome designer or knowing the ins and outs of website programming:
* Use Disqus to manage your comments. it lets visitors connect through Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to comment and to share what you write. (http://disqus.com)
* If you use Twitter or Facebook for more than posting photos of your pets or listing your caloric intake of every meal, use a plugin to display your updates on your sidebar through a plugin or widget.
* Use feedburner to manage your RSS – and display links to both the RSS feed and the “subscribe via email” on your site. it’s free and it works better than the RSS feed WordPress creates for itself. (http://feedburner.google.com)
* Use professional (or just professional-looking) photographs of yourself. The “holding the camera slightly above your head, while in your bathroom” photo worked for myspace when you were a teenager (note: it probably didn’t) but you want to be taken seriously.
* If you aren’t a graphic designer, don’t attempt any major graphic design. There are thousands of templates for WordPress that professionals have designed and programmed for you to use- and remember, in design, clarity should always trump flashy. (http://wordpress.org/extend/
Now, go forth and get on your blog Updatery!
Paul Jarvis designs and programs websites (twothirty.com). He’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and amazing individuals doing cool things for over 12 years (that’s 100 internet years). When not nerding out, you’ll find him doing yoga, surfing or cooking. You can follow him @pjrvswp or read his blog (pjrvs.com). He’s also got a llama named Starman, but that’s neither here nor there.