Blog Design - Visual Appeal Helps Retain Traffic

May 21, 2009 by lindac

On the Internet, you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. I’ve been saying that since 1998. According to Consumer Web Watch, the factors shoppers use to judge website credibility are;

  • 46.1% judge credibility by “Website Design Look” (ie; the way your site looks)
  • 28.5% judge credibility by “Information Design” (ie; the way your content looks)

The vast majority of your visitors will (and do) judge your credibility by looks. That’s why Susan Boyle was such a surprise, isn’t it? We judged her before she had a chance to open her mouth.

The difference is that with your website, you don’t get a chance to “open your mouth.”  Statistics indicate that visitors decide whether to hit the back button in seconds flat.  The most common reasons for hitting the back button is that the site either doesn’t “look like” what we want, or the site doesn’t “look” professional.

I can not possibly over-stress how important good design is in retaining traffic.  It’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it? You work your fingers off to drive traffic - and then have people leave because you don’t look professional.

Of course, if you’re not selling anything, it’s not a big deal. Most of us will talk to complete strangers about our health, our kids, our yard, our pets.  But, when it’s time to put the money on the table, it’s a different story.  We all want to be sure we’re making a sound decision on how we spend our hard earned money, yes?

Let me show you some samples of the difference that design can make…

Sample 1: Before
This is a very basic blog. The blog itself is an seo friendly theme.  It’s not unique itself, nevermind unique to the business.
site1-before

Same Site; After

This is the main page:
site1-after

This is what the interior (content) pages look like:
site1-after2

Work of that level will generally cost $750 - $1500+ depending on how much you need done. Do you want an overall design that’s used for the main page, too?  Or do you want a unique main page with the interior pages slightly different? Do you want the content professionally laid out?  Do you want photo layout? Or do you just need a custom design that will help you stand out and you’ll take it from there?

Options for Shoestring Budgets…

For entrepreneurs and small business owners on a shoestring budget, there are less costly ways to achieve a professional look.  There are many free wordpress themes and  free website templates available online.  For that matter, you can even just get a custom header or “facelift” for your blog or site, usually for around $199, give or take.

Here’s an example of a simple “facelift” …

BEFORE: 
A very popular theme; this look is seen on many blogs. Recognize it?
site2-before

AFTER
It’s amazing how much difference a few design elements can make, isn’t it?
site2-after

If you have a commercial blog, the question isn’t whether you need to look professional.  If you look at the top 100 blogs, you won’t find a blog that look unprofessional among them. The only question is how you want to achieve a more professional look.


P.S.
My daughter is offering blog facelifts for $199 (reg $249) at  WebsiteJuju.com - bonus is that most people can’t tell her work from mine.  It probably doesn’t hurt that we knock ideas back and forth.  It’s a great deal if you want a look that stands out from the crowd.

15 Comments »

  1. Theresa Mayhew said :
    May 21, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Wow, what a difference a few changes make. This is a great example of the impact that visually attractive sites have on our first impression.

    Thanks for your very helpful articles.

    Warmly,
    Theresa
    Keyword Angel

  2. Susan said :
    May 22, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Excellent point, Linda. I’ve always disagreed with the “no need to get it right, just get it out there” school of thought some of the gurus tell us. Some people think trying to get it right and looking good makes me neurotic, but still I try!

    Problem lies in the bounce rate - if it’s high, that tells me that something about the look of the site is turning people off, but I’m not sure how to tell what that is…

  3. lindac said :
    May 22, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Theresa… thank you! (and you’re welcome)

    Susan… I’ve always thought the “no need to get it right, just get it out there” theory was way oversimplified. Many products and services do evolve and change and become “new and improved” over time. The face we present to the public is a different story. I believe it should be polished and professional from day 1.

    I find that when the bounce rate is high, if the design itself is good, the culprit is often the content. Content either grabs them by the eyeballs - or it doesn’t.

    This might sound crazy, but the best place to learn how to grab attention immediately is by standing at the grocery store staring at the magazines at the checkout. You know - the gossip rags.

    People who write for those publications have to grab attention - and do it fast. Not that we want to put those kinds of headlines on our sites (lol) but that we want to learn to apply the techniques to our own trade and grab attention and arouse curiosity… in seconds flat. Easier said than done, I know.

  4. Theresa Mayhew said :
    May 22, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    “This might sound crazy, but the best place to learn how to grab attention immediately is by standing at the grocery store staring at the magazines at the checkout. You know - the gossip rags.”

    To me, that’s the most important reason for being on the big name guru’s lists . . . so I can learn what they do to make people even open their emails, read the sales page, and order product.

    Theresa

  5. lindac said :
    May 22, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    To me, that’s the most important reason for being on the big name guru’s lists . . . so I can learn what they do to make people even open their emails, read the sales page, and order product.

    A lot of people say that. For me, another concept comes into play. Psychologically speaking, we become what we are constantly exposed to. You know… like the best way to become a great writer is to read great writing.

    The funny thing is that there’s a lot of people making far more income than the big name gurus, but no one hears of them because they’re not selling “how to make money” programs.

    I only subscribe to lists of people that I truly admire. Very few are big name gurus. For me, a lot of the so called gurus come across as a bit sleazeier and more “used care salesman” than I ever want to be, so I don’t want their words in my head. I don’t believe a person has to come across that way to be successful.

  6. Theresa Mayhew said :
    May 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Hi Linda,
    Point well taken. I totally agree with you on that. Someone I greatly admire is Ari Galper. He is a person of high integrity and comes from a place of “how can I help you solve a problem”, not “how much money can I get from you.”

    Time is too precious to waste on reading junk.

  7. Ken Garrett said :
    May 23, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Linda,

    I agree with the “used car salesman” comparison. I must admit,however,I usually look through their free offerings looking for that occasional pearl of wisdom that “clicks” and allows me to take another step foward.

    Ken

  8. Cheri Merz said :
    May 23, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Ken, the new look is outstanding! I’m going to have to read some of your articles. My fishing technique consists of casting a line in the water and then reading until I have to catch my rig before the fish drags it into the lake. Not surprisingly, other people catch more fish than I do, lol.

    I did some work on my blog’s appearance after reading Linda’s post and I think it looks better, but my creative tools leave a lot to be desired.

    I really don’t want to go into business creating websites, just want to be able to make mine look nice and I enjoy doing the work (unless I’m banging my head against a wall on some technical issue I can’t solve).

    Are there any low-cost programs out there that would take the place of PhotoShop, say? The only image-manipulation tool I have is Irfanview, which is freeware. Very crude, so I spent probably four hours doing a mediocre job on what PhotoShop would have done a better job on probably in a quarter of the time. Unfortunately, I have more time than money at the moment, and I don’t have much time at all!

    I keep looking for a funded proposal that would pay for me to get professional help for my ‘real’ enterprise, but that requires a landing page that I need professional help to make work well…can anyone say vicious cycle?

    Cheri

  9. lindac said :
    May 23, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Cheri…

    Scroll to the bottom of the page at:
    http://www.oldversion.com/Paint-Shop-Pro.html

    Versions 4.12 is probably the most user friendly without a huge learning curve. Beyond 4, they start catching up with Photoshop for features, but get harder to learn. Versions 6+ have awesome features, layers, etc - but have a steep learning curve.

  10. Cheri Merz said :
    May 23, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks, Linda, I’ll download and try it! I used PhotoShop for a while at a workplace and found it way beyond my ‘learn it by playing with it’ capabilities. Let’s see if that works for this one, lol.

  11. Susan said :
    May 23, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Cheri,

    All the advice you’ve received on aligning your graphics is great, and Paint Shop Pro, which I have a very, very old copy of, is at least better than the freeware stuff out there. But I’ve found that even with the html solutions to getting your text to wrap around images, there’s often (with some themes) still a problem with getting the text to keep some distance from the edges. Horizontal and vertical spacing with html code don’t always seem to work.

    So a quick and dirty solution is to create a spacer jpeg. Those of you who know html and php and whatnot may do a facepalm at this, but it works when all else fails. Just create a plain, square image, the width and height needed to create just the space you need between your image and your text, and insert it right after the image code. If your background is a color other than white or black, just make the image the same color. If the image is going to be to the left of your text, make your spacer the exact same height as the image - if the text is to appear below, then make your space the exact same width. You’re basically just shoving a wedge in there when the code isn’t doing it for you automatically.

    When you upload it to Wordpress, make sure it’s full size and left aligned. Once it’s in there, you can resize it to suit, if necessary.

    Experienced graphics people, don’t kill me. It saves hours of hairpulling when nothing else seems to work!

    Susan

  12. Cheri Merz said :
    May 24, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Susan, that’s funny! I’ve been known to take a shortcut or two when I had no more hair to pull out, lol.

    As it happens, I’m using Linda’s theme so you know it will work properly! I’m at a loss to explain why WordPress doesn’t place the proper code when one is using the Visual editor, but it’s all good. I do what I can in the visual, then go in and edit the HTML.

    Now, if someone could explain to me why a tag doesn’t work on the HTML side of the editor, I might be able to re-grow some of that hair.

    One of my shortcut tricks (in another site with a different theme) was, in desperation, to add the sentence: “this is just some nonsense to make space”. Then I turned it white so it didn’t show. Works like a charm, except I guess the spiders don’t like it. I’m completely re-working that site right now since I finally am relatively happy with the look of UtahBelowMarket. Only two more days in the long weekend, so cross your fingers I get it done!

    Cheri

  13. lindac said :
    May 26, 2009 at 4:20 am

    Susan… if you make that a space gif instead of jpeg, you can make it a clear gif by setting the transparent color to the same color as the image. That way, it’s invisible and can be used on any background.

    Cheri… lol.. search engines won’t like that trick at all, that’s for sure. They’d see it as hidden text and possibly penalize the page in ranking. If the site that’s not behaving with paragraph spacing is a wordpress, try wrapping each paragraph of text with [p] and [/p] - using pointy brackets. Often times, the use of paragraph wrap tags is written into the theme and it won’t leave proper spacing without them. You can also set spacing in the style.css, but if you don’t want to mess with that, just try the paragraph wrap tag and see if that works.

  14. Cheri Merz said :
    May 26, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Thanks for the tip, Linda!

    I was going to try that next, but decided to change themes instead. The new one lets me create space just fine in the Visual editor, and I deleted all that hidden stuff. The new theme also has a very extensive theme options editor that has explanations so it was easy to find what to change for the look I wanted.

    So now I have a more visually stimulating site that looks like a simple landing page with an opt-in form. Took me only one day to re-work it, though it was a long day. Discovered last thing that my opt-in form wasn’t working (I tried to get fancy and make a floating one), so the last hour was rebuilding that and the table to go around it for interest.

    All I have left to do is put GA on it, and then learn to write sales copy because I have no confidence in what’s there.

    I decided to take one day off and had a very relaxing holiday instead.

    Hope everyone else had a wonderful weekend, too.

    Cheri

    PS, if anyone is keeping track of everyone’s changes and progress, the new site is http://www.leadquestonline.com. Hope that’s ok to say, Linda. I was really interested to see everyone else’s sites even though I wouldn’t be a customer for most, so I’m thinking I’m not the only one. It definitely isn’t up to Linda’s standards, but is literally like night and day from what was there, as is the main one attached to my user name here.

  15. Cheri Merz said :
    May 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

    PPS. Linda, I tried to download the version of PaintShop that you recommended, but it wouldn’t install. So I picked up the next one, version 5, and haven’t had time to look at it yet. Just wanted you to know that there’s something missing in the 4.12 download that keeps it from installing.

    Also wanted to add to Theresa’s praise for Ari Galper. I am on his mailing list and was amazed to get a personal call from him less than a month after opting in. Even more so when I realized he was in Australia at the time. I have an unfortunate habit of subscribing to mailing lists and then not reading the material due to overwhelm, so it was a while before I realized what a genuine and sincere guy he is.

    Cheri

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