There are a lot of minimalist blogs cropping up these days.
They’re bare, spare, and airy.
I’m all for zen. I love clean web design with plenty of white space.
But one no-color, minimalist design can start to look pretty much like another.
And I wonder … are all those zen-inspired blogs really built by budding Buddhists? Or could it be that some of them — not all, but some — look plain and uninspired simply because their owners are struggling to figure out how to inject a little personality?
“Clean” design doesn’t have to be boring. And one of the fastest ways to distinguish your blog — minimalist or otherwise — is to inject your personality with a few strategic design decisions.
What’s that you say? You’re not “artistic”? Don’t worry, you don’t have to be. Just follow these basic guidelines …
1. Give your site an edge
That minimalist site of yours will look more cozy and inviting if you add a little color to the background on either side of the content area.
I know, I know: you like white space. I hear you.
Unfortunately, your reader probably doesn’t like it as much as you do.
When they get to the end of each line of text, your reader’s eyes have to make the trip back to the beginning of the next line.
With no background color to give them a signal that the end of the line has been reached, they just continue on, sort of floating into your white background.
You see, we’re used to reading on paper, or on devices. Both of these have edges. When you remove the “edge” from your content area, you’re setting your reader adrift.
So, add a little color.
It can be very, very subtle, and just one shade away from white. If you prefer, a thin outline around your content area will work, too. (Notice the way both of those are used here on Copyblogger.)
Anything that creates an edge and shows your reader where the content area ends will improve their reading experience.
2. Add color to your subheads
Adding subheads to your posts help your reader process your information. They’re like signposts that point the way through your text.
To make them stand out, consider making them bolder and adding some color. If you’re afraid of too much color, this is a great way to dip your toe in and try it out without it becoming overwhelming.
Colored subheads stand out from your body text and immediately add personality to your page.
3. Use compelling images
Yes, adding images to your posts is an extra step.
If you wait to do it when you’re done with your post and ready to hit Publish, it can be hard to find the motivation to do an image search.
But if you’re not taking time to add a compelling image, you’re leaving readers on the table. Our brains process images first, and then text. We react to images with emotion, and on instinct. It’s an opportunity to engage your reader before they begin to read your words.
And there’s no excuse for not having great images. You don’t even have to spend money on them!
If you’re watching expenses, use the resources available to you in the vast collection of Flickr images available under a Creative Commons license.
Be sure to read the terms for each photo carefully. As long as you’re permitted to use it, credit the photographer and add a link back to the original photo.
To easily find Creative Commons Flickr images, try compfight.com which is a search engine designed expressly to uncover Creative Commons-tagged treasures in the Flickr archives.
4. Create a custom header
The English language is read from left to right, and top to bottom.
That means your visitor’s eyes hit the top left corner of a web page, and work their way across to the right side.
The first thing they see is your site header. It’s like the cover of a book, or the opening credits of a movie. It’s your chance to make a great first impression.
But if the top of your site has a plain text header, and the next site does, too, and the site after that … don’t you think they’ll all blend together in reader’s memories after a while?
To make a stronger first impression, create a custom site header. This doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering design masterpiece. At its simplest, it can be a matter of finding a good-looking font and applying it to a colored or patterned background.
This is a good place, though, to invest a few bucks and hire someone. Negotiate with your designer for the right to re-use the image as an email header, email signature image, and more.
One tweak away from a memorable website?
Your site can still have that open, airy feel without settling for boring, forgettable design.
If your current site design is a little too zen for your tastes, choose one of the tweaks from this post and apply it today. It’s a sure path to enlightened visual branding.
How about you? Is your blog a little on the bland side? What area will you tackle first?
Let’s talk about it in the comments …
About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps small businesses build enlightened brands at Big Brand System. Get her free Marketing Toolkit for more great tips on marketing your business with a memorable visual brand.