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Why You Need To Consider Editorial Design On Your Blog

Cat Fyson

by Cat Fyson on 20th January 2014

Blog DesignThroughout 2013, we have heard about the growth of visual, design-led content. Whilst we still appreciate the importance of humble text-based content, it’s important not to fall behind on the significance of making content captivating by including visually appealing elements.

Whether this is simply an image or two, or the whole content itself is carefully designed with fancy fonts and icons, it’s vital to consider the layout of your content, and this is where editorial design comes in.

Editorial Design Principles

Whilst at University studying for my Journalism degree, I learned my fair share about newspaper and magazine design. I also noticed over the years that online journalism was beginning to replicate print materials by placing more of an emphasis on not just the words, but how they were formatted and how to make the content more appealing to the eyes of its readers.

Mistakes are still being made though. Huge streams of text with no imagery or formatting of any kind are still being posted to brands’ blogs, with the hope that it will work some sort of mysterious SEO magic.

The audience doesn’t seem to matter – but if you have any hope of continuing to drive traffic and more importantly engage with your customers, then their wants and needs should be imperative.

So what do they want?

Simply put, they want you to make it as easy as possible to read and digest what you have put in front of them.

Font

There’s little more frustrating when reading a blog post than having to squint with one eye and close the other in order to make the font legible. Perhaps that’s an over exaggeration, but you see my point –

small font

Don’t fall at the first hurdle – stick to easy to read fonts like Arial or Tahoma. Be sure to include a suitable amount of headings, as well as bold, italic or underlining text where needed.

Image Placement

Another principle that I became more aware of whilst studying was the Inverted Triangle, a popular metaphor used by writers to show the priority of structuring text. Ever the radical, I decided to make my own for image placement in your blog posts:

Inverted Triangle Of Image Placement

Super-Interesting IntroductionA good image above, or beside your introduction says “Hey, look over here! This is super-interesting”. You can also get a bit creative and add text to the image in order to display some key information about your content. Total Film do this with their film reviews:

Walter Mitty Review Example

The Nitty-Gritty / Principle Points – The main body of your text will always be the chunkiest, so it needs to be broken up with visual content such as images, Infographics or videos. It’s often forgotten that a good image (or even graph if appropriate) adds a lot of strength to what you are saying.

The Summary and CTA (Call To Action)It’s best to keep the summary clear of images, and to keep the text short. You can use Call To Action buttons, a la Koozai with the boxes we use for our free Whitepaper downloads:

Whitepaper Download Example

Alignment

Occasionally ignored, the alignment of your images is really important to make your blog post look good to the audience. If you centre your first image within the body of your text, then centre all of them. If aligning to the left or right, it is possible to alternate, but it’s really a case of how it looks when you publish the post. By mixing left and right alignment, it can create a confusing and messy look to your readers.

No matter which CMS you use, always preview the post before setting it live – if it looks disorganised due to the alignment of images against text, then fix it.

Pimp Your Visuals

If you want to create even more dynamic visual elements to your posts, here are a few free tools to help you do so:

Thinglink

Want to create interactive images? This tool is great fun. Just sign up and upload (or import) images and you can pinpoint areas of the image to create links and descriptions.

2013 Talking Points is a great example of what you can do. Once you have created and saved your Thinglink, you can then use the supplied embed code to add it to your blog post.

Powerpoint

One of my strongest memories of University was the Powerpoint presentations that made up my lectures. However, Powerpoint is a pretty nifty tool for adding text to images. The image below was created by adding the photo to a slide, and simply adding a filled text box with increased transparency.

Powerpoint Presentation Example

That’s just a quick solution and with additional tools like SnagIt and Photoshop this could be taken even further. Powerpoint is also great for creating Slideshare Presentations which are great for summarising a longer blog post, or for showcasing key statistics within a post.

Infogr.am

Infographics have made data sexy, and are a fantastic way of visualising technical information. Infogr.am is a free resource that lets you create interactive Infographics using premade templates. Although you are a little limited design wise (as opposed to hiring a designer to make it), you can still benefit from quite a few customisable options.

HTML 5

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but HTML 5 is here to make the web experience cleaner and easier to view across devices. It has fast become the standard for websites, and vastly improves usability.

So what does this mean for your blog? Well, sites like Medium prove that your blog posts can look sexy with the right HTML 5 design. The white space is optimal for smaller devices to make the text clear and easy to read on mobile, and the large space at the top of the content optimises your opportunity to use beautiful imagery.

Whichever approach you take to making your blog articles more visually appealing, it is clear that content creators now need to cast a designer’s eye over their content before clicking Publish.

Do you have any tips or tools to add which help improve the look of blog posts? Let me know in the comments.

Cat Fyson

Cat Fyson

Cat works as a Content Marketing Executive at Koozai. Having studied an NCTJ accredited course at University, she has gained valuable skills in creative copywriting, press communications and research. She is an avid blogger and has a keen interest in popular culture and technologies.

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14 Comments

  • Clair Trebes 20th January 2014

    Hi Cat – firstly, Koozai is a great website / resource. You were brought to my attention via Twitter, via one of my bizzebee colleagues John.

    This post is superb – one of those “that does what it needs too” – I’ve never heard of thinglink myself, and that is certainly one that stands out to me, so after this post I’ll be heading on over to check it out!

    Keep up the amazing work!
    Clair :)

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 20th January 2014

      Hi Clair, thanks so much for your lovely comment and for the kind words about Koozai.

      Thinglink was fairly new to me – I had seen it pop up a few times, but I think interactivity through visuals is going to continue to grow within content. Hope you enjoy giving it a go!

      Reply to this comment

  • Kelly Patchet 20th January 2014

    Hi Cat – Good content is a given today. Good presentation is also incredibly important. I can think of sites that are renowned in their field of SEO, but the text is crammed together, there’s no white space, and the page itself is calling out for me “look here, no! look here. I really gravitate to thought leaders who take the time to build in the zen. You don’t even have to do a re-design, write some new CSS and let that text breath! Serenity now!

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 27th January 2014

      Hi Kelly,

      I couldn’t agree more with you. You can tick all the boxes SEO wise, but none of that matters if your audience aren’t engaged and converting.

      Reply to this comment

  • Stacy 20th January 2014

    Great content is paramount, but great design is so important. It doesn’t affect the value of the content but the perception of it. If something is hard to read or distracting, it can be hard for readers to really engage with the content. If the design looks dated or unprofessional, it can make it appear as though the company is out of touch.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 22nd January 2014

      Thanks so much for bringing your comment over from Google+ Stacy, much appreciated!

      There’s few things worse for the perception of a brand than seeming ‘not with the times’, and an outdated look to your blog can definitely connote being out of touch not just with an audience, but with the industry too if your competitors are leaps and bounds ahead.

      Reply to this comment

  • Henley Wing 20th January 2014

    I think design and typography are incredibly important for getting people in the door, but it’s just a prerequisite. All the things you mention, such as font and visually appealing images are necessary.

    Most people skim content so you also want to organize it in such a way that it’s friendly to skim.

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 22nd January 2014

      Hi Henley,

      Good point about content skimming – your reader isn’t going to take much (or anything at all) in if they are not engaged/enthused by visual elements too.

      Thanks as always for your comment.

      Reply to this comment

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  • Edwin Tam 23rd January 2014

    Hiya,

    I think it’s a usability concern…

    If we can’t glean the point of the story within the first couple of lines or pictures, we’ll go away.
    If the story is horribly formatted that we get a headache reading it, we’ll go away.

    Maybe that’s why blogs tend to follow print magazine formatting nowadays.

    PS: Have originally posted this on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+CatFyson/posts/NxP6xjGAVU9 too

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 23rd January 2014

      Hi Edwin,

      Thanks for sharing your comment here – it’s always great to bring people’s ideas together.

      I definitely agree about the headache! It’s important for people to think about the screen medium as sometimes being more of a strain on the eyes than print, and so visual elements and clear formatting will help improve readability and usability for sure.

      Many thanks once again for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply to this comment

  • Caroline Constable 24th January 2014

    This is a really useful article that many blog owners should read. Far too much content on small business blogs in particular seems to have little thought or effort put into them.

    Thanks for bringing my attention to Thinglink too. I’ve been looking for a WordPress plugin that will do this but they all seem pretty dire. Hopefully Thinglink will do the trick!

    Reply to this comment

    • Cat Fyson

      Cat Fyson 24th January 2014

      Hi Caroline, thanks so much for the kind words.

      I think there is still the issue of small businesses knowing they need a blog, but putting very little effort into maintaining it and making it user friendly – perhaps the mindset is still focused on the SEO benefit as opposed to the user?

      Thinglink is great to have a play around with – some amazing examples in their gallery of ways it can be utilised.

      Reply to this comment

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