BreakfastMy mother always says that we eat with our eyes. That meat loaf and mashed potatoes may be plain, but if you dress it up by serving it carefully on china on a beautifully set table, then it tastes better.  OR if you serve it up breakfast in a new and creative way, it is more fun to eat and it ends up tasting better. (Ask a mother, you can get kids to eat lots of things this way.)

But what does that have to do with blogging?

It has EVERYTHING to do with blogging. You need that visual appeal, that CURB Appeal. You want your readers to come in, take a look and stay awhile (and you want them to come back for a second look).

So how do you decide what is visually appealing and will entice your readers to stay? My experience is you need to consider functionality/navigation, visual appeal and taking some lessons learned from Fung Shui: remove the clutter.

TIME FOR A NEW LOOK & FEEL

So, when I refocused my blog to be more audience centered. I thought it was time for a change, a new look.

I loved my old look, based on ChaoticSoul WordPress “theme”, because of the strong graphics, but it fell short on ease of navigation.

For my new look, I wanted to keep a strong graphic image; however, my pages and topics (categories) needed to be prominent and easy to find. I switched to the Motion “theme” (template) provided by WordPress that has my pages and categories in tabs along the top, with drop down menus for any sub-categories.

There, I solved the navigation problem…

But, the drop downs were cluttered because I had so many categorizes for my blog posts.

SPRING CLEANING: REORGANIZE & REMOVE THE CLUTTER

I examined how old posts were categorized. (I think I had 7 or 8 and I hadn’t even gotten started!) I deleted extraneous categories to focus on the topics my blog was going to deliver: Social Media and Training. (I kept an Off Topic category to package any postings that are not on my blog’s main objective.)

This streamlined navigation.  Drop down sub-categories now further guide navigation.

Poof!  Now the menu clutter is gone.

IN THE END, THE RESULT WAS WORTH THE JOURNEY

I think the result is a very graphic page which is much easier to navigate than the last theme I used for my blog.

WOULD I TAKE THE SAME ROUTE? NOT A CHANCE!

Some advice if you want to do this: don’t get sucked into the graphics “black hole” of playing with endless themes and options to see what they look like. (Although this can be lots of fun, it wastes TONS of time.) Instead, really think about what you need. If you want to list your pages and categories at the top of your blog, there really aren’t a lot of options with WordPress themes. So, filter your search accordingly and resist the temptation to play. But when you do play, play smart: you’ll save hours of effort.

Another “theme”  route that was suggested to me was to use a free theme from WooThemes (WooThemes support web publishers like WordPress.)  I downloaded a WordPress theme I liked. But here is the catch: if you are using WordPress to host your blog, then you must you themes from WordPress. (I guess that sounds reasonable.) It appears as though you can’t use themes from other provides that support (& build on) WordPress themes. (Or at least that is the way I understand it.) So, there is one reason to get an independent webhost.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I’m not an expert blogger, I am only just starting. But here are the principles that I am going to apply to managing my blog’s “look & feel”:

  1. Stay focused on what your audience needs (like easy navigation),
  2. Freshen up from time to time: refreshing content, layout and the overall look,
  3. Don’t get sidetracked down a road that isn’t going anywhere (i.e. avoid the black hole)

Until next time, stay fresh &  focused!

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