A great blog isn't just about the words. Some might argue the look and feel of your blog is actually more important, since a simple, elegant blog design can entice new readers to stick around and explore your blog, while a loud design will have them running for the hills.
To help you get your blog looking classy, but not flashy, we've pulled together some top tips to help you make the most of your blog:
Use a custom header.
No matter which blogging platform you use, there will be an option to create a customised header – this is the image that runs across the top of your blog. It is actually really simple to make your own header, using a nice photograph, and adding some text over the top.
Add lots of white space.
Having a white background to a blog (or a pale, single colour) allows your content to breathe, and means your words will really pop on the page. It's also the easiest sort of material to read, meaning people won't be reluctant to stick around and keep reading. Experiment with different margin and sidebar sizes until you're happy with the look.
Be consistent with your design.
The most professional looking blogs will usually have a strong visual identity. You can achieve this on your own blog by being consistent – use fonts from the same family for headlines, sidebar headings and captions. Make the images in your posts the same size, and if you use borders or special effects, try and use them consistently. Try and decide on a 'colour palette' of three or four colours for your blog, and make everything fit within that – it makes the whole site easier on the eye.
Use your own photographs.
You might not be a pro photographer, but your images will almost always have more authenticity and interest than a random picture you found in Google. Experiment with photo editing tools such as GIMP (a free software programme, available online) or Photoshop Elements, which can be bought for around £35. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to 'fix' your photos and add cool effects.
Think about navigation.
Once you have all the elements on the page, think about where they should sit. Think about how you'll make it as easy as possible for someone visiting your blog for the first time to find your content.
Think "F" shaped
Research shows that most people look at web pages in an F shape first – across the top, then down the left-hand side, then across the top of different sections on the page. For a blogger, this means the top of your blog is a great place to put the most important content – the title and links to your 'About' and 'Contact' pages. Use your sidebar for links to your archives, and don't forget to add a link to your Twitter account. You will also need a subscription button, so people can sign up to get regular updates from your blog!
Group common elements together.
People will find your blog easier to use if all your social networking links are in one place, while all the links to your content (archives, categories) are in another place. Try not to mix and match too much because it will quickly get confusing.
Don't just use the same old buttons and images.
It's easy to get standard buttons to add to your blog that will link it to your Facebook page, Twitter account, or Pinterest page. But hunt around online and you'll find dozens of free alternatives in different colours and styles – try and find something a bit different that fits in with the style and design of your blog.
Click here to read more top tips for enhancing your blog and inspirational blogs featured in our Blog of the Week.