As you may know, this year we are sponsoring the Craft Blogger category at the MADs Blog Awards through our own business and in particular CraftMerrily (which is about to have a sparkly and up to date new look!) It’s given me a great opportunity to take a look through the list of craft blog nominations, some of which I’m going to be highlighting below. Because I can.
It’s also given me a good opportunity to think about what makes for a good blog design for me and so I’m going to break a few rules and blog about blogging a bit. Because, you know, I can 😉 And I’ve had a blog for such a long time that frankly I consider myself ideally placed to impart a bit of wisdom (ha! 😆 ) Of course the good thing is, you can essentially ignore all this when it comes to The MADs, because I’m not judging my category, it’s a voted category, so what I think doesn’t matter at all.
Here is my hit list of things that make it hard for me to enjoy a blog:
- Truncated (snippet) posts that don’t at least display a photo with the snippet. I’m not a fan of snippets anyway, but needs must at times. I need photos though, so I can scan to see if I’m interested, especially if it is crafts.
- Lack of categories. Oh my goodness (and this is a do as I say not as I do moment as this blog has about 8 unsorted years on it after I deleted all categories in a fit of strop). But if your blog is a mixture of things, make sure the categories work and an ability to sort by them is clearly and easily displayed.
- Absent or hidden search.Think of your blog as a book, one that people want to flick through and find relevant posts. Make the search easy to find. And tag too; tagging is great and will let people pull up similar posts.
- Huge Photos (physical and file size). Now here is an interesting one – and one I’ve been really guilty of in the past. The UK is divided into people with fibre optic and people with a download speed that makes dial up look good. If your post has 15 large photos of high quality in it, it’s not going to load on my computer inside of 15 minutes. I’ll have left.
- Lack of design structure. Time was, everyone designed their blog with a specific colour and a logo of sorts, often made from clip art. These days it’s all about headers that show off content and kids and I’m not anti that, but I do find the new trend for very white blogs with masses of space rather sad. But that is fashion and our new sites are tending that way too. But what I find hard is a lack of a clear ‘pattern’ or structure to it. Magazine themes break everything up more anyway but ads in footers and random buttons floating everywhere make me feel really dizzy. I want to be able to follow where the blog is going in a physical sense, so I know where I’m looking when hunting for Social Media buttons, search bars and the like.
- Compatibility. For the love of Pete, check it in several browsers and a few friends’ phones. I’ll persevere with a non-mobile responsive theme on my phone quite happily, I don’t persevere with bad design or random bugs. Or captcha. Yes?
- (Manages to avoid saying “don’t use comic sans“. Ooops. And also… spelling. And grammar. Ahem.)
Now, I’m not suggesting I’m perfect but I tried to build all these design features into my own (slightly neglected of late) craft blog. Some of my own predilections come from spending time owning and designing eCommerce sites – in a shop, navigation is key and it spills over. I like the design of Simple Crafts. You can find things and the opportunity to do so is in a number of different formats. Not for everyone, but it works, more or less.
Not an exhaustive list at all, just 5 I happened to have open where the design as well as content kept me on the page.
Here’s the good blog list.
- Good photos. Nicely taken, well lit, (not too big), uncluttered and with a clear impression of what has been created and how. I take all mine with an iPhone and it is perfectly adequate. I also process most of them with Instagram. It means they happen, happen quickly, get to Flickr, can be made into montages and I can blog them from my phone. Job done.
- Great content. Well, we all want that. Still makes me laugh that the most hits I get here are for a paper boat post I thought would never ever see the light of day. Paper Boats, eh? But original, or at least an original take, regular and easy to find make me hurrah! I’ve honestly no time for pinning at scheduled times for US people or the most hits etc. I like genuine, even mildly haphazard people who create from the heart, not just because something will be topical in a perfectly planned moment in time. I love that craft blogs tell a story about someone.
- Inspiration. I adore Attic24 for this. Her blog brims with what pulls her strings. She blogs from the heart and carries you along with her, telling a story and throwing possibilities at you. She’s a genius at it.
- Tutorials.Tell me how. SHOW me how. I’m a visual learner, I like to see.
- Resources. Build the post by telling me your favourite resource shops, showing me a good Pinterest board, linking to a YouTube video. Give me everything I need. I’ll love you for it.
- Be genuine. Some blogs do brilliantly by fitting a niche that works for teachers, home educators and nurseries – think the amazing Red Ted Art, Nurture Store and Edspire and Imagination Tree. (All with great design, I might add!) but not everyone has to insert learning objectives and the like. Be yourself. Tell your story in your way. Show off your passions and your creativity.
I’m taking this week to look through all the nominees so far and start tweeting out some love (Why not say hello, I tweet at both MerrilyMe and PlayMerrily) and I’ll be blogging lots of links across our various blogs too but here are a few craft blogs I love.
PS. You’ll notice I don’t add ‘don’t be too wordy’ to my list of things to abhor. Frankly, I’d have to have a word with myself then.