This is the second of two posts on the Art and Science of Blogging, a series created to run as part of #blogchat You can check out part 1, “4 Keys to The Science of Blogging” here.
We had to cover the Science of blogging first because that’s where all the rules get made. Now we get to talk about Art, where the rules can be broken – for example, this series should be “The Science and Art of Blogging” since that’s the order we are covering it, but “The Art and Science of Blogging” is more pleasant to the ear, so we had to get crazy and take them out of order.
According to dictionary.com Art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance”
So where to focus to make our blogging “of more than ordinary significance”?
The Art of Creating Experience
We touched on this last week when we talked about “Creating a System.” Think about what your readers are going to do, where they are going to go when they visit your site. Create a “Happy Path” for them. What would be best for both you and them to experience? At the heart of this is asking why you are blogging. Is it just to tell your story, or do you want to motivate your audience, enthuse them or teach them?
The two keys here are to wireframe – actually draw a map before you start building, and testing. Having a map and then getting 3rd party verification that everything works are the only ways to prove the park ride is working.
The Art of Web Design
Choosing the proper colors, fonts, and page layouts require an artistic eye. There are many rules of design that can help you make your site more effective but ultimately you are painting a picture. Unfortunately for us it’s going to render differently on all kinds of devices making this infinitely more challenging than a canvas.
Your site is the user interface (UI) to your content. The ultimate goal of UI would be that it is intuitive – when someone sits down at your site for the first time, everything does what the user thinks it should do. Of course our expectations of a UI are always in motion. Until recently I would always expect a keyboard and mouse. My son it tapping and swiping on the TV and getting angry that nothing’s happening. The ultimate artistry here is creating the new standards for interface elements. What will we do to control our iWatches? Motions to control holographic interfaces? Those controlled by eye or voice?
Keys here – use complementary colors, put readability first in font choice, in layout always err on the side of less (simplicity reigns). For UI – steal from the masters.
The Art of Images
Unless you’re running something like a photo or travel blog, images are not required. And yet the right images can clearly make a blog a piece of art, while poor or dated graphics may cause some to look on your content with a doubtful eye. Can I really trust this information that looks like it was written in 1998?
It’s funny how most blog templates try to fool you by going with a “Less is More” layout. That does work really well if you have some National Geographic level photos, suddenly when you start slapping in your own images the template doesn’t seem so cool. The good news is you can release plenty of photography smack down with just an iPhone and a little work.
Quick tricks to improve your images: Understand the Rule of Thirds, use black and white for drama and to hide imperfections. Get at least a basic understanding of Photoshop, or GIMP if you don’t want to pay anything. The greatest productivity boost to my blogging (and marketing career overall) was to learn Photoshop. Other photo tricks with high bang for your learning buck: HDR and adding sharpness.
The Art of Writing
We end here with the greatest challenge the blogger and author have always faced: the blank page. Writing compelling copy is the blogger’s core competence. In truth, you could find someone to do every other part of this process but it’s the writing that’s your fingerprint, your stamp on the project that nobody else can replicate.
I do not put myself forth as a writing expert (for the love of god, I was trained as an economist, many consider that being a professional liar), but as a marketer there are some tricks you can use to improve how you write:
Start with your own voice. Write as if you were talking, there’s never been anyone that’s suffered from “Talker’s Block”. If you’re stuck just keep writing, you’ll get something good on the page and even if it’s just one sentence out of two pages, that’s enough to make your next session productive.
Use the proper voice for the situation. The voice you choose will set the scene. I love Lawrence Fishburne’s character in “The Matrix”. Although it’s a Sci-Fi action rollercoaster ride his voice is slow and deliberate, a rich deep tone with perfect elocution. Here is art in action. By breaking the rules with this voice in that scene you can’t help but be enraptured. So ask “Does the voice I’m using match the scenery in my blog? Should it?”
The masters that I have been fortunate enough to work with in marketing have all had the same technique – use the active voice, and cut out
half the words that are not really providing any value. It can never be too succinct or clean. Check out writing from the King of the Mad Men, David Ogilvy for more here.
To read more about practicing your art in today’s society you might want to check out this interview with Seth Godin. If you enjoy listening to audio, the interview is here.
Finally, thanks for taking part in #blogchat with me and I hope you’ve found our discussion useful. The audio edition of my book, Marketing Confessions, was just released this week. I’ve created a pdf of a few sample chapters for everyone from blogchat if you’d like to check it out or pass it along to your favorite marketing person.