The ancient Romans did a lot of things right. They were actually quite advanced for their time, with many advances in energy, engineering and construction. One of their major innovations was their system of aqueducts.
See, Rome was a bustling metropolis with water demands far beyond what the region would provide without man-made assistance. So, over a span of about 500 years, the Romans built 11 aqueducts to feed the city of Rome. These aqueducts were responsible for bringing potable water into the city as well as funneling waste out of the city (yes, the Romans even had indoor plumbing).
This entire system, built over 2,000 years ago, had a singular purpose – take a randomly flowing resource (water) and funnel it in a controlled fashion to certain destinations.
The Romans would never have pondered that, all this time later, some blogger would find some analogy between their aqueducts and what we do on the Internet. But, that’s exactly what I’ve done. 🙂
What This Has To Do With Your Blog
See, we, as bloggers, also work with a randomly flowing resource – ATTENTION.
When people surf the Internet, their attention just wanders around with little to no flow. Often, we take the path of least resistance and less work (the equivalent to water flowing downhill, I guess).
Now, if you look at your particular blog, how does it funnel attention?
Have you ever taken a glass of water and just poured it on your driveway or porch floor? What happens? It splashes everywhere with about a 180-degree spread. There is little rhyme or reason to it, really.
Yet, when you pour oil into the engine of your car, you use a funnel. It takes a wide area and it funnels the oil into a tighter area (namely, the oil intake reservoir).
Most blogs are the floor. You want it to be a funnel.
Rome had 11 aqueducts, all coming in from multiple directions. Your blog, too, has people coming in from all directions. They don’t all hit your homepage (in fact, often, the homepage is one of the less popular entry pages of your site). They come in via a number of your blog posts, often via search engines or links in social media. Your job is to build internal aqueducts to funnel that incoming attention into your targets.
The Un-Roman Way To Blog
Many bloggers suffer from what I call the “Christmas tree effect”. It is a “look at all those pretty lights” feeling when I look at their blog. My eyes don’t focus on anything.
Typically, the sidebar is cluttered with competing elements. The blog’s homepage is a mish-mash of latest posts, with headlines that don’t stand out, and really long paragraphs (seriously, showing full-form posts on your homepage is stupid, folks). The top menu barely stands out. There is no clear byline. The logo is weak.
In short, the blog packs too much in, and all visual elements are equal to everything else. That is illogical thinking. Then, people wonder why you’re not getting any subscriptions on your email list, or not getting comments. Often, it is because nobody sees it.
The Roman Way
On a blog, those aqueducts for attention are built using color and visual flow elements (like arrows). Often, it is imagery and the contrast against the rest of the surrounding page which control the flow.
The idea is to use strategic use of color to draw the eye to things which matter (i.e. your list opt-in, or other call to action). This is one reason I like white space on a blog. Not only is it easiest to read, but then you have a high contrast with graphical elements where you choose to use them.
Colors actually aid in the mood of your reader as well as to control the eye path. For instance…
- RED is an energetic color and grabs attention, which is why it is often used in headlines or calls to action. On the flip side, some may associate red with anger, debt, or something they did wrong.
- YELLOW is often the first color the eye gravitates to, so it is used to draw the eye. This is why you can place text on a highlighted yellow color to make it stand out.
- ORANGE is kinda in-between red and yellow, and is often used for calls to action (like “Add To Cart” buttons) because it draws the eye yet doesn’t come with the potential emotional association of bad things.
- GREEN is easy on the eyes, often associated with credibility or wealth.
- BLUE is a trust color, however also a conservative color. It can be used to give a sense of trust, but as a call to action may actually lead the person to reconsider the move (classic conservative behavior).
In addition to colors, you can control the flow with things like arrows, etc. Often, you’ll see squeeze pages with arrows that point right to the opt-in form. On a blog, you could use an arrow to visually pull readers into your opt-in form after they’ve read a post (positioned at the bottom of the post, obviously). You could even use it to visually pull them into your comment form to get more comments (putting the comment form ABOVE the comments rather than below them).
This subject can get pretty meaty.
When In Rome…
You know what they say about “when in Rome”, right? Well, pretend you’re in Rome. What would the Romans do?
Build those aqueducts.
I understand that some people might run into technical hurdles with this, but you can always find a designer to help you. But, you need to understand what you’re shooting for and be the guide.