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Does blog design matter?

One of my favorite new bloggers is Peter Flaschner who today asks the question – Does blog design matter?

I first reviewed the design of Technorati’s top 10 blogs a month or so ago. At the time, I came to the conclusion that design didn’t really matter all that much. I figured that within a couple of months though, with the fantastic growth rate of the blog world, design would start to matter. This is based on the belief that given the choice between two sources of equal quality content, people will choose the better designed site.

In a medium where many argue ‘content is king’ I would argue that its queen is design. This is not just the case in blogging but in many aspects of business. I live in a suburb where there is a local strip of shops. There is a huge variety of stores, cafes, restaurants and offices there but most of them are fairly run down with quite a few old ma and pa stores that probably haven’t changed much in the past 15 – 20 years. But things are changing – the suburb is becoming more popular and gradually new shops and cafes are creeping into the strip of shops.

It is amazing to see the difference between the old and new shops – whilst the old one’s are dark and dusty the new ones are well lit, classy, clean and are very 2005.

Both types of shops sell the same stuff – but given the choice of a fresh and hip place or a dingy musty smelling one – I know where most shoppers are now heading. Aesthetics, sensuality and emotion are key in communication and are all things that a well designed blog can evoke.

Update: Interestingly (and perhaps I’m arguing with myself here) I was also reflecting this morning about how News Aggregators have changed the design equation somewhat.

As I surfed through my bloglines feed this morning I realized how much of an equalizer it was to see virtually all of the content presented to me in black quite and blue. The most amazingly designed blogs going around were reduced to the same level as some of the most appallingly designed blogs that I’ve ever seen. Could the news aggregator be quality content’s saviour!?

Update: Flyte has a great comment on this post – ‘The discussion of content versus design in blogs is like discussing what makes a rectangle bigger: height or width?’

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. When ProBlogger was undergoing it’s upgrade to WP 1.5 I remember coming to visit and seeing the default ‘kubrik’ theme with the blue banner at the top. I was surprised at just how shocking it was. For some reason, the content of this website is permanently married to the color scheme and general layout (at least in my mind).

  2. John Evans says:

    Clean and simple (dare I say, minimalist) design always beats the frantic MSN approach because it caters for utility as well as pleasing visuals. Blogs start out with an advantage, because they’re simple beasts at heart. So, yes, design is important, but so is simplicity. Ultimately, content is everything.

  3. Vix says:

    A good design trumps content for a first time visitor but ultimately people are going to keep coming back if the content is good. What’s the purpose of a pretty page if there’s nothing interesting to read.

    Though if you were to give me two blogs with similar content but one had poor design I’d be going back to the other blog…

    This brings the question to mind, just what is good design? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it something that is readable?

  4. Fred says:

    Hello,

    Some blogs are pure peace of art. However, does it make it fun to read? I don’t think so. But, a blog well designed (not necessarily graphically) is essential because it could, unconsciously, tell the readers how he is committed to the task. So, if a blog is up-side-down, I’ll check at it 2 secs and go away nonobservant the content… because I’ll not take the time to read it.

    Salutations,

    Fred

  5. I think Vix hit it on the head, and it’s what I alluded to when I said “You can fool people with design once, but only content will bring them back”

    Newsreaders certainly do flatten the field, and to an extent they take design out of the equation. That being said, people like shiny things, and individual site design will ALWAYS count.

    There are ton of offline examples: take cars. All cars can get you from a to b. The transportation factor is akin to a site’s content. It has to be there, or you’ve just got a bunch of useless parts. Styling is what sells them though.

    Newsreaders are a fabulous way to skim information. When there’s something of interest though, I follow the links and visit the actual sites.

  6. Jon Gales says:

    I think to take a site to the next level it has to be designed nicely. Advertisers, especially the big ones, aren’t going to want to touch a site that uses a default template. If you haven’t put the time or money into fixing up your own house, why should I pay to put a sign on it? If you want to do those big ad deals in the future, get a designer today.

  7. Rich Brooks says:

    Arguing what is more important, content or design, is like arguing what makes a rectangle bigger: height or width?

    A good looking blog with bad content won’t last, and great content in a shoddy wrapper will often be considered of poor quality no matter how good the writing. (If you have any question whether or not this is true, pick up a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book: Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking.)

    What I love about blogs is their simplistic layout. However, they are generally still well designed. The default choices at Blogger or Typepad are all (mostly) gorgeous.

    That being said, after months of looking at my own blog, I decided that I wanted our designer to take a crack at it. (He hasn’t yet.)

    I do believe there will be a lot more custom designs for blogs going forward, both for better or worse. No matter how nice the default layouts may be (compared to so many poorly designed Web sites out there) ultimately people will want to express their individuality through design as well as through content.

  8. Duncan Riley says:

    I agree that design matters, but at the top it doesn’t apply, if you look at the design layout of the Daily Kos for example its not good, and he is even apply the same design to his sports blogs, which leads me to believe that its not the most important aspect. Content is, at the end of the day, king, but design for the rest of us helps a lot. When I follow the Alexa stats for Problogger.net for example, I know that the page views per reader are definately enhanced due to the design, which is one of many examples

  9. Amanda says:

    does blog design matter? sure, depending on what age you are. if your more mature, then you want something more simplistic. And if your younger, you want to see pictures, bright colors, and designs that attract you. Personally, if i dont see someone who would take the time to personalize, and design their blog, maybe their blog doesnt deserve the apprechiation from readers.

    toodles!

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