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Blog Layout

Jim from Blog Kits shot me an email last week saying that he thought it would be interesting to do a post asking readers what their favorite blog layout was.

So….

What is your favorite blog layout?

Do you prefer 2 columns, 3 columns or some other format? What are the advantages of the different formats that you’ve tried?

I think it depends upon the blog you’re running. Most of mine are a 3 column format mainly because I find 3 columns gives more options for placing advertising, affiliate programs etc. Two columns can make it hard to fit ads, navigation and other blog buttons and features in.

The downside of a 3 column layout is that it can make your blog look quite cluttered.

What do you prefer? Feel free to leave links to blogs that you like (or dislike) the layout of.

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. I prefer a 2-column layout, which is what I use on my blog. I find the 3-column layout too cluttered when I see it on other sites — it gives me a feeling of information overload.

  2. garrett says:

    I personally have to go with 2 columns. the 3 column layouts are, as mentioned before, normally very cluttered in appearance, but I also think that atleast one column tends to be ignored as it’s cast away from the main content (which surely can’t be good for any ads such a column cotains). I’ve noticed that one column layouts are starting to grow but I really don’t think these work as anything other than the main content is dropped way way down the page and again is out of the users focus. Just my 2 cents, hope you find it useful.

  3. Conánn says:

    Personaly I prefer 2 columns centered like this one but with a right sidebar, though left may be better for ad placement. There are a few 3 column layouts I like but they are [content]-[nav]-[ads] rather then text centred

  4. rob says:

    I also like 2 cols. I was going to add more, but previous commenters have stolen my thunder! So I just wanted to vote.

  5. NightWriter says:

    My current blog runs on 2 columns which works fine, my new blog will run on three columns because it simply won’t work with two. I do think less is more though, so if you can run it with just two, then just use the two. Only use the third if completely necessary. (I dont think I’ve seen a site with four :os )

  6. Ivo says:

    For my websites I’ve also been experimenting with one-column layouts, but somehow it doesn’t feel natural. An extra column acting as a sidebar gives a lot of options for pushing other material onto the page without it looking unnatural or pushing the content down.

    I do agree that a third column does generally make things too cluttered and thus scaring people away. Does depend of the kind of website though. For a weblog it definately doesn’t help, since I don’t think people generally spend hours on one single weblog.
    Therefore, the interface should be as clear and uncluttered as possible. They shouldn’t need to spend too much energy learning your site.

  7. Allan Burns says:

    Two columns centered. Navigation on the right. As well as layout what about design?

  8. Ian McKenzie says:

    I find a three-column layout easier to work with, for much the same reason that Darren suggests. I particularly like to have lots of room to include an extensive blogroll, while minimizing the scrolling.

    However, all of my blogs are two-column layouts, with lots of scrolling. The two-column format seems more elegant to me and definitely less cluttered. It also forces me to think more carefully about what content I want or need displayed.

    I’d be interested in hearing thoughts on the preferred width for a blog’s layout.

  9. Gino says:

    My guess would be that most visitors would prefer to see a two column blog. The information they’re looking for should always be neatly organized. In my blogs I aim to direct the visitor – to steer or guild them through the website.

    From a bloggers point of view I can understand that having three column would be more useful for placing ads and things. But when you consider that most visitors are going to quickly scan through the page for the information you’re looking for it makes sense to serve that info in the quickest and easiest way.

    The content is king of cause and too much clutter risks losing your stickiness.

  10. Chris says:

    I use a different kind of 3 clumn layout on my blog and i find it quite good.
    content on the left and 2 colums at the right side of the content.
    have a look.

  11. Andrew says:

    I went for a combination – three columns at the top for the (perhaps overly fussy) navigation/external links/post info and a two column for the main body of the page. Some three coloumn blogs look terrible – and design is important to me.

  12. David says:

    That’s easy… 2 columns is my favourite. 3 and the content looks too crowded.
    Content is Key and should always be the biggest, most important area. That being said.. Three column blogs where the content is not straddled on either side also can look really nice, as long as it is made for 1024×768 and higher.

  13. Tony E says:

    I use 3 columns, and think I’ve managed to keep things clear and readable. What do you all think?

  14. Darren Rowse says:

    interesting – I didn’t think it would be such a one sided argument for 2 columns.

    Interesting that most of the big commercial blogs have three columns…

  15. Andy says:

    I moved to 3 col on my personal blog to minimise vertical scrolling – the subjects and the blogroll all start at the same point vertically, near the top of the screen. Content is on the left, though it does start halfway down the screen as I have the header and the ‘recent articles’ etc. first. I quite like my new design – it’s consistent at least – I based it on other deisgns I’d seen. I think it works OK and the most important things (content followed by subject tree) are always in the same place. I wouldn’t go back to 2 for this blog now. Other blogs vary depending on their purpose. It might sound odd but whereas other people see it as ‘crowded’ having 3 cols, I see it as ‘cosy’ – if that makes any sense. In any case, the middle column (the subject tree) only extends vertically for the height of its content, then it disappears, so there’s more white space further down the page.

  16. David says:

    Tony E – I still feel trapped in and distracted by information on both sides of the content. I almost breath a sigh of relief once I get passed it and have whitespace on either side.

  17. Tony E says:

    Thanks for that feedback David. It’s always good to hear another point of view.

  18. I think the problem is that while the 2-column design almost always (there are exceptions certainly) looks better and puts the focus more firmly on the content, it’s also an extremely poor way to earn money. :)

    As with most things connected to pro-blogging you have to compromise between the “ideal” and the hard reality of how to actually earn money from the blog.

    That said I am looking at some of my blogs and considering reducing them to a two column layout on the archive pages while still having the three column on the index page. That would actually invole removing not the advertising from the archive pages, but most of the extraneous navigation links.

  19. Duncan Riley says:

    3 column, but not with the main content between them, I think this makes a blog too clutered, you need to be able to seperate navigation from content. The problem with 2 column is that if you’ve got a lot to include in it, it alls ends up far longer than the posts you are putting up and therefore becomes wasted.
    See Andy’s comments, agree on this

  20. David says:

    I like Andy’s setup because I feel the whitespace, I feel like I can concentrate on the content without being distracted by navigation, links, ads, and whatnot. And it is a 3 Column design. I think it is the only 3 col design that I like for informational/blog sites. Good stuff Andy and Duncan.

  21. kazi says:

    I am using 2 column layout on both of my site. An extra column might help you if you have a very high traffic site like Engadget for banner ads. I like my second site better ( http://www.gizmonews.com/mobile ) because of it’s much cleaner look. 2 column or.. 3 column content must be easily readable and that is a must!

  22. Vix says:

    I use 2 column layouts in most of my sites because I don’t want to overwhelm the reader with all these links though a 3rd column is okay if you intend to use it for advertising.

  23. Stuart Bruce says:

    My personal preference is for three columns. I don’t like scrolling and it makes it a lot faster for me to scan the screen and find what I want.

    However, I think most of the comments miss the point. It has nothing to do with personal preference. It is all to do with the USER. There is a lot of research on human-computer interface and would like to see some proper acadmic/business research on blog layout (which will differ from the findings for an ordinary website). I suspect the answer is that one, two or three columns are all appropriate depending on the purpose of the blog and your audience.

  24. Gee, I’m late to the party on this one.

    One, two, three, and four column designs all have their place. Which is best depends on the purpose and goal of the site! I guarantee that I can design you a three column site that does not look busy or heavy. By contrast I could design a very busy one column layout.

    Each site has a different goal. A site with short bits of information can get away with a narrower main column. A site with mostly longer posts would probably be more suited to a double column setup. That being said, I’m currently exploring a narrow single column site at http://www.dadlog.com (note that it’s not working in ie, and will go through a couple more changes before its done).

    I’m also working on a couple of sites that feature varying columns: at the top, they’re single column to feature the lead article, and below the fold they are either two or three columns.

    There is no “one is better that the other” rule. It always, ALWAYS depends on the content.

  25. update to my post above: I’ve written a longish post on the topic of how to choose the right layout at http://www.peterflaschner.com

    Thanks for bringing this up Darren.

  26. Craig says:

    People might find this eyetracking article useful to read when it comes to designing layouts. Eye track III
    If anyone knows of any more real world studies please send them my way.

    I personally prefer 2 column layouts for traditional blog content for its uncluttered look and feel. I believe its why themes like Kubrick are so popular, they’re so easy to read the content.

    However, like Darren I can find them limiting when placing content. People have a lot to read these days and scan so much that if the start of the headings, images and content don’t draw attention, people will go elsewhere. For me that says making important areas of your site eye catching in some way to draw the viewer into the content is vital. From that eyetrack study that means the first 4 words on a line or an image in a column. Using headings, coloured areas, or images, like Darrens face there draws you into reading that content column too.

    How many columns you use I think depends on the content important to your site and just as importantly is using techniques to draw the user into it. 3 columns does make that harder in that it can feel cluttered and if you are still having to design for 800×600 it can be one hard task. Personally of the 3 column layouts I’ve tried, ones that look like 2 column layouts feel least cluttered. By “look like 2 columns”, I mean the side columns situated on one side of a page (preferably right) and are situated close to each other while the content to the left has nice whitespace either side and nice clear line-height for easy reading. I also find that if your posts include images aligned right, or your second column isn’t filled out with information leaving little white space, then a page is better weighted with a narrow second column and wider third. For me placing ads in the 2nd column and nice content in the third makes the user brower over ads, therefore potentially exposing them more rather than just being in the right column where they always typically are and where no one really looks much.

    I like this 3 column layout becuase it can allow you to place ads in areas users look to first. underneath a left aligned header and above a post, embedded in a post, below it, and to the right of it just like a 2 column. As well you can embed them into the eye attracting right content like adlinks near a face. It gives you a lot of options in my view. Also, with right aligned images in the left content a user will tend to hover there according to that eyetracker and if your ads are next to it they’re likely to get better exposure.

    Just some thoughts…

  27. Bitchin says:

    As a newbie to the whole thing…this post sure did help a lot!

  28. Tino Triste says:

    I’ve been using a 2 column layout. But i’m switching to a 3 column one so I’ll have more space for ads. If done properly I think that is a good compromise.

  29. Asat says:

    I personally prefer a 3-col layout as it emphasizes to the users over which they have to concentrate more on. A 2-col layout would just mean more scrolling for checking out more content of the blog.

  30. aronil says:

    Right now I’m having a dissatisfied feeling for my own blog design. I agree that two is actually just nice. Because it keeps everything clean. However there are some nice three column layouts around that don’t over kill. My problem is that i want so many things.. which may cause clutter…
    there should be a post on the best things to have or something like spring cleaning a blog design.

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