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Effective Blog Architecture

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for me as a professional blogger with decent depth in my archives – some really good content and some (perhaps more) not so great content – is figuring out the best way to present it. Blog architecture is a challenging topic since most blogs are structured pretty much identically.

Sometimes concepts are presented that just smack of “obvious”. Chris Pearson presented one such concept today. In his view, most of his readers (and I would venture most of my readers and most of Darren’s readers) consume blogs via RSS and RSS is reverse chronological by its nature. By default, most blogs are also ordered reverse chronologically.

Chris instead challenges his readers to think outside the box and avoid being redundant. If RSS is already reverse-chronological, why do the same thing on the web? Why not take a more nebulous approach to blog presentations – perhaps placing the “best of” on the home page or taking a Digg approach and letting entries with more comments migrate up to the front page.

The second approach is an idea that I had but would likely work best on a niche blog as opposed to personal blogs. The idea that mostly niche readers will read niche blogs suggests that a blogger would not get unrelated “junk entries” that garner a lot of comments on the front page.

I’m interested in hearing different ideas on presenting blog data in an alternate way. What are your thoughts?

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Comments

  1. Yes, I would LOVE to see more about this. I’ve developed a couple of blog-centric websites – sites that are built on a blog platform but are not true blogs. And I’d like to do more niche blogs and build them around more than just the chronological sequence of the posts.

    This would be a very welcome bit of information.

  2. Retrospector says:

    I really like what Darren has done here with a “best of” approach instead of listing dozens of categories. Having a rather shallow set of archive material, I don’t really see the need for such an approach, but I can imagine once the content becomes more cumbersome to sort through…a new architecture that lets higher-interest posts work their way to the top would be very helpful.

  3. raj says:

    Yeah, the reverse-chron thing peeves me sometimes, especially when I’m new to a great site that I’d like to explore properly. But isn’t the reverse-chron feature what makes blogs blogs? You do something else and you basically have a website.

    On the other hand, as Retrospector says above, I like Darren’s approach. He’s hybridized weblog and website structure with his extra navigation. Although I sometimes wish he had a “recent posts” section.

  4. I tried the 5 most acclaimed articles I’ve had on the sidebar (hall of fame), It worked nicelly, but took up too much space.

    Now I have an image of the “Featured Article” that I change every three days or so. Its working nicelly, I like to give attention to articles that I’m really proud of.

    I’m planning to do a “Blast from the Past” sort of thing, where I’ll repost a “classic” every week… I’ll report my results.

    Alexander Wunderlich
    .

  5. Oh that’s really good to know that we have some good options while we write blog. I have piled up some good things with me and just wanna wait that what you will say about that.

  6. Andy Merrett says:

    My next redesign of a couple of my blogs will take a much more holistic view of things and try to work for visitors of all kinds. It’s true that the “newest content first” model doesn’t work particularly well at getting your visitors involved and deeper into your site, if most of them are from RSS.

    There is a lot of scope for good design of a blog, and naturally that goes way beyond it looking nice. It needs to function well, as well as monetising well – if that’s an aim. So much to think about.

    One I turn pro (next week, woo-hoo, like I can wait…) I will be setting aside specific chunks of the day/week to work on design and architecture of existing sites. There’s just not enough time at the moment. Heh, I can feel my days filling up to Darren-like proportions already. :)

  7. That’s interesting, I thought Ihad something like this but I didn’t. Now I’ve put up a hand-rolled “most read 5 posts on The Big Chorizo” section above the articles on the index page, so we’ll see how that goes. Thanks

  8. Jacob Gorban says:

    I have a niche site on parapsychology and I’ve put popular articles (by comments) first thing on the right-side banner (ok, below the subscription buttons). This has had a positive effect on the viewing rate of these posts, since they are old and hard to get to using regular navigation (categories and archives).

    Another thing that I did beforehands was to write static pages on selected main topics, add some explanation on the topics and add there a list of best articles. I then put the links to static pages first on the left-side toolbar along with ‘about site’ links. Some people go that route instead of categories.

    I’ve never thought of not putting the latest articles on top although in reality in can make sense since much of my readership is either coming from search engines or RSS/Email subscriptions.

    I might better consider this now.
    Thanks for the thought provoking topics, Darren.

  9. pcunix says:

    I try to give ‘em whatever they want.

    I have a full blog style page where current articles flow in reverse chronological order. I have the same thing with abbreviated snippets, and the same thing again in traditional index style.

    I have “Most Popular” pages, by today, this week, this month and all time.

    For each major section of my site, there’s a directory that lists all relevant articles. So if your only interest is Mac OS X, you go to /MacOSX/index.html , and if it’s Linux you love, then /Linux/index.html has your articles.

    Of course we have Search – Google’s and my own highly optimized Swishe search.

    Only want to check comments? No problem. I have a page for that.

    I also offer listings by less popular tags, and for the really bored, there’s always the Random Page picker..

    Give ‘em whatever the heck they want..

  10. jhay says:

    Well, there’s that ‘Related Posts/Entries’ plugins that’s so common nowadays, another trick could be newsletters.

    Still, I’m interested in how this topic would progress.

  11. James says:

    I personally dislike blogs not ordered reverse-chronologically. Seeing ‘best of’ somewhere on the page is cool and useful, but I open the blogs I frequent en masse as regular forefox bookmarks and would hate to be forced into using RSS just to see the LATEST content.

    Though I wouldn’t mind if the author still had chronological order in one section that lets me browse like normal, and had the homepage or wherever using a ‘best of’ thing, etc.

  12. Isn’t this really a navigation and display issue?

    All blog content contains a variety of meta tags that could and should be used to facilitate custom navigation and displays. The reverse-chronological sequence is not necessarily the best or the worst, it’s just want we started with.

    I use NEO (Nelson Email Organizer) to generate different views of my Outlook email messages and attachments. I have more than 40,000 messages stored in Outlook/NEO and can view them in ascending or descending chronological order. I can also view them by read or unread, by sender or recipient, by type of attachment, by subject, or category, or urgency, or any number of other meta data.

    I would like to view blog content the way I view email content — anyway I want it with whatever filters I select. The only display layout not available in NEO that would be really cool in a blog organizer would be a mind map.

    Mind maps present a GUI showing how abstract posts and comments relate or don’t relate to each other. It’s a powerful tool that lets the reader navigate with ease from “big picture” to organic detail and back.

    The first blog service that offers a mind map view has my business.

  13. MInTheGap says:

    This is an interesting thought and definitely worth considering. I was just talking with a guy who wondered how you built a relationship with people if the conversation they were following fell off the front page and then into obscurity. I’ve also had people commenting into posts that were off the front page and it was harder to keep track of the conversation and give it visibility.

    An interesting idea would be to have some kind of view or sort page that would let you see a digg style interface, so you could switch between that view and traditional view. Maybe have it linked with a cookie so that the user’s preference could be kept.

    Either that, or have a most recent posts widget keep track of the recent posts as a sideline, and have the most popular posts in the foreground.

    Again, an interesting idea.

  14. Frostlight says:

    Well, I only started mine a few months ago, and one thing I noticed for my particular corner of the blog population (a dream journal) is that *everyone* sticks to the boring chronological date format. I’ve always hated it, because when I find a good blog, I usually have to read through several years’ worth of material to find the things I’m interested in.

    So instead, I’ve organised mine by category and genre, which is pretty unique as far as dream journals go. Each category has a detailed explanation, and each dream within the category has a brief explanation stating how it relates to that category. I have a link to the most current dream up on the main page, but my dreams are very long and I’d rather my readers only had to sift through the ones they’re actually interested by.

    I’m not a fan of only organising by date, at least for dream journals.

  15. I definitely like to set up my blog with more than one sidebar, two on the right, or one on each side. This helps me out a lot when I am looking for areas of my blog to put an ad.

  16. Markus Merz says:

    Blog architecture is exactly the right description. The basic concept of that archive architecture has to be on a blueprint before you start a blog.

    That’s my main reason why I have chosen a different system. I am using Textpattern (as an editorial system) which supports sections, categories and keywords. That’s the basic structure. On that base you can build plenty of buildings with different levels for your readers.

    To make a short story short … it is very important to have an effective blog architecture in place before starting a website.

  17. Eric Gregory says:

    It seems like the word “blog” has at least two different meanings nowdays and the issue at hand is essentially front page ordering.

    There’s “blog” as in a news-oriented site, where the date is obviously important. I think the majority of our audience would only call news-oriented websites “blogs.”

    But there’s also “blog” as in publishing platform. I think those of us who run one would call it a “blog.” But in terms of layout… well we’re simply running websites with blogging software. It shouldn’t necessarily have a blog format.

  18. Eric Gregory says:

    Also I’d like to point out that this is one area YouTube has nailed. With the tabs at the top you can switch to newest videos, most viewed, best rating, worst rated, etc.

    You can spend literally hours watching all those videos, and they’re only *one* click away from the front page.

  19. PAKLAN says:

    i think the best is to read from a good genuine blog which may represented his/her own works. not others. Just a new blogger myself.
    cheers

  20. bdb says:

    i’m just learning about blogging and trying to figure out a niche’ that i have but not sure how to get it out there

    http://www.modelbuilding101.com mainly for college students but i have some other forums in there…

    question is do you want to create a discussion or just review of work…….

    b

  21. Chris Heath says:

    Well people can always skim past the ones that are irrelvant

  22. CalArch says:

    Love the blog, if i may ask, what software are you using? how much does it cost? where do you get it? If it’s not a secret email me some details wouldya?

    thanks in advance!

  23. Alec Bobdon says:

    Yes I agree. It’s not just the age of the blog that it important, but also the content. I think that perhaps readers should have a choice to order the blogs either reverse chronological or number of comments, that way they can choose to see the newest, or most active blogs.

  24. Lyn Smith says:

    The problem with presenting blog archives in order of “most comments” is that some people just leave loads of silly one-word comments as part of their link campaign, to leave a backlink to their site, without actually taking the effort to write a comment that is relevent to the article/blog body. So a blog may have a lot of comments, but they might not be genuine comments.

    You could arrange archive blogs into categories, like a directory.

  25. Peter Bland says:

    I think that you should have a search bar so that you can search for key words in blog archives.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] So the question is to you, my readers, is how would you like to see this blog portrayed? I linked to an article yesterday from Problogger to Chris Pearson who talked about some novel concpets on blog architecture. [...]

  2. [...] This follows a breakthrough post (yet another one) by Chris Pearson who outlines a new way of looking at blog structures – which is then discussed by Aaron Brazell at ProBlogger and highlighted by David at Blogging Pro. (yes, this is one heck of a link list – this is why, and this is why I told you why). [...]