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TechCrunch Redesign Update

A few days back I linked to the design saga around the TechCrunch Redesign where the redesign of this popular blog came under significant critique. The design was done by Rachel Cunliffe from Cre8d but it was pretty obvious that there was some level of different perspectives between designer and blog owner if you look at the post announcing the redesign by Mike and the comment thread of Rachel’s announcement.

Reading between the lines it seems that Mike’s opinion as the blog owner won out and the new design was something that Rachel was not completely happy about. Ultimately the decision has to come down to a blog owner on how their blog will look and Rachel took the gracious approach of saying things like:

“Design is incredibly personal and I’m not taking the negative comments to heart because I know I’ve created what my client had in mind and wanted – layout, ads, exact colors and format.”

To me this indicates some level of respect for Mike as a client.

Today I headed over to Rachel’s blog to find that things have taken a new twist. She’s resigned as a result of Mike’s latest post which features a design submitted by another blog designer saying that he’s impressed by it and intends to steal some of it.

I’m a little disappointed by Mike’s post and by the whole way the saga has been handled. As much as I think Rachel’s stood by Mike as a client and worked to his desires his post to me is a little undermining of her work. Perhaps some will say Rachel overreacted by resigning but obviously she’s had enough and is moving on. What the full story that’s led to it doesn’t look like coming out but something’s caused her to react this way.

I have seen some fairly full on critiques of Rachel and her work this week with some saying some pretty terrible things about her despite her working to her clients wishes. I’m amazed that she’s put up with the rubbish that some have thrown her way.

Having said this there has been some acknowledgment by some of her talent and I only hope that out of it will come cliental who not only appreciate her work but who are also willing to take her advice and expertise on board in the design of their blogs.

As I said in my last post on the topic I do hope this brings about some worthwhile discussion on the topic of blog design and doesn’t degenerate into a personal attack-fest. Hopefully the matter can all be put to bed now and everyone can get on with their business of blogging and designing.

Update: Mike’s responded to the situation here and the comments arguing both sides are flowing.
Update II:
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TechCrunch Redesign Creates Discussion on Blog Design

I was chatting to an artist friend of mine about an exhibition he’s currently involved with that is causing quite a stir in some circles here in Melbourne. I asked him whether the extreme reactions that the exhibition caused bothered him or not and his reaction was that he was really happy about it because the dialogue (as emotional as it was) had caused people to think deeply about art and the messages that the art he’d produced was conveying. While many disagreed with elements of the exhibition it had caused even them to think through the reasons why they reacted in that way. His arguement was that ‘good art causes a polarization of opinions.’

I’m interested to follow some of the discussion caused by the redesign of uber-blog TechCrunch in the last 24 hours. It was done by designer Rachel Cunliffe (who did ProBlogger’s design also) and has been critiqued by quite a few bloggers (expressing a wide range of ideas on it).

Quite a lot of what has been said about the design is critical and there is some debate about how much impact TechCunch owners and editors played in changing Rachel’s original ideas.

I’m not really sure where I sit with the redesign as compared to the old one (I rarely read it in anything other than Bloglines so barely remember the old one) but I’m more interested in the discussion that it’s generated which has brought up some really worthwhile discussion points including:

  • the possible points of tension between a blog owner and designer
  • the placement of advertising on a blog
  • whether blogs should have ads on them
  • whether a blog’s design should reflect it’s topic – and how
  • what is ‘web 2.0′ design?

Read about some of the opinions and explanations of the new Tech Crunch design:

I’m sure there’s lots more out there – but as you’ll see there’s some useful discussion going on. I just hope it doesn’t turn into a bitch-fest and that people see this as an opportunity to discuss the principles of good blog design rather than see it as an opportunity to get personal and get into one-upmanship

Blog Comment Form Design

Smiley Cat Web Design had a cool showcase post a few weeks back that highlighted great comment section designs and today posted another showcase that is looking specifically at comment form designs.

Once again there are some nice examples there of some great blog design.

Will You Reboot on May 1st?

cssreboot

This post has been submitted by regular contributor – Aaron Brazell

There’s been an unofficial holiday on the web for the past 6 years or so. It’s called the May 1st reboot and it refers to the date that web designers have chosen as “spring cleaning” day. The day is used to go through websites and apply a new design, or cleanup artifacts that have been left lying around the site. In just a handful of days, the blogosphere will play its own part in the May 1st Reboot and it’s being organized over at CSS Reboot. While I’ve already done my reboot a few weeks early, there are currently 1,319 signed up to participate in the CSS Reboot which offers no rewards save tons of exposure and potential for traffic. From their about page:

The CSS Reboot is a community event for web professionals. May 1st, 2006 at 18:00 GMT Rebooters from all over the world will launch their web standards-based redesigns simultaneously, bringing traffic, interest and a little respect to their sites. There are no prizes or arbitrary winners, just great exposure and the knowledge that we all participated in something great.

Of course, to reboot you don’t have to join up with the official site. Perhaps some spit and shine on your own or grabbing a ready made theme will do nicely.
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Blog Credibility and Blog Design

This post is part of a series of posts on building blog credibility

I know that there is a variety of opinions on the value of blog design within ProBlogger’s readership so this might generate some interesting discussion but in my opinion blog design does matter. It is not the only or even best way to establish credibility as a blogger but it can definitely help.

First impressions count and in a world where there are millions of people pitching themselves on virtually any topic you can think of you need to seriously consider how you’ll stand out from the crowd and present yourself in a way that will draw readers into your blog.

Experience, Expertise, Longevity (and every other principle that I’ll talk about in this series) are great at building credibility once a reader makes a decision to actually explore your blog but there are a few crucial seconds that happen before this decision is made and blog design can play a big part and communicate a lot.

Ask yourself:

  • What does my blog communicate about me?
  • Do the messages I’m trying to convey get lost in the clutter or are they just not there at all?
  • Can people tell within a second or two what my blog is about at a first glance?
  • Does my design fit with the message that I want to convey?

I am not saying that every blog needs a professional design or that we should all spend loads of money and/or time getting our blogs looking right (in fact some bloggers get terribly distracted from the core business of writing quality content by constantly ‘tweaking’ their design) – all I’m arguing is that whether you like it or not people are making judgments about you and your blog every day based on many levels simply based upon how it looks.

Landing Pages for TypePad Blogs

Since writing my post on The Importance of Landing pages last week I’ve had a number of bloggers email asking for advice on how to make them – especially from bloggers not using WordPress (which has a ‘page’ function). Those bloggers using TypePad who want to work with Landing Pages should check out TypePad Hacks who has a post landing pages especially for you.

The Importance of Landing pages on Blogs

Nice post over at Seth Godin’s on “Landing pages” which coincidentally was something I was working a little on this afternoon on one of my blogs.

I’ll let Seth say it because he’s the master of this kind of thing:

‘A landing page is the first page a visitor to your site sees…..

A landing page (in fact, every page) can only cause one of five actions:

  • Get a visitor to click (to go to another page, on your site or someone else’s)
  • Get a visitor to buy
  • Get a visitor to give permission for you to follow up (by email, phone, etc.). This includes registration of course.
  • Get a visitor to tell a friend
  • (and the more subtle) Get a visitor to learn something, which could even include posting a comment or giving you some sort of feedback’

Landing pages on blogs are really important IF you have a desired outcome in mind with your blogs. If you’re blogging aimlessly with no real goals then don’t worry about them.

What I’d recommend bloggers consider are some of the following questions:

  1. What are the goals of your blog? What outcomes do you want of a reader visiting your blog (one or more of the above – or others)?
  2. What pages do most bloggers enter your blog on (most statistics packages will tell you this)?
  3. Are these landing pages optimized for your goals?
  4. If not how can you either change what appears on these landing pages to help you achieve your goals OR how can you get readers to land on other pages that have a better chance of converting?

Here’s a couple of case studies from some of the work I’ve done lately with blogs:

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Akismet for Moveable Type

This post has been submitted by regular contributor – Aaron Brazell

Late last year, Automattic, the company behind WordPress, launched a brash new anti-spam product for blogs called Akismet.  Of course, at the time of launch, I took the product to task but quickly changed my tune as I understood the system better.

When I installed Akismet at Technosailor, I was truly amazed at how well it handled spam.  Literally, I went to maybe one comment a month that needed to be moderated.  That was with no comment moderation enabled (save Akismet’s), and only Akismet installed as an anti-spam plugin.  I was truly amazed.

So when I heard about Akismet being released for Movable Type last week, I had to go check it out (even though I only own a sandbox Movable Type blog).

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Tips for Probloggers from Getting Real – the new e-book by 37 Signals

Rachel CunliffeHi! This is Rachel Cunliffe. I’m a blog designer from New Zealand and I thought I’d share with you some problogger tips from 37 Signals’ new e-book, “Getting Real” (which is selling very well).

If you haven’t come across 37 Signals’ products such as Basecamp, Backpack, Tada, Writeboard and most recently, campfire, it’s worth your time to find out what they offer. I’m finding Basecamp invaluable for managing my blog design clients.

As I read the e-book I realised that there’s also a lot of insight, encouragement and tips for (pro)bloggers. In fact, 37 Signals recommend their book for anyone who is an entrepreneur, designer, programmer or marketer working on a big idea. Their thoughts echo many of Darren’s posts here at Problogger too.

Here are 10 tips from the book along with some comments. [Read more...]