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Open Mike on Blog Design

I’m going to open up the comments on this post for anyone to say anything they like on the topic of blog design.

I spent half an hour or so today looking through the blogs nominated for this year’s Bloggies awards. I was particularly looking through them with an eye for the way that these blogs were designed. By no means am I a blog designer (as you can no doubt tell from this blog – which is about to receive a facelift) but I do appreciate good design. There were some beautifully designed blogs in the collection – especially some of the photoblogs which I love surf through.

I was particularly surprised when going through the nominated blogs by the number of them that used very basic template designed blogs – particularly of the blogger variety. They were by no means the majority of blogs – (there was around 10) but for some reason it left me a little surprised. Whilst I have nothing against templated blogs I am someone who is drawn to sites which people have made look a little different.

I was left wondering if perhaps I’m a snob – whilst I always talk about how content is the number one thing a person should work on my reaction to templated blogs perhaps exposes a bias. Of course the bias doesn’t stop me reading templated blogs – there are quite a few on my daily RSS feed list (althouth RSS does tend to cut out the design issues).

I was wondering if I’m alone in my blog snobbery? How important is blog design to you in finding quality blogs? Are aesthetics and design something you look at when you go to a new blog or are you someone who is drawn in by content…or something else? Am I a snob? What is good blog design? What is your favorite blog in terms of design? The floor is yours.

RSS Feeds: Full posts or extracts?

Another tip from Leave It Behind’s Building a Better Blog is to ‘Syndicate your Entire Post‘. Brian writes:

‘Again, in the never-ending effort to ensure happy readers, be sure to syndicate (i.e. send) your entire post through RSS. I follow over 75 weblogs (which is probably a low number on average). With the amount of time it takes to keep up with the constant stream of information, it is a great benefit to be able to read each post in its entirety without a separate trip to the browser. I know it is especially tempting for businesses to try to drive traffic to their site by forcing readers to visit the website in order to read the full article, but inevitably I end up unsubscribing from those sources instead.’

I thought this would make an interesting discussion. what are the benefits and costs of syndicating full posts? Do you?

Whilst Brian gets frustrated with only excerpts making it to RSS feeds I actually get frustrated with full posts. I use Bloglines and like to be able to see as many headings and excerpts on a page as possible. I track over 300 feeds and find myself skimming over and even removing feeds that are too long. I guess it depends how long your articles are – but is there a risk in frustrating your readers by publishing full posts in your RSS feed?

Are there other possible costs/risks in publishing your full RSS feed? Here are a few that come to mind:

[Read more…]

Choosing Complimentary Colors for your Blog – ColorMatch Tool

Have you ever struggled to select a color scheme for a blog? It’s pretty obviously looking at the disaster that I’ve designed here that I do!

So this ColorMatch tool is going to be very handy!

It is designed to help you select a 6 color palette for your blog. All you have to do is select a main color that you like using the slider and it will do the rest and come up with 5 complimentary colors. What could be easier?

Update: Michael from Figby has just posted a comprehensive list of these sorts of color matching tools for the design impaired. There are 14 in total – quality stuff!

The Importance of User Feedback

Michael has a great tip on The Importance of User Feedback over at Figby.com:

‘In retrospect, the conclusions seem obvious: Assuming you want as much feedback as possible from readers, you should make it as easy as possible for them to reach you. You may need to experiment with different comment forms, link locations, or link text to get the best response. Your readers are probably happy to help improve your site—they just want to do it with a minimum of effort.’

Categories and Search Engine Optimization

I would add another point to the last post on why Blogs are Popular with Search Engines and comment that it is not only page structure that works well but often overall site structure. The fact that many blog systems like Word Press and Moveable Type allow bloggers to categorize their posts can actually help Search Engines spider blogs and give them authority.

I get quite a few hits to the category pages of my blogs. For instance, one of the more popular entry pages from search engines on this blog is my Adsense page. This is not because loads of people directly link to this page (I can only find one external link that does) but it is because that particular page is keyword rich (ie the word Adsense is all over it ) – not because I’ve rigged it that way but just because its in virtually every title and first sentence of each post. It is also a page that is linked to from every page on this blog in the menu.

One of the disadvantages that I see with Blogger blogs (without hacking them) is that they do naturally come with a categories option. Instead posts are only archived according to date which means that they miss some of the benefits outlined here.

Customize your Error 404 Page for Retaining Readership

SEO Chat has a good article on making your 404 error pages work for you to create increased traffic. Using these methods you can not only retain visitors to your site that have strayed out of your working pages but can also direct them into the areas of your site that you’d like them to head to.

‘Why do you need a 404 custom page? Well, what happens when someone requests a page on your site that does not exist? Have you ever noticed that some sites give you a very nice looking page when you mistype a URL, instead of that nasty 404 File Not Found? It is easy to create a 404 custom page in IIS and Apache.’

This is a technique I’m keen to explore in the new year – let us know in comment below how and if you’ve used these sorts of techniques.

Web Design in 2005 – Predictions

I’ve been very aware since starting this blog that the design I’ve got here is terrible. One knows by looking at it that whilst I might make a living from blogging that my skills do not lie in the design area (I usually get someone else to do it). However this blog was started purely as an experiment and on the spur of the moment. As a result of the growing readership here I’ve decided that I’m going to do a design update in the month ahead – any volunteers wanting some free publicity for their design work are free to submit their ideas – but in the mean time I might check out this article from Forty Media that has a great article making some predictions about Web Design in 2005.

Some of the predictions they make include:

– Minimalism is out; detail is in.

– Retro/Swiss/Euro is out

– The pure 5-piece website (header, menu, sidebar, content, footer) has worn out its welcome; designers are more willing to vary from the standard.

– Color of the year – Brown. Lots of bold colors this year (maybe my color choice is ok after all?)

– Arial dominates as the body text typeface for the year; despite much disdain for this overused font, it provides some needed relief from the overuse of Verdana.

– The chronological aspect of blogs is downplayed; new ways to search content become popular.

Free Blog Tutorials

Orangejack Blog has a great series of free tutorials for bloggers. They write:

‘Interested in blogging? Don’t know much about what a blog is, why blog, or how to blog? Need to tweak your blog? Do you feel like you need to take some classes on it all?

Well look no futher. I have put together a series on the ins and outs of blogging. I call it the Orangejack Blogging University. Here’s the curriculum in case you’re interested in starting.

Blogging 100: Prerequisites

Blogging 101: Blogger.com

Blogging 102: HTML Code

Blogging 201: Posting Photos

Blogging 202: Publishing

Blogging 301: Marketing

Blogging 302: Webstats

Blogging 401: Template Tweaks

Blogging 402: Etiquette

Found via Micro Persuasions

Unique Titles for Each Page of your Blog

Good post over at Search Engine Roundtable on the importance Unique Titles for Each Page of your Site (Blog). I can’t agree with the post more – I have all my blogs set up this way (ie the title of my post becomes the title of my page) and noticed a huge difference in search engine referrals a few days after I made the change.

Some blogging systems are set up this way by default, but most require you to specify it and manually set it up this way. Also important is having your key words in the URL of your page. I incorporate the title (and therefore the keywords of my post) in my URLs and again noticed an increase in traffic after making this change a year or so back. Here’s an excerpt from the post mentioned above.



‘Each page should have a unique title – one that will attract clicks.

A title consisting of keywords separated by commas may not be the most appealing to surfers – it’s the title that appears as the clickable link in the SERPs. So make it about 8-9 words or less, including the main keyword phrase for the page and also a word or two that’s a variation or additional modifier, to target a little wider variety of phrases.’

Read more at Unique Titles for Each Web Page

update – also check out Permalinks, Key Feature Number One which is a post on the same topic that is well worth the read.