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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Designing Has To Be In Uniform With Blog Content.

Designing a Page That Complements Your Content

Many of us dream of going boldly where no man has gone before.  In the blog world, that’s done with content – creating a unique contribution to the blogosphere that readers will return to again and again.

In some areas, however, it’s safer to follow the well-worn path, sort of like following the Oregon Trail across the Old American West.  Someone found the best way to cross the plains and many others succeeded only because they followed in those muddy ruts.  The hard work was done, and the important stuff lay on the other side of the mountains. It would have been foolish for a greenhorn to try to seek a new pass through the mountains simply because others had already established one. So it is with developing the look of your blog, at least when you are getting started. Of course, once you are a seasoned explorer, you’ll want to seek out the newer and better paths that others overlook.

Earlier you chose the kind of Blog Empire you were going to establish, so now it’s time to take a look at a few other blogs that have successfully made the trek you’re setting out on.  We’re only going to look at the best (i.e. most successful) blogs to start with, though you’ll eventually want to follow a few blog rings to snatch up ideas that can help you build your site into all it can be.

If you haven’t already done so, do a web search using you favorite search engine, looking for the Top 100 blogs.  It doesn’t really matter how you search, just that you find blogs that have proven themselves in the eyes of readers and other bloggers, because there are many ways to measure the top: by traffic, by number of other blogs that link, even by awards.  You’ll eventually want to search them all.

Now take a look at their layouts, their colors, their images.  Focus especially on blogs that resemble yours in content.  How do they deal with long posts?  How do they link documents?  Do they have a list of previous entries?  What does their masthead look like?  How many columns do they have across the page, including links? These questions are important, not because you’ll be copying (you won’t), but because there are certain layout standards your readers will expect to see, just like you expect that all daily newspapers will share a similar format.


As much as your blog resembles others, there are ways in which your blog will be – must be – unique.  The first is, obviously, your title.  The second is going to be artwork that complements it.  On a blog titled, “The Privateer,” a ship would be a complementary masthead.  A German shepherd dog would not.  But whether your title is relevant to your content, your artwork should be relevant to your title if possible.  The image and title are part of your brand, the image you want your readers to remember and come back for more of.  They should send a single message to your reader at first glance.

That means professional quality artwork.  It does not have to be professionally created, but it must be of high quality. Create it yourself only if you’re good enough at it that people would pay you to do theirs.

A couple of examples from political sites will illustrate:

Power Line has its name, literally in lights, with lightning striking from each end.  Could it be any more powerful?

Red State shows a map of the United States with red from sea to shining sea.  It’s not only their masthead, but their goal.

Daily Kos goes for a more artistic look, with an orange-and-black picture background and the name in bold white. The picture need not relate directly to the title because the title is a personal name, but it must (and does) look professional.

What they have in common is professionalism and uniqueness.  Your Blog Empire should exude the same professional seriousness as the best blogs.  After all, you’ll be joining them! 

Figure 4 - A blog's header art illustrates the theme

Fonts and Colors

Blogs come in all fonts and colors, and there is no right way to handle them except that they ought to say something about your site whenever possible.  Red State, for obvious reasons, goes heavy on the red and light on the blue. Gizmodo, a blog dedicated to gadgets, uses a more “techno” color scheme, with soft blues and oranges.  Daring Fireball does the opposite of what you’d expect: there’s not an orange letter on the page; just unadventurous shades of gray. Each of them has a consistent scheme that makes it stand out from others, even while respecting the layout standards readers expect.

Less can be said on fonts, as most blogs use the popular fonts that come with blog software.  The only warnings are to be sure your font is of a readable size for most screens (from 800x600 to 1024x768), and to avoid using comical or whimsical fonts on serious material.  It’s also a good idea to stick with fonts that most people will have on their machines, because most browsers will default to a popular font anyway if they don’t have yours installed. Unless there’s a good reason not to, you should stick with a font that will not detract attention from your message.  That normally means Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia, or the like.  

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