Ugly Blogs - The Intrepid

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ugly Blogs

Personal Blogs have become the premier tool of political, social, and cultural opinion. Everyday, millions of people log on to their computers and write posts on any number of topics. Posts can be critical, self-reflective, or even just plain silly. Blogs have facilitated the rebirth of civil society online. So what if we’re bowling alone? We are engaging each other on issues on a global scale unprecedented in human history. But, with all the ideas and potential, there is one huge problem. Most blogs look like crap.

The average personal blogger is not a tech-head. They don’t know CSS, or even HTML. Most have never even heard of Photoshop. The average blogger picks one of the many pre-fab templates offered by Blogger or Wordpress and goes to work. The result usually isn’t pretty. How many times have you seen this ugly Blogger template? You know, the one that looks like 1970s wallpaper meets Egyptian papyrus. Your content might be phenomenal, but no one is going to read it if they can’t stand to look at it.

When a user stumbles upon a new site, the first thing they take in is the design. If the design isn’t pleasing to the eye, they’ll move on without sampling the content. While there are dozens of sites that criticize the aesthetic design of the average blog, that is not the goal here. (Some of the sites that do the criticizing have lousy store bought layouts themselves.)

My blog isn’t perfect, and don’t pretend that it is. The design is still far removed from what I want. But, like most bloggers, I am limited by my technical abilities. However, many helpful sites out there strive to improve the blogging experience.

One of my personal favourites is Blogger Buster. Blogger Buster has numerous easy to understand tutorials about how to customize your blogger template. Some of my personal favourites include: The Tabbed View Tutorial, The Popular Post Widget, and The Table of Contents Widget. Other useful sites include: Beautiful Beta and Hoctro’s Place. A word of caution, these tutorials can get rather technical at times.

Simplicity is the key to a smart blog design. Choose two to three complementary colours and stick to these colours in your design. Don’t mix neon pink and forest green with a baby blue background.

Many bloggers flood their sidebars with endless widgets. Try to avoid the cluttered look. Only integrate information into the sidebar that you feel is essential. For instance, a widget that shows information about recent visitors is gaudy, unnecessary, and probably slows the site down.

In the blogosphere, the first impression is key and pre-fab designs rarely leave a positive impression. Customizing your blog with an attractive and unique design might be a little time consuming, but it will encourage users to stick around and check out the content.


Anonymous said...

Ah, as they say, the shoemaker's son goes barefoot!... or the clothes don't make the man, or don't judge a book by its cover...

We're working on a major overhaul and redesign. Back in February, we were the cats' meow with our design. Now it's old, done and time for a change. Doesn't change the fact that we still know what we're talking about! :)