Are You Neglecting Good Looks in Favor of Great Content?

kiss.jpgThey say that content is King, and they’re right – and wrong. We’re attracted to good looks and appealing design sells. With split-second attention spans factoring into the purchase decision, you won’t reach maximum potential online if your website looks like crap.

There are those that believe that online success can be achieved with a less-than-appealing site. They are right – you don’t need a flashy website to reach moderate goals. Neglecting the huge impact on success that good looks and great content achieve together is folly.

First impressions count – far more than many people believe. Humans are hard-wired for attraction to appealing visual cues. We prefer people who fit our instinctive ideas of what matters, and that often includes what these people look like. Men and women psychologically choose partners or find their heads turned by attractive people.

It goes back to the caveman days. We prefer what we perceive might increase the chances of survival and a better life. We’re not cavemen any more – or at least, most people aren’t. But we still judge a book by its cover and an item by its appeal.

Our perceived quality of a product or service is directly affected by its looks. We don’t make choices on pretty items alone, of course, but we’re influenced to buy by what we see. Items that appear nicer than the next or people that seem to look professional win our votes more often than not.

Online, with few tangibles to hold in our hand so that we can examine them closely, appearances matter more than ever. Businesses offering equal products or services must find ways to compete and attract clients in any way possible.

Even lower quality products or services have the potential to outsell better ones if a website’s appeal influences perception properly. The right color scheme holds attention a fraction longer. Attractive images or graphics affect perception in the seller’s favor. Add good content, and that website is a winner.

In the push to increase the quality and value of information offered on the Internet, many forget that factors like visual appeal and quality design play a large role in better success online.

Still not a believer? Take the test. Turn off your logical thoughts for a moment. Use StumbleUpon for a half hour to flick through the virtual channels of websites.

How many sites compelled you to linger? Which attracted your interest the moment you set your eyes on them? How many websites delivered on both strong visual appeal and valuable content? Which websites tempt you the most?

Content is King, yes… but every Emperor needs clothes.

This post was written to help James win a Fender guitar from Rafie in the Just Creative Design contest. Head on over to the contest rules and toss your name into the hat to win!

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. They say “the clothes make the man”.

    Just like going for a job interview, or meeting a blind date for the first time – you could be the nicest person in the whole wide world, but if your pants have a big tear in them and you smell like dead fish…

    (I’ll have a look at all of these links later today – for now, have to go and make sure *this Emperor* has some good clothes for today.)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  2. I suppose it also goes without saying that the Emperor also needs “Subscribe to Comments”!

    (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  3. I’m sometimes really shocked by the sites I see online, particularly when they’re freelancers or companies that work in the industry. I see this happen a lot with SEO firms…they’re so focused on showing up high in the search rankings that they just butcher the aesthetics of their site.

    A lot of places that shop for an SEO provider might not understand why the site looks that way (ie, crappy) so they’re turned off because they’re afraid their own website will spiral into a mess of text links and no pictures if they hire the firm.

    While it’s important you’re good at your craft, you definitely need to make your online presence attractive to the masses.

    Susan’s last blog post..You read me because I’m a VIP, don’t you?

  4. @ Brett – That’s exactly it. First impressions matter a great deal. We’re people moving in the fast lane now, and it’s only going to get worse, so people have to do everything they can to attract that glance their way.

    @ Susan – I went Stumbling one day for 45 minutes. The ratio for a nice-looking site versus ugly was 1 to 10. Only 10% of sites caught my eye. They didn’t have to be flashy, and some were very simple and clean – but some sent me screaming from the computer.

    It takes very little to have a unique, branded site that stands out for nice looks. I’m often surprised when people won’t do it. I’m glad to know a few people who started paying attention to their site design!

  5. @ James – not only that – first impressions are lasting ones – you come to a place, you like the looks, then you want to stay a while, and come back often to visit.

    The other thing is that you always know where you are, just at a glance, if you have a branded site.

    (Makes it easy when you are like me, and use Firefox with about 20 or so tabs open at once…)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  6. Oh, you do that multiple tab thing to? Harry doesn’t, and I have no idea how he manages to survive. I have about 13 running at any given time.

    Good point about the branding.

  7. I do so have tabs. What I don’t have are 13 different windows piled one up on top of another.

    I’m stunned as well at all the people who don’t care about their site’s appearance.Sometimes I feel like James and I are the “What Not To Wear” team of the blogosphere. Hm…the web design police….sorry, drifting off on a tangent there.

    Anyway, it is a crime that more people don’t pay attention to their site’s appearance. Very few people seem to understand how to strike the balance between good content and good design. It’s like suddenly everyone is focusing on content now and neglecting the peeling paint on the house.

    Then again, it’s these people that keep me busy, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.

  8. Actually, I need the “tab police” sometimes… over the Christmas break, I was visiting relatives and I’d check my feeds periodically, but perhaps not having enough time, I’d open up something of interest in a new tab (to read later, ho ho ho as if I had time for that!)

    So early January I wondered why Firefox was so slow (I also use Session Manager so if I close it, everything else opens again).

    I had over 200 tabs open. I’m not kidding.

    So, I *closed* all of them. I figured, “if it is important, I’ll find it again”. And I think I was right…

    Back to (sort of) the topic, yes, you guys are definitely a good example of what to wear and how to talk on the web.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  9. @ Brett – Now if we can only get you to stop spamming my Gmail, life would be perfect ;) I swear. Technology.

  10. I think that we need to pay attention to looks based on the fact that a well-done website is easier to read. Not only does lime green and fuchsia look badly, but it makes things physically hard to read. I think of good looks more as a necessity for a site to function properly, if that made any sense…. Merh, it may be time for my second cup of coffee….

    @Brett – Haha, I’ve never gotten as bad as 200, but I use my fair share of tabs. I use the Firefox colored tabs plug-in, so that I can see the ages of each tab….

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Invincibility

  11. @ James – yeah, I heard about that Brett guy, he’s bad for that… technology, the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems (much like beer)

    @ RLD – I’ve been thinking of using that plug-in actually, and I saw another one that you can use to lock the tabs in place so you have to right click to close them (if you had Gmail & GReader open all the time, for instance) – but for that I’ve just been using a separate Firefox window – one for work, and one for play (sort of)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  12. @Brett: 200 tabs open? I’m at a loss for words.
    @RLD: Your site reminds me of orange creamsicles, I like visiting it, but it makes me hungry. :)

  13. WOOT! Everyone’s *out* of the Spambox! I am victor victorious!

  14. @Harry – that’s funny :D I figured that the healthy smoothie theme would be good for a fitness-type blog. I’m not terribly wild about the theme’s readability, though.

    @James – That’s better than being Victor Victoria ;)

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Invincibility

  15. @ RLD – Ah, but what a story that made… though thankfully, not with me in it ;)

  16. At the risk of inflating James’ ego further – you’re a genius! I got RLD’s notification. All’s right with the world now.

    RLD: we can fix that, you know :)

  17. @ Harry – let’s just say that I reassessed my work flow a little bit… generally if I cannot see all of the tabs I have open (with Firefox maximized), I’m doing something wrong i.e. not doing anything with the page…

    @ James – today, *you* are the man.

    (The other day, I was the man, by fixing my furnace and not blowing up my house in the process…)

    @ RLD – I totally agree with Harry – I just had a look at your page, and it made my stomach rumble! Wow, the power of suggestion…

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  18. @Harry – I’m with you bud. I do tabs in FF, but 13? You guys have a talent.

    Also, about peeling the paint topic you mentioned. You guys are right – so many people concentrate too much on content and neglect visual appeal. On the flip side though, there are a lot of websites out there that I think are crap because they look beautiful but are hard to navigate in and the flash slows everything down, or a video repeats every time you return to a page.

    I really hate when I go to a website and have to click, “Skip Intro.” Grrrrr! Just give me the website, especially if it’s a site I need to go to more than once.

    Balance and a bit of simplicity is your best bet, just keep in mind who your target audience is.

    I am a member of a pretty cool forum at freewebsitetemplates.com/forum where I donate my time helping people spruce up their websites and help them however I can.

    @RLD – I’m on my second cup now!

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Create Yourself A Shortcut – How To E-Mail, Blog, and Text On The Go!

  19. @John: Flash intros are annoying, and a splash page is a thing of the past. Readers don’t like them and fewer people are using them. I also dislike animated animated ad banners. One is alright, but too many of them (and too large) are as distracting as a ride down the Strip.

  20. @Harry – I agree – I hate flash. I’ve started disabling all scripts when I browse, because I’m sick of ads and flash.

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Invincibility

  21. LOL! (my new web word) Good God James! I have seen it all now. Quit seducing me back to your site. How can I get any work done if your always taking off your clothes? Hey, I have a great title for one of your blogs, “Seducing the Site,” or “Site Seduction.” It could even be a series. It fits Men with Pens.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..Number Crunching at Elance

  22. @Ellen – teehee, you’ve put my mind in the gutters. After you said “Site Seduction”, I definitely misread “Mens with Pens”…

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Invincibility

  23. Edit – I meant “men”, not “mens”.

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Invincibility

  24. That is funny Happiness, because I almost wrote something else also. And I know you can guess what it is.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..Number Crunching at Elance

  25. Today I think you should change your tagline to “No, we’re not naked, but we bare our writing souls for all to see”.

    Nez’s last blog post..Why Shoddy Customer Service Exists

  26. Hi James – I completely agree, that’s why I’m getting you guys to redesign my site.

    What I’ve noticed, when I discover a new site is this: If I like the first post I read, and it’s got a great design, I sign up to the RSS.

    Now, if it’s a post with a boring design a lot of the time I won’t do that. And I would never remember the site if I came across it again and it just appeared boring.

    I know there’s some really ugly sites out there that do well – eg. Craigslist. But, you’ve got to ask yourself how much better they’d be doing if the didn’t look so crappy.

    I wish I’d had my redesign sooner. It was one of those things I kept putting off – mostly incase it went wrong.

    And I was reading a comment on a post by a woman who won’t even move her website from blogspot until it is making some money. To me, that is just false logic. You’ve got to invest something before you make a return. It seems madness to do it the other way round.

    CatherineL’s last blog post..Online Marketing: The Snowdrop Effect

  27. @ Ellen – I’m just grateful that Naomi from Itty Biz was nice enough to pose with me. She’s shy, though. Couldn’t get her to take off her top. I said I’d squash her boobs up on me and no one would see, but… well, you know. Women get all squirmy when it comes to public photos.

    @ Nez – I think you should email me every morning with the day’s tagline and we’ll just switch it out so that it’s a surprise for all.

    Men with Pens. Baring our souls. And our bodies.

  28. @ Catherine – That’s like saying, I have a job interview but I won’t change out of my pajamas until I know I’m going to get the job. You have to spend a dollar to make a dollar.

  29. (By the way, everyone – stay tuned. Catherine’s site is gonna be nice and slick soon…)

  30. Why does everyone assume it’s James who’s naked? What am I? Chopped liver? Sheesh. I don’t get no respect. Or maybe I do and that’s why you all think James is the naked one.

  31. Dude. You have black hair. *looks at picture*… Unless you got a dye job…

  32. Michael Martine, Blog Consultant says:

    A lot of people really believe their site looks great. Just look at how many use Comic Sans and animated gifs as backgrounds.

    Michael Martine, Blog Consultant’s last blog post..It’s Official: I Can Rock the Blog SEO

  33. I’ve been meaning on customizing my website for the last month – it looks decent as the mimbo theme and I don’t care to hire somebody else to do it, but I just don’t have the time.

    Well, that’s what I tell myself anyways.

    BTW…when the hell did this blog EXPLODE with comments? Like seriously – Brett with 82 comments this month? Where’d you hire this guy?

    Chad | ProFreelancing’s last blog post..Glyphius 2007 On Sale for ProFreelancing Readers

  34. @ Chad – where you been, bro? Since the site launched, it’s been comment heaven around here.

  35. @RLD – at least you didn’t go back and read it as “Men’s Pens!”

    @James and Harry – you guys are cracking me up, however, you might want to reconsider the whole naked talk when your website is named, “Men with Pens!” LOL ;) You don’t want something like this to get out: “Head over to the naked duo’s website, Men with Pens.” hehehe. Well, that actually would probably bring in a flood of traffic!

    It’s funny you guys are talking about web design right now. I’m currently working on the web design and development page of my site. I . . . I hope it, it passes the gang’s evals.

    Of course, I’ll have Harry and James review it first, so I might cheat a little ;)

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Create Yourself A Shortcut – How To E-Mail, Blog, and Text On The Go!

  36. @Chad, yeah where have you been? I like yours site, don’t worry. It’s down right groovy.
    @Harry, I knew it was you all along. I just said that to James to make him feel good. Sagittarians are DAMN sexy!
    @John, I think you guessed at what I was getting at.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..Number Crunching at Elance

  37. @ Chad – what can I say, I type fast, I read fast, and I’m a chatty pants (hi Naomi!)

    (I’ll do anything for good old Quebec liquor…)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  38. @John: Too late, it’s already out.
    @Ellen: Okay, I feel better now. We Sagittarians are pretty damn sexy. Half man, half horse…um, maybe I shouldn’t go there, it could only end badly.

  39. @James…I’ve been checking in here all the time – but honestly, just scared to jump into discussions when there’s 20 other comments already posted.

    Chad | ProFreelancing’s last blog post..Glyphius 2007 On Sale for ProFreelancing Readers

  40. P.S. I think I’ve finally been able to overcome that fear.

    Chad | ProFreelancing’s last blog post..Glyphius 2007 On Sale for ProFreelancing Readers

  41. Wow… We’re scary? Okay, not good. Thing is, everyone’s welcome and we love participating in these huge convos, but I certainly don’t want others to feel overwhelmed. I could probably do some mini-moderation and keep conversations on track with the discussion around the post in question… but would that be as fun?

    Or threaded comments. Does anyone here like threaded comments?

    @ Harry – thank you for that lovely mental image. Not.

    @ John – Ooh a privileged sneak peak! Count me in.

  42. I think it’s a hard balance. Just like at Copyblogger or any other successful blog, I’ll participate if I got into the conversation early on, but I don’t care to jump in 5 hours after the fact unless I have something REALLY interesting to say.

    Not sure if I’m alone on this – it would be interesting to see what other people thought about loads of comments.

  43. James, Harry,

    I’ve never seen two people who look *less* like they’re about to kiss (etc.) than those two. Cute enough people, but they look like their jaws may be hurting from holding the pose.

    –Help! Somebody spritz my mouth with water! I’m totally drying out! *Hack, hack.*

    Wait, I was going to make a relevant point and advance the conversation…

    Oh, yeah. A lot of times the cobbler has no shoes because he’s busy fixing other people’s and then the business takes off and he gets caught shoeless, or worse yet wearing six-year old Keds with holes in them… if you know what I mean.

    I tend to think that at first (for blogs–not your business website!), content is more important, for a couple of reasons… one, a lot of blogs don’t make it. The authors discover they just aren’t good writers, or aren’t that committed to feeding the beast. Better to get started, make your mistakes… if you’re going to stick with it, implement improvements as you go, or plan an overhaul as MWP did. If you’re not going to be able to maintain the blog, no large amounts of sweat and tears over the design. As long as it’s clean and functional from the start. You’ve got to have that.

    And threads are annoying. Don’t do it.

    Regards,

    Kelly

    P.S. Fix this ugly button while we’re talking about design!
    : )

    Kelly’s last blog post..Making Experience Design Work: Do This Before You Give Up Hope

  44. @Kelly: I agree that not everyone wants to spend a lot of money to create something that may or may not work, and you’re right, it does have to at least be clean and functional. But isn’t that a little like the chicken and the egg? If you start with a good design that appeals to people, they’re more inclined to return, and that could give a not so good writer the motivation to improve on all levels.

    Sometimes just getting started and diving in isn’t such a good thing either. We did that so much with our first blog because we just wanted to get it up and rolling. With this one, we didn’t make anything public until we had it all completely in place. No one likes to wander around a construction site stepping on nails.

    I say do the very best you can with the materials you have on hand. There’s no reason to half-ass anything with all the free resources available. Put up a test, see how it goes, and work on the better one on the side.

    Maybe we’re saying the same thing here.

  45. @Kelly: PS – if I fix the button will you get subscribe to comments? :)

  46. @ Kelly & Harry – I think you are saying the same thing, but from two different angles… :)

    Hey, there’s that Subscribe to Comments again, where have we heard that before?

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  47. That Fender guitar is mine James, don’t even try to take it away from me!! ;)

    Jon – FreelanceFolder’s last blog post..Patience and Online Business ? A Winning Combination?

  48. You already have a guitar. You don’t need another. Greedy!

  49. I can always use one more! :)
    Don’t you already have a guitar?

    Jon – FreelanceFolder’s last blog post..Patience and Online Business ? A Winning Combination?

  50. I have an acoustic Yamaha… I need an electric Fender. I NEED it. Really. NEED. See?

  51. Nice collection of relevant links. I am worried, however, that the man and the woman in the image in your post look like they are about to consume each other.

    Mark Dykeman’s last blog post..It will NOT take me 13 MORE years to get published again!

  52. Harry,

    We’re saying about the same thing. Although I am a designer I see an awful lot of folks get paralyzed by the need to be good looking, who should just find out if it’s going to work for them first anyway. Maybe it’s money, maybe it’s time investment getting them frightened. Get the feet wet before going all shiny metallic MWP on us.

    (P.S. Even though I’m not done: I liked your old site just fine. Don’t cry, but I hated the old name. The site I thought had as much design as necessary, and the content was A-1 as it is now.)

    Anybody got stats here? I could do a search but I’m working! Most blogs, like most businesses, go under quickly. With businesses depending on who does the counting it’s at least 50% in five years. With blogs I’ll bet it’s that many in one year. If it takes two months for Harry to read your posts, another two for James to read them, and then two more before you’re out of the Google Sandbox, a lot of blogs are dead before they have a need for beauty.

    There’s more I could say on this subject but that’s what I write a blog of my own for, right?

    Hmm, I don’t know why I haven’t looked into that. I’m checking right now. I think I got the RSS working but email somments is apparently going to be a sonofagun on TypePad.

    I hear you all the way from Vegas, Harry (yelling Abandon TypePad All Ye Who Enter Here), did I mention I’m working? On work?

    Until later,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Making Experience Design Work: Do This Before You Give Up Hope

  53. Correction, not working RSS comments, just in the works. It seems they’ve got a “process” for me to go through first.

    Kelly’s last blog post..Making Experience Design Work: Do This Before You Give Up Hope

  54. @ Kelly – We hated the old name too, but it was good for SEO.

    I think, though, considering the number of blogs going up, if people want to make money or earn a living, they should start themselves off on the right foot. A nice design complements good content, but a crappy design and good content can put off a client, customer or buyer. So many freelancers complain they get no work – it’s no wonder!

    I don’t think it takes something as major as an MwP overhaul like we did. That was a serious investment for a specific reason – to be taken seriously as an upcoming A-lister (hey, I can hope!). But there’s no point in being an F-lister from the start, is there? Aim for a C, at the very least!

  55. A good design does make all the difference. I started my blog with Cutline (Thanks, Brian and Chris!), but had to get something custom when I wanted to expand.

    It took hanging out at fast growing blogs to really hammer into my head how important design was …

    Dave Navarro – Freelance Smackdown!’s last blog post..Freelance Smackdown: Expanding Services, Part Deux

  56. James,

    I hear you on the name, and it worked for you guys. Content again!

    Hmm, I really am agreeing with you to an extent… Ugly pains me deeply, and usability issues pain me more. I think it’s just that I’m picturing a different “persona” (to use a totally overused phrase).

    There are many people starting blogs as small businesses—for them I am right with you. Good looking is crucial if you need to break through the clutter right now to make some dough. (This is also not as likely as some want to believe, but I’m not opening that can of worms.)

    The persona in my head, is a small business starting a blog. For them, be spare, be highly functional, but don’t worry about whether David Airey gives you a shout-out or whether Naomi Dunford kicks your butt about your design (ohh, no…). You see where I’m coming from? Expertise will draw readers in, if you have it. Content in that case is just more important in the early rounds.

    You see how I drool for your eyeballs to touch my blog? This is a sure sign that you’re up-and-coming A-listers. That and, let me say it again at much risk of never getting anything done this afternoon, your content rocks. I like what you two write. So do a lot of other people.

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Making Experience Design Work: Do This Before You Give Up Hope

  57. Flattery gets you everywhere. Your wish is my command.

    Change your font to be a sans serif for easier screen reading. Change your sidebar links and categories to be dark text – they’re too light right now to be visible. Shorten your text above your picture – make it more impactful. More with less ;)

    Shorten the yellow in the header. Very nice, but that sun is too close to the center and the yellow makes the banner almost too bright. Again, sans serif font is my preference for the text, and if you could use some darker gradient shading on the blue, your title would stand out more.

    Content on the left, sidebar on the right – switch em from what you have now. The eye scans in an F patter, so you want the most important stuff right where people will read it.

    How’s that for eyeballs?

  58. @Kelly: “You see how I drool for your eyeballs to touch my blog?” That’s one of the best I’ve heard yet.

    James pretty much said it all. I think he distracted me with actual work on my end to get his comment in first.

  59. James –

    You should offer a “drive-by” blog consultation service. :-) Quick and affordable!

    Dave Navarro – Freelance Smackdown!’s last blog post..Freelance Smackdown: Expanding Services, Part Deux

  60. “Hello, welcome to Men with Pens. Would you like fries with that?”

  61. You know, the thing is, if you were a drive-by blogging service, YOUR NAME STILL FITS!

    How cool is that?

    PS – to add to Kelly’s comment, the content here rocks like a Motorhead concert… heh

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  62. James,

    See, now, I don’t remember asking for that. Did I mention content? My mom likes me, and other defensive stuff.

    No actually, my mom won’t read my blog. She thinks blogs are porn. (Mo-ther!) Good thing she doesn’t know about your Pens…

    This weekend is actually devoted to finishing some big tweaks to the banner which has bugged me since day one. If we can finish this project before I get out of here. I disagree violently about serifs though I know it will get me s–t (and there are people camped out on both sides of that as far as screen reading goes); and do you really think so about the category colors? (Folks ’round these parts say cheery and breezy. And yes, we’ve all checked on PCs. But I just have yes-men and women nearby.) It’s good to get that outside Perspective.

    My secret guild handbook says the eye scans in a Z, which has worked for me for lo, these many year. You disagree generally, or just for screen purposes?

    Thanks for the peek. I’ll cherish that little hit always.

    ;)

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Making Experience Design Work: Do This Before You Give Up Hope

  63. Re the eye scan – generally an F for screen reading, placing most importance down the left hand side and scanning across to read, then dropping abruptly (thus the need for headers to catch attention).

    I hear you on “yes” men and people who love you too much to say they can’t read those breezy, lovely colors. There are ways to be breezy and still create the color theme you want. But Harry’s the pro on that. I’m just the outspoken one between us.

    Whether you asked for a drive-by or not, you got one. And it was with pleasure and done because I like you. So there :p

    Dave – Your drive by will cost you $150 payable up front ;)

  64. James,

    Oh, no, I liked the drive-by. It cracked me up. The www is a raw, raw world. Got to be ready for anything and not feel like you got your head stuffed in your locker. Clients do that for me these days. You ain’t withholding money on me because of my breezy greens, I ain’t easily offended. Much.

    I think it all gets back to the point of all this for me, which is who is your audience and what are their concerns? I have an audience who would rather email me than comment (kinda obvious, but I’m hoping for more outgoing readers, too), a lot of whom are local, and I may be the only blog they read. *Gasp!*

    I get email saying that folks are glad I don’t use images (I am not making this up in 2008), because when a site takes too long to load they run away. I stay simple, and straight-shooting. It’s why I’ve left the banner type in html (but I can’t stand it anymore, I’m breaking out this weekend!). I run screaming from flash (and flashiness) when I’m in business mode, so I just have to put on my wayback cap to hear what they’re saying.

    Yup, sometimes you gotta neglect really cool good looks in favor of very fine, thought-leading content. At the risk of repeating myself it’s why I got turned on to this site. Clients come to us pre-sold on the way we work. The blog makes presentations for me, daily, and I think yours must for you, also.

    I dunno about love. People here seem to think I might provide pizza or something.

    My daughter loves me but I don’t ask her about blog design. :)

    Until later,

    Kelly

    Kelly’s last blog post..Making Experience Design Work: Do This Before You Give Up Hope

  65. testing new button – please ignore

  66. @ Kelly – Coming from a rural area where high-speed internet is a luxury and most people either don’t have computers or are on basic dialup service (and neither of these groups believe I can actually *work* online…), I fully understand what you’re saying. Simple, clean, and fast loading with the easiest clarity for navigation. Yessir.

    I’m proud to say that MwP is pretty fast-loading for dialup, because we have really cool looks – WITHOUT the additional bling and features that many blogs today seem to be slapping up. Nice doesn’t mean nutso with gadgets.

    Oh, by the way, tell your mother that despite our Pens and that we’re Men, the blog’s rated a lovely PG 10.

  67. 10,000% better Harry! A little color goes a long way.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Create Yourself A Shortcut – How To E-Mail, Blog, and Text On The Go!

  68. *shakes head* You’re making me laugh. It’s just a button.

    (actually, I like it much better too :) )

    Use it often. Enjoy.

  69. I know I’m late for the party but I might have some valuable additions to the conversation going on here.

    When I started my blog I also went with a run of the mill model, only to realize a couple of month in that that wasn’t the smartest move I had made. Early on I was on a mission to brand my name which was tied to my blog. I wanted others to know that I’m serious and in for the long term.

    Therefore I knew that a personalized design had to be next. When I contacted the top designers in the field I nearly fell off my chair since I couldn’t afford the $900 they asked for. (And for those who say you need to invest to grow your business, I hear you all since I have done just that all along)

    But $900 were simply out of the question. I scoured the Internet high and low looking at all the designs I liked and trying to come up with a master design the incorporated all those aforementioned things.

    It took me nearly 3 month until I was happy with my final draft idea. I then went to sitepoint forum and got a designer to turn my wishes into what is now my blog.

    It cost me less than $100 including logo design and I think the result is highly competitive when it comes to looks and layout.

    This just shows that beginners don’t have to fork out hundreds of dollars to start branding their own sites. And then later when money permits they can go the full way and pay an able designer to make their site even better.

    I’ve had countless people contacting m,e since to get them the same design and all though I could charge each one a fee I don’t want to, since my design is unique right now.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Planning Your Future Writing Gigs

  70. @Monika: Nah, you’re just making a fashionably late entrance.

    James and I fully understand the plight of the newbie blogger, after all, we were there once ourselves. The only difference with us was I had all the tools and a good amount of know-how to set up a theme. It wasn’t anything compared to what we have now, but my skills have grown by leaps and bounds since we put that first blog up and we knew enough to shed that old shell for a better one.

    When it comes to site design, we’re reasonably priced and willing to work within a person’s budget. If you want us to go all out, sure, we can do that, but if you want economical and classy, we can do that too. Part of me is in it for the money (a very small part, everyone has to make a living and pay the bills), but the humanitarian part of me is just as strong. I like to believe that everyone deserves a good-looking site and I’d like to accommodate them the best I can.

  71. @ Harry: that’s very reasonable of you to say. I’m sure newbie bloggers will appreciate that fact very much. I’m actually thinking of setting up a blog service which your design would compliment very much. We might have to get in touch on this.

    As for design, I might be interested in your reasonable price to give my self branded site a make-over. I need to expand my services and this would tie in well with a total new look. Depending on the cost of course ;-)

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Planning Your Future Writing Gigs

  72. @ Monika – the problem you brought up is common: People think that good looking equals mucho expensive. It doesn’t have to be that way. A small story for you:

    When we started out together, Harry and I needed to figure out pricing. I asked him what he thought was a reasonable rate for design – and had a fit when he told me the answer.

    “Are you kidding me? Are you telling me it’d cost whatever to build a website like this? Or a logo like this?”

    Now, keep in mind I knew nothing about graphics way back and was coming at it with the perception of a guy from the backwoods of Quebec. 15$ an hour is good money around here. At 20$ an hour, you’re rockin’. Also, Canadian culture has a very humanitarian mindset. Harry was coming at this from Vegas, where 20$ is pocket change, it’s every man for himself, and where everything costs, even health care.

    We realized that while we like to earn a living and want to one day be incredibly wealthy, we felt better being accessible providers with affordable rates to help small businesses and individuals make a difference. We wanted to be fair to both parties. We wanted to sleep well at night. We wanted people to get something good without going broke so they could do better in business – and come back for more of what helped them get there.

    To me, *that’s* smart business. Had you come to us for a site design, and we’d offered to do it for a third of the price, and then you’d gone on to great fame and glory… wouldn’t you have thought us a great provider? You win, we win, and the Internet becomes a prettier place.

    I need more coffee. S’cuse me.

  73. @ James: well spoken and a great strategy I might add. I’m going to get in touch with you so we can talk business. :-)

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Planning Your Future Writing Gigs

  74. @ Monika – definitely get in touch with these guys, you won’t regret it

    @ James – will get you that info you requested later today… :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  75. Thanks for the links!

    Steven Snell’s last blog post..Building Your Website On A Solid Foundation

  76. You’re welcome! (I feel all honored now… Steven Snell was on my blog!)

  77. I’m not too worried about having a good looking blog because, not to brag or anything, but we get a lot of complements on the site design. Heh heh. Anyways, what I’m wondering is, how do you know when it is time to redesign your site? Or should this even be done at all? We have had the same design since we launched about a year and a half ago, and considering I look at it almost every day, it has gotten to the point where I’m not sure whether it is time for a redesign or if the look of the site is still working for us.

    Allison’s last blog post..The Red Violin

  78. @ Allison – No bragging. You should be smug, that’s a slick site. I like verra much.

    I think a site redesign comes when you need to establish yourself and your brand. When you need to be taken seriously. When you can’t stand opening your own site any more. When no one compliments your look. When your hits never seem to go anywhere. When the image just doesn’t “fit” any more.

    If you like it, why change it?

  79. @ James – :D Thanks! *blush* I see, that makes a lot of sense. In that case, I have a feeling I’ll be keeping the design that we have for a while.

    Allison’s last blog post..The Red Violin

  80. @Allison: Your site is better than slick, it’s like red velvet to the eyes. I love the colors and banner and logo are fantastic. Very nice. Don’t change a thing.

  81. @ Harry – *Allison turns even redder* Thanks! :D It’s great to hear that you and James like it. :)

    Allison’s last blog post..The Red Violin

  82. @ Allison – holy cow, not only does your site look fantastic to my non-professional eye (but I’ll add my 2 cents Canadian) – but the food looks *really* good.

    Now, where do you get sushi at 4:30 am in small town Ontario?

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..make “one day”, today

  83. @ Brett – Awww, shucks. *glances in mirror. Yep, officially bright red* Thanks so much! Erm… I have never been to Ontario (unless you mean Ontario, CA, but I’m gonna assume you don’t) but then, I don’t even know where to get sushi at 4:30 in the morning in Southern California! So uh, I’m of no help here. Sorry.

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  84. @ Allison – you are very welcome. Don’t worry, I don’t know where I’d get sushi here either (I haven’t been to Ontario, CA – I’ve been to San Jose, and to LA but only LAX – maybe you could get it at LAX, hey, airports are timeless).

    But perhaps you are of help, with one of your recipes and the contents of my refrigerator!

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  85. @ Brett – :) LAX is a hellish place. Hehe I try to avoid it… and I have no idea if any sushi to be gotten there would be at all good.

    :D I’m flattered! Sushi = great midnight (or later) snack!

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  86. Next time you feel like not bragging, Allison, come right on over here. You can not brag, and we can not give you compliments :)

  87. @ Allison – yes, I’m sure that one would avoid it unless they were traveling through it!

    No, given my experience with airport food, I’d rather make sushi myself, or go to a real sushi bar. :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  88. @ James – :D I shall! Oh and regarding what we were talking about over on Naomi’s blog, I took your suggestion and finally have a comment RSS on my blog! Yay!

    @ Brett – Yeah, airport food != good. (Did that just make me too much of a nerd? Oh well… ) I especially wouldn’t trust an airport with sashimi… to much risk of food poisoning!

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  89. Hey, if you are a nerd, then I am a nerd too… and there’s nothing wrong with that! (or, if you prefer a nicer term, we can be geeks together)

    Agreed. No airport sashimi for me. Unless I’m in Tokyo Narita International, perhaps!

    (I checked – lots of sushi & sashimi there…)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  90. PS – I *totally* have to buy one of your Sushi Day t-shirts.

    That is so cool. I need an assortment of red shirts for “Red Fridays” at work, and yours is very unique.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  91. Yay for nerds/geeks! Hehe. Yeah, Japan is the only place where I would ever even consider sashimi at an airport!

    As for the Sushi Day shirt… You. Are. Awesome! :D

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  92. Hey, I call it like I see it, and I like what I see! The back especially makes me laugh…

    (We sometimes say our daughter is like a puffer fish, so it brought a smile to my face and reminded me of her when she’s having a tantrum!)

    Sign me up for one – I’ll be back to your site again soon… ;)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  93. :D Hehe she sounds adorable! Ooh you have triplets right? I’ll be hitting you up for advice in like 5-10 years if I end up with triplets… my mom’s brothers are triplets and it skipped a generation, so it looks like either me or my sister will have triplets! Plus by then they’ll be close to the teenage years, so I’m sure you’ll have tons of advice! :P

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  94. Oh, she is! Yes, we have triplets and they have a big brother. She’s like her mom – pretty, smart, and feisty. She keeps all the men in the family in line when mom’s not around.

    Well, I’ll be here and willing to answer any questions you might have – wow, that is really neat, three uncles!

    One thing I can tell you that I’ve learned, is that everybody will be around to give advice, but the best thing you can do is listen to your kids, and trust your heart.

    And if you do end up having triplets – don’t worry. It isn’t as hard as you might think. They look after each other… :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  95. Your wife must be a wonder woman! And it’s good to know that there’s always a girl around to keep you boys in line… men need that. :D

    Actually 4 uncles and one aunt on my mom’s side! My grandmother is an amazing woman!

    I’m scared to death about having kids someday, but I figure that’s normal, and my boyfriend/future husband and I will figure out how to handle things when it comes time. :)

    Sorry James and Harry, we seem to have taken over your comments with sushi and baby talk! :D

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  96. Oh, she is… she is.

    Yes, don’t worry, you’ll figure it out later – in the mean time, keep the recipes coming… :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reflective perception

  97. :)

    Allison’s last blog post..Taste and Create 5

  98. No sorries – it means you guys are having a good time, and that’s just fine with us!

  99. This is such an important post.

    I actually posted about this a few months ago:

    http://www.philsimonsystems.com/2009/11/simon-2-0/

    Is my content better now than a year ago. Absolutely. Is my site much more user-friendly and better laid out? It’s not even funny.

    Substance and style both matter.
    .-= Phil Simon´s last blog ..Social Networking, Downtime, Speaking, and Fargo =-.

  100. Great post! I love the distinctive style of this site by the way.

    I’ve tried to create some style distinction on my blog posts. It’s not about being radically different. Being a “cut above” is enough to stand out.

    It’s like eating a meal in a tastefully decorated restaurant versus a church basement. Ambiance matters. You phrased it well with your reference to the emperor’s clothes.

    Joe :D

  101. I really think that a nice design on a web page can make a big difference. If the layout is nice then people will be more comfortable reading what you’ve put on the page. Great work on the article, it was fun to read.

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