Blog Design Trends for 2008

 

“I’m happy. We’re done. We’re never touching it again for a long time. I promise.”

8 months ago, James and I put the finishing touches on this blog. I knew the second James proclaimed his vow to not touch the blog again, that “for a long time” would come around soon.

Change isn’t a bad thing. Updating the look of your site is important. It’s fashion, and you don’t want to have your style “frozen in time”, as the saying goes.

Funny, I’ll never forget the first time I heard that phrase. My mom was reading the Sunday paper at breakfast one morning back in the late 70s, pointing out a picture of Dolly Parton’s big hair. Even now, Dolly’s hair looks pretty much the same today as it did back then.

Over the years, Mom – the one-woman fashion police squad – frequently uttered that phrase: frozen in time. Now I find myself repeating the words, too. Some websites and blogs just have an outdated look, but it’s tough to put a finger on what that particular look is.

By the same token, I’ve been having a hard time defining the current look of blogs. At first, I thought the word “clean” defined the look James and I were after. He corrected me and said no, we’re after “functionality”.

Okay, but what did that mean? James showed me examples of blogs like Problogger.net. They all had a buffet of choice. I felt like I did the first time I walked into McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. Too much information in boxes all over the place is a little overwhelming. James insisted this was the way to go.

I have since learned this look James likes is based on a “portal”. Here’s what About.com says:

The primary goal of most portals is ease-of-use. Besides having a single point of access — a virtual front door — portals generally try to provide a rich navigation structure. Portals using Web pages for their user interface will, for instance, often include numerous hyperlinks on the front page.

*sigh* Change. I felt my mind bracing to resist.

Rather than fight it, I decided to embrace it. I wanted to see if I could define the current look of today’s blogs.

The Excerpt

The biggest complaint with blogs is the reader’s mobility within the blog itself. As bloggers (and website owners), one of our goals is to entice the reader to move deeper to discover all the treasures hidden within.

The problem is that most blogs have a handful of recent posts on the main page. No one bothers to look through archives. You may have written your best post months ago. Nobody knows about the post unless they’ve been following you since day one.

New blog designs have an added option of featured topics right on the front page. They offer an excerpt for visitors and hopefully draw them in deeper. Everything is created to showcase work rather than archive it in a virtual dusty attic.

Breathing Room

Big is…um, big. Many blog designs are using bigger fonts for text and larger images. Many have nice, wide columns and sidebars. Those blogs need breathing room – space.

I don’t see a lot of blogs with 3 columns like ours. Three-column options are even harder to find in templates. I happen to like three columns in a blog, as that appeals to my sense of balance.

With the new feature boxes cropping up in blogs, though, three columns might become a non-issue for navigation. Instead of having a sidebar for navigation, your whole page is navigation.

Do You Want to Be On Top or On the Bottom?

Another trend is placing more content in the header and footer portions of the blogs. Featured posts catch the reader’s attention, like the top stories in a magazine or newspaper. The footer area takes the content that used to be in the sidebars and places it at the bottom of your page.

Once I understood this concept, it made sense. Why should you have wasted white space at the bottom of the page? Why not make use of it? Bring the whole design together with a few well-placed blocks of links or other goodies.

Moving into 2008, trends towards combined blogs and portals will increase. The only problem I foresee is designs being too cluttered with information that readers won’t know where to click first.

Done right though, this fashion style could be sheer genius.

Post by Agent X

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  1. I’m not a big fan of the Problogger design, although if I remember the old version, this is an improvement. Copyblogger, on the other hand, looks pretty danged good.

  2. Problogger’s design was a little too much for me. But since James likes lots of bling, it was difficult to find a design we could both agree on. Thanks to Brian Gardner we’ll have one soon.

    *glances at the link above Sonia’s comment* That’s funny, they tagged us for “room design”. Let me just state for the record here, I am in no way, shape or form an interior designer.

  3. Disclaimer: I am not sure that the trackback is not spam of some form. It was in my spam box… it looks innocent… the site is strange and is locked out.

    James likes a buffet of choice, not a long chunk of text in one column with a few things down the sidebar.

    But if I had my choice of sites to steal? I’d combine Copyblogger and IttyBiz into one, add a column and a banner that reflects us.

  4. I also have a bias for two-column designs as I have a low-res monitor at home, so three-column designs like this one don’t work quite right. On some I have to scroll, and on others the columns line up in a peculiar way and I have to scroll way down to get to the content bit.

    The great majority of folks don’t surf the web at this resolution, and in general it’s supposed to be safe to ignore how your site looks at 800 x 640 or whatever it is, but it would drive me crazy in short order.

  5. I understand your problem, Sonia. When James and I first started, we did a lot of research into the average resolution for monitors. My monitors were 21″, his monitor I believe at the time was only 15″. He’s since upgraded to 19″ and mine’s at 28″ (graphics programs have a lot of menus, the extra space is a must). We try to keep in mind that there are still a handful of people out there with small ones like yours.

    When I create sites, the minimum width I’ll go to these days is 950 x 750 pixels. The average before that was 750 wide (can’t remember the average length). Unfortunately for you, as time goes on, resolution is going to keep getting bigger as larger monitors become more inexpensive, even on laptops.

    This is why I opt for site designs that have a fluid width, where the page expands or contracts to fit any given screen. But even with that, the page squishes down only so far before it won’t contract any more.

Trackbacks

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    […] Blog Design Trends for 2008 […]

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