Common Sense Blogging: 4 Design Principles that Transcend Time

April 26, 2010

in Tech

This post is the fourth in the [intlink id="2458" type="page" target="_blank"]Common Sense Blogging[/intlink] series.

Website and blog design is trendy, isn’t it? Just like hairstyles and jeans. And like any good shopping mall, the Internet presents a huge variety of outfits for your blog. Some really stink, though. They just break all the rules of good design, and what’s worse is that tomorrow they will be out of style already.

Despite the tendency we all have to say “design be damned” (even I have said that), the unspoken rule is that there are certain qualities great blogs possess. If your blog is not doing well, your design could be the culprit. Little things could be affecting the way people interact with your blog. Don’t let your efforts get wasted because of a poorly designed theme or template. And remember, even if you paid someone a ton of money to design your blog, if it stinks, it stinks, and you’ve got to do something about that.

So, in an effort to address design and give you some good, up-to-date examples without harping on a topic that has been worked to death, here are just four design principles that are classic (like the little black dress).

4 Design Principles that Transcend Time

1. Whitespace is divine

A Date with Destiny

Photo Credit: luvpublishing (flickr)

Ahhhhhh. Say it with me, “ahhhhh.” A clean, un-cluttered space reduces the potential for distraction. If you want people to focus on your content, choose something clean. Not boring, just clean.

Divine themes for WordPress: Thesis and Canvas (aff links). Both themes come as blank slates, so you’ll have to go out of your way to clutter them.

Divine theme for Blogger: Minima. This default Blogger theme is crisp and clean with plenty of whitespace.

2. Well-placed advertising and opt-in forms

If you are hoping to get a little action, flaunt what you got. Think top down, because no one comes to your blog and scrolls all the way to the bottom and works his way up, know what I mean? If the ads or opt-ins are not the main focus, put them anywhere you want. Otherwise, use the age old newspaper strategy and put your goodies above the scroll line.

I’m a big fan of the new re-design of chrisbrogan.com. Check it out to see how all of the actionable things are on top: subscription links, opt-in and the first row of ads.

3. Outlandish color or gag-inducing backgrounds are taboo

If your background is so loud I can feel it in the back of my throat, it’s way too loud. Backgrounds should be very subtle if they are used at all. The theme used here, Canvas (aff link), has some pretty interesting and subtle background choices, so you might want to check it out.

Same goes for outlandish/vibrant color. Avoid it! Not only is it disturbing, you’re leaving out the colorblind – a rather sizable portion of the world’s population.

Good read: Smashing Magazine’s Backgrounds in Web Design: Examples and Best Practices

4. Text should be large enough to read

Computers aren’t sold with magnifying glasses. On top of that, have you noticed your eyesight is slipping from all of the time you spend on the computer (I have)? Give your readers a break. Adopt a no-squinting policy. And don’t try to get away with one of those text-size changers, either. :) Just make the text large enough to read comfortably. If you can’t tell, ask five people and use the democratic method.

Squint-free text example: CatsWhoBlog.com

Bonus for those of you who are still with me: you can change your theme/design. You are not stuck with junk for the sake of branding (think Coke, Adidas or Madonna). If your site needs an overhaul, just do it. And as always, if you’re looking for someone to work with you on that, [intlink id="71" type="page"]let me know[/intlink].

I’m all ears…er, eyes

I have a tendency to oversimplify, so if I missed a point or something needs clarification, let me know!

seospidy@Internet marketing August 10, 2010 at 4:15 am

very useful post thanks for sharing principles

Clive Thomas May 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Tia, that was succinct and to the point – I like it :) About your #3 Text, I’m in full agreement about the size of the text, for too many sites these days have tiny text, but I would add that contrast is also important. It’s no use if you have a readable sized text if it is a pale grey (on white background).
.-= Clive Thomas´s last blog ..Should your business have a website? =-.

Tia Peterson May 3, 2010 at 12:21 am

Thanks, Clive! I totally agree; contrast is essential to readability.

Tia Peterson April 29, 2010 at 9:27 am

@Webtechwise (Omer) – Great hommage to the 3 c’s!! Clean, Clear, Content.

@lesscomfy (Dana) – It was fun. It’s a great foundation that will just keep growing and evolving with new posts and new readers. Very cool concept.
.-= Tia Peterson´s last blog ..What to do When No One is Commenting: 10 Tips =-.

Dana April 29, 2010 at 9:12 am

I love the Chris Brogan blog! I have tons of comments on how great my blog looks, thanks to you!
.-= Dana´s last blog ..Pedi-CURE =-.

Omer Greenwald April 28, 2010 at 1:57 am

I also love ChrisBrogan’s redesign, clean, clear and content focused.
.-= Omer Greenwald´s last blog ..Posts Closed to Comments are Now Reopened =-.

Keith Davis April 27, 2010 at 11:53 am

Hi Tia
No you aren’t oversimplifying… couldn’t agree more.

Whitespace is divine but it doesn’t have to be white. Took me some time to work that one out.

I also like to see a great eye catching graphic… something unusual that makes you stop for a moment… and then read the content.
.-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..Flying in formation =-.

Tia Peterson April 27, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Keith – Absolutely! Whitespace isn’t always white. Sounds like a blog post title… :) I feel a theme-based post coming on.

John Paul Aguiar April 26, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Tia great post. 3 is funny..lol I have seen a few.

I agree with 4 too. and add to double space so easier to read too :)
.-= John Paul Aguiar´s last blog ..My Crazy Simple 7 Step Plan To Promote A New Post =-.

Tia Peterson April 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

John Paul… lol thank God that got a laugh out of someone! :) And right on about adding spacing between the lines – good point!

Jennifer Brown Banks April 26, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Very useful pointers, Tia.

I especially agree with # 4. Text should be designed keeping in mind that not everyone has 20/20 vision.

If I have to struggle too much to read the content, I’m off to the next site. CLICK!
.-= Jennifer Brown Banks´s last blog ..Burgers for Breakfast? What’s Your Draw? =-.

Tia Peterson April 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Thanks, Jennifer. If I have to squint to read the text, I have to pass, too. I don’t understand why people are still using tiny font sizes. lol I’ve noticed that websites using small fonts tend look a little archaic.

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