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Going With a Minimalistic Design

February 21, 2009

Love yourself....
photo credit: Atilla1000

Most sites that you see in the blogosphere these days are excessively “Web 2.0” with shiny colors and gradients; rounded edges; Flash; Java; complicated layouts; and widgets, forms, videos, and graphics all over the place. This kind of design can look very impressive and, if implemented correctly, can really set your blog or website above the rest. But when is it just too much? Maybe when you buy quality logo products to promote your site or just invest a ton of your personal savings to continue adding more features.

Take a look at the famous blogger John Chow and his site’s homepage, for example. I believe that a new first-time visitor to his site would be very overwhelmed. At the top you’ve got the horizontal and floating pop-out ad box hovering there, as well as several buttons, widgets, links, and yet another rectangle ad for PepperJam Network. You see the “Featured Articles” box that scrolls through five different posts too quickly. There’s a push for a free “Make Money Online” ebook, encouraging you to fill out the form and sign up to get your copy. Then you scroll down a little more and see nearly a dozen excerpts of his recent blog posts, all stacked one over top of the other. Beside that is the featured video, a large graphic advertisement for a premium sponsor, five lines of recent photos that light up as you hover over them, ads for TTZ media, and then an excerpt of a biography of John Chow himself. Even further toward the right of the page are eight 125×125 advertisements, a large chunk of link advertisements, recent Tweets from John Chow’s Twitter account, a poll, a top commentators list, and then half a dozen links to his social networking profiles. Below these three columns, at the bottom of the page, is even more “content”. You’ve got a box linking you to all his blog’s categories, and three more boxes for recent comments, a MyBlogLog community widget, and a blogroll linking to many other sites. Last but not least, the page ends with copyright information and a small line of other important links.

Whew, that was a mouthful! At first glance John Chow’s site looks like it’s full of content, but so much of what he displays is just a filler and not truly relevant. Upon visiting his blog even I don’t know where to look or to begin, and it’s not only intimidating but also somewhat frustrating. As a reader, where do I find what I actually want to read? John Chow only gets away with this because he’s, of course, John Chow. He can write hundreds of posts about food and cars and have a migraine-inducing design but still have thousands of beginners flock to read all about what he says. If someone starting their new blog or someone lesser-known tried to pull this off, they’d get dozens of complaints and little visitors.

So instead of trying to be all flashy, think about going with a minimalistic design. Everyone has a different idea of what classifies as minimalism, but in the end you should try to eliminate unnecessary elements while still managing a beautiful look and feel. Choose or create something with a simple color and font scheme. Don’t get too complicated with the organizational system. A main column and a sidebar will usually suffice, apart from four different sections divided into three columns apiece with a large header, footer, and sidebar to boot.

Apart from all else, only include the content and information that is absolutely relevant and necessary. That would be things such as your navigational links, header, your blog posts, RSS subscription area, search bar, categories, and advertisements if you have any. Of course you can add more, considering what I listed is normally the bare minimum. But going all out with all kinds of images, widgets, and unneeded areas will only hurt you. If there is something you’d like to show on your blog but isn’t essential to most or all your visitors, then put it on a separate page that only someone who is interested has to see. Less is more! All of your readers will thank you for minimalizing the clutter and making your blog easier on the eyes.

Good blogs with minimalistic themes that I read include Traffikd, Vandelay Design, Court’s Internet Marketing School, Skelliewag, and BlogStorm. I have also chosen to go in the direction of minimalism here at Super Blogging. Another good resource is the compilation of beautiful minimalistic themes over at Vandelay Design that you can use for inspiration.

It’s also possible to have a clean and simple theme while still adding other aspects and have a good-looking blog. This is demonstrated at Pro Blog Design, Anywired, and Freelance Folder, among others. They choose to cut the clutter and only show what is necessary, but spice it up to make it a little more interesting.

Basically, the importance is to keep a good balance. You can’t have your site looking so bare and bland that no one remembers it, but even more so, you shouldn’t have it too overdone and cluttered as to annoy or frighten away your visitors. If you can land right in the middle you’ll be on the road to success and your site will be appreciated by all. Appearance and readability of your blog is essential to making that first impression and capturing a new reader.

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6 Responses to “Going With a Minimalistic Design”

  1. Sayz on February 22nd, 2009 5:50 am

    Yes, a good blog always have minimalism design. Although some blogger think that a blog full of content can fulfill readers needs, the fact is not all visitor can get used to your blog at the first glance.

    If you present too much information at first, they’ll be overwhelmed and might vomit (:D)… web design is all about communication and present information, if you can’t present your information with your design, then you’re done for~

    Great post, we have a common idea on this~

  2. Harold Shaw on February 22nd, 2009 9:44 am

    This is something that I have struggled with a great deal, I like the bright flashy colors, but when I open up a theme on the blogs that I visit with that it turns me off. So if the bright and flashing things turn me off on others, then shouldn’t do it on my own. :)

    But I had never visited John Chow’s site before and I believe you are correct when you say it is overwhelming. I think it is better for those of us who will never make lots of money at blogging focus more on presenting our content and less on the bells and whistles.

    What do I mean – make the posts that you right better, take more time to write the posts, do some research, proofread and take time to make what is written helpful to the reader.

    This will increase readership much more than bright colors, flashing widgets and a page that you can’t find what you want to read quickly and easily.

    It took me a long time to get to this point, but finally blogs like yours are showing me the path to take beyond the glitz.

    As my Great Grandmother said, “substance over fluff”.


  3. Michael Martin on February 25th, 2009 2:45 pm

    I love the theme Tay, great choice! It’s as minimal as you could hope for really. I agree with you completely, while it’s very easy to add content to a webpage for the sake of it, it’s much better to cut out as much of the content as possible.

    That way all the attention is focused on the places you really want it to be! :)

    And thanks for the complement to my design! :D

    Michael Martins last blog post..Get Total Control Over Your Page Styles With CSS

  4. don resdi on March 1st, 2009 1:44 pm

    I think there are a lot of bloggers that get caught up in a kind of creep of adding things as they spend a bit too much time worrying about their site. Sure there is room to do things to explore getting more attention and potentially trying to monetize a site. Many, many people I think though read way to much about “how to do x, y and z” and their blog becomes an ongoing experiment that can bloat out of control.

    It is a challenge to not only choose less over more, but stick to that as one may become impatient about building a readership through good promotion – which includes creating content that is good.

    I enjoyed your take on this subject.

    don resdis last blog post..Sadly Gone

  5. Rob Sellen on March 19th, 2009 2:36 am

    Nice blog, I am of the school of thinking less is more in many cases.

    People should be more inclined to worry about the basic content they produce, after all that’s what the readers want.

    I am tired of reading blogs that have flashing banners and boxes all over them too, it can be so distracting from the purpose of reading the blog, the content itself.

    Nice job.


    Rob Sellens last blog post..Quality over quanitity

  6. uwak on August 5th, 2009 11:05 pm

    create and display a simple interest is the right combination, I agree with you. Starting with the simple and not confuse the visitor

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