Going With a Minimalistic Design
February 21, 2009
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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