A bloggy work in progress

by DaniGirl on July 14, 2009 · 9 comments

in Editorial asides

So I’m redesigning the blog again. I know, I know, it’s just been a couple of months since the last one. Even though I really like the design (and frankly love certain elements of it) it’s just not working for me — both metaphorically and literally.

It’s the literally not working problem that’s getting me down — there’s a bug with Internet Explorer 6 that causes the browser window to shut down entirely when you try to scroll sometimes, and though I’ve spent a month or two poking through more code-hacking forums than any self-respecting girl should admit to, I can’t find a fix. (I’ve seen it argued that IE6 itself is a bug, and I’m inclined to agree, but since it’s what I’m stuck with at work, and what some of my favourite readers are using, I’ve got to find a way to make it work. At home, I’m all Firefox all the time.)

Previously, I’ve done a big surprise “ta da” moment with the blog designs, but this time I’m getting you on board at the design phase. The blog is for you as much as it’s for me, so this time you get a say. Well, technically, you get “to” say — I’ll listen, but I don’t promise I’ll take all of your suggestions into account. Think of it like a big bloggy focus group!

After a quite a lot of searching, I found the perfect theme-building kit. I’ll tell you more about that on the reveal (I love it, though, truly and madly) and I have the basic structure in place. There’s lots of variables to play with, though, so let me know what you think. Here’s the kind of things I’m considering:

  • banner: one of the things I’m most excited about with this design is the ability to have rotating banner images across the top, so each time you refresh you get a new header. (Right now, I’ve only got a half a dozen made up, but at least it’s a bit of variety.) They’re made up of some of my favourite photographs, which is way cool, but it’s posing a few design challenges. I’m afraid of photo overkill, for one thing. And it’s difficult to pull a colour scheme for the rest of the blog out of the header because it’s always changing. And finally, I’m worried about consistency in the ‘look’. What do you think?
  • sidebars: one or two? The whole reason I moved to this design was because I coveted two sidebars. Right now, though, the design seems a little cramped. Thoughts?
  • sidebar content: do you even look at all that crap? Back in the day, I loved widgets and whatnot cluttering up the sidebar, and when I visit a new site I still find myself scanning the sidebars to get a feel for the place. But now I wonder if too much clutter doesn’t take away from the content?
  • fonts: do you find the current fonts readable? What do you think about coloured headlines on posts? And, for the design-conscious among you, if I’m using a sans-serif font in the body, which I favour, do I need to use a sans-serif in the post titles? Should I match my fonts across the site?
  • colours: going back to my original blogspot roots, I favour a clean white background. One of the things I wanted from the last redesign was multi-coloured sidebar boxes. I like the way they worked out, with a hint of colour, but they’re still not what I’d envisioned. What do you think of a really colourful site? Does it detract from the content? There’s a fine balance between colourful and cartoonish (or garish) and I see a lot of sites that trip rather spectacularly over that line. Do you have a preference?
  • photographs: are the pictures too big in the posts? I’ve been putting them at 500 pixels across in the new design, but they seem pretty cramped. I’m trying to balance the best way to feature the pictures against having them ‘shout’ and seem crowded
  • .

Anyway, these are just some of the things I’m chewing over. Your comments, observations and random thoughts are greatly apprecaited!!

Have you ever bought a house that hasn’t been built yet? Not only do you have to find the layout that’s right for you, but you have to make sure the paint in the kitchen matches the paint in the dining room while going with the new countertops, and the countertops have to match the fancy tiles on the backsplash, which can’t clash with the drawer pulls and cupboard hardware. But the dining room looks onto the hallway, which opens onto the bedrooms, and so you have to coordinate those colours as well.

That’s what I’m feeling like with this blog design. I’m giddy with the opportunity to build EXACTLY the blog design I wanted from the ground up, but am currently paralyzed by all the potential and possibilities. So please, save me from myself and talk to me about blog design!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sharon July 14, 2009 at 7:53 am

I wasn’t going to say a thing about any of this thinking…Dani it’s your blog and it’s your right to make it as you see fit.

But there are two thing you asked that I will answer.
1. I never ever look at the side bar at all. I don’t care what you or others are selling I ‘m not interested. There is way too much consumerism in this world that I am not interested in seeing it here. I am interested in your content and not anything at the side. I find two sidebars cluttered and distracting, when all I want to do is read what you are up to.

2. Your Pictures are fine I don’t need to put on my glasses to see them. I like that size… I find mine to small but I think that is the service provider is use. BUT I don’t have the taffic you have.

Looking forward to your new design. I like change.

2 smothermother July 14, 2009 at 8:19 am

Well, you asked for it, so here it is. I get to work with graphic designers on pretty much daily basis, so I kinda get some of this stuff.

First, sans serif for reading is SO much better. The font you are using now is great. But rule of thumb is that you don’t have to use the same font for your titles. It adds some variety for the eye and can make it pop.

I think the classic white with some colour is the way to go (ha! have you seen my blog!). It will also help with your rotating banner idea, which I love by the way. Then you don’t have to worry too much with colour scheme if you keep the colours more nutral (blues, black, grey, etc).

Side bars? To be perfectly honest, I don’t look at them. I see your photo of the day and that’s about it. I find with the more blogs that I read, the less time I have to explore some of the “extra” bits.

And lastly, I like the size of your photos. I don’t find them cramped and think if you went smaller the viewer would loose the chance to see some incredible stuff.

3 Kathleen July 14, 2009 at 8:34 am

Just so you know, I generally read your material on a feeder, so I had to drop by the blog to check it out. I prefer reading there because there isn’t the distraction of 2 sidebars (and of course, I know when there’s an update!). I like the wider main column if you can get it.
Font etc. I like the white background, sans serif font. The header is delightful, but I rarely see it as I’m scrolling through your posts. When I come into the blog to comment or whatever, I find it easy to read, but you could use a different font for titles if you liked.

The sidebars content is too much for me. If you have to use 2 columns to get your flicker in, I guess thats OK, but I have no need of the comments, categories and full bloglist there. I’d suggest moving the lists off the front page and leaving comments after each post.
As for all the badges, I don’t know. I like the project 365, Flicker and just noticed the BLOG OUT LOUD – so that’s good. Keep the new stuff. But the rest, well, I find it kinda annoying, visually.
I actually love your mini blog section. Hope you keep that.
Colours are good – I really like a minimalist look.
Your pictures show up well for me – and I love seeing them.

So that’s all you asked about, and more. Love the blog, have fun re-arranging, but really – we just want to read your stuff.

4 DaniGirl July 14, 2009 at 8:41 am

These are such helpful comments, my friends! Thank you so much!

5 Anonymous July 14, 2009 at 11:36 am

I love the new header!

I think the sidebars look little cluttered, though. Maybe you could put some of that stuff in your header bar/index thing above? Like a link for blogroll and archives and the stuff listed under ‘pages’? That might clean it up a bit.

Other than that I really like it – the colours, etc.

6 Sheila July 14, 2009 at 5:22 pm

I read via Bloglines most of the time and just come by when I want to comment. I like the new header (with the stars).
Since you ask… I would agree that you have too much stuff in the side bars, and I hardly ever use those links. Only if I want to find a previous post (but I bookmark old ones in my feed reader if I like them or think they might be useful later.) You could put your blogroll in a menu item or link, the same with past blog awards (sorry) and badges. I do like the project 365 and Flicker boxes with the small pictures – keep those.
Ultimately, do what makes you happy! And have fun playing with it – why not?

7 Carly July 14, 2009 at 7:56 pm

I really like your new header, especially the font.

I love the simple, sans-serif font but wouldn’t find it at all distracting to have a different font for the post titles.

I too like the simple colours and the black on write for your posts is really easy to read.

As for the sidebars…I don’t mind them as a rule and prefer to read blogs by going to the site rather than through a reader. I do find yours a bit cluttered though and rarely look at them because of that. There’s so much info that stuff gets lost and I lose track of where I am because of the smaller font. I like the 3-column thing, but think less is more when it comes to sidebars.

I do love your photos and find the size just right for viewing on a blog. They take no time to load and just as an aside, are SO beautiful. I really look forward to seeing them.

I really enjoy your writing and would come back no matter what the format. And, it IS your blog so be sure to do what you want above all. Enjoy the bloggy makeover process!


8 Hilary July 16, 2009 at 5:23 am

Thanks for letting us feed in to this! I love sticking my nose in other people’s business! 🙂

I generally agree with what everyone else had said.

I never look at or click on a thing in people’s sidebars except the blog archives and maybe a link to their Flickr. I especially don’t like lots of badges and graphics so I would cut way, way down on what you have currently. I have to say I really don’t like the two-column sidebar either – it’s quite cluttered.

Your photo size is great; I would keep that the same. Same for the font and the white background – very user friendly.

9 jo(e) July 16, 2009 at 8:55 am

I just want to chime in and say that I find the two sidebars distracting. I come here to read the posts. But I like everything else.

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