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If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

Part 3 of the Performancing Reboot.

It’s supposed to be: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That’s good, commonsense advice. If something is running and is successful (like a good design – heck, like Perf’s current design), then don’t rock the boat.

The problem here is that the “don’t mess with it” mantra is a risk-averse strategy. It keeps you safe, but there are a lot of times that you DO have to take risks. Performancing wouldn’t be here if the founders didn’t take a risk.

When you take a risk, there’s a chance for success and failure – you can minimize the chance of failure to a certain degree but after that, it’s all about timing, luck and a lot of elbow grease.

What does this have to do with design?

The common proposition towards design is that if it’s working, you shouldn’t change it. Stability is good.

Stability is also positive-spin for being stagnant. Not all change is good, but that does not stop you from going out and seeking change, seeking improvement.

When it comes to blog design (or blogging, or anything you do in life), I think you should be pushing for constant refinement and improvement. Don’t rest on your heels and accept the status quo – when you are successful, look at how you can improve and then do so.

It will give you an added advantage over the competition.

In that backdrop, today’s reboot will take care of two things: discuss the need (if there is one) for a complete Performancing redesign and discuss the minor tweaks that could help make the current design better.

Let’s do the tweaks first.

Improving the Perf Design

Why would you tweak a blog design that you might change in the future? One, a new design for a professional-grade blog like Performancing takes time – and I wouldn’t want to sit on my ass waiting for it while I could do something to improve my current theme. Two, the design may not be an immediate priority in the big scheme of things – which makes the tweaks even more necessary.

Here’s a list of tweaks that I think Performancing should have with reasons for all of them – please feel free to critique and disagree.

Site Architecture

What can we do about setting up proper categories (a limited set at that) instead of (numerous) tags? This is something that bothers me a bit, especially when you want to find old posts on a specific topic. Part of my work here is cataloging the Perf archives by topic (the good posts only – and I’m a bit behind on that particular project), but intuitively speaking it just feels wrong that I can’t click on a particular category and look at it’s recent posts. Mind you, the taxonomy system works well. But we should ideally have a limited set of tags / categories.

It’s probably something that we need a Drupal developer for – if there’s anyone in the Perf community willing to help out (in exchange for fame, credit and lots of love), feel free to PM me or Ryan 🙂 .

We’ve already fixed the URLs, so no problems there.

Other than that I’m not too pushed about anything else – oh yes, there’s no sitemap (or at least no visible link off the main page). Something to look at for us.

General Advice

Overall the rest of the design is well done – although I’m sure some of you might have suggestions for improving things. It’s simple and I like it that way, plus there is space for advertising as well if we choose to go that route (I’m discussing this in more detail in part 4).

There’s a list of things that I’d like to see fixed though:

  1. Increase the height of the search box and search button:

    Right now it’s too thin – making it bigger would make the search area more prominent and make it ‘appear’ more accessible.

  2. Increase font-size of header menu options:

    Those tend to get buried because of the logo on the left and the ads below them. Raise their profile by increase their size.

  3. Increase size of feed icon:

    Same as above.

  4. Push the ‘Top 20 premium pMetrics blogs’ panel to the bottom or move it to the pMetrics area:

    In terms of ‘usefulness’, I’d either move this to the bottom of the sidebar (thus pushing the recent posts and recent threads panels a bit higher) or remove it from the sidebar completely.

    I admit that I check it often to see where Soccerlens is compared to the other 4 blogs in the top 5, but unless we’re giving a full ranking of all the blogs, the list has no place on the main site.

  5. No italics for ‘read the rest of this entry’ link on the main page:

    A personal aesthetics choice – you’re already using ‘bold’ to draw attention to it, why do the italics?

  6. Promte the Perf tracker:

    This is one of the most important pages on Performancing in terms of telling people what the latest conversations and posts are. We should be promoting it in the Perf Resources page.

  7. Update the ‘about’ page:

    Non-design issue, but we should update the About page.

  8. Better ad placement:

    I think there are several ways we can improve our current ad display / placement and give them more exposure throughout Performancing. This has more to do with monetization so I’ll discuss this bit in more detail in part 4 (tomorrow).

Like I said at the start, these are very minor tweaks – and individually you may not even notice the impact of changing things – but these tweaks eventually add up and make a positive, significant change.

Does Performancing Need A Redesign?

Yes.

Does Perf need a redesign right now?

No.

Priority-wise, our main goals are to a) rebuild the content base as well as push out new tools and services and b) revive the old members and bring them back. Under the current circumstances, design takes a backseat, at least for the next 2-3 months.

However, if I was redesigning Performancing, I’d keep the following things in mind:

  • Stick to a 2-column theme
  • Build it with a full-length horizontal menu bar at the top – the current arrangement limits us a bit
  • Cater for siderbar ad space – along the same lines as SEJ’s right sidebar and Marketing Pilgrim
  • Cater for in-post advertising – whether it’s affiliate promotions or AdSense in archives or even if we’re just pushing house ads
  • Get visual – it’s not as much a problem with the current theme as with the people blogging (us) – more visuals required at Perf
  • Change the logo – like it, but it needs more edge to it
  • Come to think of it, the whole design needs more edge to it
  • The current setup of social bookmarking plugins is fine but when you design a theme with those things in mind, you can format things better and make them look more natural

In the coming weeks I have a couple of articles planned on the topic of blog themes, which will go some way towards plans for a new Performancing design.

What’s Next

There are 2 parts of the reboot left – monetization and promotion. We’ll look at them thursday and friday, and then I’ll try to do that recap on Friday as well.

And now it’s your turn:

how would you improve the current Performancing design?

Note: Interestingly enough, after I wrote this article (the headline was decided a day before) I Googled the headline and found that a book is selling by the same title on Amazon. I don’t remember coming across this book before, honest 🙂

Author: ahmedb

One thought on “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It

  1. Lets make this more fun. Since Ahmed mentioned that a redesign isn’t a priority right now, I’ll volunteer to take up the design, actual coding part of Performancing if there’s need for a coder.

    Note: this doesn’t mean redesign Performancing. I am pretty limited in a matter of Photshop knowledge, but I do know CSS, semantics and a basic level of accessibility, latter two being the things I’d love to see implemented more (think correct tags, metas and SEO optimized usage of h1, h2, haso… but also keyboard navigation)

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