I was thinking about blog design as i trawled around with nothing much todo late last night, and thought i’d try to make two lists. This one, what makes a blog look cheap, and what makes a blog look professional – negative one first eh? Here’s what for me, makes a blog look cheap and nasty…
What Makes a Blog Look Cheap?
It’s one of the first things I notice with a blog, as I often look at the url to get an idea of what the blog may be about if i click through from an uninformative link, or RSS title. For me, a hypenated domain name is the very first sign of bad things to follow. Much on the rest of this list seems to proceed that first, tell-tale sign of a cheap blog.
See Chris’ post on choosing a good name
2. The Host owns the Domain
A real pet hate of mine, an otherwise professional blog with a url like
subject.blogspot.com Sheesh! you expect me to take this blog seriously and you don’t even own your own domain? Not the worst of crimes for certain, but again it’s one of those little things that when combined with others goes to give a bad impression.
3. Using the Default Template
How can you give a professional impression, an impression of competence in your field when you’re running exactly the same template as a million other blogs?
4. Cheap Advertising
Popups, and popunders, aswell as having your content buried beneath the ads, or having ads disguised as content is a big turn off for many I think. I beleive there is a real art to getting advertising to blend and match content well, and it’s very much a balancing act. Too many blogs are off-center in their approach i think.
5. Posting “Daily Links”
Oh nice! You can’t even be bothered to give your link recommendation a proper write up? I don’t even bother to click these headlines, they’re just worthless, and strike me as just laziness. I need to know why i should click your headline, and when i get there, if you’re going to give me a bunch of links, i need to know why it would be worth my time to click them.
6. Hit Counters
It’s not 1997 you know? This stuff is just daft on a professional blog, if you really must have these silly little ego gimmicks on your personal site then fine, but for the most part, they’re just tacky. The one exception to the rule is a nice looking graph or chart. Those can look kind of cool, and be interesting if presented well.
7. Colored Backgrounds
There’s a reason whey people have been putting black text on a white background for 3000 years, it works! You’re not being “different”, your’re making it harder for me to read your blog. Please stop it.
8. Fixed Width Designs
This has been a hot issue amongst the design crowd forever, and it’s very much a matter of taste, but for me, I like to have a site fill my browser window — there’s nothing worse in my eyes than an 750px wide band of text sitting in the middle of my 1024px browser window — how would you feel if you went out and bought a nice big TV, only to see the same crap screensize sitting in a sea of “white space”? Short changed i’d think no?
There are actually good arguments on both side of this old argument, but now you know where
9. Stupid Fonts
Im talking mostly about “handwriting fonts”, or “comic” fonts. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing bloody funny about comic fonts heh! There’s a very good reason why Amazon, Google, IBM, etc etc etc do not use these fonts, and generally stick to arial/verdana/helvetica/etc — people can read them well, and they’re installed on the majority of PC’s.
Hard to define a gimmick, but i’ll give it a shot and say that it could be anything that does not have clear purpose, and benefit for your readers. Gimmicks are just that, gimmicks. They serve only to show your naivety and amateurism in design and publishing. Harsh, but true.
Oooooh, so Negative!
Well sure, you can’t very well know what’s good, untill you define what’s bad. After we’ve had a good old fashioned design war™ im going to try and post 10 signs of a professional blog, without crossing over on this list too much.
Some of the things in this post are very subjective, but go right ahead and pull it apart one by one if you like, it’s good to see how other people feel on these issues, as in the end, it will help us all build better websites i think.