5 Blog Design Pitfalls To Avoid

Collection of untidy elements on a pageI’m currently in the progress of redesigning this blog. It’s a complete overhaul of the look and feel with the aim of a more professional, usable theme that will facilitate some of the future plans I have. When I’m designing something, or even thinking about designing something, I’m always on the look out for inspiration. And when you’re redesigning a blog, you have to look at other blogs to find this inspiration.

During this process, I’ve picked up on a few aspects of blog design that I hate. Not dislike, but i actually hate. I’m really conscience of these elements when viewing a blog (or any other site for that matter), so to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes, I’ve been keeping a list.  I’ve expanded on the five most common elements of blog design I have problems with and given some examples.  As pointed out by Daniel in the comments, these five elements fall into two broad categories, Style over Substance and Third Party Tools and Features.  So keep an eye out in the near future for a post covering each of these elements along with tips on how to avoid them.

Take a look at the list below.  Do you agree or disagree?  Are there any other elements of blog design that really annoys you?  Something that you keep being drawn to whenever you read a blog?  Let us all know in the comments.

FeedBurner

RSS Widget on ShoeMoneyFor some reason, people like to show off their FeedBurner stats. I’m British, so I’m not flash like that. My real issue though, is less with showing the world the stats, but more the fact that people just seem to shove the FeedBurner counter into the design without any consideration of placement or aesthetics. (screenshot from ShoeMoney).

It’s not just the counter, oh no, the option to subscribe by email is also handled badly. For some reason, it seems to be a blond spot for many blogs. Take a look at the image to the leftFeedBurner Subscribe by Email Button, Maybe, this is from the newly redesigned Zac Johnson Super Affiliate Blog. Can you tell what this field and button does? And even if you could, it’s not exactly seamlessly integrated into the site, is it. Now I accept that this is likely a browser quirk, but FireFox on OSX isn’t exactly unheard of.
There are also sites that make it very easy to confuse the email subscribe form with the search form, purely because it wasn’t really considered when designing the site. There’s been a number of times I’ve put a search criteria into a subscribe box without realising. Search should go at the top and be clearly labeled. Subscribe should be not near the search box and also should be clearly labeled.

Widgets

BlogRush WidgetI have to admit, I’ve been guilty of this in the past. A new widget comes out for bloggers and you rush to install it on your site. It happens all the time. The two biggest offenders around at the moment is the Blog Rush widget and the My Blog Log widget. I’ve seen both used incredibly badly on various blogs. The Blog Rush widget is a particularly bad offender, purely because at the time of launch it had only one colour scheme. Considering how varied blog designs tend to be, this seems like utter madness.

Hiding Content Below the Fold

I don’t know about you, but the most important thing on a blog, in my eyes, is the content. Screenshot of John Chows Blog above the fold only.I’m constantly baffled and bemused by sites that try as hard as possible to to hide the content underneath the fold so you can’t see it without scrolling. This is like putting a big sign on the front of your blog saying that I care more about these things than I do the content. I think one of the worse offenders is John Chow. I’ve been wondering for a while what he’s actually doing with his blog, I can’t remember the last time he wrote content worth reading that wasn’t telling us how much he was earning or one which he was getting paid to write. The image to the right is what I see above the fold, not a great deal of content, is there?

Comments

Another two fold one this. Many people simply don’t put enough thought into laying out and styling comments on their blog. In the increasingly competitive world of blogging, an active community is a real feather in the hat and can raise your blog up above the rest. So this section on the site needs to be attractive, inviting, in line with the rest of the theme and easy to read. It also helps if you make it easy to determine who the site administrators and writers are, so people reading the comments can instantly identify “official” responses. The biggest offender is Blogger, which goes so far as putting comments on a completely different page. Talk about trying as hard as possible to prevent a conversation from erupting over the content.

Quirkiness Over Usability

Yes, having a unique design helps, and yes being unique does sometime mean quirky, but please don’t choose a unique design over usability. It’s a trend that’s becoming increasingly common, and increasingly worrying. To of the best looking, and most baffling are eleven 3 and Cult-Foo, below.

Eleven 3 Screenshot Cult Foo ScreenShot

I’d never suggest that you should fall in line and set out designing a blog to look like the rest, but top of my list would be usability, and the ability for users to know where everything and get around easily. There are blogs that manage to be unique, attractive and usable. One of my current favourites is PSD Tuts and I’m also a fan of Web Designer Wall.

I should probably point out that the elements of sites I’ve pointed out above only annoy me because I visit the sites often, due to their great content and, for the most part, the rest of the site design is stellar.

Is there anything you see on blogs that really gets under your skin? And please, don’t hold back on this site, it will be refreshed and renewed soon anyway…