Archive for the ‘Blog Design’ Category
Word is out that Google is now able to index Flash content. This is probably good news to web developers out there who are into building sites with Flash. However, should bloggers rejoice at this news?
Probably not. Or at least there’s no compelling reason to be too happy because of this news, unless you run a video blog with a lot of flash-based videos. I would agree with our resident designer Ia that Google’s new Flash-indexing ability might be misused by designers who are fond of designing in Flash without much regard for usability and accessibility.
Googleâ€™s efforts to read Flash still seem to be in the premature stages. Typical Google, they always release their products in beta without being wary of the consequences.
By consequences I mean clients who are now running around telling their web designers to create animated intros and the extravagant interfaces for their websites. I canâ€™t really shoot down this little achievement by Googleâ€”except that itâ€™s getting scarily smarter everyday and should try to have more features than issues when they launch a product.
More importantly, I can only continue to condemn those who misuse Flash without any regard for accessibility, much less usability, whatsoever.
If you are serious about optimizing your blog for the search engines, then I think the first thing to do would make sure you have good content!
Based on my own research, cross browser compatibility seems to be the thorn that is in every web designer’s side. Taking a mock up design and coding it to look the way it’s meant to be in all browsers at times, seems like an impossible task. I know when I’ve hacked WordPress themes, getting them to appear correctly in both IE 7 and FireFox 2 was such a pain, I would end up going for the (good enough) approach.
Thankfully, Anthony Short has put together a list of coding conventions ( How To Get Cross Browser Compatibility Every Time ) based on his research that will help get the job done on the first try.
This is a summary of what Anthony Covers in his post:
- Always use strict doctype and standards-compliant HTML/CSS
- Always use a reset at the start of your css
- Use -moz-opacity:0.99 on text elements to clean up rendering in Firefox, and
text-shadow: #000 0 0 0 in Safari
- Never resize images in the CSS or HTML
- Check font rendering in every browser. Don’t use Lucida
- Size text as a % in the body, and as em’s throughout
- All layout divs that are floated should include display:inline and
- Containers should have overflow:auto and trigger hasLayout via a width or
- Don’t use any fancy CSS3 selectors
- Don’t use transparent PNG’s unless you have loaded the alpha
In his research, Anthony only worried about FireFox 2, Safari3+ and IE6.
So if you are creating a theme or any web design for that matter, keep these conventions in mind so you’ll spend more time designing and less time refreshing browser windows.
Recently, Franky asked how much you think a WordPress installation is worth to you, and if you would be willing to pay for it if you had to. For most WordPress users, WP runs as a personal publishing platform. For some of us, though, we run sites on WordPress for a living. This means WP is used as a tool of the trade.
Now I ask, how much would you pay for blog design? How much do you think your blog’s look and feel is worth to you? For most who run personal blogs, free themes would suffice, just as running on a hosted blogging platform under a subdomain (or subdirectory) would be okay. For those who are picky enough to have to run a self-hosted software (such as WordPress) under one’s own domain, perhaps a custom design would be next in your to-do list.
A couple of years back, Chris Pearson wrote that he can design basic–and he means basic–blog themes for $1,500. And he says that’s less expensive compared to other designers he has benchmarked against. That was two years ago. Now considering inflation, the dollar’s decline and other factors, I reckon the starting price point for themes is higher.
On Splashpress Media, we usually run sites on their own custom designs whenever possible. For new sites, we try to set them up with custom themes prior to launch. For acquired sites, we try to redesign within a couple of months of taking over. Still, some sites have retained their old designs, because either the audience is not that big yet, or that the original design is part of the brand. This is especially so, if the cost of design has been incorporated in the valuation of a blog.
The preference in the network is for custom design because we feel we can better establish a blog’s identity with a unique look and feel. Also, we take into consideration the other aspects of design aside from aesthetics, which I think is actually more important than just how a blog looks. The user interface, the flow of information, and the underlying code are also very important, and can make or break a blog.
But to an individual blogger, does it matter at all? How about to corporate bloggers or business bloggers?
I can understand if an individual blogger would have qualms about paying $2,000 for a theme, unless one earns big from a blog (or set of blogs) and can recover the costs quickly enough. A big company who wants to blog can perhaps afford this, and even more. But a startup with a small budget might want to try out free designs first.
So I ask you, how much would you be willing to pay for blog design? Should you stick with free? Would you go cheap? Or would you pay top dollar for top designers?
And as a disclosure, I manage bLogics, a blog logistics consultancy under Splashpress Media. We do have a set starting price for blog design, but knowing your opinion (hopefully from both designers’ and users’ points of view) would help me determine whether this price is fair.
Comment areas on blogs don’t have to be uninspired, and to that effect, Blog Design Blog has posted a great article that showcases thirty different comment designs that will hopefully get you from using a boring default comment setup.
Comment design is an art. Comment design is often overlooked by a lot of web designers when they are designing their blog. It tends to be one of the last things a web designer works on and because of that it suffers. This list shows 30 blogs where the web designer didnâ€™t just throw together the same old comment design and put extra effort into their comment design to make it fit with their blog design.
Some of my favourites include Snook.ca, Larissa Meek, and Ordered List.
I recently had a chance to speak with Chris Garrett, owner of Chris Garrett Media Ltd about his new company The 449, which sells beautiful, custom themes for Â£449.
So, lets start with a little about the 449, and its history. Who is involved, and you mentioned somewhere that you had worked on this idea before?
I started the 449 originally as a spin-off of my main design business, Chris Garrett Media Ltd but about six months ago decided to stop doing it as I’d been doing much more involved work on large web applications. I noticed that a lot of people missed it and discontinuing the 449 had left a large hole in the market, so I reinvented it and bought in my good friends Chris Rowe, Indranil Dasupta and Dave Nichols to help tackle the work. I’m now acting as project manager and the work being rolled out is the excellent result of everyone working together.
Next question: Why Â£449? Why not more or less, and why in Great Britain Pounds?
I’m based in the UK, and I’ve always considered it professional to charge in your own currency, it also saves my accountant a lot of effort. When I started the 449 I was working at a rate of Â£150 a day, we worked out that to put together a high quality, bespoke WordPress theme would take about 3 days. We knocked a pound off because “the 450″ just didn’t sound that good.
What is special or different about 449? Couldn’t I get the same thing for $50 off SitePoint?
Harsh! We don’t just spend time pushing pixels in photoshop and hacking together some WordPress code. When you come to us, we take the time to dig deep into what it is your looking for and respond with a design concept that reflects that. We also take the time to get into the head of your user, my expertise lie in user experience design so you can be sure that your theme will be optimised to make life as easy as possible for your readers. By encouraging discovery by cross-pollenating content and defining calls-to-action for the parts of your site that really command attention, we can make sure that your visitors convert to customers, subscribers and lovers.
Our code is also highly optimised, accessible and includes use of cutting edge niceties such as microformats. This alone will get you a major boost in search engine results. We also don’t work off any standard templates, everything we do is unique to your project and we’re always on hand to offer the best support money can buy.
One client even mentioned that we should be charging more for our service, so I think that alone is reason enough to not just buy something cookie cutter off SitePoint.
You guys are the only people that I have heard of that do Microformats for WordPress themes. Can you tell me why that is interesting or even a basic bit on what Microformats are?
Microformats are basically a series of predefined standards for marking up specific pieces of information, such as contact information, events and even blog posts. By assigning specific classes to data, we’re able to add a deeper level of semantic richness to it which makes the data more machine readable (without impacting on human readers). They’re essentially bridging the gap between XML and HTML. Microformats are rapidly being adopted by emerging search engines and can even benefit users with disabilities such as visual impairments, so while the benefits right now aren’t that obvious, in a years time you’ll be glad you ordered a microformat rich blog from the449.com.
Wow that was a lot of buzz words, but it sounds like something serious companies and bloggers will want to invest in.
Why WordPress and is that the only blogging software your deal covers?
WordPress is a fantastic platform, our clients love it, we’re able to work very quickly on it and the community is unprecedented. Having said that, we’re established developers and can work with any platform you need, in the past we’ve worked with Textpattern, Expression Engine and Movable Type. I’m really looking forward to Habari reaching a stable release and hoping some clients will request we use it.
What else can you tell me about the 449 that bloggers en masse will be interested in? Can we expect any freebies from the 449?
Well the site only launched last week so it’s been a hectic few days, but we’re in talks with some very high profile bloggers who will be offering their readers discounts and we’ll also be running a few competitions with free blogs as the prize. But with Blogging Pro being such a cutting edge resource, I think it’s fitting that it’s readers be the first to take advantage of our early bird discounts The first 10 people to email the promo code “bloggingpro” to chris[at]cgmmail.com will receive a Â£50 discount. A 449 for just Â£399.
Lastly, if we want to find out more about 449, where do we go, and who do we contact?
http://the449.com is the place to go for more information, I recommend you also check out the blog as we’re in the process of preparing some really good content. To get in touch, you can email me at chris[at]cgmmail.com, give me a call on +44(0)1453890326 or use our contact form at http://the449.com/contact/.
Smashing Magazine has put together a list of 45 excellent blog designs from various different publishing platforms like WordPress, Expression Engine, Movable Type and others.
What really caught my eye is that our intrepid designer over at Design Disease made the list.
A big congrats to everyone listed as there are some absolutely amazing blog designs. For me it just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what platform you are using, each and every one can be manipulated to create amazing blogs.
I found this on RajDash.com.
There are two contests currently running that will help bloggers get a new logo for their blogs, so if you are looking to revamp your image, or just get your first real logo, then you will want to check these out.
Randa Clay Design
Randa is offering 2 prizes: a free custom blog logo and header, and a free blog review. The rules state how you can enter. Itâ€™s pretty easy – either add Randa Clay Design to your blogroll or subscribe to the siteâ€™s feed. There is no restriction about type of blog. While youâ€™re there, read Randaâ€™s article 4 reasons your blog needs a blog logo.
Logo Design Works
To apply for the Logo Design Works free blog logo campaign, your blog has to meet certain criteria, including being at least six months old and being about any of these topics: design, small business, marketing, SEO, blogging, freelancing, productivity and related topics. If you are accepted, you will get to work with a designer via email. All LDW is asking in return is either a blogroll link (after you are accepted) or a brief review with a link. Links are to their home page.
Ben of Binary Moon has taken the custom WordPress login a step further as one of his series of WordPress Tricks and Tips.
He created a plugin as well as an image template for the custom WordPress login.
The plugin itself sits in the plugins folder alongside the images – which you can change as required. The footer image has been changed to a gif with a transparent middle which means you can use any images you like for the main background and they will fit seamlessly.
Because this is a plugin and the images are kept separately from the admin folder upgrades a nice and easy. Just upgrade as normal. This is particularly handy for client sites where they may not be aware of what you have done to customise things.
Check out this and other tricks and tips over on Binary Moon.
Boxes and Arrows has a great post up about what they call the “myth of the fold”. The fold is the area where the screen ends and you have to scroll down to see more.
Traditionally, you don’t want to put too much below the fold, especially advertisements and another things because users leave before ever seeing it. But the post on Boxes and Arrows says otherwise.
I took a look at performance data for some AOL sites and found that items at the bottom of pages are being widely used. Perhaps the best example of this is the popular celebrity gossip website TMZ.com. The most clicked on item on the TMZ homepage is the link at the very bottom of the page that takes users to the next page. Note that the TMZ homepage is often over 15000 pixels long â€“ which supports the ClickTale research that scrolling behavior is independent of screen height. Users are so engaged in the content of this site that they are following it down the page until they get to the â€œnext pageâ€ link.
Maybe itâ€™s not fair to use a celebrity gossip site as an example. After all, weâ€™re not all designing around such tantalizing guilty-pleasure content as the downfall of beautiful people. So, letâ€™s look at some drier content.
For example, take AOL News Daily Pulse. Youâ€™ll notice the poll at the bottom of the page â€“ the vote counts are well over 300,000 each. This means that not only did folks scroll over 2000 pixels to the bottom of the page, they actually took the time to answer a poll while they were there. Hundreds of thousands of people taking a poll at the bottom of a page can easily be called a success.
Read the whole article to understand more about the fold, and why you don’t need to worry so much about it.
I try to keep a keen eye on the industry that helps design, develop, and manage blogs, and that arena has a new entrant with Blogging Squared, a group from Ottawa, Ontario Canada led by someone I know very well, John Wiseman. Blogging Squared provides services like custom blog design, training sessions, blog development, search engine optimization, and maintenance.
One of the more interesting additions to what they do is the training sessions. They have them set up for small businesses which includes information on building relationships with their audience, and thought leadership.
I had a chance to ask John why he would start Blogging Squared:
I’ve been involved in web development for about six years now. Three years ago when I started blogging, I had no idea blogs would be so influential. I still enjoy writing for my blog but have developed a real interest for designing them. Moving away from web design and focusing on blog design and consulting has been a natural transition for me. I really enjoy teaching small businesses about the power of blogs and helping them grow their online presence. It’s really a pleasure to wake up every morning and know that I’ll be working on projects that I’m passionate about.
In continuing with this, Blogging Squared has set up a blog on their site, and they dish out some great information and advice, much of it specifically directed at things they have found that are useful for the WordPress blogging community which is their focus.
You can find John Wiseman at Blogging Squared, or his personal blog JohnWiseman.ca.
Note: They are also looking for great WordPress talent, and so if you are someone that can take a PSD and make it into a WordPress theme quickly and following web standards, then contact John through the contact form on Blogging Squared.