Anyone whose been to all my blogs will notice that I always go for much the same blog template, the Minima Stretch, usually the 'Lefty' version, i.e. with the sidebar on the left hand side, only my travel blog has the right hand version so far. So why is this? There are a number of reasons.
I like the stretch part of it as it enables more of the screen to be used. With many of the more graphical templates, you lose huge wide margins to the image part of the blog template or wallpaper and I prefer to use my whole screen. I think text going all the way across the screen with no sidebar to break it up is over the top (plus navigation gets difficult), but constantly having to scroll down through narrow paragraphs can get a bit of a nuisance.
Another reason is that, years ago, when I did a basic web design and HTML course, we were advised to keep the fancy stuff to a minimum and focus on content. If you have good content, you will have plenty of visitors. Too many novelties and graphics create a cluttered, confusing appearance that will put readers off. When blogs rely on a lot of photos etc, simple outlines are always best. There are some really pretty wallpapers and graphics out there, no doubt about it, but when you have a busy photograph, or series of photographs as a header, graphical things in your sidebar (i.e. features that involve a lot of images, such as Feedjit, visitor maps, photo mosaics etc) and also photos in your main text, then having a background image as well can make the overall impression too cluttered. I've seen some craft blogs that are really off-putting as they have just too much to look at. The whole impression is so busy that it's hard to focus. So, my suggestion is, unless you have only very plain text posts and next to no graphical widgets, go for a very simple template or wallpaper.
Other things that can really clutter up a blog are far too may sidebar attractions, those little programmes that display the cursor as graphics following it all over the screen etc and sounds. There's nothing that ensures my not re-visiting your blog more than music starting up when I log on, a little tinkling sound every few seconds, or my cursor turning into hearts, butterflies, fish, birds or whatever! Some have so much in their sidebars (frequently a list of favourite blogs) that the sidebar is more than twice the length of the posts section! So, if your sidebar is longer than your posts, consider cutting down your sidebar content and/or increasing the number of posts visible on your front page at any given time. Balance is important. If one is to be shorter, make it the sidebar. (Admittedly, my sidebar is ever so slightly longer than the main postings at the moment, but only because it's a new blog with just two postings to date.)
Also, make sure that all the colours work harmoniously together within your layout. I've seen blogs with so much conflicting colour that the result is almost painful to read. Post texts are best keep to neutral or muted shades. I love bright colours, especially purple, but I don't enjoy reading purple text, or bright blue, or red etc. In my early blogging days, I used to use more colour in the posting text, esp before I realised there was a header/title box I could use and so I'd put the header in a more vibrant shade and the main text in a more readable, softer colour that matched, but now I prefer to keep the whole thing standard.
One more thing that helps to contribute to a good appearance is double checking your post before leaving it for the public to enjoy. Spelling is one obvious thing as, embarrassingly enough, when posting the link to this new blog yesterday I input the URL wrongly, which led to numerous potential visitors not making it here!! Another thing is that blogging programmes often tend to mess with your post layout when you add in photos. I know Blogger can be a real pain with that, adding in multiple line breaks whenever you put an image in. It's worth double checking, first with the 'preview' function and then on the blog itself, that you don't have large gaps around your photos and between your paragraphs. Some bloggers just leave them in and it doesn't look as good as it could with just a minute or two more spent on final presentation.
So, in summary, I choose this layout as it's simple, uncluttered and easy to work with. I can change any of the colours at any time to provide variety, but I keep graphical elements to a minimum so as to not confuse the senses and to make the whole reading experience easy and pleasant. What do you say?
Finishing up some older projects
5 weeks ago