Does blog design matter, part 3

Well dear friends and readers, I’m baaaack. In “last week’s installments”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/index.php?id=55, we started to look at the state of design on the blogosphere today. We looked at numbers 10, 9, and 8 on “Technorati’s”:http://www.technorati.com top 100 most influential blogs list. Today’s trio makes this designer sigh a sigh of blessed relief after the shock of the first go around. Don’t relax too much though, as this group are the oddities of the whole bunch. Let’s continue, shall we?

*No 7 Penny Arcade.*

*Design*: Straight outta 1999! First things first – the guy is a cartoonist, so I suppose I’ve got to forgive his use of a comic font. The site goes way beyond just a blog, with a forum, game reviews, and more. The design is effective, if not particularly pleasing. Nothing gets in the way of the content, which is the point, after all. I really like the contributors comic avatars.

*Suggestions*: The comic has a sardonic wit and bite to it. I’d like to see that attitude reflected in the design. The colour scheme looks very dated to my eye, and would do with an update. The site is all table based – and I mean ALL. There’s no css used at all. Gasp!

*Predictions*: A move to web standards has to be coming. Think about this: I bet a whole bunch of this site’s target market has either bought or will soon buy a sony psp or equivalent portable device. These portables can be used for surfing the web from anywhere with a wi-fi hotspot. The mobile internet is almost here for real, and sites like this will have to change over to css so their users can view their sites with the appropriate sytlesheet.

*No 6 Talking Points Memo*

*Design*: _38 characters wide_. Bump the text size up one, and it’s down to 30. That’s really narrow. The content to ad size ratio is wonky on this site. The ads are not that big, but the content area is really small. There’s no reason for this, as far as I can tell. The header is really jammed up with content, with a list of links and a dateline competing for a narrow little spot. Also, a keyline running down the right side of the text is superfluous. It doesn’t do anything, and only adds to the smushy-ness of the elements.

*Suggestions*: Open it up. There’s a decent colour scheme in place, and decent typography to boot. Make the content area wider, make the margins on the blockquotes narrower, clean up the header, and you’ve got yourself a decent site. The code is a bit of a mess, but at least we’ve got some css at work here.

*Predictions*: Ad rates will go up, revenue will increase, and the number of ads on the site will decrease. I certainly can’t hold it against anyone for wanting to make a living, but I find the number of ads detract from the content. To be fair, I don’t follow the site on a regular basis, so I’m being exposed to a LOT of ads as I scroll down looking at old articles. Perhaps if I checked in daily I wouldn’t notice so many… I don’t think major design changes are needed here. A couple of tweaks will go a long way towards making this a pleasant site to read.

*No 5 Gizmodo*

*Design*: This article has taken considerably longer to write than I had intended. The reason? Gizmodo stole my brain! Gizmodo is part of Gawker Media, and is a professional site, with staff and the whole thing. We have a professionally designed site here folks, with designer colours and the whole she-bang. The design is table-less, which is a nice change. The text is nicely knocked back with a grey-blue colour, links are plainly underlined, the images are floated next to the body copy… Plus they have a picture of a toilet that can measure your fat percentage from your urine. How cool is that?

*Suggestions*: My one design been if that the design is very tight to the left margin. If you view the page at full screen, the body is waaaayyyyy over there. I’d double the padding. My bigger beef has to do with all the flashing advertising going on at the top of the page. I’ve got 3 different ads flashing their messages at me. It is very distracting, and has me scrolling down to get away from them as quickly as possible.

*Predictions*: Nothing. These guys are leading the world at the moment, and I don’t see that changing. While that sounds kind of like unabashed fandom, its not. Give me a couple of hours with their stylesheets, and I think I could make the site easier to read, and possibly a bit stickier (ie it will keep users around longer), but who am I kidding here? We read Gizmodo for the humour and tech updates. If I were making a pitch to a business to set up a blog, Gizmodo would certainly be part of my presentation. They pretty well define a blog business: they speak about a narrow topic that they are passionate about, they use the first person voice, they use humour, and they’ve hired a designer.

Well, that bunch was relatively painless. Not so for the top 5 I’m afraid. Stay tuned for more!