I came across an article yesterday that got me thinking, about blog design. You know I like photography but I also have other design related interests (yeah, I used to read books on city planning just for the heck of it). And while I don’t have the skills to create a really original blog design, I really appreciate a decent looking site. I try to balance my desire for simplicity with other stuff that I figured I need on a blog. When I read this post by Oliver Reichenstein, it challenged my notions about what a blog needs and conventions that have become the norm on most sites. His post has tons of juicy bits like this one:
If you’re unknown, social media buttons make you look like a dog waiting for the crumbs from the table. You might have magnificent writing skills and a lot to say, but you will still only get a few retweets and likes. Yes, it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. If you’re known, you will get attention, even for the mediocre. If you’re not known, no matter how good you are, initially you won’t. That button that says “2 retweets” will be read as: “This is not so great, but please read it anyway? Please?”
To someone like me with a blog that is maybe, one or at most two steps above unknown, his words were an eye opener. I might not agree with everything he wrote but my disagreement is not based on any hard or even anecdotal information. It’s just that conventional wisdom and conventional design have brainwashed me into thinking in a particular way. So I decided to experiment with my site design last night. The changes are subtle and most readers probably will not even notice them. But for me, it is a move to simplify this site, at least somewhat. My main efforts were around cleaning up the right hand column and getting rid of all the extra stuff that I originally thought would be cool. I got rid of widgets, combined things and reduced the noise. There are more things I would like to change but can’t since I live within the constraints of a free WordPress.com site. I also decided to remove the WordPress Like, FaceBook and Twitter buttons displayed after every post on the front page. I wasn’t bold enough to remove these buttons completely, though. I still have them at the end, just above the comments section, when you click into a post. For now, I find any feedback valuable from my readership, whether they are Facebook Likes, WordPress Likes or comments. So yes, despite my experiment with simplicity, I do like getting feedback and would love to have people tweet or “Facebook Like” my posts (do I sound too desperate?) It’s just that now, you will have to click into the article to do so. There several ways to do so including clicking on the title of the post.
Speaking of blog changes, some readers my have noticed that I’ve added gray boxes at the end of some posts. I’ve given this a lot of thought and I wanted to come up with a semi-elegant way to show affiliate links. I wanted these to be visible, of course, but not too loud and not too in your face. I was also trying to avoid standard looking banner ads. We live in a world where we are bombarded with so much advertising so I wanted to put these in in the least intrusive way that I can think of. I’m not sure if I’ve achieved it but, I’m giving it a try. I’m also keeping these links topical so they are about the products I talk about in the post, not some random product like a blender.
If you think there is any value to this blog and the information I’m sharing, I will certainly appreciate if you click on my affiliate links from time to time. I have set up accounts at Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama and Cameta Camera. if you click on any of these links before you buy anything, your price does not change and I get a small commission from these stores. I’ve shopped many times at these websites; this is where I get my gear online (I also buy local at Precision Camera), so I trust these guys.