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Last week I put up a series of polls, and one of them asked if I should bring back the Design Review posts I used to write. The overwhelming response was yes, so here we go!

This site under review here is 21 Gun Studios, a web design firm run by Adam. He blogs about web development, and the layout is quite unique (Which is why I chose it!).

What Has Been Done Well?

  • One column layout. Not many blogs go for a single column layout. It’s unique in that manner, and it looks great. The content is given complete priority in the clean design, and there’s nothing to distract you from reading it.
  • Very large headlines. Again, these come off as very unique. The headlines are huge. Because of this, it’s very easy to scan the home page for the post titles. From a design point of view, the headlines span across the page much better and it’s hard not to appreciate big, bold type on the web when you find it!

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  • Color scheme. The brown background color looks great, but more importantly, the 4 little navigation buttons at the top look fantastic, and all they are is links with a well colored background! And there are no issues with reading the white font.
  • Minimalism. There is no sidebar, no fancy navigation in the header, no icons, and even the background design is a gentle gradient. There is no trace of clutter to be found.

What Could be Improved On?

  • First post on home page is shown in full. The huge headlines work because they make it easy to scan the page. Showing an entire post in the first slot complicates that a good deal, and it’s very easy to get confused with subheadings in the post and think that they’re new post headings (They look very similar!).
  • The comments are very plain. There’s nothing to them. Even the author’s name and comment date are in the same font style/size/color as the rest of the comment. It looks like another line of text. It would be worth going the extra mile with your comments because it’s the area that your most loyal readers will spend the most time on.

    Also, commenters don’t get the option to add their blog URL. That’s going to annoy a lot of people. If they take the time to leave a comment, what’s wrong with the comment being attributed to their site?

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  • Social media icons on home page. They add some color the page, which is a good thing. But each excerpt is only a paragraph long. Who’s going to Digg a post based on one paragraph? It’s unlikely that they will be used much from here.
  • AdSense advert in the self-promotion on home page. At the top of the home page is a blurb about the company and the services it offers. But there’s also a 125×125 Google ad in the corner of that sales pitch. It cheapens the effect of the blurb, when the blurb should be taking precedence.
  • Footer errors on portfolio page. There are layout issues with the footer section. It’s nothing major, but when you’re trying to sell someone on your web design skills, the portfolio page has to be perfect. This is also the one page of the site where there are no contact details visible, when it’s the page that they’re most needed. Better yet, a contact form here would be very useful.

All in all, I think it’s a great design. There are a few imperfections, but the only major one is the lack of commenter URLs (In my eyes at least!). The design is unique and suffers from no un-necessary clutter whatsoever.

What are your thoughts on 21 Gun Studios?

I found 21 Gun Studios because its owner, Adam, left a comment on the last post suggesting his site. I chose it because it’s quite unique. If you want to volunteer your own site, just say so in the comments. I can’t promise I’ll do it, but if I see some that would make great posts, I will.

Results From the Feedback Polls Last Week

Last week, I put up a series of 6 polls to get feedback from you about the future of Pro Blog Design. I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who responded! Over 100 of you answered the polls, and many left comments as well. Your input was invaluable, so thank you everyone!

This post was the first outcome of that feedback. But I’d also like to share the outcome of the other polls here, so you all will know what will be happening:

  1. Graphics editors – About 70% of you are using Photoshop. That means that the bulk of the examples here are going to continue to use Photoshop.

    About 15% are using Gimp, and another 4% would get it if I wrote tutorials for it. I don’t think that’s high enough to write a huge number of Gimp-based posts, but I will try to write a few general tutorials for it to ease you into the learning curve. Then when you see a tutorial for Photoshop, hopefully you’ll be able to pull off a similar effect in Gimp.

  2. Blog Platform – WordPress.org and WordPress.com combined took up almost 85%. The next highest was Blogger at about 6%. There weren’t enough people using any one other system to justify writing for it (Sorry guys, but I can’t write posts that the vast majority of readers are going to have to ignore!).
  3. Favorite type of post – Design theory posts and WordPress tutorials were closely linked. Resource posts (lists!) got a few votes, but a relatively small number. Things were starting to tilt towards more and more lists here, so I’ll be careful not to overdo it with them!
  4. Design Review posts – Only 2% voted against them, so as you can see, they’re back!
  5. “Recommended Elsewhere” section of the footer – Not sure what to do here yet. About half of the results didn’t know it was there. Of those that did, just as many wanted it changed as wanted it kept the way it was! I think I’ll resort to stats and experimenting, to see what content in the footer gets the most usage.
  6. Post schedule – The vast majority were happy with the way things currently were, or if they wanted a change, it was just more frequent posting (Though the responses in the comments all said that frequency wasn’t important in comparison with quality, which I agree with wholeheartedly!). I’ll make an effort to post slightly more (Guaranteed one post per week. Ideally it will be two).

Thanks again to everyone who helped me out here. I hope it will make Pro Blog Design better for you all!

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