Design Review: The Daily Rambler

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The Daily Rambler The Daily Rambler is a blogging blog. If you’re looking for a new place to get your daily dosage of blogging tips, then you might want to check it out.

What Has Been Done Well?

  • The header. The image in particular is striking, and easily the most memorable aspect of the design. The clean black of the rest of the header fits perfectly with the sleek car.

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Separating Trackbacks from Comments

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Footsteps in the sand. Trackbacks are the messages displayed in the comments list whenever another blog links back to one of your posts. Many blogs disable trackbacks, but not all.

If you use trackbacks on your blog, it is best if they are not mixed with the comments. The comments are a conversation between between real people. Having machine-generated links in the middle of that will only serve to disrupt the conversations.

The method described here will lift out all of the trackbacks, and then display them as a numbered list after the list of comments is finished. Once you have this done, customizing the trackbacks to appear however you want them to is simple.

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Author Name. Nuisance or Necessity?

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Names
Photo by TonivS
Every free template includes the author’s name near the content of each post. You would have to look hard to find one that didn’t. But why should you keep the name there?

Single and Multiple Authors

The purpose of giving the name so close to a post is to give credit to the person who wrote that post. This is important in multiple-author blogs where the author changes from post to post. Regular readers will be interested to know who is writing which posts, and the writers deserve credit for their work.

However, in a single-author blog, the author does not change from post to post. Regular readers do not need to be told your name over and over again as they know it already and can assume that the writer hasn’t changed.

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Cut Category Clutter and Toggle Visibility

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Grouped Categories
Photo by *Micky*
Categories are very easy to set up in a blog. So easy in fact, that we can often get carried away and end up with dozens of categories, all clogging up space in our sidebars. Rather than deleting these categories, we can remove the clutter by linking the categories into groups.

We then show only the group titles in the sidebar, and when a group title is clicked, the list of categories in that group expands beneath it. You can see a demo here.

This solution is very easy to implement, will remove the clutter for the vast majority of your users. For your users, and search engines, who have disabled Javascript, the complete list of categories will be shown as normal (And for the code junkies, it’s also XHTML valid!)

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Weekly Wrap-up: War on Clutter

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Clutter
Clutter by di_ana
Every Sunday, from now onwards, I intend on writing a Weekly Wrap-up post. The post will first of all present a set of links on a certain topic, related to blog design of course. After the links, I’ll write a little summary of anything special that happened on Pro Blog Design that week, and any comments that really stood out to me.

So without further ado, the first wrap-up is on de-cluttering your blog.

About a week ago, Darren Rowse set his readers the task of de-cluttering their sidebars, as part of his 31 Day Project. Of course, Darren’s blog has around 30,000 readers, so when he says to do something, mere mortals must do. The object of de-cluttering is to remove all of the “cool” widgets and such that have built up over time, but aren’t benefitting your readers. In response to this task, Mihai wrote up a list of everything in his sidebar, and assessed individually whether or not he should keep each one.

This is a great way of removing clutter from the sidebar, but what about the rest of the blog? Cue Skellie. Skellie has written up the most fantastic list of 50 Ways to De-Clutter Your Blog. Whilst I may not agree with them all, I can guarantee that you will find at least a few points which apply to your own blog, leaving you with some decisions to make.

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Drop(down) the Monthly Archives.

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Monthly ArchivesArguably, the most important feature in your blog’s design is its usability. Can the reader get what they want? A large part of that is giving them the space to manoeuvre unhindered by clutter and superfluous gadgets.

In order to keep your blog clutter-free, you must be ruthless with your sidebar content. There are thousands of Wordpress plugins available, and it is very tempting to install them all. The wise blogger knows to add only the options which will be beneficial to the user, which begs the question;

How are the monthly archive links useful?

In most cases, they aren’t. The monthly archives are a remnant from when blogs were literally online diaries. When the posts are a biography of someone’s life, then it can indeed be very interesting to look back to what they were like in the past. The monthly archives were also a lot less hassle than properly categorising posts.

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Categories Are More Than Just a List

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The purpose of categorising posts is to organise your content. You group similar posts into sections, allowing readers to easily find all the posts on a certain topic. However, categories are more than just a list in the sidebar.

How Are Categories Ordered in a New Blog?

When a blog is new, naturally it will have fewer posts. Therefore, posts are grouped into rather broad categories. For instance; this post is currently categorised into the “Blog Usability,” category. Usability in itself is a huge topic, encompassing many sub-sections. As the blog is still new though, there is no need to break into these sub-sections.

Small blogs have a small number of categories.

As Your Blog Grows, Your Categories Grow

Over time, you post more and more, and the blog becomes larger and larger. However, because your blog is virtual, viewable only on a screen, you don’t see that.

Forget about the computer, and think about each post as a written document, and your blog as a filing cabinet. In the beginning, it may be suitable for you to use a separate drawer for each category, however, each page you add is filling up the cabinet. What do you do when there are so many pages that finding a certain one takes forever? You divide up the drawer. You take all of the pages in that drawer, and categories those, e.g. by name, by date or by topic.

Why should blogs be any different?

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