Redesign for the Right Reasons at the Right Time

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Time to RedesignRedesigning has become a hot topic in the blogosphere, largely because of the redesigns of two of the most popular blogs, ProBlogger and John Chow.com. One blogger went as far as to dub 2007, Year of the Redesigns. Why should time be a factor in a redesign?

Redesigning for the Wrong Reasons

There are many reasons for a blog redesign. However, not all of these are good reasons, and what’s more is that they are no different than they have always been. What makes now so special? Hype.

One of the most frequently mentioned benefits is the hype and attention that a redesign obtains. The amount of attention that John Chow has received cannot be denied, but lest we forget, you are not John Chow. The same level of attention will not be repeated on you. If anything, you will receive less attention than ever as your blog will be lost between the dozens of others changing themes.

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Make Sense of Your Blog With Proximity

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Each page on a blog holds a number of different sections. Each section has a distinct purpose, for example; the title gives a name, and the blogroll gives a list of links. For all of these goals to be fully achieved, each section must be clearly marked out, and then distinguished from its surrounding sections.

Often the most effective way of doing this, is simply through understanding the concept of proximity (closeness). In normal terms:

If a number of objects are physically close together, the brain will classify them as a single group.

To take an example, look at the following image of 4 copies of the Pro Blog Design logo:

Proximity

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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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Use the Fold To Sell Your Blog on the First Impression

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The ‘fold,’ is defined as the area of the page which a user can see without scrolling down. There is a lot of controversy online about the existence of the fold (Its size differs greatly depending on screen resolution and browser), but there is no need to get into the specifics of where it exists. The concept of the fold is all that matters, and the logic behind it is excruciatingly obvious.

The user sees the top of the page first.

Incredible, eh? In other words, the canvas of your first impression lies in a box just a few hundred pixels high at the top of the page. You need to make the most of this space, and get all the necessary ingredients of your successful first impression into this space.

How Can I Make the Most of This Space?

It is very easy to overdo it, and try to fill as much as possible into the space. The key is self-discipline; put in what is needed, and forget everything else. Consider a warehouse; the building is best used with its contents filed properly in shelves and boxes, with a good amount of space to move around. Of course it’s possible to fill the corridors with many more boxes, but in doing so, you make it much harder to move around and get at the contents of the warehouse at all. The same is true for your blog, if your adverts, promotional copy and sign-up forms are getting in the way of the blog and page titles, you’re wasting your time.

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The Crucial Ingredients of a First Impression

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Not Cooking IngredientsIt is a fact that on the web, users have a ruthlessly short attention span. You might have as little as just a few seconds to sell your blog to the heartless reader, so how can you make the most of those precious seconds?

What do they ‘need’ to get from the first impression?

Everyone is searching for something, a certain piece of information they need. There are billions of web pages online, and the vast majority of those pages do not have the information they need. In the few seconds before they click off onto the next page, you need to convince your reader that you have what they’re after, not just a lot of adverts. This comes down to only two pieces of information:

  1. What this blog is about.
  2. What this page is about.

What is this blog about?

This question is the one most often forgotten by blog owners, for the sole reason that you are far too familiar with your own blog. How could they not know that the blog is about baking secrets? Have you not been writing about every type of pastry under the sun for the past two years?? Well, yes, but they don’t know that.

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