Elements of blog design. Dominik Lenk recently asked an interesting question; What are the essential elements of a blog?

In reply I would say that there are very few essentials. It is your blog, and its up to you what you want to include. The only essentials would be to include the basics that you see on every blog, such as a search function, category lists and comment forms.

However, this did lead me onto another question. It is one thing to know the features that technically make a blog a blog, but what is it that makes a blog look like a blog?

Elements of the Design

  • Dates. Dates are a big giveaway. By definition a blog is a journal, and by convention it is a journal organized by posting date. No other type of web site places such strong emphasis on when content was created. As such, seeing a date is usually a good indicator that you are reading either a blog or a journal/newsletter.
  • Comment counts. The other major aspect of blogging is the community behind it. A blog with comments disabled is barely a blog at all and as such, seeing the customary “x comments” text near the post title or succeeding the post itself is a sure sign of blogs abound.
  • Author names. A good blog tends to be regularly updated, and shares some of the personality of the author. Many blogs therefore include the author’s name along with each post. Of course, it’s not always necessary.
  • RSS icons and counters. Have a look in your RSS reader. How many of the feeds that you’re subscribed to are from blogs? A good number I’d say, and so it is with good reason that large RSS icons and FeedBurner buttons can safely be attributed as aspects of a blog design.
  • Right sidebar. This design style is more of a stereotype than a reasoned element of a blog design. Any type of web site can have a right sidebar, and blogs can of course have left/no sidebars. However, there is still some truth left in the old stereotype. If you had to picture the typical 2-column blog layout, which side would the sidebar be on?
  • Date-based archives. Date based archives are a useless accessory for most blogs. However,when they are seen they are a guaranteed sign of a blog. Blogs began as online diaries, giving rise to the popularity of browsing blogs by date. As blogs have evolved though, such archives have grown superfluous and are less commonly seen now.

Six different elements, all compounding together to give off the unmistakable odor of blog. Are there any other aspects of design that you associate with blogging? Or do you have a different take on some of those on the list?

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