The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

PROFESSIONAL BLOG DESIGN: A MISNOMER?
Steve Outing at Poynter takes a look at the results of the "Best Looking Blog" category of the 2003 Weblog Awards, and finds the winners to be lacking in basic design quality.

As Chuck Olsen at Blogumentary notes, the Weblog Awards are pretty much a free-for-all popularity contest, without much in the way of qualifying criteria. The results should be taken with a grain of salt, assuming you care about them at all.

The post did bring to mind the debate regarding the perceived association between blogging and amateurism. In some people's minds (notably Dave Winer's), a blog ceases to be a blog once editing or other elements of polish are applied. I would imagine that this mindset would extend to layout and design. If you subscribe to this definition of blogging (and I don't), then what exactly should a "best looking blog" contest be judged on? Should bare-bones colors and graphics that stress readability be held in higher regard than a site that has lots of flash and eye-catching visuals?

I do take issue with a comment Chuck Olsen made:

In fact I think that blog aesthetic is the cutting edge of design, very much influencing corporate web sites.

I'm not sure where he's seeing this influence manifest itself, but I certainly haven't seen it. In cases where corporate/commercial sites have a blog component, no doubt the look of those pages will reflect a typical blog, following a general blogging style. But beyond that? Minimalist, clean design abounds on the Web, but also in the offline world. I don't think blogs have directly influenced that; if anything, bloggers were themselves influenced by this aesthetic. And it's not always appropriate: In cases where the written content is the key, it works, but on things like ecommerce, multimedia presentations, etc., you have to ramp up the eye candy.

This very blog is the result of very minor modifications to a Blogger/BlogSpot-provided template. The most notable thing I did to it was to reduce the original three-column structure into the current two-column. That, and the addition of a few side-item boxes, are the only thing that distinguish it. I've considered other changes, especially with the color, but laziness has kept me from implementing it. Plus, I'm not too concerned about it. I feel the posts I write are the focus; the frequent photos and graphics I stick in satisfy my desire for design elements that contibute to the words.