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Blog Design: Show Some Restraint

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  1. Create Your Own Limitations
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Biz Stone examines the power of restraint when it comes to envisioning your blog's design. Starting from scratch with only a blank screen staring back at you can have the unwanted effect of holding you back from your new blog project. This article demonstrates how setting parameters for yourself in advance can help you create a bold, useful design. He'll also take a look at an artfully designed site that whispers to its readers from within the confines of a gracefully constructed simplicity.
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When your back is to the wall, you get creative. It's as simple as that. Some of the most ingenious solutions have come into existence under circumstances with limited resources at hand.

Create Your Own Limitations

If you're working for a client, you'll start out with limitations. They will most likely want you to use their logo and colors, match elements of an existing site, and other constraints. But if you're setting out to build a blog that's your own personal independent publishing endeavor, the canvas is totally blank.

This can be a problem. With no framework to work around, people can get lost trying to do everything and nothing at the same time. A blog heavy on graphics and tricked out with every possible web gadget, or trying to dazzle with some kind of theme or concept, just won't do.

In other words, if you find yourself thinking any of the following thoughts, you should slap yourself upside the head (in a friendly way):

  • "My blog will look like a slightly open lunchbox, and the sandwich will be my entries!"

  • "I love boats. My blog is a schooner, and you click the shark to go to my archive index page!"

  • "Sherlock Holmes rocks. My blog is a big magnifying glass, and the words are huge!"

  • "Everything on my blog will be backwards like Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks."

Actually, that last one's kind of cool—as long as your readers have a mirror they can hold up next to their screen.

It's okay to riff off a concept, but the key is to give yourself a certain set of parameters and stick within them. For example, let's say you have some Moorish tiles you pried off a wall at the Alhambra when you went to Spain (see Figure 1). Moorish tiles are beautiful, and you want your blog to be beautiful, too. Of course, because you are now cursed for life, this makes little difference. Nevertheless, we'll continue.

Figure 1Figure 1 Do not pry Moorish tiles from the walls of historic sites.

First, create your limitations. Tell yourself that you are going to have a simple graphic header, default underlined links, black text in a column under your header, and that's it for now. Then, pick out colors from the tiles—let's say they have orange, green, and blue.

If you can scan in the tiles, that's great. You can use them as the graphic element in your header. Reverse your blog title out of a 600-pixel-wide block or use a thin strip underneath the title. Make your title orange, your links blue, and your timestamps green. Put this all against a white background, and you'll have a clean, simple, museum-like blog with hints of Moorish colors and some tile work. Now you can blog your next trip to Spain in digital style. Of course, if your chosen blog topic is about flatscreen television technology, this design might be somewhat non sequitor. But hey, at least it's not a sandwich.

Figure 2 is an example of a bloggy site that makes dramatic use of simplicity. Lots of white space and a narrow column of gray text creates a page that at first glance doesn't look like it's really there. Readers are invited to lean closer and hear Jason Gurley whisper his unique, dialog entries. When visiting the subtle deeplyshallow.com, you get the feeling that you are sneaking around in someone's mind. Those who stay long enough to investigate are in for a treat.

Figure 2Figure 2 DeeplyShallow: "Simplicity is sexy."

A clean, easy-to-read blog will prove more usable and, in the long run, will attract more regular readers than a bloated design. Plus, with a simple, streamlined approach, you have less chance of browser incompatibility and errors. When it's time to design your blog, think simple. You can always add on later.

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