Blog design has really stalled. I’m not seeing that much innovation. At least, not on the surface of things.
Now, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a designer. The sites Jontus Media sells are always designed by Juanjo Montilla, who is awesome; however, I do find myself looking at site after site wondering where’s the difference? Where can we go from here?
If I take three of my favorite sites on the basis of quality content, Mark Schaefer’s Grow, Gini Dietrich’s SpinSucks and Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert, apart from the great content, there’s very little to differentiate them visually.
- a sidebar on the right.
- a video embedded in the sidebar.
- a collection of social media icons.
- a sign-up to get updates by email.
A few differences
Jay and Mark include brief bios in their sidebar, but that’s understandable because they’re independent consultants.
Mark and Gini have their social proof buttons in the sidebar, but Jay puts them at the bottom of the page in the footer.
Mark lists his archives by month, Jay lists a selection of “Greatest Hits” and Gini & Co have a blog roll (and I’m touched to be on that list!).
Gini and Jay include the Facebook widget whilst Mark doesn’t.
Mark and Jay both have affiliate banners, whilst Gini has a banner for the premium service SpinSucksPro.
So What Does This Mean?
My site pretty much does similar things so I’m not criticizing anything here; I’m observing that there’s a lot of uniformity out there. Why?
Why is there so much conformity amongst business bloggers?
Is it just a case of so-called Best Practice Blog Design? Does the design I’ve described above really work â€“ whatever that means? Or are we so used to blog + sidebar on the right format that no one will take a risk and do something different.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a sidebar on the left.
Being left-handed I *think* I have a tendency to read from right to left, if given the chance. I’ve often thought; Hmm, I’d like a sidebar on the left. All the same, I’ve never dared to because there’s so much standardization when it comes to blog design. Plus Juanjo has never come up with anything like that and I trust a designer when they tell me “sidebar’s on the right are the way to go”.
What Should a Newbie Business Blogger Go For?
Chances are that if you’re just getting started with your business and online marketing your blog is going to look pretty similar to my blog and those of Gini, Jay and Mark and all the other business bloggers out there. Sure, you might differentiate your site with a different colour, a slightly different order or selection of sidebar widgets, but essentially it will be the same.
And maybe it should. After all, if it’s too different, too unbusiness blog-like people it may distract people.
What Makes a Great Blog?
I never really listen to instructions on how to get from one place to another. Instead, I just use my GPS.
The same goes for blog design. Visitors to your site don’t want to search around for information. They just want to find it quickly. Or even sooner than that!
As well as a great structure, a great business blog will have a sense of balance. The sidebar shouldn’t be weighed down with too many obtrusive widgets, and the overall color scheme will fit like a hand in glove.
I do have one caveat though: I’m currently A/B testing whether a blue or red newsletter sign-up form works better at generating sign-ups. I don’t think the red is particularly balanced, but I’m testing what works.
What makes a business blog stand out from the crowd ultimately isn’t due to the success of the design. Sure, it’s part of it. But the main thing will always be content. Brilliant, creative content.
When investing time and energy in developing a business blog we’re happy to invest money. But time and significant resources must go into developing the content too.
So What’s Next?
Where does the business blog go from here? Where does the next design innovation come from?