The last few weeks have seen some very high profile bloggers do some major redesigns on their blog themes. First we saw Darren from Pro Blogger completely revamping his blog. And today John Chow has finally ditched the “Misty Look” theme for a classy new professional theme.
What can beginning bloggers take from some of the design decisions that these pros have made?
Overall Impression – I am a fan of the new Pro Blogger theme. I think it’s crisp and modern and makes use of some innovative features.
Landing Page – The new look Pro Blogger makes use of a landing page. What this means is that when you go to the home page of Pro Blogger you are taken to a page with all sort of links and information about his site instead of to the actual blog itself. The reason why this is great for Pro Blogger is that Darren has a huge archive with lots of great articles. It is a real resource for anyone interested in blogging, and using the homepage to promote all that archival content is a great way to get extra hits on not only new content, but all the content he has created over the last few years. So if you have a well established blog, using a landing page like Pro Blogger may be a great idea, however for a beginning blogger it’s probably not going to be the best idea.
Massive Footer – Pro blogger has a huge page footer, which has been a trend in blogging of late. The footer on pro blogger is so large that it fills the entire screen of my wide screen laptop. A footer is a great place to have content that is useful for your established readers. So I wouldn’t recommend advertisements. It is on the bottom of every page in your blog, so you want it to contain navigational content, categories, maybe some plugin content with various lists of recent comments or top commenter’s.
Featured Post – The landing page of Pro Blogger has in a key spot a section called featured post. I think this is a great way of promoting an article you are particularly proud of or think is very good or important. This article from Max Limpag will show you how to use categories, to manipulate your WordPress blogs layout so you can have a feature article, however it requires some expertise.
Color Scheme – The new color scheme on Pro Blogger is crisp and modern. It is consistent throughout the site, and I think it works very well.
Logo – The new Pro Blogger logo is a point of discussion. I think it is okay, but not great. It uses the color scheme of the blog and makes good use of fonts. Where I feel it is weak, is that it would look average without the color, or if it was very small. A classic logo should look good in black and white, and should also look good small or large. I don’t think the new logo quite pulls this off. It’s just a minor criticism, of what is overall a great new theme.
Overall Impression – I think the designer of John Chow dot Com has done a great job. It is quite a different approach to Pro Blogger, however, it is still very good design.
Above the fold – The key space above the fold of the page when you load the site has no actual article content, instead it promotes subscriptions, his free Ebook, Popular articles and various money making programs. This is like an equivalent to Pro Blogger’s landing page, as it directs visitors of the site to key content.
Still with the Super Car – It wouldn’t be John Chow dot com if it didn’t have a ridiculous super car image filling key space in the header of the site. The Famous Pagani Zonda is still there, however this time the new photo is smaller. Why I think this is important is that it’s a trade mark of John’s Blog. You want users to remember your blog, and I think the super car is John’s way of reminding return users that they have been to his blog before.
Crisp Color Scheme – I think the site makes good use of color and is consistent throughout. It is very modern and I am a big fan of the overall look of the site.
I think it is a good idea to keep an eye on what these very successful bloggers are doing. Often they set trends which others follow. However, it is important to remember that what works for them isn’t always going to work for you. Both John Chow and Pro Blogger have huge readerships, and are well established, which not only gives them the budget for such great design work, it also gives them the authority to influence what is considered good and what isn’t.