How To Prevent Blog Bloat

In all my time blogging about how blogs are written and what the essance is regarding blogging. There is one thing I have yet to write about when it comes to blogging. It's an overlooked…thing. It's something that alot of us make mistakes on especially when we're new to the world of putting out lives out here online.

It's what I call "Layout Bloat" and it's just as important as the reasons you blog.

Layout bloat happens when we have this sudden urge to put everything we want right there in the main page of our blogs. It's understandable especially if you're blogging for the first time. I mean…seriously, who wants a dull looking blog which contains posts about our lives which we also think is dull looking?

None of us do which is why it's perfectly normal to do such a thing like that and end up with a sidebar full of cluttered stuff like a chatbox, your Flickr links, the never ending blogrolls and buttons and some really…weird…things. All that and not to mention how some people get a little carried away with their adsense and just plaster it all over their page like some spam blog on a coffee high.

It really defeats the purpose of blogging in the first place because it completely overwhelms the reader with information overload and the last thing you want is for a first time visitor to be his or hers last visit to your blog. The point is making a layout work for you has to has to first answer this one question.

What is the most important part of blogging?

I can tell you it's definitely not the sidebar or the ads.

It's the content and all that you blog about it. It doesn't matter whether or not you belong to the primary, secondary or tertiary blogosphere, the the most important part of your blog are the posts you write and because of that…everything your layout says…has to point to the content at hand. It's not the easiest thing in the world…but maybe I can give you a few ideas on what seems to work.

  1. Keep it simple – The hardest part in preventing layout bloat is definitely the urge to put down everything onto one page because when dealing with blogging applications like Blogger, you only have one page to put everything down, but that's not the point. If you can spread it out over a couple of pages, do it. Keep flashy animations that don't relate to the posts to a bare minimum. In fact, don't put it at all unless there is a point to it. A blog's like is about its posts. Don't make anything else seem more important.
  2. Ad when necessary – Unless you know that your blog is generating over 1000 hits a day and you got a steady stream of regular readers, there is no point in bombarding your blog with ads that serve no purpose but in shooing your readers away. PPC (pay per click) ads work when people click on them…not on how many ads you can actually stuff onto one page. Don't make this mistake. You might actually get MORE money with less ads than with more.
  3. Easy navigation – Spend time to understand a user friendly intuitive navigation. Depending on your blog, the reader might want to browse through your previous posts or have a quick glance to the most read or commented posts or just want to know what's being actively discussed at the moment. Having a detailed archive or an accessible search funtion or a reason to be interactive can make the difference between a one-time visitor and a repeated viewer.
  4. Practical Sidebars – No one cares for scrolling too much. Having sidebars that appear when needed or required helps maintain the interest of the reader to other parts of the blog (Example: Why would anyone need links to other blogs on their post pages?). Another way if your sidebar is too long and you have no other way of seperating the information out is to make them contractable and expandable when needed. Works best with an intuitive navigation and lets the reader focus on the post first before exploring the sidebar.
  5. Contrast colours – A rainbow coloured theme blog is harder to read than a blog that has about 2-3 colour themes. Stick with what works. A white background and black wordings unless you know what you're doing. Its easy on the eyes and focuses on the content again.
  6. Optimised Load Times – Highly overlooked and indirectly related. People who stuff in too many javascripts and large pictures don't usually get away with it. Keep load times under 20 seconds especially on dial-up and you won't alienate any more readers. People want to spend time reading what you wrote and if your load time is longer than it would take to read your posts. It's going to be a sure thing that first time readers won't be coming back any time soon.

Now I could go on and into cross browser compatibility and the perfect layout for blogs, but the point of all this is for you as a blogger to customise your own layout the way you're most comfortable with while putting the importance of the blog up out front. After all, if your posts are a reflection of who are, then think of the layout as your house and the way you arrange it tells a bit about who you are as well.

At the end of it all, make sure your content is king, because that's what being a blogger is all about. Putting your posts out there as a part of who you are and hopefully and eventually people will come back time and time again because of what you write.

That at least is better than the animated javascripts and gifs.

A whole lot better.

14 Comments

  • August 22, 2005 - 16:25 | Permalink

    Hitting the nail! Well said. Currently it looks as if there are many blogs that are simply totally overloaded with ads, and ads, and ad and more ads. Where is the text?

    It might be okay, if there is text, but sometimes, it is that those people just include a two-liner amongst all the ads. Argh. Thank you, but that is the way how you lose me as a reader.

    So you keep your blog as it is, because your style is great, you ahve to say something and there is not a single section in your blog that is “disturbing to the eye”

  • August 22, 2005 - 16:27 | Permalink

    so….how is my load time ? :P :P and how is my site for your 1,2,3,4 and 5 ?

  • August 22, 2005 - 16:40 | Permalink

    Andreas: In some cases, I actually prefer “noodle posts” to blog layouts choked full with things that have nothing to do with the blogs. I try really hard to make sure the layout is pretty streamlined to begin with. Not an easy thing to do as well because every bit I have to sacrifice is a bit I have to find a proper space for to place.

    Serge: What 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5?

  • August 22, 2005 - 17:19 | Permalink

    read your entry ..the number 1-6 ? does my site pass your criteris :D

  • August 22, 2005 - 17:45 | Permalink

    Haha…much better than your previous blog. That one was just…just…no words man. No words for that one. :)

  • August 22, 2005 - 19:55 | Permalink

    heh! reading your post, i thought there was a glitch in the matrix (i.e. deja vu). then i recalled that you commented similiarly at the PPS Blog. anyhoo, the very criteria that you mentioned were the very things i kept in consideration when designing it back it 2001. and it’s been ad free since back then too! heheh!

  • August 22, 2005 - 19:57 | Permalink

    by “designing it”, i meant my website. been a long day, forgive me for being densely warped. heh!

  • August 22, 2005 - 20:07 | Permalink

    Don’t worry man…we forgive you. Hehe. :) Yeah, I thought about it for a while and decided to expand that comment into a post by itself.

  • August 22, 2005 - 23:50 | Permalink

    …hence my never-ending search for the perfect layout (i can’t do design for nuts). i was so reluctant to let go of my previous layout simply cuz it’s cute, classy and really simple…although it looked a total mess on firefox.

  • August 23, 2005 - 02:44 | Permalink

    Great article and an issue which isn’t highlighted enough imo, love the theme of you blog too btw :)

  • August 23, 2005 - 05:23 | Permalink

    On the other hand, by the time I got to the bottom of your article over half your sidebar was blank and by the time I got past the comments about 75% of it was blank. I would assume that your main page situation would be similar with multiple posts and a fairly empty sidebar. Seems like some amount of balance may be the key, grasshopper. Considering the audience may be important also. I’ve read, and I’d take it with a grain of salt, that older people like a page with more whitespace and less graphics while younger people find those kind of pages boring.

    Good points though.

  • August 23, 2005 - 10:04 | Permalink

    Jax: By experience, there rarely is the perfect layout. The ones that are perfect are the ones that you eventually mod yourself to suit your own tastes. Which also means knowing how to code anyway.

    Kev: Thanks. It’s a customised Ocadia theme from WordPress. Took me a hell of a long time to get it right as well not to mention getting the validation set straight.

    Tom: You have a point though about target age of viewers and amount of “graphics” present. My problem wouldn’t be about the sidebar then, as I highlighted in the post that since the posts are what should attract people. Pictures or ads if any should be contained within the post itself to prevent the sense of monotonous moments. That way the reader would always be focused on the post and not anywhere else until they finish.

  • Pingback: 31 Days to Building a Better Blog - Day 22: Blog Tips - ProBlogger

  • Jay
    August 24, 2005 - 02:07 | Permalink

    Hey there. i’m interested and fairly new to the blogging experience really. do you know a good place which i can find information on how to blog effectively? and i do mean serious blogging with ads, et al. i know you are a busy person, but i would appreciate if you could help me out here. My emails, fabricless_writer@hotmail.com. Thanks!

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>