Intro

The death of the boring blog post?

Let’s face it: the classic blog post is boring.

Barring the text and images, each one generally has the exact same layout. We see little originality from one post to the next. Of course, consistency and branding are extremely important to consider when designing a website or blog, but what about individuality? Does a blog post about kittens deserve the same layout as one about CSS hacks?

Standard Blogs in Death of the blog post

Too Easy?

Jason1 in Death of the blog post1

Because installing a WordPress theme is so easy, anyone can have a blog up and running in minutes. While this is great, and we now have a wealth of blogs on countless topics, perhaps it’s too easy? Just thinking about the endless hours of effort that a print designer puts into creating the custom layout of a magazine article makes one respect the finished product so much more.

A few individuals out there, though, are really breaking the mold of the blogosphere.

Dustin1 in Death of the blog post2

These guys aren’t using standard WordPress themes or cutting corners to make their lives easier. Rather, they are challenging themselves and producing some fantastic content.

Pushing yourself to create original layouts and designs customized to the content of each post is a fascinating and entertaining way to build a blog.

Greg1 in Death of the blog post3

But why has this trend of melding blog post and magazine article, the “blogazine,” not caught on with the masses?

The <cringe>Trend</cringe> with a difference

Hearing the word “trend” makes us designers shudder because we picture overused glossy buttons, drop-shadows and reflections. But the blogazine trend could be unlike other trends for a few special reasons. Designing a creative layout for each new blog post, based on the content itself, requires skill, patience, dedication to the content and, most of all, effort on the part of the designer!

Let’s now look at three people who exhibit all four qualities:

Pioneers Arrow in Death of the blog post

The Pioneers

Jason Santa Maria4

is one of the early innovators of this style of blogging and has been creating custom blog post designs since June 2008. With a background in print design, Jason had a vision to create a blog more in the style of a magazine, rather than obey the established rules of blog design.

While, yes, this is a redesign of sorts, I consider it much more a rethinking.

~ Jason Santa Maria

Jason Work in Death of the blog post5

Jason’s blog posts are fascinating and cover a wide range of topics, including design, typography, books, photography and film. The differences in the designs are sometimes just subtle changes in background or typography, but each conveys an entirely distinct message that it couldn’t if it was uniform with the rest.

Sometimes the changes are radical, but every one still has an element of “Jason-ness.” The header and footer are usually consistent, but even without them, you can still tell a Jason Santa Maria post from a quick glace.

We’ve made so many advancements in how we publish content that we haven’t looked back to what it is we’re actually creating. Many of us see the clear separation between things like print design and web design, but I’ve really been questioning the reality of why things are this way.

~ Jason Santa Maria

We Web designers don’t want to be regarded as lazy. Do we?

We have some of the

most creative and inspiring designers

in our profession, so why don’t we show our true potential in our blog articles?

Dustin Curtis6

got a lot of publicity with his open letter to American Airlines7, in which he suggests a dramatic redesign and rethinking of its online customer experience. The articles on Dustin’s blog are incredibly fascinating, and this user experience designer has clearly put serious thought into each one.

Dustin Airline in Death of the blog post8

I got the chance to speak with Dustin about his work:

Dustin Brain in Death of the blog post9
What prompted you to create a “blogazine” instead of a traditional blog?

I’m never satisfied with my work. Invariably, two weeks after finishing a design, I feel like I can do better. When I originally tried to design my blog, I kept finishing a design, hating it and starting over. This happened ten or twelve times until I finally gave up. Eventually, I realized that each post could stand on its own and be its own design that fit the content. Despite the holdbacks of HTML and CSS, it has worked much better than I had even anticipated.

Does having a blogazine really boost your creativity when it comes to creating a post?

The blogazine style does seem to boost creativity, and by a huge amount. I feel an intense amount of freedom when I’m not constrained by the box of a pre-formed design. I can open Photoshop and use it as a word processor with design functionality. The design really does complement — and become — the content, because they are built simultaneously, without regard for any of the other stuff on the website.

I feel an intense amount of freedom when I’m not constrained by the box of pre-formed design.

Dustin Twitter in Death of the blog post10

Where do you get your inspiration for your blog articles?

I get inspiration from everywhere. I’m fascinated by medicine and the human brain. So many of my articles center on interesting things that I’ve learned while studying neuroscience. Sometimes I’ll start with a single word, like “sleep,” and develop it into a whole article as I research the fringes of the field. There’s really no set source of inspiration.

Advantages?
Disadvantages?

The main advantage is one I didn’t anticipate. Doing a blogazine article requires a lot more work than a traditional blog post, and that has kept me on my toes; because such a large investment is required, I publish only what I feel are my best articles.

The biggest disadvantage is that CSS and HTML are terrible technologies that weren’t designed for page layout. They were designed for structured content presentation, like for a newspaper, where all the elements throughout the website are the same and are re-used. But I’m trying to make a magazine, where the content and presentation are inextricably mixed and unique. The way presentation CSS is supposed to be decoupled from the content HTML is totally counter to the mission I am trying to accomplish, and it makes coding the articles frustrating, messy and time-consuming.

This seems to keep the quality fairly high. I start four or five articles for every one I publish. If I had a normal blog, that wouldn’t be the case — the other four articles would be published too, even though they wouldn’t be as good as the ones I do end up publishing.

My solution to this problem has basically been to ignore convention and use inline styling for most of the presentation code and extract the website-wide presentation layer into a separate CSS document. This takes forever and is not ideal. To put it lightly, I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with CSS.

What if a print magazine

used the same template for every article?

It would be pretty boring, no?

Gregory Wood11

is a website designer at Erskine Design12 and has created his website as an experiment in art direction. Not allowing himself to use the same old templates, Greg has created a fascinating website, with custom designs for each blog post.

Greg Work in Death of the blog post13

Here’s what Greg had to say when I spoke with him:

Greg Interview in Death of the blog post14
What prompted you to create a blogazine instead of a traditional blog?

Well, I’ve had a blog for ages and have always been bad at keeping it regularly updated, until I custom-designed a few of the posts sometime last year. I generally hate writing about Web-related stuff (I find it all a little boring), and I love designing, so I wrote about what I wanted (music and zombies) and designed each post around the content, although still housed in my old blog layout. The reception to the posts was really nice, and I enjoyed creating them, so for my latest website I set out to cater to that same audience and keep myself happily occupied at the same time.

Does having a blogazine really boost your creativity when it comes to creating a post?

I wouldn’t say it boosts my creativity; the website is more of an outlet for it. Despite spending all week being creative at Erskine Design15, it’s still quite liberating to design whatever you want, however you want, with no external influence.

Because it’s all nicely designed, readers are drawn in and end up reading more than one post.

Where do you get your inspiration for your blog articles?

Usually I think of my best ideas when cycling or sitting on a tram or bus. It’s been a big thing on the Web over the years, where you get your inspiration from, and I’ve never really understood it. I think that looking at other people’s work all the time for inspiration is massively constricting. I find staring out a window for a while usually helps.

Advantages?
Disadvantages?

The obvious advantage is that it looks better. But the content is infinitely more captivating as well. I’m not a great writer, and I probably write a lot of bullshit, but because it’s all nicely designed, readers are drawn in and end up reading more than one post. It’s also very fun to create and helps me grow as a designer.

I guess some would say the time factor is a disadvantage, but if you love doing something, spending a lot of time doing it is justified.

I can’t think of any disadvantages.

The Microblogging Revolution

Twitter16, Posterous17, Flickr18, Facebook19, the iPhone20 and countless other services make it incredibly easy for us to instantly post short musings, photos, video, thoughts and creations, which in turn has created a big gap between the micro post and the macro post.

Time for the macro post to shine

Longer blog posts with valuable content might not get the recognition they deserve, because the 140-character mindset turns people off of reading several pages of text. One way to combat this and make your content more appealing is by creatively altering the layout, using the blogazine technique.

Bridging the gap

We don’t know exactly where the world of blogging is headed in the next few years, but the increase in micro-blogging will definitely be a strong influence. Shorter attention spans call for drastic changes to the length of blog posts. Blogazines could cater to a generation accustomed to the longer articles of newspapers and magazines, becoming a bridge between the traditional article and the TwitPic.

Forces you to think more creatively

Slipping into the habit of typing up your thoughts and clicking “Post,” without thinking about the layout of each article, is easy. By taking a little extra time for the art of blogging, your creativity will increase with your efforts.

Something different and exciting for your readers

If .Net21 or Computer Arts22 printed every article with the same layout, every month, would you still subscribe? Your readers would more likely return for new articles if they anticipate something new and rewarding.

Reduces the number of short simple posts

Your blog posts will have much more weight if you take the time to create a full article, rather than knock of a rushed post.

Makes wordy posts more readable

If all you have is text, text, text, then people will be less likely to read it. Put a little effort into styling the content, and your post will become much more readable.

It takes serious effort

Hand-crafting each blog post won’t be easy, but the rewards will be well worth it.

You need CSS and HTML experience

Anyone can download a WordPress theme and merrily post an article. But building a custom layout requires some experience with CSS and HTML.

Inconsistency

The layout of your blog will change dramatically from post to post and, if not done right, may strike your readers as being awkwardly inconsistent. Just look at Jason Santa Maria’s work. Every post is radically different for a reason, but a consistent vein runs through the posts.

No print layout experience

Because this style borrows many elements from print design, anyone who has worked only in Web design may find it difficult to change their way of thinking. Rules of typography and white space, for example, may throw you off. But practice makes perfect, and an endless supply of inspiration can be found in creative magazines.

Foryou Question in Death of the blog post

Obviously this style isn’t suitable for every website. It wouldn’t be practical for blogs that pump out three or four articles a day, but certain types of websites could benefit from it especially.

Portfolios

We have a habit of following trends very easily, especially in our portfolios. Instead of following the tired old practice of positioning screenshots of your work in a nice grid one after the other, why not use the blogazine technique and design a fresh page for each project according to the subject, client and color scheme?

Online Shops

Many online shops suffer from a certain blandness, following the pattern of: thumbnail grid, name, short description and then pagination.

This layout may be good for usability, but there is a middle ground between scannability and visual appeal.

The design changes do not have to be dramatic. In fact, drastically changing the layout would not be advisable for online stores.

But perhaps even subtle changes to design elements could give your online shop the distinction that makes it more noticeable?

CSS Galleries

A new CSS gallery seems to pop up every day, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between all of them. While some of the higher-profile examples like SiteInspire23 are fantastic for gaining inspiration, the constant influx of CSS galleries makes the inclusion of your own design in one of them somewhat less of an achievement.

It would be interesting to see a really high-class CSS gallery adopt the blogazine technique, with a custom page made for each worthy website, using large high-quality images instead of the typical screenshots.

The websites in a CSS gallery are not all about the same topic and do not have the same style or same content, so why should they receive the same treatment and same type of screenshot?

Merely for consistency?

Think about a painting that is worthy of being displayed in an art gallery. Should it be given the same treatment, cut to the same size, positioned the same way? Why do we treat gallery-worthy websites this way, then?

Quiet Blogs

Bloggers often lack the motivation to keep their blog running. Many of them feel they have to keep it fresh by updating it every day, and failing to meet their own expectations results in both frustration and a neglected blog.
Updating a blog daily isn’t ideal, and more often than not…

seven half-hearted articles a week does not equal one very polished, interesting article.

RSS readers are jam-packed with articles every day, and chances are, the articles that don’t get your full attention will get lost in the crowd. Keep your short musings and thoughts for Posterous and Twitter, and spend some real time hand-crafting well-thought-out articles. You’ll satisfy both yourself and your readers.

Look at Jason24, Dustin25 and Greg26. They do not blog that often: sometimes once a week, sometimes once a month. But the quality is always stellar.

Conclusion Title in Death of the blog post

You have endless possibilities to be more creative with your blog. Why stay tied down to one theme and one layout when you can experiment with your skills and push your creativity to its limit with a blogazine? With the Internet suffocating with blogs, people have developed incredibly short attention spans, and they probably won’t stop for your content if you have “just another blog.”

Why not throw away the blogging rule book and make your articles stand out from the crowd?

Paddy Donnelly46 is an irish UX designer, blogger47 and interviewer48 living in Belgium. He’s currently working on his own Blogazine49 and you can follow him on Twitter50

Fin in Death of the blog post

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://jasonsantamaria.com
  2. 2 http://dustincurtis.com
  3. 3 http://gregorywood.co.uk
  4. 4 http://jasonsantamaria.com
  5. 5 http://jasonsantamaria.com
  6. 6 http://dustincurtis.com
  7. 7 http://dustincurtis.com/dear_american_airlines.html
  8. 8 http://dustincurtis.com/dear_american_airlines.html
  9. 9 http://dustincurtis.com/a-tour-of-my-brain.html
  10. 10 http://dustincurtis.com/you_should_follow_me_on_twitter.html
  11. 11 http://gregorywood.co.uk
  12. 12 http://erskinedesign.com/
  13. 13 http://gregorywood.co.uk/journal/top-5-amiga-games
  14. 14 http://gregorywood.co.uk/journal/top-5-reasons-to-learn-to-dive
  15. 15 http://erskinedesign.com
  16. 16 http://twitter.com
  17. 17 http://posterous.com
  18. 18 http://flickr.com
  19. 19 http://facebook.com
  20. 20 http://apple.com/iphone
  21. 21 http://www.netmag.co.uk/
  22. 22 http://computerarts.co.uk
  23. 23 http://siteinspire.net
  24. 24 http://jasonsantamaria.com
  25. 25 http://dustincurtis.com
  26. 26 http://gregorywood.co.uk
  27. 27 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/2168000/
  28. 28 http://answers.polldaddy.com
  29. 29 http://jasonsantamaria.com/articles/a-new-day/
  30. 30 http://jackcheng.com/
  31. 31 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/art-direction/
  32. 32 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/art-direction/
  33. 33 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/art-direction/
  34. 34 http://metalabdesign.com/zappos/
  35. 35 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  36. 36 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  37. 37 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  38. 38 http://dustincurtis.com/about.html
  39. 39 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  40. 40 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  41. 41 http://github.com/ionfish/designate/
  42. 42 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  43. 43 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-post-styling/
  44. 44 http://vimeo.com/4394152
  45. 45 http://www.flickr.com/photos/shauninman/tags/si10/
  46. 46 http://iampaddy.com
  47. 47 http://blog.iampaddy.com
  48. 48 http://blog.iampaddy.com/interviews/
  49. 49 http://iampaddy.com
  50. 50 http://twitter.com/paddydonnelly
Advertising
  1. 1

    You can see that you created sth. really unique and creative if the envy-badgers come out of their holes, flaming at your comment section.

    THUMBS UP!

    0
    • 252

      WOW, this really has made me seriously think. @ Jognnie, DEFINITELY a thumbs up. But along with the creative thing…I mean what if you have the typical 2 column (main left column – right sidebar) layout…isn’t it just a tad hard to do something like that? And if you’re on wordpress…then wouldn’t it be even harder? Idk, just wondering. But I REALLLY like this post though :) I definitely plan to try to implement something like this soon.

      0
  2. 503

    I found this very inspirational. Thanks for the take on convention vs. innovation.

    0
    • 754

      Because my creativity doesn’t extend far past drawing stick-people, these blogs are awe-inspiring. I like SM’s “tribute” post. Well done.

      If I tried emulating such creativity, I’d publish twice, maybe thrice a year.

      There’s got to be a middle ground; somewhere between template repetition adnausium and singular unique creativity. Damning stick figures, we’ve been trying to find it since 2004, on our randsco website.

      However, my hat is off to this talented trio!

      0
  3. 1005

    What a load of crap.

    0
    • 1256

      @max: Let’s see your site, douche.

      0
    • 1758

      Not only are you apparently behind the times, but you love to clearly show off why. Hope you can catch up to the rest of us soon enough! Or then again that archaic thinking of yours might have already done you in!

      0
    • 2009

      Wait, what? Is a different opinion considered as being behind?

      0
    • 2260

      I don’t agree with this choice of words, but do agree with the message.

      I found this article so incredibly hard to read that I actually skipped to the end when I reached half way. It’s horrible to have to get used to a new formatting every three paragraphs and it totally missed the point. You’d think that formatting should complement the content, not distract from it.

      Like people remark in other comments (below), this is only useful if you publish for people with an interest in alternative web design, not for people who have other interests. And to be honest, I’d say that even the regular SM reader isn’t sointerested in this ‘alternative web design’ that it is worth your trouble to design an article like this, and not worth our trouble to wrestle through the paragraphs.

      I suggest not doing this ever again, or providing an option to read the same content in the regular formatting depending on the reader’s preferences.

      By the way, I am under the impression that the three designers you mention get the idea of ‘blogazines’ a lot better than you do, as their layouts are a lot easier on the eyes and actually complement the content. In this manner I am all for individually styled blog posts; please don’t style individual paragraphs of the same blog post though!

      0
      • 2511

        Wilbur Like Smith

        November 25, 2009 9:57 am

        Totally agree with Ohcyt above

        0
      • 2762

        > I suggest not doing this ever again, or providing an option to read the same content in the regular formatting depending on the reader’s preferences.
        Disable css…

        0
      • 3013

        I agree with Ohcyt completely!! What ever happened to content is king? This was just distracting, and all about design… In essence, you made me think too much… It should be a balance of not just design, but content aswell! And I stopped reading here….

        –>What if a print magazine used the same template for every article?
        It would be pretty boring, no?–

        This statement is true, yes, but it’s print… I’m pretty sure everyone knows print and web are two different things. I say stick to what works, but still find your creativity within what works!

        0
      • 3264

        I say this is a very nice post.

        “…but still find your creativity within what works!”

        @ Jarvis88: very well said.

        0
      • 3515

        I have to agree with Ohcyt and this camp. Blogs are distinctly different beasts than print magazines and articles. And while new and fresh designs can be wondrous treats when well-designed and relevant, this post unfortunately seems to serve as a less shining example of the practice as… well, a new trend. That’s not to say that I don’t think people should push the boundaries of traditional design and expectations. But rather, when you take a chance and break the ‘rules,’ you just as often risk making things worse. Of course, traditionally designed ‘templated’ blogs and sites can be poorly designed as well, but back to the the issue of trends, just because it’s new and different, doesn’t necessarily make it better.

        *All the same, while I don’t think this page layout quite ‘works,’ kudos to the author/designer for taking a stab at this.

        0
  4. 3766

    This was an extremely interesting article. I honestly had never considered using print layout in a web setting as my mind had set the two apart. Perhaps from the culture of web design or simply my lack of print experience. This has given me many ideas about the direction of the blog I intend to create.

    Great work.

    0
    • 4017

      I completely agree, and I think this is one of the points of the articles. Print design is very different to web design. You don’t have the limitations of browser ‘quirks’, font availability, screen resolution, etc and so you find a freedom is opened up to you.

      That being said, print design doesn’t necessarily work well in a web environment, but I feel there are enough examples of excellent layout techniques around that it is worthy of being tried, if nothing more as a challenge to your normal day to day posts. Love it or hate it, I think the Apple website uses a strong print layout design to showcase their products, and it works really well! Will that work for blogging? I don’t see why not.

      @Ohcyt mentioned that SM readers are generally here for the content, and that the ‘alternate design’ is not what they are so interested in. I would like to disagree, I think SM is about making us aware, as a community, about whats out there, what the trends are, inspire us to bigger and better things, and give us the tools and teaching to be able to achieve that. So I think this sort of post is exactly why I check in regularly to see what’s going on.

      Everyone should take on the challenge. Don’t let the mediocre design, browser ‘quirks’ and client preconceptions dictate what we are each capable of achieving, if only we tried something different once in a while. Push the boundaries, try something new, and deliver that knock-out blow to the competition that makes you stand out from the rest, just like SM does.

      Keep up the great work all!

      0
  5. 4268

    Hideous. The point of blogging is to design for your reader, not for your own crazy designing pleasure. If a normal (non designer) were to read this, they would puke.

    0
    • 4519

      Nope. Not a designer. Loved it. Could not stop reading.

      We aren’t talking about scientific papers here, but something that’s supposed to be interesting and keep your attention.

      Perhaps the simple minded (such as yourself) can’t get behind it. That’s ok. Carry on with your stock wordpress template.

      0
    • 4770

      I think the idea is great for designers that like to experiment, but it tends to be “too much” for web designers used to think in structure and consistency.

      Whereas the “normal” reader will love this. If there is one thing we know from the terrible old gif-mania, myspace and the hideous stuff that tends to happen to everything when you let people with no design experience a lot of freedom designing stuff, then that is:
      The regular reader and internet surfer likes overly customized stuff, and doesn’t give half as much a crap on consistency like a designer does. So yes, this is a great idea, and it is certainly appealing to people.

      There is only one big question to ask: is it worth the work? A print magazine can afford spending time on the design of one article, because every single copy is going to be sold to the reader. Not putting up this effort would not justify selling it.
      If you’re blog has a big audience, if you are trend-setting or mind-setting in your industry, this effort might pay off. But a blog with ~200 readers won’t generally take benefit from putting so much work into customized presentation, as the writing itself might already take more time than you’d like to invest and cost you a lot of dedication.

      So maybe the world is still waiting for a solid CMS that makes use of the great user interface technologies in a smart way, to help people achieve more customized designs? ‘Cause a print magazine wouldn’t probably be so interesting and well designed if the designers had to code it, and wouldn’t be able to drag stuff around and put it together as they like?

      -1
      • 5021

        I understand the point, but also have a question: don’t you think that the reason for having only 200 readers could exactly be the fact that there’s not enough work on it. If you leverage your work by middle standards, you will never get more them… middle numbers. And this works not only for blog design!

        0
      • 5272

        I totally agree with you on the fact that it might not be worth it to invest a lot of time and energy in designing a blog if you are not a major trendsetter or ambitious leading designer, as the writing itself maybe consumes a lot of resources already. And then you get to the question what is better: publish the content without the custom design or do not publish it at all?

        0
      • 5523

        Meh, if you plan well, only the first post would take so much time to design this way. Since you do want some consistency, what you’d do is build a library of reusable styles, and so each subsequent post would benefit from the previous posts’ CSS classes, and the process would get faster and faster.

        Having said that, sure, if you’re doing custom illustrations, that takes time.

        0
    • 5774

      Well, the same happens with the print industry: newspapers, and especially magazines, are designed for their readers. But this doesn’t mean that its content has to be displayed in a dull way. There are lots of magazines, books, and even newspapers designed in such a creative way that doesn’t affect the readability of its content. In fact, it provides a much better experience to the reader and gives a new life to its content.

      0
    • 6025

      I tend to agree with you, I started reading the post got to the half of it and felt my stomach screaming.
      More than that, on such large posts white text on black background is bad for the eyes.

      He is very talented, I agree, but a blog post is a blog post. You read the post to get information not to be distracted by all kinds of different artworks playing with the writing.

      0
    • 6276

      God this is the first time i read such a long blog post. why ? because not only the content was interesting, but the styling for each paragraph is awesome i couldn’t stop reading till finish !!
      Can’t wait to make one of my own ..

      thanks SM for publishing such a GREAT article ! one of the best i read at SM !

      0
    • 6527

      @Alex
      > If a normal (non designer) were to read this, they would puke.

      Dizziness, lol

      0
  6. 6778

    I found this post to be very interesting. It seems to me this would be a new and engaging way to deliver content to users.

    0
  7. 7029

    WOW I’d love to know how long it took to do the CSS for this…while this is a very awesome layout…it’s not practical for people with…jobs. I barely have time to publish my once daily blog posts that I spend at least an hour everyday. How am I supposed to spend 4-5 hours mocking up and coding something like this AND get work done?

    0
    • 7280

      I think this looks great, but I am with Amber. Even if I knew how to code at this level, the time wouldn’t be there. Nevertheless, in certain situations as you mention, this approach would work fantastic.

      0
    • 7531

      Read the article again, this technique is clearly not for daily bloggers.

      0
  8. 7782

    …Simply delicious !

    0
  9. 8033

    This is just amazing……. I don’t even know how we can try to stand out from the rest doing all the same kind of blogs and websites.

    0
  10. 8535

    This is a great topic and I will definitely give this a second look next time I write a blog post.

    0
  11. 8786

    Besides making your eyes jump horizontally, which is more an annoyance than a break from usability, the biggest web typography crime this article committed was making non-links look like links. Dustin Curtis has done the same thing too. It’s annoying at best and infuriating at worst.

    If some text is special, make it bold or italic. If you do either of those, then heck, switch up the color (but not to blue!). Enough sites eschew underlines for their hyperlinks in favor of differently-color text of the same weight (or bold I suppose). The flow of the article suffered for me because I was hovering over text that looked link-like and being disappointed so much.

    Neat idea and almost well-done. I agree that it’s impractical — content is king, and people read blog content in their RSS readers. This works for JSM and other designers because their audience is designers. On a non-design-blog site, the ROI would be awful for custom-designed articles and there would be a huge risk of diluting their brand and destroying their site’s usability. Like all design gimmicks, use this sparingly.

    0
  12. 9037

    I am simply astounded by how often the word BORING shows up. If you find yourself bored all the time, here’s a clue: grow up and stop expecting the world to entertain you.

    Sayyyyy, maybe YOU are the boring one?!?

    0
  13. 9288

    Great post…love the thinking. Reminds me of a book i have on my coffee table called The Art of Looking Sideways.

    0
  14. 9539

    This is a terrible idea. No branding, no consistency. This promotes nothing but confusion.

    0
    • 9790

      Provocative post–inspiring many comments! Some interesting ideas and layout options, but in this post, there was too much. I agree @LA, it was distracting and made the piece seem like many pieces stitched together badly.

      I like innovation and change. Still, I wonder if the blog post is boring. Newspaper articles looked the same for decades. Are we now in need of change every two years?

      Also, I’d like to scroll right on a piece like this one–instead of down–maybe a new scroll wheel on my mouse would help? Scroll ?

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  15. 10041

    ok, amazing post…!!!
    well done sm !

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  16. 10292

    Mmmm….tasty. This has me pondering and salivating all at the same time…

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  17. 10543

    I did not enjoy reading this post and never finished it.
    Why? The layout was terrible, it was all over the place, I couldn’t even do a quick skim through. I have a large 23″ wide screen and the fonts in this post were just way too large and the text was all over the place; not to mention how some images were larger than the screen – could never see some of the images “whole” – in one screen, I had to keep scrolling up and down to view some of the images.

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    • 10794

      Dude you´re tripping , I see it fine on a 17″ monitor.

      0
    • 11045

      Word. While I think there are interesting points, this article was just simply impossible to read. :(

      0
    • 11296

      I read this on a 13 inch Macbook while laying on the sofa AND I’m not wearing my contacts which makes it obvious that this post was awesomely readable. Sure go ahead and hate all you want, but don’t say images are too big and text was unreadable when it’s obviously and utterly false. To add insult to injury my Safari tab is not even maximized and I can see ALL the images and read ALL the text super easily even without glasses.

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      • 11547

        A huge part of the problem doing something like this is that you are ALL right.

        Not only are you all using different devices, like everyone else who accesses the internet from whatever part of the world, your browser is set up the way you want want (or the way the techie who sets up your browser for you wants). Because of this, your clearly defined fonts, say, or text sizes, or background colours or whatever, is set to your chosen default, when the web design imposes their idea it can create conflicts, and cause divergences.

        So although Paddy Donnelly has put together a nice article to present an interesting idea, he has come up against the essential problem encountered with all web design: you can be wildly creative and break the mold every time, but if you do that you are going to sacrifice accessibility.

        Because if you want everyone who comes to your page to actually be able to access your content, you will have to spend hours testing it out on every browser and screen size available– from the tiniest cel phone to the widest of the widescreens.

        My screen is 1680pixels wide, and it is lovely to look at this blog post. It’s nice to see all of my screen real estate put to use. But.

        Paddy’s not bothered to make his wondrous beastie flexible at all. He has not elected to use either an elastic or flexible layout. I know this by employing the absolutely most basic test– shrinking my browser window to an 800 pixels width — whereupon the layout breaks badly. 800 pixel wide used to be standard screen size, and is probably still most common world wide.

        This tells me that Mr. Donnelly’s only satisfied audience are those with the same screen size as his. Anyone employing an 800 pixel wide screen could conceivably be driven mad trying to read a post of this length. With an 800 pixel screen width the reader is forced to pop back and forth across the screen like a ping pong ball.

        I despair of all the incredibly talented designers who create websites and blogs without any care for accessibility. It is not impossible, but It is hard to do, but you first need to master the tools and the theory. And then you have to do twice as much work and a lot of testing.

        Which of course explains why shortcuts like themes are employed. For myself, I’m perfectly happy redesigning someone else’s template (or “theme”) to function the way I need it to function, until I’ve the time to learn how to make my own. But I really see no benefit to doing the design and then the endless hours of testing in order to make the layout unique every time.

        But then, I’m old fashioned, because I want people to actually read my blog.

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  18. 11798

    SUPER DUPER COOL!
    Very inspiring idea!
    I’d like to try my own blogazine
    soon after I finish my CSS and HTML lesson.

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  19. 12049

    Great read. A lot of debate possible on both sides… Websites don’t have the tactile existence to a user that a mag has. The brand, per say stands to get lost if you scroll down to far and don’t design with that in mind.

    The CSS thing could be a pain. WordPress could adapt to this with a stylesheet field right under the heading.

    Otherwise, as another designer who started in editorial newsprint… I love to see this and needed a push in that direction.

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  20. 12300

    Great article, congrats

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  21. 12551

    this is the worlds best post.

    0
    • 12802

      ABSOLUTELY! I couldn’t agree more!

      I would like to know, if he has a customfield for a new css-file for every post. Do anyone know about how this is done, technologically-wise?

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  22. 13053

    I appreciate the vision but RSS was created for a reason.

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  23. 13304

    It really depends…

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  24. 13555

    Well – that certainly came out of the blue, and I certainly agree that ‘top 10 lists’ or similar posts are perhaps a little easy. I’ve been guilty of writing such posts myself.

    The individuality of posts like Jason Santa Maria’s are very interesting and often inspiring.

    Let’s not forget that the content is king; if the writing is of poor quality, then I won’t be reading, just looking.

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  25. 13806

    I agree with harris…

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  26. 14057

    Wow, so many comments in such a short time! Anyway Paddy, awesome work. Love the out-of-the-box approach.

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  27. 14308

    The content of the article was sound, the execution was terrible. I have not seen so many information hierarchy rules broken on one page in my life. Poor form SM

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  28. 14559

    Interesting thing – to use blogazine approach, we already have a bunch of tools like, say iWeb (simple, but you can combine easyiness of layout manipulation with power of custom themes and less HTML/CSS nightmares, especially, if you are not professional designer), or others – there are variants for different platforms.

    You can even made a good post about using blogazine approach for unprofessional designers by using such kind of software :-)

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  29. 14810

    Awesome! This was the best post I’ve read on here, and I’m a huge fan of the site. The article kept my attention the WHOLE way through, where everything else I read online I skim and scan down. Way to get your point across!

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  30. 15061

    This is brilliant stuff, and although I’m sort of scared about the extra work I feel this is where blogs will go in the future. There’ll surely be plenty that stick with the current format, and they’ll still succeed for sure, but it does seem sort of silly in hindsight that blogs, one of the most dynamic forms of media on the most dynamic platform in the world (the internet) have totally identical page layouts.

    I won’t be making the switch just yet, I’m not incredibly capable with CSS and XHTML, and should probably research print design, but this’ll really help push towards my dream of being less frequent with my writing, but packing a bigger punch with each post.

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  31. 15312

    So what you are advocating is a return to the efforts we used to make with personal sites 10 years ago.

    0
    • 15563

      Bingo. Kelake hit the nail on the head. I suppose the next SM post will be attempting to bring back the blink tag and news tickers?

      0
      • 15814

        You guys need to read the post again. Look for the part where Paddy recommends that every blogger should be doing this. I couldn’t find it.

        For design-conscience bloggers that feel restricted by the lack of variety though, this is gold! Awesome post SM, this has got me salivating as well.

        My take on this would probably be to start with custom stylings for the different categories on my site, and once I’m satisfied it’s working out move to an individual styling for each post.

        Also, a good idea could be to provide an alternative CSS style (which would be your standard blog layout) with a link: “Click here to see this post in our standard formatting” or something similar, at the top of the post. Those users with no tolerance for anything different than Times New Roman at 12 points with blue hyperlinks will be satisfied, and those users who appreciate effort and quality can get their kicks too.

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  32. 16065

    Outstanding. There’s nothing else to say.

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  33. 16316

    By incorporating design to visually convey information and ideas, you increase the possibility that your reader will understand what you’re trying to say. It’s also an exercise in improving your own understanding of a topic.

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  34. 16567

    Very, very informative article. I wrote an article on the Design Informer a couple of weeks ago about Unique Blog posts, and you can check it out on the blog. Sorry, but I can’t post links here.

    You can see other great sites besides Jason’s, Dustin’, and Gregory.

    I myself am planning to use this style for my redesign of my personal blog.

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  35. 16818

    Jason Santa Maria makes us want to be better designers.
    Keep doing that man!

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  36. 17069

    this article rocks!
    great job!
    thanks for sharing

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  37. 17320

    It strikes me that this trend takes us back to the golden oldies when every page was hand-coded html (before css). Many pages then were designed individually. Certainly not as well as today, but there was a lot more variation internally on a site.

    All this dynamically generated stuff has led to a monotony in style. I say hail the blogazine.

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  38. 17571

    One of the best posts I’ve read in a loooooong time long long long long time.
    I’m done.

    Long

    0
  39. 17822

    I loved the layout of this blog post – no better way to get your point across than to DO IT YOURSELF.

    Good job SM!

    0
  40. 18073

    Best article I’ve read on SM in awhile

    0
  41. 18324

    Definitely interesting. Like some people said above me, this isn’t for the “daily blogger” or those that have jobs. I think readers will have a love hate relationship with these. Readers are used to the “norm”, and when a designer decides to “push the envelope”, some readers will love it, others will hate it. In addition, there will always be people who don’t necessarily take a side… they’ll just appreciate it for what it’s worth. Just look at Picasso! His crazy thinking with the cubism movement definitely shook things up in the art world. People either loved it, or hated it! And then there those that appreciate his work simply because they understand the purpose of it.

    I think I fall in line with the “appreciative” crowd. I’m not all that impressed with this, only because as a CSS lover myself, the amount of time involved just doesn’t seem worth it to “wow” your readers. However, I think it’s a step in the right direction when attempting to shorten the gap between web design and print design. I just don’t dig pages that require and immense amount of scrolling (ie, one page portfolio blogs… yuck!).

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  42. 18575

    Interest ideas. The first thing that popped into my head as I was reading your article (not really a blog in my mind) is how long did it take you to do this? Adding graphics, layout, typography and copy makes the process of putting this together a full-time job. This is what you guys get paid to do…so cool. For the average blogger in a business this is not going to happen.

    I would also add that I read tons of blogs that I find super valuable and interesting and they don’t use this blogazine format. It really comes down to the content and the readers who add insightful comments in my opinion.

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  43. 18826

    Quite controversial post…

    I read it with delight, wow what a pleasure I had in scolling and discovering the next part of the article… Actually the layout, as a demonstration, got to be very convincing. If only I were a designer and not a coder, I’d be starting up.

    Of course it can be impractical. Yet, the idea is just great. I’m confident many designers will achieve a personal equilibrium between the quest of innovation and their tight schedule.

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  44. 19077

    That is just the best blog post i ever seen. Very impressive! It brakes a lot of pre-concepts!

    0
  45. 19328

    So inspiring! I LOVED this post! It’s amazing and has forever changed the way that I will look at blog design. THANK YOU for taking the time to put together this truly amazing piece of art!

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  46. 19579

    i totally agree. when i currently red a article about the 10 donts of web site making…. i just wrote down … isnt it boring doing the same blog style like you do and other 100 million people do, with the same theme just with other colors and background picture.

    when i started as web designer it was allways the same thing going on in 1999. left the navigation, on top a picture and right down the content. now after 10 years the same thing is coming up. now it calls blogging you have a more advanced cms behind and the side changed. today you have a picture on top, navigation left and the content area under the top picture.

    wow. blogging often informative but it theached one bad behavior. to have no sense for design and beeing kept in this cheap cage of wordpress.

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  47. 19830

    It amazes me how hard some people are on smashing magazine writers. Do you not think perhaps Paddy Donnelly was just trying to present the idea by executing it?

    Good read, thank you.

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  48. 20081

    sorry i ment.
    today you have a picture on top, navigation right and the content area under the top picture.

    someone just reflect it and thougth. wow thats totally new.

    people will allways be different and want to show something unique. either in fashion or web design, even in blog design. thank god something will change

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  49. 20332

    Which leads to the question: How the hell did you customize the lay out of this blog post?!

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  50. 20583

    Wowzers. The best Smashing Magazine post ever.

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