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 Airlines, 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 post

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

Dustin Brain in Death of the blog post
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 post

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.


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 Wood7

is a website designer at Erskine Design8 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 post

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

Greg Interview in Death of the blog post
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 Design9, 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.


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

Twitter10, Posterous11, Flickr12, Facebook13, the iPhone14 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 .Net15 or Computer Arts16 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.


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.


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 SiteInspire17 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 Jason18, Dustin19 and Greg20. 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 Donnelly38 is an irish UX designer, blogger39 and interviewer40 living in Belgium. He’s currently working on his own Blogazine41 and you can follow him on Twitter42

Fin in Death of the blog post


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  1. 1

    Wow, that’s so totally cool! Love the layout, too! Great work, Paddy!

  2. 2

    Okay, I get what you’re doing. I’lle cho what’s being said:

    This is not usable. It alienates. It’s TOO different. It’s creative. It’s not thinking about the end user, it’s trying to be as visually appealing, while ignoring accessibility, readability for the masses. This is GREAT for designers. BAD for consistent offerings.

    I agree – e-commerce stores are boring to the point of being cookie-cutter sites, for “usability” and “familiarity.” But reinventing the wheel would do more to turn people AWAY then causing people to go “gee, I no longer know how to use this site, I should figure it out instead of going somewhere else to buy it quickly and easilly!” It’s like making someone solve a rubik’s cube before they can order lunch. Some people will try, most people will skip it *because they are hungry.*

    This creates obstacles and barriers between a user and the site. *This has its place* and I’m really interested in how this grows and gets integrated with the mainstream. I know this article is an extreme example, but I look forward to seeing how people run with the concept in the long run.

  3. 3

    I personally found this page very confusing and not usable at all…

    • 4

      Mee too. This would even be hard to read in a magazine. But if you found a compromise between this post and the regular posts, I think this could be great! Most of the ideas and design elements are really good, but all of them together in one post is just too much!

      • 5

        Sometimes you need to scroll up – what’s wrong with that? have you never turn the page back while reading a book?

        Great post SM. This is the death of the boring blog post indeed ;)

      • 6

        I didn’t know if I was still on the same blog post. When a blog post ended and a new one started. Ended up it seems this is only 1 blog post.

    • 7

      What are you talking about this article was great, I’d like to see more of this. It makes you read more, not just like a plain article where I was skiping text.

      • 8

        I totally agree. I just kept scrolling, wondering what would come next.

        This is the most interesting, value-packed SmashingMag blogpost I’ve read in a long time! :P

      • 9

        Ditto. Really brilliant stuff. Would love to see more of this stuff :)

      • 10

        I totally agree with you andreeib. For once in a long time online I found myself wanting not skip an article, but rather take it all in…. kinda of like a newspaper… hint hint print media and online newspapers. I think this is so called for when trying to deliver an good experience.

    • 11

      Usable? Who “uses” an article? Just scroll down & read, not much else you need to do ;)

      Good article, but magazines have the advantage that print looks the same everywhere, while html – clearly – does not. Also, separation of style & content raises concern for these types of articles… inline styles all the way?

      • 12

        I’m not sure about inline style. I think it makes it difficult, complicated, to make declinations adapted for other media types, like say, portable devices. I think it breaks the accessibility issues somehow.

        However I really like the idea of having alternate layouts and design for different posts. Good article !

      • 13

        Another advantage a magazine has is your (mostly) captive attention. You pretty much know when you’re not looking at a magazine because the TV, your cat, or an airplane caught your attention. If you happen to (mis)click another tab or window, you might be disoriented when you return to the funky-cool layout.

        In good UX, red means stop and green means go. Don’t redefine instinctive standards, even if they’ve only been instinctual for a few seconds. In contrast, the way Jason Santa Maria alters his posts does not stray very far from the established standards. No matter where you enter his site, you’ll not betray that initial layout knowledge via subsequent clicks.

        As for inline styles, there would be no need. Use the post ID number that is ‘typically’ entered into the body class to create the custom styles.

    • 14

      Cesar Mujica Castro

      November 19, 2009 6:59 am

      I found it very simple and easy to read.

      • 15

        I totally agree here. The typography was large and clear over the site. The styling and positioning read like a great arts magazine from the 90s and it was far more than I expected this morning for my typical Smashing read.

        I understand how many, many sites would suffer from this type of blog post and how many designer/developers would shake with thinking about having to do this for a client all the time. But, I think it is a wonderful idea for designers’ personal sites and anything where passion is the priority, not a paycheck.

        JSM has been an inspiration for a long time, he is highly successful and I hope that many others begin to follow suit.

        Thanks Smashing,

      • 16

        I agree. The material is very clear. Something similar to the presentation.

    • 17

      I agree… I’m lost !

    • 18

      Mark Howells-Mead

      November 19, 2009 8:53 am

      Ditto that.

    • 19

      u just jealous.. u can’t made it your self… u’re very naive :P

  4. 20

    Cesar Mujica Castro

    November 19, 2009 6:40 am

    This article ROCKS!!!!!!
    I’m inspired..

  5. 21

    Love SM… But I didn’t like this… Sorry…

    • 22

      Smashing Editorial

      November 19, 2009 7:24 am

      That’s OK, we actually knew that this style is not for everybody. Some parts of the design may indeed be a bit “overdesigned”, but Paddy has done a tremendous work on this post. The main idea of the post was to provide you with an idea of how you can change the way your blog posts look like and present advantages and disadvantages of the technique. We hope that we did at least something right in this post to achieve this goal.

      • 23

        The idea of this post was to get out of the box and create something really unique. Thats why all of us are designers right? To create something unique. Personally i wouldn’t be a web designer if i’d have to create the same layouts over and over again. Great article!

      • 24

        I liked the large type. I was able to lean back and enjoy reading the article. No squinting!

      • 25

        Great article SM…I think you did a great job of explaining the blogazine concept.

        Here’s my take on it:

        I think a trend is starting here that will die out soon once bloggers that try this realize it’s too much work. Dustin’s blog is successful because he has so much to say. Most people aren’t like this.

        Even if you compare his blog to Jason’s and Gregory’s (which have a more sophisticated design), Dustin’s has far more interesting content. Jason and Gregory seem to post content to give them a reason to design. Dustin wants to say something first, but also make it interesting to look at.

        Designers that design because they love being “out of the box” and “unique” will surely jump on this. Designers that design because they love finding simple solutions to complex problems and creating clarity out of clutter — like me :) — will be slower to attempt a blogazine.

      • 26

        I Loved it.
        Feels so good to see people puting their talent to push forward the world of internet communication.

  6. 27

    This post was boring!!!!!!!!!

    • 28

      I second your opinion

    • 29

      Smashing Editorial

      November 19, 2009 7:25 am

      What exactly did you find boring? The idea, the execution or both? Please be more specific!

      • 30

        Christopher Anderton

        November 19, 2009 9:44 am

        I like to say the opisite. The post rocked. It was fun, it created a “aha! fun!” experience because everything in it broke loose from the normal conventions.


    • 31

      How could you find it boring?

      I’ve found it was awesome at opening up your mind and challenging the everyday working design habits we get into. I found the really article really engaging although to be honest a little intimidating. I’m not sure why, maybe because of the colossal eye opening potential of it or maybe because it’s just a lot more brash then your average article.

      Either way… loved it. This is the kind of article that we come to Smashing Magazine for, and we got a few extra blogs to keep an eye out for in the future too!

      Also: Loved how Dustin Curtis has an awesome main blog, and then what he calls a boring blog for more regular and generic posts. Not abandoned the standard blog format completely!

  7. 32

    This is certainly cool, but I found it harder to read as I was constantly distracted by all the different styles.

    I am undecided.

  8. 33

    Johannes Gehrke

    November 19, 2009 6:45 am

    very inspiring, kinda unusal template. May not usable for a wide spread, ok, but the basic idea is good.

  9. 34

    I’m with Marcello. As someone with less than fantastic eyesight (no peripheral version – tunnel vision) this page was an absolute nightmare to read. I’ll be scrolling down some text and then it would suddenly stop. I’d look for the next paragraph and it’s not where I’d expect it. So I’m then left scanning the page trying to find where I need to be reading from next. Having to do this 20 odd times when trying to read something is frustrating.

    I agree that the technique can be attractive and add something special to a blog. But if anything, I would say this article is a great example of how not to do it! I just found it that hard to read.

  10. 35

    Are you commenters insane?
    This is absolutely AWESOME.

    Aren’t you all tired of the same structure, used over and over again?

    This is sweeter than sweet.

    SM rocks.

    • 36

      I wouldn’t of read this long of an article in SM’s original layout.. All the different colours creating one giant article is awesome!

      I read every paragraph.. This is very inspiring.

  11. 37

    Kris Sauquillo

    November 19, 2009 6:48 am

    This style of blogging only works for bloggers that post irregularly and, more often than not, short. For longer posts, like this exact one, it just doesn’t work and does the opposite of trying to not be boring.

  12. 38

    The sentiments in the article are sound enough but I found the page itself a total nightmare to read – and that was on a 24″ screen. I dread to think how annoying it would be on a smaller screen or a laptop.

  13. 39

    Wow I love this.
    Because every chunk of text is short and presented in a simple way and because you want to see the next design change, you’re motivated to read on.
    Looks great — even better than real magazines!
    And it helps understanding, too.

  14. 40

    While I see what you were doing with the mag layout on this blog post… it’d take some getting used to. I think there maybe just a bit too much content.. or maybe its the same but all images, copy and headings are bigger. I don’t tend to get too much time to read blog posts bearing in mind I read a lot of different blogs. I like the idea that much more time and effort is spent on a blog post but if the blog is not really bringing in much income then it’s not really worth spending too much time on the theme each time a new blogpost is submitted. Only my opinion. Keep up the good work Smashingmag

  15. 41

    That post just rox! I love it!

  16. 42

    no no no no no…. i didnt read a thing because it was poor design overload, sorry, but i hated this post!

  17. 43

    While those authors do a great job at this, I’m afraid that this post was poorly designed. The different styles made it hard to read. Keep in mind for next time: part of what makes the examples fantastic is that they design the entire page and make it one complete entity.

    • 44

      A bit harsh perhaps – still a good post!

    • 45

      What you have to see here is that it’s *intentionally* designed with various styles for the purposes of inspiration. This article is written for designers, people who would understand the meaning of this different way of thinking.

      I liked the article very much, was already intending to do something like that for my own blog (which does not exist yet).

  18. 46

    Simon Ljungberg

    November 19, 2009 6:51 am

    I think this post is great!
    Made me want to try it out myself.

    Maybe this post wasn’t the best. But it was absolutely interesting.

    Edit: to clarify, this posts design wasn’t the best. Content wise it was interesting.

  19. 47

    Very interesting read – loved to do it. Loads of useful information. Some parts were hard to get through, but still great to see. Thanks a lot for the effort!

  20. 48

    ^^ Marcello must be old.
    This page is so visual pleasing, the blocks of text were short and too the point. It added richness to this “normal” article.

    I could imagine the older generation not being able to follow this article though, hence why I suggested that Marcello must be old.

    Really though… I think your followers will increase with this new idea of blogazine layouts.


    • 49

      Is this a serious comment? Your explanation for Marcello finding this design unreadable is that he’s old? That’s a pretty weak assertion.


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