We are well into Course 3 of CoETAIL and, in Week 1, we were ask to consider the design of our blog. I currently only have my CoETAIL blog, but am in the process of creating some type of online content with my students for the course that I teach. Each of them already have an Edublog account where they are chronicling their middle school experiences through photos, videos, work samples, and reflections. My hope is that this new online component will highlight the essential understandings of each of our units while, at the same time, communicating important information to students and parents. I want to include my students from the beginning because they will be the primary audience and their inclusion in the creation will not only give them ownership, but will also bring important insight to design and implementation.
In considering this, and in reviewing my current CoETAIL blog format, I read quite a bit about web design and reviewed numerous examples. Many of my fellow CoETAILERs have class blogs which are outstanding exemplars. theclassroomblog is a great resource which lists numerous examples for all levels, kindergarten through high school.
Lazy Eyes: How We Read Online, by Michael Agger, offers lots of good information regarding the actual content of online articles. I would normally give a brief summary here, but Agger suggests keeping articles brief “for the masses” and using hyperlinks for those who want more information, so I’ll move on noting that the hyperlink is included here.
I will, however, summarize an article that, I believe, gives useful insight in concise language on attracting online readers and maintaining their attention. Just to clarify, Agger also contends that readers like bulleted lists.
10 Things to Consider When Designing Your Blog, by Patt Flynn:
- Design matters, not just content
- “Less is more”
- Fonts choices are important
- Colors make a big difference
- Readers like a picture of the blogger
- Imagery that is too literal should be avoided
- Format doesn’t have to be 2-column, does it?
- Focal point on the page based on your purpose
- Logo which reflects your personal brand
- You can’t please everybody
Flynn stresses the importance of design simplicity. Currently, as you can see, my CoETAIL blog is in the 2-column format. I appreciate the simplicity of this style. I’d like to entertain the possibility of a theme which maintains a simple, uncluttered look, while offering a unique format different from the standard 2-column design. I’d also like to find a theme that covers more screen space with less of a margin on the right and left sides.
I have embedded quite a few widgets into the right column of my blog. Some of them are integral to purpose and content, some are not. I was very enthusiastic in learning about widgets, so I’ve probably gone a bit overboard. I’ll review those and consider the removal of some in order to cut down the clutter of the right column. In reviewing the widgets, I also noticed that some of my tagging categories are a bit repetitive. I need to review those and perhaps consolidate and reduce to make that particular widget more effective.
I have chosen a simple font style that works. I might consider the use of bold print more often, as research shows that this cuts down on scanning. The block style of paragraph writing that I employ creates simple, straight lines and white spaces which, in my opinion, enhance the flow of each of my posts and are aesthetically pleasing. I might also want to consider the use of subheadings more often.
What Color is Your Business, by Darrell Zahorsky, outlines different colors and the mood or feeling that each creates. Blue is the most common color used on the internet. It is a neutral color and suggests loyalty, peacefulness, and trustworthiness. Green represents a calming, natural, and healthy image while yellow conveys warmth and happiness. Currently the background color of my blog is brown. It is a warm, neutral color that represents wholesomeness and earthiness. It also stimulates the appetite. I like that.
My most ambitious endeavor is to develop a logo that reflects who I am, my philosophy, and what I stand for. In other words, my personal brand. I am currently working with a colleague and friend, who also happens to be an artist, to create a logo that I will use on all of my web-based content. It’s an exciting process requiring lots of self-reflection. My logo will need to, in some way, reflect the concepts of communication, collaboration, learning, and global responsibility. A “work in progress”, this is no easy task and I look forward to blogging about my logo in a future post.
Finding the right theme, maintaining simplicity, using an eye-friendly format with pleasing aesthetics, and creating a sense of you are all important factors in the development and design of an effective blog. My students, to a degree, are already incorporating these elements in their online portfolios and these ideas will be great content for future blogging “mini-lessons”.
I think Flynn sums it up in his last point, “you can’t please everyone”. A format and method of blogging that fits your style and personality are by far the most important considerations of blog design. The ultimate goal is that you enjoy it!