Blog Design: What to Consider?

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:

  1. Design matters, not just content
  2. “Less is more”
  3. Fonts choices are important
  4. Colors make a big difference
  5. Readers like a picture of the blogger
  6. Imagery that is too literal should be avoided
  7. Format doesn’t have to be 2-column, does it?
  8. Focal point on the page based on your purpose
  9. Logo which reflects your personal brand
  10. 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!

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About Jamie

I am currently a middle school Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at The American School in Japan.
This entry was posted in COETAIL, Design and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Blog Design: What to Consider?

  1. David Bullio says:

    Hi Jamie,
    Enjoyed reading your post. Your idea of using an image/logo to help establish your personal brand is a powerful one and could prove to be fruitful. Is it an image that you see yourself using mainly/only in blogs or something that you see branching out into social media sites like twitter? Anyway, I like that idea!
    I really like how your blog is laid out, like the photos you have on the side as well as the calendar and time plug-ins. The category cloud on side is visual stimulating as well. Your photo of your class in the main frame helped to give me an idea for how to make my blog’s main photo better represent what my blog stands for.
    Thanks Jamie for the post, it was a good reading/viewing experience.

    • Jamie says:

      Glad the post sparked an idea for you, David. To follow up on your question regarding the logo, yes I will use it for Twitter and other social media sites. I’m excited to get a first try at it completed soon. It will be interesting working out how it will fit onto my blog. Do you think I could get away with using the Japan Rail logo?
      🙂
      Thanks for reading my post and for your comment.

  2. mrbrenlea says:

    Jamie I like your idea of a logo. I’ve been toying around with that idea myself and for much the same reasons. Currently I have settled on a professional image for myself (the pencil sketch filtered image). I feel that there is a playfulness to this particular image that I like. Do you have any suggestions for people who are thinking about creating their own logo? You refer to a having to go through a reflective process, what sorts of questions did you has yourself during that time?

  3. Jamie says:

    Thanks, Brendan, for your comment and for reading the post. There are many websites out there that allow you to generate a logo for free. Free Logo Maker (http://www.logomaker.com/) is one. I played around with this a lot, which led me to the idea of using my initials in some way. Of course, I wanted to capture the big concepts that convey who I am as an educator and as a person. Lots of trial and error with my artist friend until I finally decided on a basic globe design. The hardest thing about the process for me, was narrowing down my ideas into a few key elements that I wanted to be sure the logo captured. We are aiming to keep the design simple, but still unusual and interesting.

  4. Viviane says:

    Hi Jamie,

    You have a great resource-full post! I find it very helpful thank you!

    Interesting that colors can influence us so much! As international teachers we know well about
    how colours, symbols and formats are further influenced and interpretative by culture! I once applied for a job with a black boarder around my cover letter, only to find out that represented a funeral invitation in the culture I was applying to work in!! Opps!
    Like David, above, I like your idea of having the class photo as your header! I think it visually represents the focus and purpose of your blog. I wonder if that up-coming logo of yours will have something to do with the kids?
    I am intrigued about the Edublogs for the students. Is it meant o be an online portfolio of school work too? How user friendly do the students find it? Can they upload scans of work quite easily? Can they access photos you may have taken easily? How secure is it?
    I am asking all these questions, because our students have a school website for which they must use for all journal-ling and to make online portfolios.The problem is it is terribly slow and is limiting. We cannot upload videos and only certain sized photos, for example.
    I am wondering if in my next place of work that Edublogs would be a better alternative?

    Thank you again for all the great links which I will value and use in making blogs with my pupils one day!

  5. Fantastic! So great to see you already applying the design features that you’re learning about. I feel like my blog is always a work in progress, and there’s always an opportunity to improve. I’m not sure if my design aesthetic changes, but I tend to get tired of a certain look after an extended length of time. A lot of the tips you mention focus on the actual posts themselves, which is great because no matter what your theme is, your posts will always be there. Looking forward to seeing how your blog evolves!

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