April 11, 2002
Esthetics of Blogging

Mark Byron, whom I should have added to my links before now, wrote yesterday:

I don't think greater multi-media on commercial sites will doom the blog. The personal analysis of a blog doesn't improve too much with multi-media; the people who want to read a good think piece will seek it out even if there is better eye-candy elsewhere.

This seems absolutely right, and I can offer a bit of evidence from my own experience. Over the weekend, as I moved this site to its own domain, I also switched over to Movable Type 2.0. (I had previously edited HTML files with HoTMetaL.) MT provides six standard templates to choose from, so I was forced to think about how I wanted my site to look: I ended up mixing more than one and adding some stuff from my old format.

However, in looking over my favorite sites (listed on the right) for ideas, I suddenly realized that I hadn't ever really noticed their formats. The only exceptions were relatively trivial:

1. I had of course observed that many sites used the same templates. If I'm not mistaken, Amygdala and Daimnation! use exactly the same format as, as do Cut On The Bias and Mark Byron. There are something like a dozen just on my list that look exactly like Instapundit, except that some have blue instead of red in the title block.

2. Some sites look better than others, but I hardly objected to any except when the print was too small (thanks for fixing that, PejmanPundit) or when the background is dark and the text light, which I find a bit of a strain on the eyes (Pejman again, Andrew Sullivan, RiShawn Biddle, one or two more).

3. I had of course noticed that some sites feature original artwork, which is generally a plus. I've always particularly liked the pictures on Lileks and The Brothers Judd, though I also like the latters' Latin motto. But I would not have gone back for a second look at either if the words had not made it worthwhile.

Conclusion: As Byron said, audiovisual bells and whistles (sorry about the partially mixed metaphor) are essentially irrelevant. I read these sites for the words, and the links, and I suspect most others do the same. In any case, it should become easier and easier for individuals to add fancy audiovisual effects to their sites, if that's what it takes to compete.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at April 11, 2002 11:54 PM