It’s been a few days since the release of the new John Chow theme and Unique Blog Designs. I don’t think I’ve gone to sleep anytime before 6 a.m. for the past week — 18-hour days have become the norm for me while I have been working to finish John’s theme, launch UBD, and maintain my current stream of work. As it took a full week for me to design, code, and edit John’s theme, the days were very long indeed.
Like any big change, the unveiling of John’s new theme has been met with mixed reviews. Lots of people love it, whereas others think it is too “top-heavy” or “in your face.”
While the new theme does take up more screen real estate, it has become clear that blog designs are moving towards wider layouts. ProBlogger‘s new theme is just as wide. It is of interest to note that almost every client who has contacted Unique Blog Designs has requested a “wider layout.”
What does this mean for people still running 1024×768 resolution? John Chow says, “It’s time to get a larger monitor.” While I don’t necessarily think that everyone should have to buy a larger monitor to read these wider blogs, it has become clear that blog designs will ONLY be getting wider.
I wanted to take this time to address some of the questions people have been asking about the new layout and where blog design appears to be heading.
Are Wider Blog Layouts All the Rage?
Obviously, you can fit more information into a wider layout. You can also use a wider layout to include material in the header and footer that normally you would have only been able to fit in the sidebar.
I think that part of the problem of traditional-width blogs is that there has been too much stuff in the sidebars. If we are putting new elements/widgets/sections onto our blogs, we are doing so because we want these elements to receive more attention.
The fact is that sidebars have become more cluttered with ads, links, widgets, plugins, the kitchen sink, etc. In order to maximize the exposure of elements that we want to receive attention, it makes sense to relocate these elements to the header.
If we put certain elements in the header, such as a newsletter signup box, it is guaranteed that they will receive more exposure than if placed in the sidebar. One personal example is when I first launched my newsletter signup, I had placed it in the sidebar. After a week and a half, I had received 15 or so emails — not very many for how much traffic I receive. However, when I relocated my newsletter signup to the header, I received 15 more that same day.
While some people may say that my and John’s headers are too cluttered, they accomplish the goal of redirecting attention to those elements we deem important. On the theme’s first day, John received over 200 email sign-ups. Do you think he would have received that many had the newsletter signup been placed in the sidebar? I would be willing to bet no.
A lot of people have remarked that John’s new footer is their favorite element of the blog. It is obviously different from other footers in that it has a “designer-feel” that emphasizes particular elements. One might ask, “Why the larger footers?”
As readers scroll to the very bottom of a page or single post, we can now expose them to another group of elements that we may have not wanted to place in the sidebar for various reasons.
For example, John Chow decided to place his MyBlogLog widget in the footer now. One commentator asked why not put it back in the sidebar? Well, every decision we have made about placement has been conceived with conversion in mind. Kumiko from CashQuests hit the nail on the head when explaining why the MBL widget is better off in the footer: “Mybloglog widgets don’t make money. And they send your traffic to other people’s sites.”
Balancing User Experience with Advertising
Many people have said there are too many advertisements on John’s site now. The fact is that John Chow’s blog is devoted to “making money online.” He clearly stated that the reason he changed his blog theme was to increase his earnings. Just like Problogger, implementing 125×125 square boxes was seen as the best way to enhance revenue. While it may be too much advertising for some, let’s not forget why we visit JohnChow.com- to make money online.
The more money that John Chow’s blog makes, the more popular it becomes. How do we define popularity? I think RSS count is a good measure. While traffic may have not necessarily risen over the past few months for John, his RSS feed count has increased dramatically.
There have a number of interesting articles written about John Chow’s new theme and Unique Blog Designs:
John Cow – Make More Money With Your Theme
Disassociated.com – Bowser
Philippine Webmaster Forum – John Chow gets a Facelift
Web Business Blog – My Thoughts on John Chow Redesign
Net Business Blog – John Chow Has A New Blog Design
Blogging Tips – John Chow Takes His Blog To The Next Level
Blogging Experiment – 5 Benefits of a Blog Redesign
21 thoughts on “The Aftermath”
It’s not that they become bigger because of the need to cram more content, on john chows blog now all I see is a lot of ads, which takes away the focus of the content which is the main thing regarding the blog, the content/posts is the whole point of a blog, wider solutions are for regular sites.
I feel that it’s more blog heading towards regular site layout than blogs getting wider because of the need to get more content, and it’s not really content in most cases but ads.
I guess keeping the ads clean to not interfere too much with the content isn’t on chows agenda anymore, right now it looks more like a christmas tree than a blog.
If you want to read a blog without looking at ads why dont you just subscribe to the blogs feed?
I think the new theme is much better. I run Firefox and I noticed lots of small display bugs on his old theme that wouldn’t load correctly for some reason (probably just my system). Also I agree with points you made about moving things to header and I think it just looks better. It’s a more modern look for blogs that have become more than blogs. Tech Crunch also has this new style and I think it’s an improvement for Problogger as well.
I like the new design a lot and really like your and Josh’s blog designs too,
I’ve avoided commenting on John’s new design but since you brought it up… 🙂
I prefer the wider look so it’s not the width that I don’t like. It’s the header and that’s because I see two totally different things when I look at your header and John’s header. With your header here, it is clean, organized and pleasing to the eye. I love it. John’s is too cluttered and busy… there’s way too much going on for my tastes.
I also like the bigger footers and think you did a fantastic job with John’s.
I think disigners of blogs have to make their designs for any resolutions, including 1024×768, or even 800×600. Maybe it is better to do it using redirect, or developing special plugin for a blog engine, thar will show another version of blog design for users with low resolution.
You can argue its the site designers responsibilty to make their site usable to all users but there is a limit. If you are still using 800×600 thats your problem, its not a huge investment to get a 1024×768 monitor, since thats the bottom standard.
I do like the new design, but if I can offer you some advice is that you need to be careful with your new venture.
You have a certain style for designing blogs, and the similarities between your blog and John Chow’s blog design are noticable (my first thought with the new design was “Ooh, it looks like Nate”).
As a web designer myself, the hardest thing to do is bash out designs that don’t look the same, yet are still useable. We have lost clients early on because our designs looked similar to other websites. I would recommend that you spend time trying new ideas to make designs that work, yet are different.
Best of luck with your new venture!
Thanks for the link back. I like your blog design style. And thanks for keeping the price low. Hopefully, when I have money for a new blog design, your prices won’t be much higher 🙂 Keep up the good work!
You did good Nate.
All one has to do to figure out the screen size issue, is check their stats. If John Chow was getting mostly visitors with 800×600 resolution, he and Nate wouldn’t have gone wider!
I remember this same scariness against resolution changes back when we broke from 640×480…who wants to read something that’s only 500px wide?
I like the wider layout, the current popular templates are like planting a sinlge tulip in the middle of a field and calling it a garden.
I think you went about this the right way Nate. Theres not many design companies which launch with the design of such a popular site. Hopefully you’ll get some good business from this 🙂
I think design widths are definitely shifting wider (’bout time right?). I’m designing all of my sites that are fixed with for 1024×768 and haven’t really thought twice about 800×600 to be honest. It’s way past time to still be using 800×600. It’s just so much easier to design a visually appealing yet functional design at 1024. 800 everything is so cramped unless you’re using 8px font.
I did find the theme to be a bit similar in some elements with this one, a good thing. I am also thinking about a serious re-design and I liked the way you organize the content in the design. The new design for chow is very nice. Very blog-like, clean and pleasant. Excellent job 😉
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