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