Show me good blog designs.
October 20, 2008 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Form plus function, please. Recommend some blogs that you like for their successful combination of design plus usability.

I have been tasked with providing a list of well-designed blogs for review, to a colleague of mine who is heavy on tech skills and light on design, and wants to take a submersion course in those who are doing it right, right now. Content comes first, so we are seeking sites that execute well at pretty-but-quietly-effective wrappers -- instead of design for the sake of showing off one's design's skills.

(I have already seen this AskMe and this one, but the former was really seeking good content, and the latter is almost three years old -- I plan to peruse it but expect that the designs that were cited for goodness in 2005 have likely changed today. I also checked previous threads with tags "blogdesign"; the responses are obsolete IMO)

Open to all suggestions, but special appreciation will be given to those where the site ticks some or all of the following boxes:
  • Conveys the blogger's "brand" quickly and effectively
  • Easy-to-read posts, where the headlines and meta-data are distinct and don't distract from the content
  • Clever use of categories, tags, or whatever system the author is using to demonstrate the different topics of post
  • Effective incorporation of graphics and photos
  • Has the blogger solved content-variety problems without overwhelming the reader? ie. does the site manage to present "regular" blog posts, and also longer essays, and also those micro-sidebar-one-off things?
  • Some element of timelessness: is the design going to age gracefully? Or is it laden with what will become the Comic-Sans and shiny rounded-corner gradient buttons of its time... immediately dating itself as having been launched in 2008?
  • Effective handling of advertising, if applicable
  • Avoids "overdesign," where every element is some custom icon, the header is five inches high and crammed full of visual stimulus, and the decorative fonts are practically unreadable. You know the type.
There is potential for sites-which-are-not-blogs to be worth mentioning here, but the most helpful answers will be ones that understand that we are looking for design that complements a very specific site purpose... which is blogging, or otherwise providing short chunks of outward-looking content on a regular basis. For example, the site designs at Overstock, Etsy and the New York Post might ring all your bells, but would be of little use here.

Your commentary is exuberantly welcomed: why you like it, what works for you about the site, what the blogger seems to have "figured out" that other people haven't. Or what you maybe have gleaned, as a regular blog consumer, about the direction that design is headed. Or blog designs that you don't like, as long as you can articulate why in a constructive way that is relevant to the bullets above (A slamfest isn't productive, and I can certainly find generically bad design myself).

Thanks, MeFites! I look forward to the collective brilliance of your thoughts.
posted by pineapple to Technology (8 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
kottke has always had both great content and great design, hitting pretty much every single point you've mentioned.
posted by lia at 12:14 PM on October 20, 2008

I use blogzerk
posted by patnok at 12:20 PM on October 20, 2008

Best answer:

Mostly a one trick pony, but he does the trick well. Interestingly no real images.

Personal site, design site, etc.

Pretty much essential reading for web design.

Just plain good design.

Great showcase of people doing it right.

Another showcase of people doing it right.

They practice what they preach.

No comment.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:38 PM on October 20, 2008

I've been reading FiveThirtyEight for the past few months and I'm very impressed by the layout and content.

I'm a total stats geek, so normal people might be turned off by the overwhelming amount of graphs and tables, but to me it's the best feature. The most important and general information is at the top of the page, flanking the posts. All of the more detailed information is included along both sides, and the data presentation is very clear. You can easily read a blog post about the latest Wisconsin polls, scroll down to look at the detailed poll numers, and scroll back up to keep reading.

Compare it to a similar site like RealClearPolitics: the front page is a jumble of text links, and it's very hard to get a "dashboard" glance of how things are going or separate out articles versus stats pages. I was reading RCP earlier this year during the primaries, and a lot of the useful stats could only be found by jumping from link to link and ignoring most of the content on each page.

The actual blog content is very good as well. There are daily updates explaining the changes in the polls, short opinion posts on various news items about the campaigns, and since September there have also been regular accounts of the ground game in various states. The different types of posts are easy to identify, and in my opinion all of the content fits within the overall theme and adds to the usefulness of the site.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:46 PM on October 20, 2008

I love the seamless "There's More" links at FiveThirtyEight. No waiting to reload the entire site in order to view the rest of an article. I get a little happy buzz every time it happens.
posted by junkbox at 1:36 PM on October 20, 2008

If you're looking specifically for blog designs there are a bunch of galleries specifically for blogs:
posted by iisbum at 1:40 PM on October 20, 2008

For easy to read and good graphics, Kathy Sierra's now defunct "Creating Passionate Users" was always good.

Spend time on your headlines.
posted by idb at 1:45 PM on October 20, 2008

I love the design of all of the Gawker media sites (,,, etc.), especially the new comments section of each post.
posted by jbickers at 2:31 PM on October 20, 2008

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