Blog Design Best Practices, Column and Width Edition
February 12, 2014 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Current blog design best practices. I'm redesigning my 2-year-old food blog. This is strictly a DIY affair, and any knowledge I have of blog design was arrived at by hours of googling and crying. So, you know, I am big on ideas, but don't have much official knowledge about design. A few specific questions about columns and page size inside...

My blog currently has 2 columns: a large main column with content, then a sidebar with social buttons, search bar, links, an ad or two...all the usual stuff. Almost every blog, at least every food blog, that I read has a very similar set-up. I've been thinking of switching to 3 columns, one on each side of the content, so that I could add more sidebar content without it looking crowded or a million miles long.

Question 1: Are 3-column designs "out" or old-fashioned? It's not a matter of wanting to look exactly like everyone else, but if having 3 columns will signal "hey, this blog was designed in 2000" then I'd like to avoid that.

Question 2: What's a good width recommendation for my page? It's currently 1100 px (I think) with the sidebar at 350 px and the content at 750 px. In this age of big-screen everything, can I safely go wider?

Bonus question: If you have examples of what you consider to be really well-done blog design, I'd love to see them! I'm not really moved by the stark minimalism a lot of blogs are favoring these days, so if the blog makes smart use of a bunch of different elements or columns in a beautiful way, all the better!

And to preempt any "Don't add more junk to your sidebar!" comments, please assume that I have an editing eye and won't be jamming a million flashing buttons and links and other nonsense there. I think the elements I want to add will enhance the look and feel of the page.

Not sure if this matters, but I'm on Wordpress using the Headway theme, so I have the capability to do a lot of custom design stuff, even though I'm not too technically inclined.
posted by Bella Sebastian to Technology (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
3 columns is fine; it's not outdated in any way. As far as size: designs are generally done with percentages now instead of discrete pixel sizes. That way, the layout will accommodate different screen sizes. So, to recreate your present layout, the content would be 68% and the sidebar would be 32% (approx.).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:16 PM on February 12, 2014

If you're doing this by hand I suggest using a framework like Bootstrap or Zurb Foundation to get a responsive layout that works at many sizes as well as a grid system for helping with positioning. Try Layoutit as a way of creating a Bootstrap layout very easily.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:28 PM on February 12, 2014

Oh, sorry, I missed that you're plugging values into a theme. I guess the suggestion then is maybe look for a theme that advertises being 'responsive.'
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:29 PM on February 12, 2014

In this age of big-screen everything, can I safely go wider?

For blogs, a significant chunk of readership in this age is on smartphones, and having to scroll each line as you read it is pretty much a deal-breaker for anyone less enthusiastic than an obsessed stalker. (Scrolling for sidebars isn't ideal but in this user's view is pretty normal and acceptable.)
If the column width must be fixed, look into whether you can offer a separate set of values for your mobile users.
posted by anonymisc at 4:41 PM on February 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all. I am reasonably certain that my theme offers responsive capabilities. It's had numerous updates since I designed with it a few years ago, and a quick googling suggests that the most recent version that I will be using going forward does have responsive grid design. So I'll consider question #2 resolved. I would still love to see examples of really well-designed personal/food blogs, if you have favorites you'd like to share!
posted by Bella Sebastian at 5:15 PM on February 12, 2014

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