Minimalist Blogging: Strip it!

skinny dippersOn the west coast we have just had a welcome break in the weather following a heat wave. During the heat wave my visitors and I  were focused on beating the heat. The lifestyle we were living is bare minimal camping. We are long time friends who have been close for decades, and we have no apprehensions about stripping down or skinny dipping to cool off.

While my visitors have been out of day trips I have been trying to keep up with my blogging. I have also been surfing to locate new blogs of interest. I have been viewing blogs on mobiles, notebooks and laptops with very small screens.  What I have experienced on many sites makes me want to shout “strip that blog!”.

I am a blog minimalist and I do not apologize for that. I strongly prefer clean well designed themes and clutter free sidebars. I expect navigation aids to be easy to locate and use to reach content located deeper in the blog.  And, I’ve recently had my say about the ubiquitous followers widgets trend.

I am visually challenged and the colors you use on your blog do affect my emotions. Dark backgrounds and busy backgrounds are distracting, and a lack of contrast between font colors and backgrounds makes it difficult to focus. Font sizes  are not an issue as there are keyboard shortcuts we can use to increase or decrease font (text) size.

Most importantly I come to blogs to read content. I do not come to click ads or to be annoyed by any item designed to distract my attention away locating and reading the content. Yet, it seems that distractions are becoming more numerous and more in your face as time progresses. And they all increase page loading time, despite the fact that fast page loading time is a ranking factor.

If Computers are Faster, Why Are Web Pages Slower? – The culprit is a bloated aesthetic. Weight and complexity of site design have outpaced the increases in network and computer speed. — Time for fast, minimalist web aesthetic?

Blogginpetpeeves.jpgg: How to lose me as a reader contains 11 of my pet peeves that guarantee a blogger will lose me as a reader. This post includes 4 more pet peeves  that have recently popped up, so that’s why the list numbering begins at 12.

12. Blog Subscription and Newsletter Subscription Pop-Ups

When I click into a site and the first thing I experience is an in my face pop-up to subscribe to your blog or your newsletter you have annoyed me. I haven’t even read a single blog post and you are asking me to subscribe. That’s arrogant.

Strip it!

13.   Pop-Under Advertising

I don’t think I need to need to expand on this creepy annoyance.

Strip it!

14.  Social Networking Toolbars

When I click into your blog and find its encased in a “media bar” frame with a toolbar depicting buttons to be used for sharing on social networks, you have annoyed me. I haven’t even read a single blog post and you are asking me to share. That’s arrogant.

Strip it!

15.  HUGE Social RSS Buttons and Social Networking Buttons

rss feed iconIf you have joined those who choose to have the largest in your face RSS, follow me on Twitter and/or other social networking buttons the impressions you are conveying to me are:

  • you have too little blog content & are trying to mask that with over-sized icons
  • you are desperate for followers
  • or you have atrocious taste.

Strip it!

wibiya

I think small is beautiful and bigger is not necessarily better.  What do you readers think?  Also, please feel free to contribute to my pet peeves list.  If you got them -  share them.  ;)

54 thoughts on “Minimalist Blogging: Strip it!

  1. Pingback: What’s your take on advertising on blogs? | one cool site

  2. This is the most helpful post about blogging I’ve ever read. It’s also the most comforting. I love simplicity. Seeing so many blogs out there that have and offer everything… I always thought they looked cluttered and distracting. I didn’t want to have to learn what every one of those features was or meant. I read blogs for two reasons: I like the content and I like the author. Period. You’ve reassured me that I don’t have to be one of the crowd. (I don’t Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., I just, as of July 5th, blog. I want my blog to reflect me, not a three ring circus. My stress levels just went down because you reminded me of why I wanted to start a blog in the first place – for me, because I love to write. Readers would be great but, as for fame and fortune, I’ll pass. I’ll be going through this post with a fine tooth comb. Thank you.

    • Hello again,
      I’m glad to hear you are a minimalist too. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, color, hype and animation. There are strong “copy-cat” tendencies among bloggers but lots of what’s going on in themes, sidebars and posts is just too “busy”.

      I like to feel relaxed when I read a post. When I’m distracted by busy surroundings I feel edgy and I’m not likely to stick around as long. I assume at least some of my readers are the same.

      It sounds like you have a good idea of where you are going with your blog and how to present your content so it reflects you. I wish you all the best with your blog. You might enjoy this post:
      http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/10/10/what-do-you-look-for-in-a-blog/

    • Hello again,
      I’m glad to hear you are a minimalist too. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, color, hype and animation. There are strong “copy-cat” tendencies among bloggers but lots of what’s going on in themes, sidebars and posts is just too “busy”.

      I like to feel relaxed when I read a post. When I’m distracted by busy surroundings I feel edgy and I’m not likely to stick around as long. I assume at least some of my readers are the same.

      It sounds like you have a good idea of where you are going with your blog and how to present your content so it reflects you. I wish you all the best with your blog. You might enjoy this post:
      http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/10/10/what-do-you-look-for-in-a-blog/

    • Hello again,
      I’m glad to hear you are a minimalist too. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, color, hype and animation. There are strong “copy-cat” tendencies among bloggers but lots of what’s going on in themes, sidebars and posts is just too “busy”.

      I like to feel relaxed when I read a post. When I’m distracted by busy surroundings I feel edgy and I’m not likely to stick around as long. I assume at least some of my readers are the same.

      It sounds like you have a good idea of where you are going with your blog and how to present your content so it reflects you. I wish you all the best with your blog. You might enjoy this post:
      http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/10/10/what-do-you-look-for-in-a-blog/

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  4. Lol. From what I gather, you seem to prefer neatness and brevity, both in outlook and content (this I’m assuming) in a blog. Nice!
    On a side-note, given you extensive experience, if you could give my blog a small tiny peek (I re-did its theme entirely, recently) and give your valuable feedback about its looks, that’d be very kind of you :)

  5. Thank you for all this wonderful information, I’m a clutter person by nature and so is mum so you have pointed us in the right direction as to the look of our blog thanks again

  6. Pingback: What do you look for in a blog? « onecoolsitebloggingtips

  7. hello! i found a blog today that had a feature that made me instantly think of you … check out “apture ” I am sure you will love it For everyone else reading this comment, it has something to do with our peev hates :)

  8. Damn right! I had it, and deleted it after an hour. Even though I’m new to blogging (and still making mistakes) I’m trying to look at my blog as being something professional, even if that’s not it’s intent. I think these toolbars annoy rather than enhance. At the end of the day it’s a personal choice and i can understand (to an extent) why people have them, but it’s just not for me :)

      • I have a question for you: I just read on one of you other posts about “followers” widgets and wanted to ask you why do you use feedjit (or maybe you have another post about that and i have yet to find it!)? I have been considering using it for a while, but i think i will wait till my traffic increases so that it’s “worthy” of some white space on my blog.

        • It’s a live time visitor trackier that compliments the wordpress.com stats. It shows which countries my readers are coming from, and which operating systems and browsers they are using. By using it I was able to determine how many different countries my readers were coming from and the languages to provide on my Translations page.

          We cannot use the javascript version on wordpress.com blogs so long ago I contacted feedjit for the non-javascript version of their widget. I have noticed broad and sweeping changes have taken place at feedjit and I’m not clear as to whether or not the non-javascript feedjits are still available. I don’t really require it at this time but I’m feeling attached to it. lol :D

  9. You forgot: too much advertisement! This really REALLY bugs me on sites. There is really nothing worse than a 3 column blog with ads on each side and after every post in the main section. I won’t even make the effort. Sorry if that’s ignorant but that’s just how it is! I want to read content, not get bombarded with ads!

    • Hi Glenny,
      I didn’t actually forget too much advertsising. If you click through to my post Blogging: How to lose me as a reader, which I linked to in this post you will find (2) Too much advertising everywhere is my second biggest pet peeve. I too read blogs for content and if I’m bombarded with advertsising I click out never to return.

        • Thank you for the compliment and do feel free to add any additional pet peeves that turn you away from reading blogs. Right now I am negatively focused towards the Wibiya toolbars I am experiencing on some many blogs. How do you respond to them?

  10. TT, once again, lots of good stuff for the novice blogger like myself. I have noticed that a lot of blogs out there look suspiciously like some 14-year old’s myspace page and it immediately turns me off and I’ve tried not to let that happen to my blog. Yeah, I played around with gadgets and widgets, and I do have a Twitter button, but it’s small and hopefully unobtrusive. Anyhoo, thanks for all the great tips!

    • Hello Vicki,
      I truly meant what I said – I loathe cluttered blogs, loaded down with distracting useless “tat”. I cringe when I click into a blog that looks like a myspace page and I simply click right out never to return again. Best wishes with your blogging.

  11. I too subscribe to the simple is better method. Just look at google, the main website is so stripped down, people go there to do one thing and one thing only. Search, so it’s mainly a search bar and that is it. On my site i am constantly looking for ways to simplify things and it still strikes me as a bit cluttered. Ah well I think the design challenge never ends.
    -Aaron

  12. Couldn’t agree more. Keep the design clean and simple. And no pop ups. I use ad muncher to block them.

    I visited a forum a couple of weeks back where they encourage the submission of web sites for comment from subscribers. Quite a useful idea, but I found many of the comments a bit scary. Such as “the logo is dull try a cartoon”, “the background needs lots of colour”, “use more variety and colour on fonts”, “white space is boring” etc. etc. etc.

    Call me a crusty old curmudgeon, but fussy and glitzy doesn’t work for me.

  13. Pingback: Blogging Demographic Groups « onecoolsitebloggingtips

  14. Score one for the Luddites. As for the dark background, alas, I still can’t imagine life without it. Thanks, TiTi, for cutting through the crap. Strip It! would be a great name for a sparse yet potent blog, eh?

  15. We all grow up, don’t we? As someone said above we get carried away with bells and whistles in the initial days. Blogging is I feel like the way we grow up as a kid into an adult. Earlier we just want to flash out our blog but with time and maturity sanity prevails and the focus becomes the content.

    I too had the flashy attitude earlier on my blogs but now with some great advice from TT have content focused blogs and this has really helped.

    It is mainly after visiting the ‘How To’ blogs one gets carried away with bells and whistles as most of these use them big time.

    Besides TT, Tim at SeoWizz has a minimalist blog with some great content.

  16. Just like you, I’m not fond of pop-ups and advertising, but I do like my backgrounds and design. I guess that’s just me and my fondness for colours.lol I do like to keep it simple and neat to the best of my ability and have things in their right places. One of the things I’m worried about is my pictures – if it takes a lot of time to load up. I find them essential to my blog and I usually test my blog on other people’s computer to see how long it loads. I think, it loads fast enough. I do this because I don’t have patience when it comes to waiting for pages to come up and if I have to wait for too long I simply close the window.

  17. It’s great to listen to all the opinions about what to do and what not to do with your blog for a beginner. I agree it’s very annoying about pop ups, pop unders, banner advertising and stuffs like that. I guess the main purpose of our blog is to have an engagement with the reader rather than making it a very “beautiful looking” site with tons of gadgets and widgets for personal ego.

  18. @Ron: “My posts get the pics and links that are necessary – introducing extraneous pics and links simply for the sake of having pics and links seems a tad pointless. (on Zemanta)”

    Maybe the use of Zemanta if one wishes to activate the feature, is to reduce research required by blogger to find related, good articles. I agree that some bloggers already have cited selected links to external Internet resources for background reading on a posted article subject.

    Then there are other bloggers who aren’t personal digital photographers at all. So they might want some access to library of vetted, copyright-cleared photos for certain subjects.

  19. Hi timethief, The overwhelming turnoff for me are pop-ups. The ones that occur immediately are bad enough, but the ones that are sprung as I’m reading the content irritate me the most.

    The share icons on the bottom of my posts are small, but I do have larger ones that are similar to yours in the sidebar. Mine may be a wee bit larger. I’ll have to check. I like to subscribe to feeds because it’s more effective than bookmarking. If I like a post, I’ll subscribe to the feed and decide if I will be a recurring visitor at a later date. The only problem with browsing blogs this way is that some blogs do not display an easy to locate RSS icon. If any larger than life icons are to be used, I’d suggest that the RSS icon be the one.

    I think that it pays to have a mobile version of your blog. In WordPress, a plugin takes care of all of the formatting. It’s generic in appearance, but it gets the job done by making the content very easy to read on a phone. Ray

  20. Well done as always Timethief, and thank you – backtracked to the first post too. Like you, I am a minimalist, problem is, I have some features in mind I would love to use on my site, but struggling to find a non-instrusive way of incorporating them. I have more research to do, starting here in your site, as well as WP support and forum, but so far frustrated that the fundamental concept of any tool is slap it on the side bar. Certainly things like visitor counters could be discreetly concealed somewhere where I can see and use them, without annoying my readers? Is it possible to make invisible widgets?

    • Cynthia ~ I’m no expert in these matters, but I did have an invisible Sitemeter counter on my blog for a couple of years. It was a paid option, but it was worth it to me to be able to tuck it into my links and keep it invisible.

      I just let it go and am contenting myself with the WordPress stats for now. For a while I was intrigued to see where everyone was coming from, etc., but now that my readership has increased I’m too busy writing, posting and responding to comments to worry about the stats.

  21. I think I lost my bookmark to a website page where one can test their wordpress or any blog for mobile device usability. I did a search..but gave up.

    Would appreciate suggestions..I’m sure some folks have a good site in mind.

  22. Your number 14 is my biggest peeve at the moment. I hate, detest and loathe those toolbars!
    Grrrrrrrr!!!

  23. A timely post, TT, coinciding, as it does, with WP’s introduction of the Zemanta feature, which is sure to add even more clutter to many blogs.

    My posts get the pics and links that are necessary – introducing extraneous pics and links simply for the sake of having pics and links seems a tad pointless.

    Pet peeves – mShots, otherwise much the same as yours.

  24. I certainly agree with the fact that a clean website is so much better to visit. I read blogs (and other website, where much of the same applies) for different reasons, but one of them is to learn. If a website has a great tutorial that I would like to work through, but has annoying content, I often find myself using a text based browser (lynx or w3m) to read the stuff.

    But I am also guilty of some of the things you have mentioned and decided to reduce my RSS button sizes (though I was proud of my gimp skills in making them) on my personal blog. I guess (from the first 11) that I do write a lot of personal stuff on my personal blog, but I am very clear about not doing it where I think it is inappropriate.

    Overall, I really do agree a great deal with what you say. It reminded me of the theme of the webpagesthatsuck.com website.

  25. I would have to admit to some of those annoying things in my sidebar. I don’t like the popup and pop under ads either and don’t use them. I do think your blog needs to reflect some of your character or “style” otherwise things in the blogspere would get a little ho hum. I’ve seen some visually stunning sites that are anything but minimalist. So I do agree about the clutter and I am off over to my blog to see what I can to minimalize…while still being personalized.

    Get blog post.

    Nick

    • @nick
      This is something that should be remembered. Personal style counts for something because of the preponderance of blogs available. People like style. If your style is highly minimal, there is an audience for that. But if your style is bling, then there’s an audience for that, too. People are generally bored and don’t play with their kids enough. Sometimes the games, bells, and whistles are enough to keep them interested (see Facebook).

      Think about audience. If you want grown-ups with little time to spend playing around, then you should minimize content and design. If your audience has more time on their hands and likes to play around, give it to them.

      At my site, I want to attract thoughtful photographers who will spend some time with the content and with meeting other photographers. The concept is social-informative, not just informative or social. I would assume that’s what most of us are looking for. So I want to bring in tutorials and more thoughtful articles concerning photography as a craft and not necessarily as a job or plaything. Therefore, the focus is on trying to build community and providing good, relevant information for the budding photographer who wants to get deeper into their photography.

      Knowing who your audience is and designing the interface and content to appeal to that audience is far more important than a list of dos and don’ts. That said, some of the things on this list are universal turn-offs (# 12 and 14). Bloggers should place these much more gracefully, if possible.

  26. Hey TiTi!

    I agree with your 15 pet peeves. I actually don’t spend much time going around the blogosphere like I used to because almost every blogger have too much items on their blog sites that slows down my loading time. As an added brain twist, these heavily-laden blogs are those that get higher page rankings and are more readily indexed by Google (Well, not all, but that’s what I’ve observed).

    Oh well.

    A pet peeve that I’ve come across on the blogosphere is high-resolution, big-sized images. Bloggers should really take extra effort to optimize images and reduce their sizes to appropriate resolutions.

    Thanks for sharing your frustrations regarding other blog sites.

    Cheers!

  27. Popunder ads, and popover, or those scrolls ads…oh so annoying. That can easily ruin your reputation.

  28. TiTi
    This is a great post I love it! And I love your sense of humor though that is not intended with this post. I recently visited a blog that I mentioned in my last post where every page I clicked I was smacked in the face with a pop up to subscribe to a newsletter. I even sent the owner an email to say how annoying it was and how it prevented me from enjoying my visit. So I just clicked off that blog. I too like a clean professional look in a theme. I’m learning to keep widgets to a minimum and try to draw more attention to my content. Less is more!
    Best To You…

  29. Well, all that sure needed saying– well done, TT! Too many bells and whistles just screams, “Amateur!” and/or “Kid playing with new toys!” Let’s hear it for a Minimal Aesthetic!!

    • Exactly. The overuse and in some cases just the use of these tacky bit of tat screams amateur! You may be interested to know that I have met bloggers from so-called third world countries, who believe that adding advertising and all this other tat “spices up their blog and makes it look more interesting”.

      Well, how does one respond to that when they have already assessed the fact that the blog content is not original but plagiarized, is not interesting, and is not well written? I quietly point to articles from appropriate and authoritative sources that address those points, and then I back away.

    • @Sandra,
      I believe you may have sensed that I suppressed my desire to publish a full-blown rant … lol :D I’m beginning to think that any blogger who assume I need a toolbar or an app is an unwitting tool of third party apps providers. A tool = a person who is controlled by others and is used to perform tasks for someone else and that benfit that someone else.

      In this case every one of those pop-ups, pop-unders, toolbars, widgets, gadgets, & thrid party apps etc. benefit the sites that supply them with link juice, and some even provide thrid party access to the personal information of those who use them (oh yeah!).

  30. Yay for minimalism! Some of my best blogging buddies have very busy-looking sites, and though it doesn’t stop me from visiting, it never ceases to annoy me. Thanks for reminding folks to rein in their enthusiasms a bit.

    • @Dave
      We seem to have moved into a time when BIG and in your face is quickly becoming the staus quo. I hope this trend dies, dies, dies out very soon. There has got to be something out of order between the ears of those bloggers who keep insisting they need more useless decorative and distrating “tat”. They may desire it and admire it, but their readers sure as heck don’t need it.

    • Hi Nita,
      It’s good to hear from you. That’s concise summary … lol :D

      Clutter, dark themes and unnecessary and tasteless advertising – strip it!

      Your palmistry site is a clean and easily navigated site with restful feel to it. It contains high quality original content and the design and color schme encourage readers to sta awhyle are read. Being an experienced blogger is really helpful when it comes to starting a new site, because one has learned what the impacts of design changes and “additions” have on content from both the POV of the blogger and of the reader.

      In short, the blog design ought to showcase the content and almost every addition we make has the potential of making content more difficult to locate and to read.

  31. Thanks, Timethief. Great reminder. It’s easy to get pulled into the bells and whistles and forget that what we’re trying to do is offer value – not impress. Especially those of us who are new to HTML and other tricks — we get too excited sometimes!

    • I think a lot of new bloggers get carried away with bells and whistles when they ought to be focused on establishing an archive of high quality content, and making it accessible to readers. Every blog needs to be structured in a reader friendly a search engine friendly manner and the more superfluous crapola we add the less attention we draw to content.

      I also believe that new bloggers are caught up in re-designing sites that appeal to them, rather than designing their site for their readers. It’s astonishing how many bloggers who have told me, in essence, that their blog is their playground and it suits them. IMO it’s of critical importance to have a test blog that is a mirror site where one tries out any new theme changes, widgets and gadgets, and then steps far back and uses that site like a reader would do.
      http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2010/05/19/how-to-select-a-wordpress-com-theme-part-1/

      In the final analysis, social media and social networking toolbars and buttons are only tools. What counts is creating actual relationships with readers, and that’s not going to happen when you have so much junk on your site that you are slowing page loading time and annoying visitors with distracting “tat”.

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