Blog Layout Tip 2, Columns

Another aspect of your blog layout is the choice of how many columns to have and how wide each one will be.  It’s important because it has a major effect on how your blog looks.

There are several basic designs to choose from.

1. Single Column

I honestly have not seen a blog using a single column layout since the early days of blogging in the mid 1990’s.  I think the main reason that it was used then was because monitor resolutions at the time were either 640 or 800 pixels wide.  This didn’t leave a lot of room for sidebars without producing a horizontal scroll-bar in the visitors browser.

2. Two Column

From the late 1990’s into around 2003 or so many blogs used a two column format.  This fit within the 800 pixel wide space that most monitors used at the time and provided the main column for posts and a sidebar where navigation links and advertising could be placed.

The width was hard-coded into the them and if the browser window was not large enough it would still produce a horizontal scroll-bar, meaning the visitor could not see all of it at once.

Later many themes in this width were designed with a flexible width that allowed the blog to automatically re-size (within limits) to fit whatever size browser window the reader was using.

3. Three column

As more and more people began using 1024 pixel (or wider) screen settings three column formats started appearing.  This gave a lot more freedom about where to place navigation links and advertising.  Most of the three column themes that I have seen use a flexible width design.

My Choice

For this blog I chose to use the “Prosense Grey” theme.  It is a fixed width three column design that is 950 pixels wide.  It looks good in any browser window that’s 1024 pixels wide and these days it seems to be the smallest size most people use.

I came to that conclusion after looking at the screen resolution stats for another of my websites.  This information was gathered by javascript that is part of the site’s statistics tracking.  It showed me that 85.9 percent of people visiting the site were using a screen resolution of 1024 pixels or wider.

It also showed that 45 percent of visitors use Firefox, 22 percent use Chrome, 9.8 percent use mobile browsers and only 9.6 percent still use Internet Explorer.

Prosense looks great in a 1024 pixel window and if the window is larger the grey background expands, keeping the content and two sidebars in the center of the window.

It also fit my requirement of black text with the background color behind it white for ease of reading as I talked about in my last post.

Prosense is also “widget ready” which means you can easily add widgets from the admin panel of WordPress and arrange them in whatever order suits you best.

Blog Layout Tip 1, Color Choices

Your blog layout is important. Get it right and people will focus on your content and be more likely to return. Get it wrong and people will hardly ever return because your blog layout has made it difficult to read or, in some cases, find your content.  In this post I want to talk about one of the layout choices I made when setting up this blog and why I made it.

If your blog layout is hard to read, nobody will

The first thing to consider is your color choices. When you think about the colors you want for your blog forget for a moment about the colors you really love.

For example that pastel shade your kitchen is painted. It may look great on your kitchen walls but using it for a background color on your blog will suck out loud. This goes double for text colors.

You want high contrast colors that make reading easy. This is why my text is flat black on a white background. It’s just plain easier to read.

I can’t begin to think of how many Blogspot blogs, MySpace pages or YouTube channel pages I have seen where somebody decided that pink text on a pastel blue background looked good.

How about yellow on purple?  Or yellow on light tan?  Dark blue on Black anyone?  They might be your favorite colors in all of creation but they’re bloody hard to read.

Look at most newspapers and magazines and you’ll find a great key to a good blog layout.  The single most common color combination most of them use is black text on a white background and there is good reason for it.  Print publications have been doing this for a LONG time and they know what works.

They use the black text on white because it’s easy to read (and because white ink and black paper are more expensive).  They know that if you have any difficulty reading it, you probably won’t pay attention to it in the future and you will certainly not buy a subscription to it.

problogger blog layout exampleAnother good example is to take a look at other blogs.  Professional “big time” blogs that have been around a while and have a huge following.

One such example is Problogger.  It’s been around for years and has built up a strong following.  Somehow I think that if they had decided to use dark blue text on a black background it wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular or profitable as it is.

Who would want to try to read something that looks like a bruise?  That’s a bad case of eyestrain just begging to happen.

For another example take a look at Huffington Post.  It’s another one of those “big time” professional blogs with a huge following that has been around for years.  Again you will see black text on a white background.

Their text is not some pastel shades of pink or yellow and their background doesn’t swallow the text and drown it out.  There are no cutesy images in the background that distract you from the text or worse, make it damn near invisible.  I don’t particularly agree with the politics that appears there but their presentation is spot on.

The simple fact is that black text on white background is about the easiest to read color combination there is with the opposite combination coming in at a close second.

When somebody comes to your site you don’t want them to have any trouble reading your copy.  In fact you want them totally engrossed in it and ready to check back the next day looking for a new post.  If they have trouble reading what you’ve written they are not going to be very focused on what you have to say and will certainly not be inclined to return.

That is why I strongly recommend using black text on a white background.  This ease of reading is why I also recommend that you use a font size of no less than 12 points, though generally no larger than 16 points at the very most.

In my next post I’ll go over my choices about how many columns and the width I wanted to use.

In the mean time, take it easy, I’m outta here.

What Is This Blog About?

A new visitor to this blog (and as I write this, all visitors are new) will reasonably ask the question in the title of this post “What is this blog about?”.

I have decided to answer that question here in the first post instead of creating a separate “About” page.

I’ll start off with a bit of ancient history.

A long time ago when evil dinosaurs ruled the Earth with an iron fist . . .

Ok, maybe not quite that long ago but several years to be sure, this domain hosted a very simple (and badly coded, hideous looking) website whose purpose was to list domain names that were for sale.

Sometime in the fall of 2008 I decided to remove the horribly coded and not at all helpful or useful page that was here and replace it with a WordPress blog.  I began writing posts that each featured a single domain that was for sale.

I had gotten three of them done when my wife’s health issues at the time took me away from the project.  After she died in late December of that year I was preoccupied with so many things that I simply forgot about the project completely.

Since then this website has lain dormant and forgotten until very recently when my web hosting provider (Dreamhost) sent me an email notifying me that they had detected suspicious activity.

They had stopped it cold by changing permissions on the files in question and included a list of the suspect files.

Some alleged “person” (or maybe just a bot, who knows?) had hacked the site and placed a number of files in the directory where the theme in use at the time was stored.  I deleted the suspect files and began considering what to do with this domain that had been forgotten for so long.

I could not very well continue the original project of listing domains for sale because, of the ones that my wife and I had bought, the registrations had been allowed to lapse for financial reasons.

The others I was going to list I don’t know the status of and I’m not going to list something for sale if I don’t *know* for certain it actually is.  It’s possible that I may occasionally post about domains that are for sale however that is no longer the primary focus of this site.

Instead this blog is going to be about many things

I’ll be writing here about any number of things that I think are either interesting, need to be mentioned or that I have an opinion about that I wish to express and I’ll also feel free to rant about various things from time to time.

I’ll also be talking about blogging in general and at first I’m planning to write several posts about the process of setting up a blog and the various decisions I made when setting up this one and why I made the choices I did.

Another topic is going to be business practices.  This means both out there in the big bad corporate world and the “little guy” trying to earn a few bucks to help make ends meet.  This will include a lot of blogging, advertising, Adsense and Internet Marketing topics.

I have done my best to learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since I wrote that first primitive web page back in 1997 and over the years I have actually managed to learn a few things.  This will also be a source of many posts.

One thing that I will NOT be doing is writing posts in which the content or a link in the content is sponsored in some way (paid posting and paid links).  I have done this in the past however this blog is going to be totally free of such things.  My reasons why will no doubt be the subject of a number of posts.

Finally I will say that while I’m not going to be writing certain kinds of posts on this blog, I *am* trying to earn some much needed money here and therefore there will be advertising in various forms.  This advertising will begin with Adsense and go from there.

I have tried to ensure that the design and layout of the advertising will not obscure or interfere with my posts.  This effort will continue as other advertising is occasionally tested on this site.

Exactly where I will go with this and how I’ll get there is an adventure that is just beginning with this post.  I invite you to come along for the ride.  I’m sure that it will be interesting and maybe even educational for both of us.