My blog desperately needs a makeover. The current design is from 2004 or thereabouts I think, and while I was thrilled at it at the time, it’s messy visually with all the stuff I’ve added (Twitter feeds and delicious links and whatnot) and the code is a mangled mess of WordPress 1.2 forced into 1.5 and then largely neglected. Certainly I could be posting more, too, but don’t you think a new design would inspire that?

So what would I want my blog to be? Blog design has changed in the last six years, and I have changed as well. Back in 2004 I thought Derek Powazek‘s redesign was too un-bloggish, but that’s the way much design has gone and of course I like it now.

Here’s Powazek anno 2004:
Powazek's blog anno 2004

Interestingly, his current design is much more classically bloggish:

Powazek's blog anno 2011

Here’s the kind of look I probably want. This is Bill Wolff’s blog – or site, really, as he doesn’t blog very frequently.

Bill Wolff's blog

This look does require that you include an image with every single post, as I discovered when using the Arras theme for my DIKULT110 blog last semester. This is doable, I think. But maybe the magazine blog look is on its way out, anyway?

Some of the classic blogs, like Powazek’s and Anil Dash‘s, have gone very clean and simple in their current designs, with almost nothing in the side bars. I like the clean look, but there’s a lot I want to say! I do really like Anil Dash’s archives, though – I plan to copy that:

Anil Dash's archives anno 2011

More on this as things start moving.

11 thoughts on “what does a great academic blog look like?

  1. Undre

    I think that the clean, yet elegant look is the way to go. We are so used to filter out information when we visit websites that if you want your text to be in focus then keep your site clean and tidy. I think is on to something with his extremely clean look and his use of pages.

    The magazine themes can often come across as a bit impersonal. Images for every blogpost can be very stylish, but it can also become a bit of a nuisance if you’re just publishing a short note in a hurry.

    It is also important to take into consideration that a blog will be viewed on a wide range of computers and smart phones these days. You need a theme that can cope with more than just the average computer screen. I’m testing my way through the different new free themes that can offer and I’m surprised to find that not all of the new themes there can handle smaller computer screens.

  2. Charles

    On the archives, I recommend something like that at John Gruber’s site: I never click on archives by dates (I need to change mine but haven’t found the time), but I will glance down a list of titles to find something of interest.

  3. Eva

    I would be wary of something that requires images in every post, it can quickly become a hassle. I also think that the magazine themes require that you blog fairly frequently, but that might just be me.

    Personally I hardly ever see the design of blogs I follow. I read them on my feed reader and only see the design if I want to comment.

    Pick something you like. If it doesn’t work out you can always change it 😉

  4. David Albrecht

    I have two blogs, each with decidedly different themes/font styles, but similar in the graphic style of the header and use of images in articles.

    I like an uncluttered look, with a single side-bar on the right. It allows for a wider column for text. This contrasts with your rather confining double side-bar approach. In my sidebar, I post images (instead of text) directing readers to my most popular posts. You have so many words in your sidebar that I would never take the time to read them.

    I use graphic images for medium length and longer blog posts. Perhaps this is a carryover from the early days of web sites (had my first in 93), when graphic images added to the appeal. I think graphic images are almost mandatory now. When I announce my posts on LinkedIn and Facebook, the platforms automatically add a graphic image from the post. Looks good, I think.

    I like fairly bright colors for contrast. Your blog is too dark for me.

    My blogs are The Summa (, and Pondering the Classroom (

    Good luck with your redesign.

  5. Matt Whyndham

    don’t really care, as long as it has RSS!

  6. Matt Whyndham

    I suppose the design is important in the same way as the graphics and photos on a box on a supermarket shelf. Once it’s in the trolley, especially regularly, the quality of the ingredients is more important. Personally, I don’t think much is broken with your current template. Number of posts in archives would a nice to have. Oh, and tags.

  7. Johan

    Agree with Matt: Unlike in 2004, a blog’s web design doesn’t matter much these days. Most of us probably follow your feed instead of visiting the site to read the content. But then again, we still need to come here to comment, of course…

  8. […] Og aller sist, et lite bonusspor: Jill Walker Rettberg er p?• jakt etter nytt design til bloggen sin. Det er jo en artig anledning til ?• f??lge med p?• at en av verdens fremste eksperter p?• blogging gj??r akkurat det dere skal i gang med ?• gj??re. Der burde ihvertfall v?¶re materiale til ?• tenke over sp??rsm?•let jeg ba dere kommentere i kommentarfeltet: Hva er bra, og hva er d?•rlig blogging (og blogg-design)? […]

  9. Johan

    …and if we do, we may occasionally actually read previous comments so as not to repeat what others have already said (sorry). 🙂

  10. […] fall, hvorfor ikke? Svar i kommentarfeltet under. 59.942354 10.715681 Comments RSS feed LikeBe the first to like thispost. […]

  11. Stephanie

    I started using the magazine layout with images in every post. Going and looking for the ‘right’ image has been fun and made me blog a bit more. I have really gotten out of the social media habit, so two weeks ago I made a ‘social media schedule’ for myself with small tasks to do everyday. I have been able to meet these small tasks, and the conversations have begun again. For me, this act of small scheduling has made all the difference!

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