#5 Weekly Blogging Tip: Blog Design

Clear and simple blog design

Last weeks tip was to consider your options with regard to third party commenting systems, especially if you are using the native blogger system which is pretty un-user friendly when you compare it to what else is available.

That made me think of other ways we can make our blogs more user friendly, and the first thing I thought about was blog design.

I know this is dangerous territory because everyone's taste is so different, but I do still think that there are some fundamental things that we can all so to make our blogs as user friendly as possible when it comes to design.

So this weeks tip is:

Keep you blog design simple and clear.  

Regardless of what layout you use (one sidebar on the right, two sidebars on the right, a sidebar on either side etc etc) there are ways of keeping your blog design simple and clear.

First - there are always exceptions to these suggestions that work really well. If you do the opposite to these suggestions, I don't think that you have an unattractive blog :-) These are suggestions not rules.

Here are some suggestions for keeping for blog design simple and clear and your readers happy:

Light coloured backgrounds: A light coloured background with dark writing makes it easy on the eyes of people who are reading the content of your blog. Don't get me wrong, I love many blogs that have dark backgrounds, but there is no denying that they are harder to read than blogs with light coloured backgrounds. Good content will bring people back, but it can't hurt to make it as simple and easy as possible to read that content either. (When I say a light background, I mean under the area where you are writing).

Solid background: I only raise this because I know that there are some blogger templates that have a see-through option, so your writing is visible over the top of your background image. Again, this can make it a lot more difficult for people to read the content on your blog.

Avoid bling: I couldn't think of another word for this, but essentially what I am talking about are things such as moving graphics, flashing fonts and music that automatically plays when a visitor open the web page. Why avoid it? Generally speaking, if not used well (and I reckon its pretty hard to use that stuff well) it just becomes distracting from what people are really there for - your book reviews and other book discussion. Also, if someone is checking it on an old computer or just a crap one, then a lot of that stuff either isn't going to load or its going to load super slow which is super annoying and might turn people away from your blog.

Standard font: Standard fonts are easiest for people to read. That's why they are standard. Some blogs I have come across use font that looks a bit like cursive handwriting, which is so much harder to read than a standard font.

Clearly marked sections: By this I mean using headings in your sidebar so that it is clear to readers what information they are looking at and it doesn't all blend into one.

De-clutter: Sometimes the more information in your blog (particularly your sidebar), the more difficult it is to find things. For example, rather than including images from all the blogger awards you have received, why not create a page/post where you keep this information and leave a link to it somewhere in your sidebar or About Page? At the risk of repeating myself, the clearer it is, the easier it will be for your readers to navigate.

An 'About' section: This is really useful for new people who are visiting you. It means that there is one place that they can go to learn about your website and decide whether there is anything that interests them.

I am sure that there are many more suggestions people might have for keeping your blog simple and clear.

Why is it important to have a simple and clear blog?

In my view, simplicity = easier on the eye = easier to navigate = more user friendly. You might have the most interesting content in the world, but if your blog isn't user friendly or easy to read you risk losing visitors. The more user friendly your blog, then hopefully the more people will come back for more :-)

Given I have posted today about blog design being important, I thought that it might be worthwhile also talking about what to put in the contents of your book review. Again this will be very personal, but I will be brave and make some suggestions anyway!


Just a quick reminder that these are tip based on personal taste and experience and may not be suited to everyone. Quality of content and enthusiasm are what counts most.

What other tips do you have for a simple and clear blog?

Review: 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

This is barely a review, more a nod in the direction of Agatha Christie – whose books I love reading but reviewing them can sometimes become a little repetitive.

4:50 From Paddington is the story of Miss Marple's investigation into a murder that took place on a train. Her friend Mrs McGillicuddy arrives at her door one day with a story about seeing a woman murdered on a train. The police don't believe her because no body was recovered, but Miss Marple knows better.

She uses her personal common sesnse approach to come to the realisation that the body must be hidden somewhere at Rutherford Hall, an old family home alongside the railway tracks. She arranges a friend of hers to gain employment at Rutherford Hall and do some investigations into the family.

These investigations lead to a whole host of hidden secrets, but Miss Marple is determined to catch the killer before they kill again.
Not one of Christie's best, but then I am more of a Poirot fan than a Marple fan. Miss Marple herself barely lifted a finger to help solve this crime and the other characters didn't have enough charisma to keep me interested in their plight.

All in all, the story was a bit slow and….. English for my tastes. I know that sounds crazy, but there you have it.

5.5 / 8
Enjoyable. I would recommend it to Christie fans.

Did you feel a bit..... blah, about this one?

New review resources on Page Turners

I have been working very hard lately to bring two new pages to Page Turners:


In Reviews by Genre, you will be able to find reviews to the books I have read in one of two ways. The first is by genre. There is a link to each book under the appropriate genre. Where a book falls into two or more genres, you will find multiple links. The second is by author surname. So if there is an author you are particularly fond of, or are interested in knowing more about, you can see whether or not I have reviewed any of their works and, in the event that you find them, read a review of their worlds.

In Reviews by Year, you will find reviews of the books I have read in the order that I have read them. You might notice that at times there are books I haven't reviewed. In almost all cases, this is because the books have been so wonderful they I haven't been able to do them justice in a review and so have not reviewed them. In 2009, however, there are many books referred to without links to their reviews, and this is because I started blogging in June 2009 and therefore haven't reviewed books read prior to that date.

Why these two new pages?

Sometimes when I find a new blog I like to have a look at what books they have reviewed recently and who they read a lot of. This helps me to determine whether we have similar taste in books and whether I might become a more regular visitor. For blogs I am already familiar with, it helps me to find reviews of books I want to read and to see what their opinion of that book is. In other words, I have found pages like these helpful when looking for new blogs and navigating blogs I am already familiar with. So, I thought that it might in turn be useful to have pages like these for my readers.

On a more personal level, it allows me to keep track of my reading. With these lists, I can determine whether I favour a particular genre, who my most read authors are as well as a variety of other patterns in my reading. One of the reasons I started my blog was to become a more critical reader. I hope that these new pages will assist me to be more critical of my own reading habits, and make changes and improvements where I think that it might help me to become a better reader.

So, I very much hope that you find Reviews by Genre and Reviews by Year useful. I have to admit that I am particularly proud of my Reviews by Genre page because I had to teach myself a large amount of HTML in order to complete it and it took many tens of hours to do it.

There is still always my master list of reviews on the Book Reviews page if you find that more to your tastes.

Happy blogging and reading :-)

The Sunday Salon: Pride and Prejudice and a reflection on my reading

It is Sunday and the end of the weekend is nigh.

I have had a lovely weekend. Yesterday I spent all day at a local park with my friends. We were celebrating my birthday (which is next week) and having our yearly Christmas gathering where we passed around our secret santa presents and ate far more food than was necessary. What could be a better way to spend a beautiful sunny Saturday?

And now it's Sunday. I am relaxing on my bed with my blog, the BBC Pride and Prejudice and a bowl of poporn. Lydia has just eloped with Mr Wickham and Mrs Bennet is keeping to her room in a very distressed state. Can't blame her. That Lydia. What a hussy :-)

And in only 10 minutes my football team (that's soccer to most people) Sydney FC will be playing at Kogarah Oval and I must remember to switch over to Foxtel to watch the game. Although I am a season member, the weather just isn't good enough to tempt me out today, even for Sydney FC.

On an entirely different note, I has a look at my reading for this last month - and it isn't pretty.

When I do the maths, I read on average 7 books a month. In October, I read 9.

In November... I read 2 books. That's right, 2. And one of those books I actually started reading in October.

I don't know what it is. I like to think that it's because I am entering my third trimester and my concentration is drastically lacking. That's right, I just blamed the baby. Nothing is beneath me now :-)

Seriously though, I have been reading The Sunday Philosophy Book Club by Alexander McCall Smith for over a week now, a book that would usually take me two or three days of reading on the train for me to finish it. The one book I started and finished in November was Shakespeare by Bill Bryson, one of the shortest books I have read all year. I wish I knew what was responsible for this reading malady. I can see that it is continuing into December. I hope it is baby related and will wear off soon. Until then, I will keep persevering.

Hope you are all enjoying your weekend as much as I am.