Yesterday, I had breakfast with Steve Farber. Our discussion included comments and conversation on blogs. I mentioned what I’ve been noticing as I begin working with a designer on a facelift for Successful Blog.
The key point is that the longer I study designs I might like the more I realize that design affects how and whether I comment.
It makes sense really. We recognize a restaurant we want to try by its decor. We decorate our houses to reflect what is important to us. Why wouldn’t blog design reflect the blog owner and the audience? It seems a natural next step to think that blog design affects whether I comment.
Not all readers respond as I do, but decades working with readers online and off has taught me that many do. So, I’ve collected these thoughts:
- Some designs are all rules or all whimsy. They might be mature and thoughtful, but they have no emotion. They might be fun and friendly, but they have no sophistication. It’s hard for me to find a fit in either. If I don’t fit, I worry that my comments will be misinterpreted. Designers should know I comment on these blogs despite design not because of it.
- Some designs are highly structured — all things are outlined and in boxes. I know from print, that some folks find high-structure a comfort and others find it limiting. High-structure design makes me feel there is only one right answer. I’m careful when I comment on blogs with high-structure designs. I think that information bloggers and corporate blog designers should know this about me.
- Some designs are wide open — the extreme example is the white page with no lines or boxes. The overall feeling could translate to standing on an open prairie where horizon is visible in all directions. I so like reading these blogs that I thought this was an option I might try, but when I went to comment on one my comment seemed so public. It didn’t mind sharing my thoughts in this venue, but I knew I’d never get in deep discussion. Someone who wants me to get to the point and keep moving should be aware of this response.
- Some designs have a sense of openness and intimacy about them. They offer a defined space with atmosphere that offers room to breathe and think, and a boundary from the rest of the world. These designs feel fresh and familiar at the same time. I seem to know I’ll like people I’ll find there before I start to read. Designers looking to build a community blog should understand the attraction of these intangibles.
We know Successful-Blog is about relationships and conversation. Our kind of dialogue takes place in comfortable spaces, in places intimate and nonjudgmental. High-trust environments don’t happen when there’s only one right answer, when the whole world is watching, or when we have no sense of where we are or who we’re talking to.
Great design weds emotion and structure. Great designers weave and craft the subtle and intangible values of a brand into a design. Great design underpins and underscores who you and your readers are. It is the visual expression of the story your blog is telling in the words.
My comments might begin with a thought, but the execution, the actual writing involves a personal, emotional investment — a putting myself out there. A blog’s design helps me understand whether I’ll be supported in that effort. I guess it tells whether my comment is welcome.
How does the design of your blog reinforce the story of who you are? What else have you noticed about how design makes you feel while you are reading a blog?