Blog DESIGN, BLOGGING | December 26, 2008

Dilemma: Magazine Style Vs Traditional Blog Layout

Instead of answering the question through theory, I will examine a case study: the revamp of my own blog (my other one). If you follow me on At Home with Kim Vallee, you probably know that I am in the middle of a major blog revamp.

Why a Blog Revamp?

In short, my wish list for the new blog can be resumed in those terms:

  • Increase the time my readers pass on my blog
  • Make it easier to navigate between categories
  • Migrate to a WordPress platform
  • More flexibility on ad placements while keeping as much as possible the ads separated from the content

As we worked on the blog mock-up, it became evident that I need a new logo and the color palette. We did those first and we are back working on the mock-up. I aim for a unique look. One solution can be to customize a WordPress theme. We could tailor it to fit the look and feels I am looking for. Therefore, I am looking at WordPress themes available on the Web.

We see more and more magazine style blogs. At first glance, the magazine style looks impressive and more polished. I particularly like the magazine themes of Woo Themes. I am leaning towards News Press or Flash News.

News Press by Woo Themes

News Press by Woo Themes

I also like Arthemia; they have a free version. Mom2Mom Lounge started using this theme a few months ago.

Mom2Mom Lounge

Mom2Mom Lounge

The technical aspect of the implementation and the maintenance is not an issue for me. I have access to an experienced programmer (my husband). I hired a graphic designer. Plus I can discuss the new design with my mentor.

I keep current on the experience of other bloggers who made the switch. Some bloggers reported that they lost readers after they switched to the magazine style. I suspect the effectiveness of the magazine style to be linked to a blog niche and particular readership. In any case, this fact is a cause for worries. Since we can achieve my requirements with either style, the real question is: Which style my readers will like better?  I ask you to vote for your blog layout preference

Which blog layout do you prefer reading?

View Results

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My Reflections So Far

If you are not familiar with the pros and cons of the magazine style, read this excellent article by Smashing Magazine. With a target of 4 daily posts on weekdays, I feel I can reasonably fill the homepage with fresh content. Magazine style is appropriate for blogs with the several categories. At Home with Kim Vallee is split in 7 main categories surrounding entertaining and home decor.

One problem with the magazine style is that you lose the friendly feeling that comes with the traditional blog style. Some users can be confused since At Home with Kim Vallee is not a print publication. There is nothing wrong with being a blogger. My mentor told me that the key factor is credibility and credibility comes from great, unique content.

Need for Intelligent Excerpts

I hate the short excerpts of the magazine style. I used long excerpts (at least 500 characters) on At Home with Kim Vallee. I already acknowledged the needs for a shorter home page but I wish to keep it simple for my readers.

My programmer created a sophisticated excerpt function for me. As a past software designer, I am used to the benefit of intelligent automatism. The excerpt I used is dynamic; this means that if I change my text, the excerpt will automatically be updated. The program cuts after the first 500 characters but always terminated the paragraph. Since I use subtitles in my posts (better for usability and SEO), the function will add the first paragraph after the subtitle (or split before the subtitle, I cannot recall which one). I wish to migrate that function to WordPress. I am delighted to have an easy access to a brilliant programmer.

I contemplate the option to feature my long excerpts for the first 4 posts and then, to have short excerpts like we see on the Fresh News Press Theme.

Fresh News Press

Fresh News Press

I explore only the tip of the iceberg. But so far, what do you think? Do you have a preference for At Home with Kim Vallee?

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4 Responses to “Dilemma: Magazine Style Vs Traditional Blog Layout”

  1. I think a magazine layout would work well for At Home. Your content is formatted like in a magazine so it should fit right in.

    I doubt that you would lose any readers over this.

  2. Hi Kim! We’ve just updated our blog on http://blogduvin.com/ with the Fresh News theme. I love it!

  3. Pingback from a Web site

    […] talked about it before: The magazine layout has invaded the blogosphere. We see the Web borrowing for the print media practices at a time where […]

  4. I just finished migrating les Banlieusardises from Movable Type to WordPress, and I must say this is the article that started it all! Since the day I saw the Fresh News screenshot, I knew it would be perfect for my site, and there was no turning back. 😉

    Migration wasn’t easy: I didn’t have just one blog, but six. A large database that I couldn’t export with the default “export” MT script. Numerical permalinks that weren’t exported, nor imported (at least, you won’t have this problem). I had to hack scripts, learn a bit of mod rewrite…

    If I can be of any help for your own migration, just say so. I feel like I owe you one!