There are three ways that one can format a blog post. The way that Frankly Curious does it is by far the best. But before I get to that, let’s discuss the different ways. The most common is what I call, “We don’t need no stinking pictures!” This is what you get from smaller blogs. They are just trying to get their messages out. They don’t have the time or the resources to add imagines to their posts. And there really is no need for the images. That’s especially true for people like Digby who we all read because she’s brilliant.
This kind of format is also found on Bloomberg blogs. I assume this is because these posts are going to be reprinted elsewhere. Also Political Animal includes no images. But interestingly, when Washington Month publishes guest posts, they include a small caricature of the writer in the upper left hand corner of the article. I rather like this. One of my complaints about websites generally but blogs especially is the lack of author images. Readers like to have some idea of who they are dealing with. I don’t think I’m in the minority on this one.
The second kind of format is generally done by large publications. In these cases, the article starts with a headline, followed by a large image that has to be scrolled past to get to the content. A typical example of this can be found with New York Magazine. But sadly, this is also how Vox is displayed. This is a huge mistake. First, it requires that the reader click to the page and then scroll down just to figure out if they want to read the article. Second, the idea of images is to break up the page. Having a big image that simply pushes the entire text flow out of the way doesn’t do that. So the images get in the way at the same time that they don’t make the pages more pleasant to look at.
This brings us to the correct way to layout pages: my way. What’s strange is that not more people do it. My standard scheme is to put a single small (150×200 pixel) image in the upper left hand corner of the article. Sometimes it goes on the right. And sometimes I use a large image if I think it is important enough. But that is the exception. There are various things that this accomplishes. First, it shows rather clearly on the main page where the articles start. It also makes the page look nice and not so desperately dull. Think of it as the spice of the article. I also think it makes people more likely read the article because it gives them another reason to be interested in the subject.
I perhaps have a different outlook on the web than a lot of people. I set up one of the first websites in the world. And at that time, one of the very few things you could do was to include images on pages. So I’ve always seen it as a publishing platform. But it isn’t like a book. It is like a magazine. And it should appeal like a magazine. Just the same, I don’t claim to be any kind of a layout artist. And that’s kind of the point: if this stuff is obvious to me, what the hell is going on with professionals at popular sites?
Well, I think I know, actually. I think they are far more interested in maximizing the number of people who click on the ads they liter their pages with than they are with the content they are providing. Washington Monthly, for example, is more ads than content. Because of that site alone, I’ve turned off flash content on my pages. And the site still annoys me.
There are many other problems with the way that webpages are displayed. Many of them have been eliminated by blogging software. For example, you just don’t see blog themes that have virtually unreadable text scrolling all the way across the screen. Just the same, the blogs have also created a great deal of monotony. Right now on Frankly Curious, I’m rather unhappy with the excessive amount of white space. This is something that seems especially typical of WordPress. And every time I look at this blog, I think, “That’s so 2009!” Just the same, it isn’t terrible. But I don’t want to be saying that in 2019.
What I think goes on with most blogs is that people don’t have all that much time to devote to them. What’s more, they aren’t that technically savvy and so once they get something that doesn’t totally suck, they stick with it. Also, the blogs really do limit you. I’ve only been using my current theme for a month or two, but I know that I can never upgrade it. I’ve gone in and hacked the code to make it do things it was never meant to do. So I don’t blame people for playing it safe. And I never complain that a lone blogger isn’t dazzling me with graphics. But the professionals really are to blame for not only leaving me flat with their designs, but getting in the way of my consuming their content.