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Mark Mzyk | July 25, 2009

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader, then everything looks as it always has.  If you’re reading this in a browser, then there are differences.

Three things have changed:

  • The text is larger.
  • The width is no longer fixed.
  • There are no longer categories listed in the sidebar.

I’m following Joshua Porter’s lead in making the text bigger.  The rational is that it makes content easier to read.

I discarded the fixed width because on larger monitors it wasted screen space.  While white space is good, too much is distracting.

The category links have disappeared because I doubted their usefulness.  I believe in making things as simple as they can be, while still being functional.  By removing categories, I’ve pulled a dial from the interface.  It’s still entirely possible to see all the content on this blog by either using the archives link or by searching.  Of course, I might be tempted to kill those next.  There is a small website called Google that’s pretty damn good at finding content.

Let me know how you feel.  Is the site now 100% better or have I just completely ruined your day?

Filed in: General.


  1. Comment by Chris Ess:

    I do think I like the larger text. I may look into making this adjustment on my site(s) if I can get it to look good, or at least acceptable.

    There may be an issue with the switch to variable width. At the width I keep my browser open, “Contact & About Me” wraps at “Me” and the text in the search button is clipped. I don’t mind the first but the second bugs me a little.

    I believe that removing the category links may have been a bad idea and that removing the archive link would be a bad idea as well. This comes from the idea that a site should be easy to navigate to help ensure visitor retention. Any time a visitor has to go off of the site to find something else on it, that’s a visitor who probably won’t come back. However, I don’t know how important this is for blogs. It could be that this is totally irrelevant.

    July 27, 2009 @ 08:49
  2. Comment by Mark Mzyk:

    Hey Chris,

    That’s interesting about the sidebar wrapping. I tested the changes using my 13” Macbook and the larger 22” screen I sometimes hook up to it. Not a scientific test, by any means, I admit. I also only tested in Firefox. I took the lazy way out on this one.

    What browser and screen size are you using? Knowing the resolution you use might be helpful as well. That way I can setup a computer to mimic it and tweak the CSS to play nice. No promises I’ll get to this anytime soon though. The other solution would be for me to stack the offending pieces; split contact and about me into two pages (that might be worth doing anyway) and putting the search button below the box.

    As for the category links, you make a good point about user stickiness and easy navigation. Given that, I still don’t think the category links added much and that things are better without them. I think the search box and the archives link will stick around, for now. At the least, one of those will probably always be around.

    Part of this tweaking is me making it so the content is more forward. That’s what I want readers to see when they come here: the content. I believe the content should speak for itself.

    Once upon a time I came across a blog post that looked at blogs with minimal design and stated what features they had and didn’t have. I wish I could find it again to show you, but a quick Google search isn’t showing it. In short, the conclusion was that you don’t need much to be successful.

    To show the direction I’m going, I suggest you look at Daring Fireball: http://daringfireball.net/

    Thanks for the feedback, by the way. Anything else you’d like to add, even beyond just the look and feel that are mentioned in this post?

    July 27, 2009 @ 13:07
  3. Comment by Chris Ess:

    Browser is Firefox 3.5.1. Screen resolution tested is 1680×1050 on a 20″ desktop LCD. The actual window size is significantly smaller, call the content area unscientifically around 1000×550. (I don’t like browsers that take up the entire screen, especially since I only have one screen on this workstation.)

    One solution to the search problem would be to either move the button under the search field or replace the search button altogether with javascript on that form field. (Or both.)

    I don’t think that taking further steps to emphasizing the content is all that necessary. Even with the topics on the right, what you had was still reasonably low noise. Since the normal focus point in a browser is going to usually be around the middle, the important thing is that the content is in the middle and that there’s nothing around to distract the visitor. As long as there’s taken care of, overly minimizing what’s in the sidebar seems like a mistake to me. However, you can have too much stuff in the sidebar too.

    I don’t like the Daring Fireball design much. Maybe it’s a combination of my browser and AdBlock Plus but there’s just a lot of empty space on the left. Between the empty space on the left and the margin on the right, there’s text on maybe 40% of the content area. It feels like reading a column in an old newspaper with something obscuring everything but the column.

    At the same time, I can’t recommend what I’ve done with my site. I think the right sidebar is probably too noisy but there’s not much I can think of to change it.

    July 27, 2009 @ 13:53
  4. Comment by Chris Ess:

    Er, “as long as that’s taken care of”. Don’t you hate it when you catch these things after you hit the submit button?

    Also, while I’m here, a disclaimer: I’m not, by any means, a web designer.

    July 27, 2009 @ 13:54
  5. Comment by Mark Mzyk:

    Good thoughts Chris. I’ll keep them in mind as I keep working on the blog.

    I also thought I’d link to the blog rc3.org as another very minimalist blog: http://rc3.org/

    What do you think of that blog? It doesn’t matter if you’re a web designer or not – neither am I. It’s good to have a range of opinions.

    July 27, 2009 @ 21:45
  6. Comment by Chris Ess:

    rc3.org looks better. It feels clean and feels like it has less wasted space than Daring Fireball.

    I don’t think it’s that much more minimalist than what you have now. It does feel more minimalist because all of the blog trappings are in the footer rather than in the sidebar. However, those trappings are still present.

    So that’s another option. Instead of having the links in the sidebar, remove it entirely and put them, possibly with a little but more, in the footer. This method certainly encourages focusing on the content because, as long as you have over a page worth of content, the visitor initially can’t see anything but content.

    July 28, 2009 @ 13:05
  7. Comment by Mark Mzyk:

    Good point Chris. I could move that information to the footer, although the risk is that if I do that, visitors might then miss it – which defeats the purpose of easy navigation, as you mentioned earlier.

    I think for now I’ve struck a nice balance. I still need to tweak the Search box, but for now I’ll let things stay as they are and see how it works.

    Thanks for all the great feedback.

    July 28, 2009 @ 20:47
  8. Comment by Gebeya:

    I like the big Text and neat page as well. there is so much destruction reading blogs. so many ads, so many blinking stuffs here and there. It is sad that those things are considered as normal. But, I do personally prefer this style.

    August 27, 2009 @ 13:36
  9. Comment by Mark Mzyk:

    Hey Gebeya,

    I agree that so many blogs go over the top with ads and widgets and sprockets of all types. That isn’t my philosophy, which is why I’ve tried to keep my blog clean. I’m glad that you approve of how my blog looks.

    August 28, 2009 @ 16:22