Ruin The assorted ramblings of Brendan Tobolaski

Ben Brooks' Redesign

Ben Brooks launched his newest redesign today. I think it looks great but, thats only part of the story. What really resonates with me is the reasoning behind it. To start off with the most unconventional,

No matter what I tried, or designed, a long lists of full-length articles is a pain in the ass to scroll through. Not only that, but most people will stop after the first or second article if they aren’t of interest to them at that point — and then you have lost a potential reader.
Ben Brooks

Iʼve felt this way for a long time. I donʼt really like coming across sites that use the standard blog layout with full articles on the front and each subsequent page. When I come across a new site, I usually read whatever it was that I came to the site for. Then, Iʼll usually check out the home page. I donʼt remember ever stopping and reading all of the posts on the front page. Its just not a reasonable thing to do. If I did that, then I would never have time to do anything else. Instead, what I do is skim through their recent posts to see if Iʼm interested in the general content of the site. This process is fairly annoying with the full text of each post on the home page. It requires a great deal of scrolling and I donʼt think that it is actually benefitting anyone.

In past redesigns of this site and previous sites, Iʼve always stuck with the standard blog layout (except for a brief period of time where I was using the default Ghost theme). For a long time, I thought that it was because of Matt Gemmellʼs piece on blog design. Turns out that he never states that. Its a great piece. I agree with almost everything he says in it. That was never the full reason why I chose to put full text posts on the home page. Every time that Iʼve done a redesign, I take a look at the home pages of my favorite sites. Every time they have been overwhelmingly dominated by full text posts on the front page.

I donʼt remember where I first heard this but, it seems the general consensus is that not having full posts on the home page is greedy. That those writers that choose not to include the full posts are only looking to drive up their page views. I donʼt think that is the case. It is a much better experience for everyone. Its certainly not the case that Iʼm trying to drive up page views for advertising nor is it the case for Ben Brooks. Neither of us have any advertising on our sites.

There is one thing that I think you need to pull this off. Your site needs to be fast. If loading each page takes a couple of seconds then, its a worse experience. Potential new readers will also likely be put off by the amount of time that it takes to browse through your site. That being said, I think I have a pretty fast site. I will be switching around my layout to not include full posts on the front page.

The other major deviation from the standard blog format Ben Brooks makes is:

So linked list posts and quote posts are not on the homepage, as I don’t think it is the place for them. I am proud of the articles I write, and they are my “best foot” — so why wouldn’t I want to show them off first and foremost on the site? And because I had no good answer to that, gone are the links and quotes from the main page. (You can get to them on their own pages now, or via the RSS feed which is still full content.)
Ben Brooks

This makes a great deal of sense to me as well. When I come across a new site, I donʼt really care about their link list type posts. It just obscures the real meat of their site. Once I start following a site, I like to see the link list type stuff. I come across quite a bit of really great stuff this way but, it is very distracting when looking at a new site. This is, again, something that Iʼm going to implement for this site. This is a bit ironic, as you likely came across this post from my home page but, I feel like Iʼve contributed enough of my own thoughts to make this a “full” post. Implementing this may take some work on my part. Iʼm not entirely sure on how to make this happen using Jekyll.

If you have your own site, I hope you take three things away with you. Read both Ben Brooksʼ piece on the new design of his site and Matt Gemellʼs piece on designing blogs for readers, they are excellent. The final point is one that Iʼm still working on; stop caring so much what other people think. Your website is for you first and your readers second. If you think that your site needs something then try it out. Maybe its a bad idea or maybe no one else is doing it because of some misplaced sense of conformity. Iʼm still working on that.