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9 December, 2004

Below the fold

This isn't specifically a Blog Explosion issue, but since BE exposes one to a large number of page designs* and restricts the visible height of each window by imposing its own header, the effect is particularly apparent when browsing at BE.
As Betsy notes, far too many blogs feature huge, graphic-intensive page headers, the modern equivalent of splash pages.

The best metaphor for this approach might be the cover of a mass-market paperback book, which seeks to capture a potential buyer's attention with a compelling image. Unfortunately, there's a better metaphor for blogs: daily newspapers. In this model, the aim is to attract the potential readers' attention by presenting content - current text and perhaps associated images. However pretty the masthead, graphics merely diminish the space available for fresh material.

This is an old concept, and a daily consideration for newspaper designers/editors (especially for large-format broadsheets). A key objective is to get as much important information above the fold i.e. in the top half of the page, where it'll be seen immediately by those walking past the news stand. Anything below the fold won't be seen until the reader has already committed to the purchase.

Exactly the same principle applies to blogs, especially in the crowded 'news stand' of Blog Explosion. People are fundamentally lazy. If there's something good 'above the scroll', they might investigate further, but in the absence of that 'hook', one can't rely on a willingness to scroll for content.
Blog owners also only have thirty seconds to grab a BE visitor before they click on to the next site - don't waste that on loading images. There have been some occasions, particularly when browsing via narrowband at home, when a page's graphics haven't even loaded within thirty seconds.

An attractive layout and masthead obviously matter, but try to retain some balance. 'Content-led' consistently outperforms '(graphic) design-led' and, after all, top-heavy things do tend to fall over.

*: Or rather, a large number of sites, the designs of which are drawn from a depressingly small pool, once one gets past the most superficial aspects.


I hope many people take your advice. I'm actually given up on a couple of well-written blogs because I got tired of waiting for their background to load up.

Posted by Howard McEwen at December 10, 2004 11:20 PM
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