Remember Back In The Day, before blogs were called ‘blogs’? Remember how simple and clutter-free everything was? When you visited a new blog, you knew exactly where everything was. This is because every blog had the same five pieces, and usually the same layout
- The Content. Displayed predominantly in the middle of the screen. Every post was shown in full and impossible to miss.
- The Archive. Listed first in the menu bar on the left or under the title. Brought you to a list of months, which brought you to the posts for that month. These are still around, but in a dozen different forms.
- The Forum. Back In The Day, we didn’t use post-by-post comments. We just had forums.
- The Downloads. No indy dev site was complete without a handful of unfinished RPGs and graphics demos.
- The Links.
Every home page consisted of the title, these five links, and the posts. The content took up 99% of the page.
Now, it can actually be a hassle trying to navigate around an unfamiliar blog or news site. And there’s so much clutter it’s hard to concentrate on what you’re trying to read. Take a look at CodeBetter. Now, this isn’t exactly a blog in the traditional sense, and I don’t mean to pick on a site with more good content than I could ever hope for, but it’s where I was when I thought of this. Look at how many things are on the front page: ads, “featured” articles, latest articles, two sets of popular articles, a “tag cloud”, member projects, links, more ads, and 12 RSS links (yes, 12).
Most of these sections are probably useful to a lot of people. If it’s your first time visiting a site, you want easy access to the best or most popular content, not just the most recent. And RSS feeds are becoming more and more mainstream, but there’s never any reason to have more than one or two of them on the front page.
Then there are the parts that as all but useless. Tag clouds are the worst thing to happen to blogs since the term “blog”. If you want to show the most popular tags, show a list; they’re smaller, easier to understand, and more informative. One thing I’ll give CodeBetter credit for though is that they didn’t cram in a calendar view. Like tag clouds, they’re nothing but more complex and less usable reworkings of more established views.
I guess it all comes down to the 80-20 rule which Joel Spolsky writes about so elegantly: most people won’t use most features, but that doesn’t mean you can get rid of them. I’m sure each of those 12 RSS links has been used by someone at least once, but for everyone else they’re just clutter. They belong tucked away in a separate, but easy to find, page, along with the tag cloud and member projects.
Of course, this is just my opinion; I prefer the content to take up most of the page.