Some stuff about DesignNotes and why you should please blog too


It’s been a while since the last time I took a step back to think about why I blog, but more importantly considered what I’m learning from it and hopefully figure out where I want to take it next. While I’ve been considering those questions for a while it wasn’t until I meet Amrita Chandra of Tinku Gallery yesterday over drinks that I thought it might make a relevant post for today. In terms of learning one skill that isn’t hard to understand yet not always considered at first is how to read your blog stats. Let me preface that by mentioning that if you only care about the blogs that send you a lot of traffic vs. those that might only send you a couple hits you’re making an error. You should consider the idea of the long tail, but more importantly those couple hits are sending you traffic b/c they value your content. I also find it intriguing on how people are getting to my site, what is being clicked, the search keywords and a guesstimate of who they are. I’d like to think that having those answers don’t influence my content that much and it’s just cerebral value for me.

Let’s face it, a lot of blogs aren’t that pretty to read yet hold our attention b/c of the content. The template I’ve been using has ben tweaked on a weekly basis b/c I’m not yet happy with it. Most of it is subtle stuff, but I’m always curious to see how things change click wise after I change something. Probably the most visable example is my Friday Link Drop. Every week the content has been displayed slightly different to make it better. I’m almost happy with how it’s being displayed – now I just wish there was a faster way to code it. It’s a fairly time consuming process to hand code the Link Drop. But the payoff is that my design for some of the other sections of the blog are going to change from what I’ve learned with updating the Link Drop week after week. While the tendency to have everything perfect when a blog starts is noble – I think it has the potential to make things tight, overly designed and in the end not as fluid as it could be. If you can’t experiment on a blog – where can you? I also find that I lot of these little experiments find their way into the real design work that I do – just implemented by code people that know what they’re doing with a crazy amount of databases.

Another concept that is super obvious about blogs yet kind of is taking for granted is data flow. I’m talking about the summation’s of posts of the blog. Try not to gag when I mention synergy, but each blog posts is good but when combined with all other posts it makes a really compelling reflection on what’s going on. That concept is really hard to grasp outside of the microsites that will never update their content. It also interesting to be able to understand the difference between a post page and the home page of a blog. By far the biggest frustration I have w/ my blog is the post page. I hate it, there’s so much I want to do w/ it around creating relations to other designNotes pages and the tagging is a little screwed up visually. When I actually find the right person to help me w/ creating a wp template from the ground up, the drive to fix those irratations is what’s going to make the design.

Up until know I’ve just been blabbing about the technical stuff – never mind the actual content. There is no possible way that you can’t improve as a writer or person that wants to think about stuff more by living it everyday. While I always enjoy the comments I sometimes hope to get more dissenters. Not b/c I’m looking for a fight but if I throw some ideas out there and it’s all I know and someone can offer me another perspective I’ve just gained some insight that I otherwise would never have had. I also think it’s a mistake to see blogs as just a digital thing. By the time I leave from my vacation from Toronto I will have meet a handful of people that I would never have known if it wasn’t for the blog. While my trip still would have been enjoyable for other reasons I would hate to think of the missed connections if I had never started this thing. I’m also getting to the point where something kind of interesting is happening a couple times a week b/c of the blog. While I wouldn’t classify them so much as opportunities, I do feel like the conversations that happen outside DesignNotes with me is very intriguing. Again that’s stuff that would never would have happened if I hadn’t started things a couple years ago.

I’m sill thinking about what I want to do next here. It’s a pretty open opportunity to do what ever I want w/ out anyone saying no you can’t do that. Let me end this convo like I usually do when I mention my own blog, start a blog and start it today. You can only gain from the experience.

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  • Mix

    Funny you post this comment today. I'm a regular reader of your blog (silently) and just restarted my own a couple days ago (not live yet) for some of the reasons you've listed. I did have one for awhile but it was mostly for personal reasons. I've gotten to a point in my work now that I'll find something cool or take a bunch of different theories and methods and put them together to code or design something really beautiful and I miss having a conversation about it. I miss being able to share it with people who would be able to appreciate it and maybe apply it to their own work or improve on it or even better, tell me it's bung for reasons a, b and c.

    This used to be a reason for forums and messageboards and while those are still around I think in the design and web design community these conversations have evolved to take place around blogs. Probably because you never really got to play with the whole forum layout to suit your agenda 🙂

  • Adrian J.K. Shum

    Excellent observations Michael. You've made some very interesting points… thanks for sharing your thoughts (as always), it's very much appreciated.

  • Jason

    Hey, this is a great post. As someone who started their first blog a few weeks ago, I can relate to the reasons and goals of gaining some insight into various design topics (along with getting a little exposure). I don't care about getting mass amounts of traffic as much as having viewers that care about the content, and are able to contribute to it.

    It took me some dozens of hours to complete and tweak the design of my site (a process that like you might not end), but you're correct – the content is more important than the design. As designers we need to get the look perfect, but we seem to forget that the majority of our readers are probably using RSS readers anyway!

  • Bojhan Somers

    I have always enjoyed reading your blog, you can sparkle new interests and write honestly about anything you see. I don't think you should be so lightly on the just experiment part, a lot of people consider writing to be one of the hardest skills. Some thoughts are just hard to put onto paper and a lot of bloggers tend to get burned out on not meeting the expectations they had of their own writing. There are probably a million ways to avoid or meet this problem, but people are still perfectionists if they don't see themselves acquiring the skill quickly they move to something they can do better.

    I have always catered blogs who take care of there layout, those who optimize over time instead of a new layout every 1/2 years. It is really not that hard to tweak, it just requires experimentation and testing.

    I can see why you are looking for different point of views, but I think you're not controversial enough. Many of the ideas you throw out are good and are to far from beign discussed where they are conciderd realistic. Maybe getting closer to the realistic state is when discussion can happen – adding this realistic touch to your ideas is really in the details of how you write them down in your blog posts.