Custom blog post designs: pros, cons, and best practices

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A hot topic among blogging designers is whether or not to create custom blog post designs. If you are unfamiliar with the concept behind custom blog post designs, check out HeartDirected.com, a recent gallery site started by DesignInformer.com‘s Jad Limcaco. Custom designed blog posts can be a great addition to any blog, but I also started thinking the other day about a few setbacks that custom post designs might pose for blogging designers. Below I have compiled a few Pros and Cons on the issue. After reading through them be sure to let us know how you feel about custom blog post designs.

In defense of custom blog post designs (pros):

They look better
Perhaps the most obvious reason in support of a custom-designed blog post, when a blogger takes time to create a custom style sheet for his post, it is more visually appealing. This also helps frequent blog readers overcome boredom sometimes caused by monotony. It also allows for the blogger, usually a designer as well, to experiment with new design techniques.

They make it easier to organize information
Many times, a custom blog post can help you organize the specific information found in your article. Many times, you would prefer to use custom columns, text-wrapping, or other techniques to help readers understand your message more easily.

They help you communicate more deeply
In addition to helping you organize information, a custom blog post design can help you emphasize certain phrases, elements, or main points. In addition, using custom colors, graphics and layout styles can help you communicate a distinct message with each blog post. Designers are visual learner and tend to also be visual teachers. If you can get a message across visually as well as in writing, you will be more successful.

They help avoid monotony
Many times your readers can get bored with the look of your blog. Adding custom post designs will break the monotony and make the reading experience more entertaining and memorable.

In defense of blog post consistency (cons)

They weaken branding
When you are constantly designing custom templates for each blog post, readers may not even realize they have visited your site before. This can be very detrimental to your branding strategy–which could be potentially harmful to new design blogs especially.

They provide less consistency
People naturally enjoy consistency. The like to know what they are going to get. By keeping your design consistent, you invite your readers to be more comfortable while reading your blog.

They allow readers to concentrate on content
Without any fancy custom designs, you and your readers can focus on the textual content that your blog provides. This helps you spend more time creating compelling and interesting content for your loyal readers.

They take more time to create
If you thought blogging in general was time consuming, try creating a custom post design for each article that you write. Depending on your skills with CSS and wordpress, your custom post could take as much as three or four times as long to complete.

They hurt your advertisers
Unless you can find a way to incorporate your blog advertisements in to your custom post design, your advertisers are taking a painful hit when you use custom blog post designs. While advertising may not be the primary focus behind your blog, those that depend on advertisers to keep their blog alive should consider the disservice they are doing for their advertisers when they create custom post designs.

They make your navigation suffer
A custom post design means many times you steer away from the traditional navigation of your site. Whether your readers are used to finding links in your sidebar, in the top navigation, or elsewhere, they will have a hard time navigating your site once you change the appearance for each post.

They involve a steep learning curve
Creating custom blog post designs for popular CMSs like wordpress, typekit, or blogger, are extremely difficult. While wordpress might be the most simple to understand due to the plugins available, you still need a firm understanding of how your wordpress theme works and how the plugin affects the appearance.

So what should you do?

After reading this article perhaps you are still asking yourself what you should do on your design blog: custom designed posts or consistency. The correct answer is: there is no correct answer. You have to do what fits your style, the purpose of you blog, the goals you have for your blog, etc. Ultimately you have to ask yourself: “Is what I am doing on my blog going to help me reach my goals?”

Let us know what you decide to do and why by contributing to the conversation.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. I’m against them, at least if we’re talking normal blogging frequency, as opposed to an occasional article (something like a magazine article). How many designers can come up with an original design concept every couple of days? A good one, I mean? Very few, and I’ll bet even those few find themselves scraping the bottom of their creative barrels after a few weeks. After that, the cliches will come on thick and furious.

    I love to see what designers do at their best – clear, thoughtful, revised – not something they’ve cobbled together on a deadline.

    • This is a great point, Christopher. A lot of blogging designers ask me how to come up with fresh content frequently, and I’m thinking if it’s that hard to come up with frequent fresh content, coming up with a custom design each time would just fry their brains. I’ll admit, there are a few designers who have done it successfully, but overall, it does seem difficult.

      • I understand though, that a graphic designer (I’m not one) may be overflowing with ideas and looking for somewhere to try them out. In that case, why not an occasional graphically styled post? I just don’t think people should commit themselves to styling every post.

    • @Christopher Burd, how many designers come with a fresh design period !?

      design is overrated . sure .. there a few artists out there . but the bulk of us … are just people with skills in some graphic software and/or basic drawing/coding skills . that’s it .

      there is no magic going on , no inspiration , no talent at play . it’s just delivering a message enforced by a proper appearance . that doesn’t really require talent nor artsy thinking .

      as for this article .. custom blog posts is just another line that needs to be drawn between those that blog and those that ‘blog’ .

      if you actually want to do it … then yeah . custom blog posts will smile pretty at you . they will help enforce your post . it really takes nothing out of your branding .

      why !?

      well … if you write good and you actually write something real … then people will remember you . not by your design , but by who you are . and if you know just a little bit about design then maintaining a brand with custom blog posts is not all that hard .

      besides … there are thousands of blogs out there that ultimately have no branding whatsoever and yet they have thousands of subscribers . maintaining a look doesn’t necessarily help your brand .

      you can’t design a great post every 3 days just as you CAN’T write a great blog post every 3 days .

      whoever gets into this knows that he will write 1 , maybe 2 articles in a really good week but no more . and that’s enough .

      after all … we , the people of now , talk way too much and do way too little … we could use some silence ..

  2. I think the concept is interesting and didn’t realize people were doing this. I have to agree that with your first “con” that it would hurt your branding. Sure, you may have a logo that stays the same at the top, but if you are directed to it by twitter or facebook you may not realize you are visiting the same blog you visited yesterday. As I read more blogs and get more familiar with different writers, I can look at their page when I first get there and know where I am. As a designer myself, I do appreciate the visual and creative effort put into each blog post but for me I feel like it would not be using my time wisely. Great insight on this topic though.

    • Some excellent thoughts here, Beth. I think this point is especially important for new blogging designers. If people don’t realize that they are getting some great content from the same site because they fail to recognize it when they return, you are doing yourself a disservice.

  3. Hello, I enjoy reading your post/article and I might say that, about this issue, I think it would be better for the designer or blogger instead of changing custom post design in ever post or something like that, change it yes but once in a while. I think its good for the readers and sponsors, time to time, a small change but in every post, every month, every week… seams to me a useless effort, of energy and time. And it might not work so well as people might thought in first place.
    Well this is my idea!
    Best regards.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion, Ana. You offer a great suggestion. Designinformer.com does a great job of balancing custom designs with regular ones. Check it out.

      • @Preston D Lee,
        Thank you Preston I’m glad you liked my comment.
        I change the background of my blogs and also my website from time to time, smalls changes only, and I must say people seam to like it and respond very well to it. And I notice when I do it, traffic of visitors on my website/blog increase and seams to keep them around and anxious for the next post for a while.
        I start to do it, because in first place I get tried of the same thing easily and second because i’m a designer/blogger and a designer of blogs for my clients they keep asking me to make small changes 2/3 times a years. And it work :)

  4. Excellent article Preston and some very valid points made as well! I have been wondering about the viability of custom posts too. I think it is alright to do one occasionally but I am not very sure whether doing them for every single post is good for the blog. Hmm fodder for thought! :)

  5. I really enjoyed this post. There are a few cons that I viewed more as “things to watch out for” when creating custom blog posts.

    I think that custom blog posts, used in moderation only, are fantastic for design blogs. If you are a designer, why not flex your creative muscles once and a while for a post that deserves some attention. It breaks up the monotony of a design blog (sorry, but seeing the same blogs everyday does tend to start blending the posts together), and allows other readers (usually designers) to really enjoy your posts.

    We all know studies have shown that people tend to “speed read” through posts, looking for headers, buzz-words, etc. For example, I know that when I come to Graphic Design Blender (no offense intended at all, Preston) that the headers will all be styled a certain way, the fonts are always the same fonts, and the layout is generally the same. This helps me jump from header to header and only find the content I feel like reading. If you change your blog up once and a while, you’ll force them to spend more time looking at your page and analyzing content. So in a way, it might actually help your content.

    You can keep your branding consistent by using elements from your branding in a custom blog post, maybe it’s the header, maybe its the footer, maybe it’s hinted at in the imagery, typography, etc. Doing this consistently helps keep your custom posts consistent, too. I guess at the end of it all, it is probably a good idea to keep important elements consistent throughout your custom posts.

    It’s true it may hurt your advertisers, but that is unless you can figure out how to incorporate the ads into the custom post. It might be an interesting challenge each time.

    My verdict is: customs posts are great, but be careful, and only use them once and a while.

    • Carlin,
      These are some great points. I like what you said about making people slow down and read the content instead of speed read. (By the way, I was not offended at all–I try to keep GDB’s design fairly consistent) The only downside to “forcing them to look at your page and anylize your content”, as you put it, is sometimes this will annoy people and force them to leave.

      I would say you content on a custom blog post design has to be REALLY good in order to make people want to discover the content visually.

      Thanks for sharing.

  6. You article brings up good points for both sides, but ultimately I think it’s just a personal preference.

    I find that keeping a consistent look will help strengthen your brand while introducing new styles may imply an identity problem, even if that’s not the case. Also, if you get bored of your design and need to keep changing it up…the problem might be a poor design.

    I can see the value in custom designs though, but perhaps they could be introduced in a different manner. If the author posts regular article, maybe a certain day of the week would be designated for custom designs. Maybe even name it something corny like Freestyle Fridays or something. This allows the designer to play around with ideas but keep the reader clued in at the same time.

    Good subject and I am sure there will be some interesting perspectives.

    • @Joe Gillespie,
      Freestyle Fridays, eh? Corny, but I like the concept. Ha. Thanks for sharing, Joe.

      • @Preston D Lee, Corny is my middle name.

        I just think that there is definitely some merit to customizing posts, but it could be done with some sense of organization. Having a day designated to custom blogs could become a signature trait for the author.

        Maybe it is something that could be carried throughout their designs too? Perhaps Facebook and Twitter pages could reflect the look of the day….although that could be getting carried away. Not sure, just thinking out loud.

  7. I like having a custom blog post design; I think it’s an innovative way of displaying content. Nonetheless, I do believe it should be used sparingly. I would only use a custom blog post design if you wanted to put a lot of importance on an article or an opinion piece.

  8. Great post. It is great to see innovation and creativity – and custom blog posts are certainly a fresh perspective, however, I also agree with your comments re. consistency in design. A tough one. I think you summed it up best with your last statement:

    “Ultimately you have to ask yourself: “Is what I am doing on my blog going to help me reach my goals?”

  9. I gotta say I love to read those post with custom design, they are indeed helping to convey the message better.

    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do that myself. Afraid of hurting the brand.

  10. I think its better not to have them, and spend the time creating new posts.

  11. Thanks for this useful article.

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