Well Designed Weblogs?

Or not.

Lars Holst, who has a beautiful WordPress-powered blog, has been doing a bit he calls Well-Designed Weblogs. I have been pretty disappointed with the second round (and to some extent the first round) of “Well-Designed Weblogs.” It is subjective, but quite frankly there are some sites I don’t see anything in. To me some look plain, unimaginative, squished — overall badly designed.

For the list to be a useful Lars should put a blurb about why a site was chosen so if there is some nugget of inspiration there that I’m missing, I can be enlightened. It would also shed some light on the subjective process he’s going through, which would be interesting. Round 2 has 37 entries — some great, some mediocre, some bad. If it could be distilled to the five or six very best, in Lars’ opinion, it would be a lot more meaningful than the catalog it is now.

But if it’s just a list with screenshots, there are better places to go.

10 thoughts on “Well Designed Weblogs?

  1. Matt:

    I think so many people go on the “Oooooooooooooooh, pretty” factor when considering design. I’m not one of those people. Yes, I appreciate a well-done design, but let’s be clear: I’m here to read your words. [Well, actually, I’m here to consume your RSS syndication feeds, and then I click through to comment. ;)] If the design takes attention away from the words, I don’t like it.

    I appreciate your constructive criticism here. It’s not punkish and condescending, and it isn’t passive/agressive, either. [You might feel that this comment is the latter, and frankly, you’re right! ;)] You come off better than many. 🙂

    GFM <– still harboring his hell-raising tendencies at age 25

  2. Some points well taken Matt, others not so.

    First, you are right in that a number of possibly relevant details are missing from the introduction. I intend to update this with more information on how I went about selecting the entries as soon as I find the time. Some of it is there already, but hidden in the comments (which, FYI, have been open and actively responded to).

    In an ideal world I would also have liked to provide comments and motivations for each and every entry, mainly as a service to people who would find them interesting. Mark these words though: as a service. Nothing more. I like the fact that Paul is doing this on the Vault, and he deserves much credit for all his work there.

    However, for my first list, I simply didn’t have time to do it. For the second list, I was again short on time, but could of course have waited until things calmed down. I deliberately chose to publish them anyway, because I was curious to see what opinions people would form by themselves. Consider it an experiment if you wish.

    And this is why I disagree that the list would necessarily be more "useful" with comments than without. A few hints to the cleverness of some subtle hover effects, perhaps, but, basically, it would just be different.

    Now is my list just a list of screenshots? Sure. But to compare them to CSS Vault or any of the other lists I myself listed in Well-Designed Weblogs: Other Lists is missing the point completely. All of those lists are good, for sure, but the real point is they are different.

    I am sure Paul will be pleased to learn that you consider his collection of screenshots the list to end all lists, but even so, you surely don’t just view a screenshot on Paul’s site, thinking "yes, he’s so right,", without visiting the actual website? And when you do, are you not able to form your own opinion? And if so, where does that leave you with the actual value of comments?

    But let me suppose, for argument’s sake, that this piece of information is as useful as you claim (especially seeing as the entire rationale for your post hinges on this argument):

    For the list to be a useful Lars should put a blurb about why a site was chosen so if there is some nugget of inspiration there that I’m missing, I can be enlightened.

    So, for your post to be just as useful, should you not put a blurb about why you consider some of those sites great, some mediocre, some bad, plain, unimaginative, or squished, if there is some nugget of inspiration there that I’m missing, I can be enlightened.

    I listen to people’s opinions, although I honestly don’t care what anyone thinks of my weblog, my posts, or the list as such. It does however bother me when sites on that list get treated with disrespect. In fact, by not naming and describing each of those weblogs, you don’t just diss the ones you don’t like, you diss all the weblogs listed there.

    This is not just you though; I am generally disappointed with the quality of the negative feedback I have seen so far. I welcome constructive criticism in anything I do, I always try to see people’s points (right down to the "all look the same" comments), and like I said, some of your points are indeed valid, but…

    Having said this, I’m thrilled that you found even one site that you think is great.

    As for feedback, I welcome all kinds, as long as it is constructive.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work you are doing with WordPress.

  3. My website, for some strange reason, has appeared on both Lars and Scriv’s lists. Both lists are subjective, and there are sites on both lists that I had to look beyond the aesthetics or the coding to see the attraction.

    However, I disagree that there are any on either list (because the comments you make, if applied to one, can be applied to both) that look ‘plain, unimaginative or squished’. Sure, I might not have chosen every one to appear on any imaginary list I have, but I can appreciate the decision as being subjective.

    Each site on each list has some appealing factor that caused the list author to include it. Neither list was contructed from votes or by strict criteria whereby anybody else can say “no, that can’t be included”.

    The caveat to this of course is that CSS Vault is by nature less of a personal blog than it is a design related journal which infers more of a critical approach to the selection.

    If Lars has taken the time to construct a collection of lists he considers ‘well designed’, and you choose to claim a few are bad, it would more constructive for you to explain why, as much as you expect him to explain the opposite.

    Lastly, I echo Lars in thanking you for your work on WP – keep it up. Both your sites are on my imaginary list 🙂

  4. Personally, I think that these … single person based ‘awards’ are too subjective. I went through the sites listed, and … well they looked fairly run of the mill for the most part. I don’t claim to have a gorgeus site (my CSS is unresolved right now sadly–life gets in the way) , but I do have opinions 🙂

  5. Lars,

    Thanks for the very thoughtful reply. Sorry your HTML didn’t go through, I’m not sure why. If you want to resubmit your comment or something I’ll edit the original to refect your intention.

    My post was not meant to be a commentary on the sites directly, in which case it would have been more useful for me to point out what I liked or disliked about each, it was a commentary on your listing of the sites, which is why I tried to offer a few thoughts on how it may be done differently or more effectively. As the arbitrar of the list, I’m sure you believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. 🙂

    (However if I were to offer direct feedback of the sites themselves, I wouldn’t say anything about the ones I disliked because, frankly, the world has enough negative energy and I don’t believe in criticizing personal sites unrequested. If they were corporate sites or businesses that would be another matter, but I assume that each design there makes the own of the site happy, which is all personal sites need to do.)

    Another point: I did not know until comment #49 in the Second Volume that you “went so far as to exclude a number of weblogs because their color schemes didn’t fit in.” The list was so long and seemingly comprehensive I thought the only criteria for inclusion was, as the title said, being “well-designed.” The ommissions spoke as loudly as the inclusions. It would have made sense to explicitly state, even if just a sentence at the beginning, any particular qualities you were examining.

    I hope you take my feedback as constructive, because that’s the way I intend it. If I didn’t have a lot of respect for you in the first place I wouldn’t have bothered commenting, or linking to the resource if I didn’t think it had merit and potential.

  6. I was just bummed that the color pink was not more well represented on Lars’ list. Ok, not really – as I said on my site, as I scrolled through the list they started to all look the same, blue, gray, white… I know that almost all weblogs have a similar 2 column (maybe 3) layout, header, sidebar on the right, etc. It was nice to see the few on the list that stood out as something different.

    While my site is white on the default skin (and several others are dark gray), I surf a lot of other colorful sites, many of which I consider well designed. The BlogMoxie sites are primarily responsible for those colorful creations.

    All lists like that are subjective, and I look forward to hearing what Lars offers in the future and what he has to say about why the sites were selected. I think that would clear up a lot for me.

  7. Matt,

    There’s indeed enough negative energy in the world, which is precisely why some of your points didn’t go down that well. But as you say, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so let’s just agree to disagree on the merits of those particular designs. I am sure there are lots of other issues we can agree on.

    Your post did contain constructive criticism though, and based on your feedback and that of others I have updated the intro – feel free to suggest any further improvements:


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