Some time ago, I started to write a series called Does Blog Design Matter?. I made it through the first 3 of 4 parts, then the wind dropped out of my sails. Why? It was depressing. I was making all kinds of arguments for design, saying things like “while this site is high ranking now, it won’t be in the future unless it improves its design”. In reviewing the top 10 blogs, I made this argument 6 times. Well that’s all fine and good, but it leaves the distinct impression that blog design doesn’t matter. At least not now.As a designer and passionate believer in power of blogs to help businesses, I find this disappointing.
Yes, blogs are successful because of their low barriers to entry. And yes, content is king. But’s lets just assume that top quality content is being delivered. What separates blog A from blog B?Let me also state my bias by telling you that I’m in the process of setting up a design company specifically targeting business bloggers. I have a rather vested interest in moving the state of blog design forward, as do you.So where are we? Blogs are becoming more and more plentiful. Business is starting to grok their potential. How do we go about selling our service as web designers in the face of the “I can do it myself for free” mentality? It’s a tough sell. Especially in light of the disappointing state of the top blogs.But if you look a bit closer, you’ll find things aren’t so gloomy. True, many, many blogs look like they were designed by Jacob Nielsen, but is it really fair to compare these to business blogs? No, and I’ll tell you why: intent.A blog that’s being used to promote a business has a very different intent than a blog dedicated to a person’s political analysis. The need for good design is present in both cases, but generally speaking, a business has existing branding that needs to be carried through their new site. The purpose of a business blog is, amongst other things, to strengthen the relationship a business has with its clients. How is that business identified in the clients’ minds? By its unique brand. It follows then that the blog should reinforce that image by extending the existing look/feel/mood/whatever. This is a difficult thing to do (if you’re not a designer).I fear that designers are going to let the blog boom slip right past us. The business blog talk is coming from the marketing and pr camps. We designers have been utterly silent on the matter. We have a huge opportunity, and are well placed to take advantage of it. We have the means, the skills, and more importantly the contacts. We’re communicators, and blogging, more than anything else is about communicating.We should be educating our clients and ourselves. What are the psychological ramifications of reading first person accounts? What happens to the decision making process when a relationship has developed between a blogger and her audience? We all have our favorite bloggers. Think about how you feel about that person. How can that feeling be applied to business?I’m willing to bet a sizeable portion of my non-existent fortune on businesses adopting blogs. I can, and will make a compelling argument for them to do so over at my site. I’d like to see designers steering the discussion – if not on our own, at least in conjunction with the marketing folks.I see this as an opportunity to go back to your existing clients and to sell them a new service. Blogs are not replacing web sites, they’re working along side them. Sooner or later, your clients are going to decide they need a blog. If you want to see your clients thrive, approach them now, and start the education process. If you don’t someone like me will.