How many times have you come across a new weblog discussing a specific niche sporting a fairly too common WordPress theme? Probably more often than we’d all want to see. A large number of new weblogs these days are launched with default themes and styling that it’s now becoming hard to identify sites based solely on design and visual identity.
The WordPress Phenomenon
In 2005, default blog templates were fairly “simple,” to put it nicely, until Blogger went through a design refresh with spankin’ new designs to boot. The free theme craze took on a larger scale when WordPress introduced a flexible theme system less than a year after, allowing web designers to apply XHTML/CSS–based designs in a more manageable way. This opened an opportunity for designers to showcase their skills to attract more work, but inadvertently opened a can of worms as the theme distribution system was compromised and used for unethical link building by spam sites masquerading as “sponsors.”
Yet still, the availability of free self–publishing solutions and the growth of the problogging industry resulted in an increasing rate at which new weblogs are launched, a good number of which can be considered “commercial problogs” and a good percentage also run by prominent individuals discussing specific expertise and topics. However, a good majority make do with a free WordPress theme, sometimes even a sponsored one, not knowing how it affects their branding and identity. This goes for company weblogs and well–known individuals, as well as all sorts of self–published “problogs.”
Content is King
It has been a web design adage — content is king — and it continues to hold true up to now. Your weblog and the rest of your site will only be as good as your content. But with today’s crowded blogosphere discussing the same topics, no matter how good a writer you are, there will always be blogs that are just as good (or even better) in your field.
Readers are struggling hard coping with various sources, and some will simply discard feed subscriptions based on design and presentation. Assuming that you write just as well as your peers, or competitors if you look at them that way, what will differentiate you will be your presentation of content and overall design style.
Your Identity, Your Design
Don’t expect your new blog to be taken seriously if you don’t have good content, but don’t expect it to stand out with only good content without a decent design. Everyone these days have the basic SEO, online marketing, and social networking skills to push our sites to various channels. Basically, it doesn’t take as much as it used to for a newcomer to get some web 2.0 mileage. But when you get that attention, make sure you make a good impression, not only with your content but also with your kickass design. Make users remember your site describing both content and design.
It doesn’t cost much to get a good designer to work on a personalized design and online identity, the benefits will be worth every dollar spent anyway. Just make sure you hire someone who groks web design 2.0 and doesn’t fall into these common pitfalls.
Written by Markku Seguerra, rebelpixel.com.