Blizzard-Induced Rant: Copywriting Blogs & Design

Still snowed in, I decided to do some work this morning. Part of my day job includes a fair amount of research. As you might then suspect, I discover handfuls of new blogs on a near daily basis. And it’s recently come to my attention that most blogs dealing with copywriting (or any other form of writing) are rocking some pretty shitty design.

I’ll be the first to admit that the design of this blog isn’t great. It’s one of the standard Blogger templates that I frankly haven’t done anything with because I’m more concerned about the look and feel of sites that host my professional writing (online portfolio, more topic-focused blogs, etc.) than the stuff I randomly dump here.

I’ll also tell you that from a design standpoint, we should be doing more with our work blogs.* We use a standard Moveable Type template, spruced up by one of our designers before she left. But the template itself isn’t conducive to what we’re going for. So we’re planning on modifying it at some point.

That’s because we know and understand that the packaging matters. And no matter how stellar the writing is, people aren’t likely to stick around if it looks like a site hasn’t been updated since the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal.

But let’s look at who’s getting it right:

Copyblogger [Don’t you just love Brian Clark?]
Away With Words
Writing Clear and Simple [As is the design, no?]
American Copywriter

Now let’s look at who needs a face lift:

Successful and Outstanding Bloggers [That banner typography actually made me dry heave]
The Marcom Writer Blog [Go Bears!]
Dangerous Thinking
James D. Brausch [Nice pop-up to boot]
Content Done Better [Clean-ish but not pretty]
Become a Copywriter

The lack of design attention to copywriting blogs is a little astounding to me. Copywriting is about connecting with an audience, selling a feeling, an idea, (not necessarily the product), telling a story. In accordance, the look and feel of a site plays a big part in telling that story. Especially when you consider that users:

A. scan web pages rather than reading them
B. decide the validity of a site in under three seconds

Copywriter I may well be, but I’m a user, too. Poor design isn’t going to sell me on reading your blog once, let alone coming back for multiple pearls of writing wisdom. Throw me a bone–let me know your blog isn’t a spammy SEO/AdSense site.

[end rant]

*Much as I’d love to link our corporate blogs…well. I say naughty words here and would not like this blog to become synonymous with that of the one I write for my employer. You understand, right? 🙂

[Jam of the Day]: What Made Milwaukee Famous, Hellodrama


7 responses to “Blizzard-Induced Rant: Copywriting Blogs & Design

  1. I wish I had a good excuse or could bring myself to argue with you, but you’re right…

    One of these days I’ll take it from “cleanish” to “kick ass.”

    Content Done Better

  2. No worries, Carson. It’s easy to let this stuff take a backseat. We run into the same problem at work from time to time. Suddenly we look at site of ours and say, “Oh, God. Have we really let it go on looking like this?”

    Consider the redesign a fun challenge for 2007. And if you need references for some kick ass freelance designers, just holler.


  3. Megan,
    Thanks for the link, and the kind words. I can’t claim credit, though; I’m just using an off-the-shelf Squarespace template.

    I have had some complaints about the readability of my site on mobile devices, so I’ve toyed with the idea of modifying that. [sigh] Time to dig out that copy of Head First HTML I got about half-way through…

  4. Roy,

    You hit on something else I don’t understand.

    Squarespace (actually been looking into using that platform), and other blogging platforms have some free templates that look a lot better than what some of these folks are using.

    Even Blogger, whose templates leave much to be desired, has a few templates that are simple and clean. And not that I’m a huge advocate of Blogger, but the new capabilities allow bloggers to [easily!] tweak their blog design (colors, layout, etc.) to give it a more personalized look.

    Some of these templates are easier on the eyes and most are easy to download. It would be an improvement, I think, until redesigning the blog is a possibility.

  5. What a nice surprise to get an attagirl here–especially nice because it allowed me to get acquainted with your own blog. Like Roy, I use an off-the-shelf template, called “Minimalist,” in my case from Typepad. (Good to learn about Squarespace, though–I do love the look of Roy’s blog.) I’ve made only one change since I launched the blog in June: I converted the category list to a “cloud.” I’d be curious to know what readers think of it. As for your own blog, Megan–love the content, the voice, the intelligence. Just one request: the reverse type (white against a colored background) is very difficult to read, especially in such a small font. Does Blogger let you play with palettes?

  6. Nancy,

    Really do love your blog. I take a peek every day!

    Yes, the type is a problem with this template. It’s the biggest complaint my good friend Marina (a very talented user experience designer) has with this template.

    I have played with the palette a bit but haven’t checked the type in various browsers like I should have. Thanks for letting me know; I’ll play with it again next week!

  7. Nancy,
    Well, I like the category cloud thing in your sidebar, but then I’ve been exposed to that idea via technorati and other sites and apps that use the tagging metaphor. How will it play in Poughkepsie? I don’t know; I suppose only time will tell.

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