One of the conversations which has grabbed my interest since returning from holiday tackles blog layouts being boring or inflexible. Michael Parekh wishes that blog software “offered more flexible and alternative ways to present content in different forms within the same blog” and goes on to ask for a blog template with “the ability to have multiple tabbed pages” for different content (rather than setting up a separate blog). He also requests that there’s different ways to present content within those pages, such as without post titles or highlighting feature specific posts. Jeff over at BuzzMachine wishes templates were more flexible.

As many have responded, templates are incredibly flexible and those feature requests are all possible with today’s tools such as WordPress and MovableType. It is easy enough to set up multiple tabs which will show different types of content (thanks to categorisation) and different templates depending on the category. UX Magazine (created in Textile) is a lovely example which does exactly this. Problogger shows a nice example of a feature post area and tabbed blogs.

Michael’s reply is that he wants more mainstream, less “geeky” solutions that don’t require coding. All the things that we take for granted in blog functionality today arose out of requests like Michael’s – ones which started as geeky hacks/plugins/code and became popular and then were integrated with the core software (or kept as an easy-to-use plugin).

As a blog designer, a big part of my job is either finding or writing plugins to adapt the blogging tools to provide the funtionality you need and want. There’s no need to keep blogs as one long scrolling page of posts if you don’t want them appearing that way.

In the quest to keep blog layouts interesting, there’s room for caution: remember usability. Sometimes I like to scroll down and read a week’s worth of posts and don’t want to have to click through to each post like I have to on the popular and trendy new theme called Squible.

Sometimes, while we find our own layouts and designs worn out and tired looking, we need to remember that they’re still fresh and easy for our visitors to use. While innovation is important, there’s something to be said for a blog acting in a familiar way to new visitors – like a book we can always flick through.