New design patterns that could shape the future of your organization’s blog

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Several years ago when we at Cision began fielding more questions from our clients about engaging with bloggers, public relations and marketing professionals were wrestling with the question of what separates a blog from a news Web site. We’ve always advised our clients that what defines a particular Web property’s relevance to your message is not whether someone classifies it as a blog or news site, but the content itself.

In recent years, advances in blogging platforms and content management systems have rendered nearly pointless the classification of Web properties containing text and images as either “blogs” or “sites”. More importantly, a host of new design trends is beckoning organizational and corporate blogs. But do they increase impressions and resonance for your blog content?

The explosive growth of blogs in the middle of the last decade was enabled by the simplicity of a blog’s layout: posts in a single column, displayed in reverse chronological order. Platforms like LiveJournal and Google’s Blogger democratized Web publishing by enabling the HTML-illiterate to post quickly and frequently. Then WordPress came along, with its more varied design and theme options, spawning a cottage industry of designers who specialized in customizing blogs for organizations. Tumblr has also shaken up the world of blog design with its marketplace of innovative design themes, many of which are available for under $50.

Recently, Blogger introduced a feature called Dynamic Views, which allows users to add a “/view” suffix to any URL ending in .blogspot.com and be presented with 5 viewing options for that blog’s content: Flipcard, Mosaic, Sidebar, Snapshot and Timeslide. Rather than scrolling through a list of posts, these views pull together the images from recent posts and allow you to explore the blog’s content through a more visually engaging interface. After all, the chronology of a group of posts doesn’t tell you which posts you’ll find most interesting, so why view them that way? Images are much more effective at drawing you into the posts you’re looking for.

Example of the new Blogger Mosaic view from arthuddle.blogspot.com

Of course, there’s an everything-old-is-new-again feel to all of this: blogs evolved to simplify Web design, and now their content is being displayed in disparate, fragmented ways reminiscent of the more creative end of the print magazine design spectrum. Much has been made of Gawker Media’s recent redesign of its blog portfolio, moving from a traditional blog format to displaying a single post prominently with others linked in a sidebar. Founder Nick Denton said the changes led to a 25-percent decrease in page views in the three weeks after launch. But despite the early reader revolt (all change takes time to get used to), it’s probably too early to tell whether the new format is good for business.

Corporate blogs largely have yet to experiment with these new design formats. I think it’s probably a wise strategy to hang back and see which prove most effective at boosting key, reach-focused measures such as page views and time spent on your site, let alone engagement-focused measures like inbound links and comment count. What do you think? Which of the new Blogger Dynamic views do you find most appealing?

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