Blog Design – the ultra-minimalist brigade

When I first started blogging, Jason Kottke, of, was a sort-of hero for what I wanted to do. His style of blogging is very similar to mine and so are his design aesthetics.

As time has progressed, I’ve switched from the hero archetype to more of a hopeful-peer. My delusions of equality were boosted when I noticed Jason’s latest redesign of his blog. Where several of the features match the design I created for this blog.

When you read a blog there are so many items for you to click. It’s like you’re in Times Square and everyone wants your attention. That isn’t very Jobsian (Steve Jobs-esque) especially when I only want you to do three things on my blog: read it, share it, and (hopefully) enjoy the ads.

So, I have taken the opposite, ultra-minimalist approach, the only-what-you-need-to-survive style. Everything is gone, links are minimal, and reading is clutter-free.

Jason has taken this approach for years, probably long before I even dreamed of being a blogger, but now he is going for gold. Joining the ultra-minimalist brigade, and several of his updates match mine. While others completely blow me out of the water (mirror on Tumblr?).

It’s a great confidence boost for me, but also leaves me with some things to copy or rather “good artists copy, great artists steal”.

Here is the update in Jason’s own words.

In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.

Simplicity. has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons. Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links, other ways to follow the site, and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills.

Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta.

The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised.

Sharing. I’ve always thought of as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don’t just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that’s true of as well…and I haven’t been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.

So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button.


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