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Is the traditional weblog lay-out still sufficient?

Eclectro Column Design sketch

There is an interesting discussion going on about what’s the most effective design for a blog homepage. Is it a single page design or a homepage with excerpts? Blogs are moving to excerpts and there are some good reasons for this.

For example let’s take the statistics of the Eclectro website. Those are interesting because last month we changed the lay-out from a single page design into a magazine-style design with only excerpts on the frontpage.

The Eclectro weblog – a Dutch weblog about electronic music – started in July last year, it is written by volunteers and reaches around 15.000 visitors a month generating over 40.000 pageviews a month.

Why re-design
The reason for the Eclectro re-design came from the content. The high speed of new articles made some other (valuable articles) drop of the frontpage too fast. There was no visual difference between short posts, sometimes only containing news and the special posts containing unique content or special reviews.

This could all be solved by creating a magazine-like template for the frontpage, and so we did. The downside, you have to make an extra click on the homepage before you can read the article. And maybe there would be some resistance by the readers.

The effect is very good, not only are we able to show more posts on the homepage we can also show more headlines and excerpts in the first screen (before the scroll). Dropping the single-page website had actually has no negative effect at all and we haven’t got complaints about the change of homepage style.

Here are some statistics * of the Eclectro homepage (with 9,401 views in december and 8,373 in november; total visitor number (15.000) for the entire site is roughly the same for these 2 months)

(* thanks to Inge):

9,401 Pageviews on the homepage
Previous: 8,373 (+12.28%)
– good: with a similar total amount of visitors, the number of homepage visitors is higher than last month, which means that more people see all our content.

00:01:49 Time on Page
Previous: 00:02:14 (-18.62% )
– the lower number makes sense, since the real messages are on another page.

29.48% Bounce Rate
Previous: 42.02% (-29.85%)
– excellent! apparently, people stick longer and are better teased to click further and not leave at once.

25.05% % Exit
Previous: 33.49% (-25.21%)
– again, excellent! less people leaving, more people clicking through.

Connection Speed Eclectro / Netherlands
The image shows the average used connection speed of visitors on the Eclectro website over the past half year. High speed connections are mainstream.

Screen Resolution Eclectro / Netherlands
The image shows the average used screen resolution used by visitors on the Eclectro website over the past half year. Average screen width is growing, although the height isn’t. Widescreen is very popular.

What does it mean?
The average viewer of the eclectro website has a pretty good connection and a reasonable screen width. A blog template was designed with scrolling in mind, one long page with the ten most recent posts on the homepage. Around the same time this single-page blog-design got popular we did see RSS become very popular as well. The design of a feed is often similar to a blog.

RSS is chronological the way the original blog design is. The magazine style is more based on the content itself. Making a selection in what is the best content. RSS is more valuable for the real heavy user of a website, is there something new I haven’t read? A magazine design is more useful for the average website visitor. The guy or girl who types the url a few times a week to see what’s new and more important what’s interesting enough to read.

Are RSS, widgets, Netvibes, iGoogle and e-mailsubscription accepted so broadly by heavy internet users that we can drop the single-page design? What do you think, and what do your statistics tell you (please share). Should all blogs with more than two posts a day seriously consider a design with only excerpts on the frontpage? Or is the single-page not dead at all?

4 replies on “Is the traditional weblog lay-out still sufficient?”

OK, this is a quick copy and paste from my upcoming MA thesis which also lightly touches upon this subject:

I also configured Google Analytics Statistics for my blog providing me with detailed information on my blog visitors and traffic. It shows that the engines act as a major entry point into my blog as 59.38% of the visitors find my blog by search engines, 29.14% by referring sites and 11.48% by direct traffic (Google Analytics, December 17, 2007.) Google Analytics also shows me how much my blog revolves around the unit of the post. Only 5.66% of the total amount of visitors enter my blog by the front page. The other landing pages are either blog posts, tag pages (by Technorati or my tag cloud) or static pages (archives, categories or about). My statistics confirm how much my blog relies on (search) engines which reflects a more general trend which is of influence on how certain bloggers write their content with the engines in mind (see paragraph x).

My blog revolves around the post thus making the index less relevant for full posts. I am thinking about shifting to excerpts in a new design too.

More stats.

For hypernarrative it is in the last month

7.49% Direct Traffic
60.81% Referring Sites
31.70% Search Engines

Overall hypernarrative (April 2007 > Today) it is

12.68% Direct Traffic
51.30% Referring Sites
36.02% Search Engines

And for Eclectro in the last month

13.75% Direct Traffic
35.06% Referring Sites
51.19% Search Engines

Overall Eclectro (July 2007 > Today) it is

13.98% Direct Traffic
40.65% Referring Sites
45.37% Search Engines

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