5 Things John Chow’s Cluttered Blog Taught Me

Ever since getting massive traction, prominent figure John Chow has always caught a lot of flak for plastering his site with ads. People heavily criticized him for having a ‘cluttered look’ for his blog and some stated that John never really cared about user experience and usability.

Although I won’t argue about it, I could say that John at least worked it out. How many times have you seen his blog get a fresh redesign from Unique Blog Designs? And with every revision of his blog’s theme it has become cleaner and more user-friendly (although the ads still remain, lols).

Anyways in this writeup I’d like to point out some lessons I picked up along the way from John’s untidy blog layout and design.

1. Its OK to put ads on blogs

Believe it or not but a lot of people, up to now, think that it is not ethical to put advertisements on blogs. Even these days you see a lot of high-traffic blogs that still don’t put advertisements and it really wouldn’t ruin the overall user experience. And even if they leave, they’d surely come back if you have a good content.

2. Every element is Important

When I had my old design last year I have a very few elements on my blog. My reasoning was that, no one will really care to click or look at all of those things in the sidebar so why put them in the first place. So when I had my redesign late last year, I realized that every element, every part of a blog’s layout is important. Whether it’s the footer, the sub header, the second sidebar or whatnot, can all be useful to some extent.

For instance, people really think that readers don’t mind the footer but based from my experience it’s totally untrue. I was playing my Crazy Egg heatmaps couple days back and I noticed an interesting thing. People who comment on my site (comment section is close to footer), also add me to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. So from that alone, elements in the footers are not totally useless.

3. Good Use of White Space

Another thing that I learned from Chow’s design is the good use of white space. John’s blog may have been a bit cluttered but one thing is sure. That is you’d never have any trouble reading his content. Line spacing is done well. Paragraphs are spaced out correctly and even the sidebar has enough room that it somehow typifies elegance.

I see a lot of blogs with superb content who don’t make good use of white space. Oftentimes the text and paragraphs are spaced out very close that its hard to read the posts. Maybe it’s time to edit the stylesheet then!

4. Content-rich homepage

I used to hate Magazine-style layouts until I noticed bloggers are switching to it. What I realized with these layouts is that it’s content-rich. Readers aren’t forced to scroll their mouse down 20 times just to get to the post they want.

There’s always an argument that John pumps out so much content that sometimes his readers are overwhelmed. I disagree. One reason why I think Chow’s blog is popular up to now is that because of his content. Due to him covering a broad topic (make money online, technology, food), he tends to attract a wide variety of demographics that keeps coming back to read his posts.

5. Proper Blending of Color Schemes

I’m certainly not a fan of color blue but in John’s blog I think he has used it superbly. Not only that but I think the blending that he did with all the colors is just exceptional.

Proper blending of colors helps in usability and eye tracking. In one of the studies done, it says that people are not likely to read a website if the color schemes is obtrusive and doesn’t blend well. That being said we bloggers must be wary about just putting any colors to our websites. Let us make sure it’s good to our audience eyes and that it blends well all through the template.

It’s funny how you can sometimes pick up lessons along the way with instances that you never thought you could. John Chow’s blog is a good example. A lot of people whine about how the blog sometimes loads slow, how there are so many ads in the sidebar and tons of affiliate links are embedded. But on the other note, those 5 things are great lessons that I’ve learned just by continuously visiting his blog and by keen observation.

What say you?

This post is written by Melvin Dichoso who blogs at MelvinBlog Dot Com where he shares all his thoughts in the industry. He is also giving a free eBook called Blog Marketing for Fame which is all about marketing your blogs competitively.