Just playing around last night I decided to overlap 20 popular blogs ranked by fans on Technorati. I wanted to see if there was some hidden consistencies in their layouts. After I overlapped each blog at 10% opacity, I cranked the contrast, and this is the end result.
I think most of us would expect to find the header on top, and that is where it was prominent when I did the overlap. It was not the case for all blogs though. Many had ads on top, or even content snapshots that pushed the header with logo down as much as 300 pixels. I think mine will stay where it is.
Always loving the battle between left and right sidebars I honestly expected to find a very strong concentration on the right. Snapshot above reveals very little to no difference, possibly more graphics on the left. The right sidebar did appear to be a little wider, but this could have been due to me adjusting the size of the sites as I pasted them together.
Not every blog had it top right, but overlapping forms were very revealing before I added the contrast. Where do your visitors look for a search form? You can bet top right.
So what was up with the lack of content dead center below the header, and why is there more content below it? Highlighted in a light green in the snapshot I took, much of the general content was found here. Mixed with text, post previews, and ads it appeared to be the “here is our meat” department.
Above the green highlighted area appears almost blank because most blogs did just that. They blogged, and that was were posts (text) ended up. Headlines, and written text were about the only things to be found here. This would appear to be an obvious side effect regardless of whether or not you used a sidebar on the left, right, or on both sides. There is only one place left for the posts to go, the middle.
Being that users tend to target nine o’clock to 12′oclock of the pie it seems like many bloggers are missing out on prime real estate. The meaty part seems to be too low, and not enough of the dead center area has enough emphasis. Too much long content may be playing large roll here.
A while back I did a study on the top ten blogs, and their 8 common traits. What I found was that most of them used the read more link (breaking up the post), and all of them had at least ten posts. When I implemented the same practices on my site, bounce rate went down, and page views went up. Giving the user more reading options instead of a few full articles was a win win. Basically, short content increases the density of the white gap. I’m now considering making my teaser for every post even shorter.
Another finding to support this, is the concept of keeping your content above the fold. Many of you that try to make money using AdSense, or other PPC methods know you need to keep that ad visible. You also most likely know that as much as 50% of your visitors are not even scrolling down, AT ALL. Keep the meat on the table. Visitors are not looking for scraps below the fold.
I also did a recent change to this site in reducing my introduction message, see the post Content Up, Bounce Rate Down. What happened there? Visitors using 1024 settings (about 50% of the internet world) didn’t even see my posts below the introduction message. The curse of time, and the constant urge to mess around with my site made the introduction message way too long. Once I reduced it, visitors using a 1024 setting could now actually get their eyes on my last two posts. The results there? Bounce rate down, page views up, oh, and more subscribers. New visitors were figuring out that this is actually a blog:o
Think I like how this blog makes thumbnails on the home page? You can bet I do. Now I just need to work on how the thumbnail generator works. Not the worlds greatest thumbnail generator.