The Art of Blogging: Choosing Your Canvas

Our host today is Greg Hayes. If you're interested in getting in front of the readers of Site Sketch 101, check out our guest posting invitation here.

One of the many things I’ve learned over the last year of blogging is that there is a tremendous amount of creativity that goes into the process.  Blogging requires the continual generation of new ideas.  New ideas for posts, site design, on-page SEO, off-page SEO, expansion of your blog, and the list goes on…

If you accept the analogy that bloggers are painters, then their theme is the canvas.  And just like every artist, the canvas needs to be properly chosen and prepared to best portray the artist’s work.  Improper preparation and handling can lead to a disastrous display of even the best rendering.

The Benefits of a Faster Loading Blog

Early research at independent firms showed web surfers consistently felt that web pages load far too slowly.  Research by Amazon attached a value to user wait times, estimating that every 100ms a user must wait for a page to load translated to a 1% reduction in sales.

Google’s research into this subject has shown that increasing search latency from 100ms to 400ms reduces the searches per user by 0.2-0.6%, which translates to a potential loss of ad revenue.  Translation – fewer people taking the time to view your content.

In a recent interview with Matt Cutts, he indicated that page load times would be a great idea for a ranking factor.  This, combined with the recent release of Page Speed, could lead one to speculate that load times may play a part in search rankings; if not today, then perhaps in the future.

Speed or Design?  Let’s have both!

As bloggers, we’re constantly looking to improve the experience of our readers.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming this means more “stuff,” in the form of javascript, plugins, images, and the other various new trinkets that are always evolving for web design.

And, truth be told, some of these are necessary, and can improve the user experience.

Unfortunately, in many cases, they’re just as apt to detract from the experience, by slowing page load times and increasing clutter.  After all, how many times have you clicked away from a page because it was poorly designed, or just plain slow to load?

Notice — this does not mean boring.  There are a multitude of sites that are well-designed, fast to load, and still unique in form.  Look to SiteSketch 101 or, for inspiration.

Fortunately, there are a variety of tools available to help webmasters evaluate their site’s load time.  There are two excellent plugins for Mozilla; Google Page Speed and YSlow.  Alternatively, you can check out  Any of these tools will provide estimated page load times, information about the load times of your page elements, and suggestions for improving efficiency.

Just like any artist, to display our work properly to our readers, we must take the time to prepare the canvas.  It must be stretched, so it is neat and clean.  Then, it must be properly rendered, so it can accept the brilliance that will be placed upon it.

If you take a look around at some of the best known blogging sites, and you’ll notice that they’re consistently a) fast to load, b) clean, and c) logically organized.  These are hallmarks of a well-prepared base onto which your content can be properly displayed.

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  1. October 17, 2009

    Eric Bannatyne said:

    Yes, it is very important to have a very fast loading site. I read somewhere that most visitors won’t want to wait for more than about 5 seconds for a page to load.

    I think that using things like CSS3 for your design can help speed up a site, because you can do things like transparency and rounded corners without images. This reduces filesizes, and reduces the number of HTTP requests.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Tips For Organizing Your CSS Files =-.

  2. October 17, 2009

    Javs said:

    That was a good one. But I was not able to analyse the results of website optimisation for my site. Does it require technical knowledge? I am using free webhosting. Does it affect my website speed?
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Twitterfeed – Tweets made easy =-.

  3. October 17, 2009

    Greg said:

    Thanks for running this post! I enjoyed writing it, and its a departure for me. Only recently have I started feeling like I may have learned enough to share something back with the blogging community! Blogging is a constantly evolving process!

    For what its worth, I tried using CSS sprites on my site, but eventually went away from a lot of images, to a “cleaner” theme. But I know there’s a CSS sprites plugin that consolidates the number of images for that exact reason.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: How Being An Optimist Is Holding You Back =-.

    • October 18, 2009

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      Greg –> You’re certainly welcome. I only hope that you’ll consider bringing more to the readers here in the future. This post was absolutely terrific and we’d all love to read more from you in the future. Thanks so much!

  4. October 17, 2009

    Joe said:

    Just for giggles I ran my new web site. I was surprised that there were some things I needed to “tighten up”..thanks for the article, it was a good to keep this in mind.

    We lose perspective of having broadband, and I forget, at least some of my clients may have dial-up or not as fast of internet speeds..also a new sympton of the 21st Century to keep in mind for prospects. Absolutely no patience. Thanks again…

    .-= My Latest Blog Post: Never Clean Your Gutters Again?—It’ll Never Happen =-.

  5. October 17, 2009

    David | said:

    Hi Greg, great post! I really liked how you dealt with the topic of fast/well designed blog.

    From the beginning of my blogging journey, I decided to have a “fast” loading blog. I think (as you stated above) that it’s a crucial factor to any good blog.
    I have to be honest, my blog design is really simple and frugal, I like to name it as minimalist :), sounds better, doesn’t it? I find myself daydreaming frequently about having a new professional blog design :)(beautiful, well organized & fast). A lofty goal.

    Greg, nice to meet you.


  6. October 17, 2009

    Greg said:

    @InternetHow — I know what you mean. I spent months worrying about appearance, then found out all that work led to a sluggish site.

    @Joe — I tend to be sensitive to this because I live in a rural area and can’t get cable or dsl, so I’m stuck with wireless. I deal with problems most of my friends don’t even consider…

    @David — Thank you. Discovering some of these tools eventually led me to the theme I use now. Good to meet you as well.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: How Being An Optimist Is Holding You Back =-.

  7. October 17, 2009

    [email protected] Knowledge said:

    I agree greg that load time really important. I always left site that have a long load time.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: ShoutMix as Guest Book =-.

  8. October 18, 2009

    Greg said:

    @Javs — Some improvements would require technical knowledge, but much is straightforward. I’m not a technical guru, and I, too, run on a shared host. While its slower than dedicated, if your host is not overloaded, it shouldn’t be an issue.

    Interpreting the results requires some info about the program used for analysis. Some simple improvements include making certain you choose a fast theme with few images, make certain you run a caching plugin (wordpress), then reduce the number of images and javascript on your site.

    Hope that helps!
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: How Being An Optimist Is Holding You Back =-.

  9. October 18, 2009

    King Sidharth said:

    Very interesting and thought provoking. I never realized that I was overlooking this part of my website.
    Reducing loading time will also reduce load on server. I think I am going to apply Leo Babauta’s simplicity principles on my site.
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: She scored 90% with the Law of Attraction (for Students) =-.

    • October 19, 2009

      Nicholas Cardot said:

      King Sidharth –> That’s a good idea but I’ve also seen people create ugly sites under the guise of being ‘minimalistic.’ Don’t sacrifice quality for speed. You can have both. And I’m not saying that all minimalistic sites are ugly. I’m just saying that some are.

  10. October 18, 2009

    Blake @ props blog ideas said:

    Load speed is an aspect I have noticed many bloggers completely neglect. I have been stuck on an air card before and know how frustrating it is to wait for a page to come up.

    Those stays about sales loss on page load are very interesting. I have always out a premium on being minimal in all my computing (even my desktop is almost empty) so it is good to know that line of thinking can pay off.

    I look forward to more of your posts here on SS101

  11. October 19, 2009

    King Sidharth said:

    I completely agree man! That’s exactly how I feel!
    .-= My Latest Blog Post: What is Meditation? How to meditate? [Video] =-.

  12. February 15, 2010

    canvas paintings said:

    I really enjoyed reading this article and its many comments, its great to see peoples opinions and the dedication that goes inoto this, well done!