Does Design Affect Community Engagement?

Had an interesting thought/conversation/question yesterday. Does designing a blog to look different than most blogs affect the level of engagement (i.e. number and quality of comments) on that blog? I’m not talking about the quality of a site’s design but more it’s similarity to other blog designs.

Blogs tend to look and feel a certain way. They have a post section on the left and a sidebar or two on the right. They look a lot like this blog. When you’re on a blog, you typically know it.

To restate: Does designing a blog that doesn’t look like a blog affect, either negatively or positively, the reader’s propensity to comment? For example, if a blog looks like this:


Is the reader more, less, or equally likely to comment as he or she would be were the same comment to be on a blog that looked more like a standard blog (i.e. my blog)?

I’d love to hear opinions from social media experts as well as personal thoughts/feelings from blog readers.

Need Any Design Work Done?

If you need some design work done, drop me an e-mail. I haven’t put together an updated portfolio, but here are a few things I’ve done in the past.

Website: (This one’s not done yet, but I love it and wanted to show it off.)


ZoneGathering Logo





Red City WordPress Theme

After I installed the theme that I’m currently using, I realized that it doesn’t use widgets, so I’ve updated the theme to make it widget aware, as well as changed out the main photo for one that I think fits the theme better (no, it’s not the one of me, that’s just for my blog). I used a photo that I took in Times Square during my recent trip to NYC, so I also renamed the theme to Red City. The original theme is called Neo-Sapien. This theme is published under the GNU Public License.

Please let me know if you have any problems with the theme. I’d like to try to fix anything I messed up on it.

Update: Just a quick update, this is a four column theme, but I’ve also put in an extra widgetized sidebar at the top of both right columns so that you can put something wider in there if you want (like a tag cloud).

Download Red City WordPress Theme
Red City WordPress Theme

Facebook Confuses Me

No, no, I know what Facebook is, and I consider myself pretty adept at using it. Facebook the company confuses me. More specifically, Facebook’s designers confuse me.

I suppose the thing that baffles me most is that they don’t utilize the full width of a 1024×768 screen. Their current design creates just a bit of horizontal scrolling on an 800×600 screen. The simple addition of an extra column where applications could reside would alleviate most of problems with overly cluttered profiles. Even all of the empty space underneath the ad in the left-most column could be used for this.

Instead, Facebook’s designers are leaning towards a multi-tabbed layout that would effectively hide a great deal of the information available on a profile. I have quite a few applications installed, but I have them there because I want to paint a picture of my online and offline activity for my friends. I’d prefer this picture not be hidden. I am an active Internet user, so I have the and Digg applications on my profile. I have a YouTube video player so that my friends can see some of the videos I produce for work. I have the notes app configured to import my blog posts, a posted items box, et cetera. I’ve got the Obama application installed, which is fairly important to me considering I’ve spent a couple of weekends in other states volunteering for the Obama campaign. In other words, my profile is not just a random collection of crap but a carefully crafted picture of my life, both personal and professional, online and off.

I would love to have the tools to make this picture sharper and more focused, but I don’t want to be told what can and cannot be a part of the picture, what is and is not important. I’m not looking for a MySpace like experience. I don’t need to be able to style my profile any way I want. I prefer a simple, orderly layout, but I most definitely want to be able to choose the content that fills this layout.

I know this sounds like I don’t like Facebook. In fact, the opposite is true: I like Facebook a great deal. I use it every day. I just want it to continue to be a place where friends can see who I am, not just the fun facts about me that others deem relevant. Facebook has a page where you can see the proposed changes, and you can send your feedback (and ideas) to