Doug Bowman and Adaptive Path have done great work with the Blogger redesign. The entire system feels simpler, more mature, and generally better. It is a pleasure to watch someone with such talent apply their craft.
Much has been and will be written about the new design. I agree with much of the positive response. Rather than adding to the chorus of praise (again, which I mostly agree with), I have some criticism of the templates.
Bowman brought in some heavy hitters of the web design world. Todd Dominey, Dave Shea, Jeffrey Zeldman, Dan Rubin, and Dan Cederholm all contributed templates that are freely available for Blogger sites.
While all of the new templates are stylish and well implemented, I found many of them to be lacking in the attributes fundamental to template design.
A good template is difficult to design. The designer must step back and imagine the many types of content that will be framed in their design. Some weblogs will consist of dozens of one or two-line posts per day. Others will have thousand-word essays. Others will consist mostly of photos. The templates will be filled with lots of different languages and many varied color schemes once customized.
Several of the designs are deeply infused with the personal style of the designer. While this may have been what they were asked to do, I don’t find it works well in template design.
Take, for example, the templates of the talented Dave Shea, Snapshot Sable and Snapshot Tequila. While Shea’s designs are sharp and attractive (granted, this is subjective), they include visual elements (a photo of a road and a subway map) that fight for attention with the writer’s own material.
Dan Cederholm, who has a strong esthetic that I admire, produced two templates: TicTac and TicTac Blue. Both templates look great. Judging purely on their visual style, these are my two favourite of the new Blogger templates. However, I find Cederholm’s personal style is almost too strong. Rather than seeing my Blogger site, I see a Cederholm template with my writing. Granted, this will not be an issue for most people who are not familiar with the web design weblogging community.
Of the new templates, Doug Bowman’s own “Minima” (Minima, Minima Black, Minima Blue, Minima Ochre) and “Rounders” (Rounders, Rounders 2, Rounders 3 are a good example of quality template design. The templates are stylish, simple, and attractive, yet they do not overpower the writer’s own content. They are also relatively easily customizable for color variations.
So the creative challenge, for me anyhow, was to develop a template design that had personality and a general creative concept, but (like the old Blogger templates) wasn’t so visually overbearing that it distracted readers from the real content of the page.
This design shows that a unique and strong visual concept can be executed in such a way that leaves room for flexible content and does not impose itself too much on the writing and content of the site.
Given these criticisms, I extend my congratulations to Doug Bowman and all the talented people who worked on the new Blogger design and template set. Good work to all.