A Question of Style

Should I give this blog a new template for the desktop version (the mobile version will remain the same)? Long-term readers know that I chose the rather austere style of Rodrigo Galindez’s design because it suited my purposes as a monastic blogger. I don’t often include pictures or audio and wanted something that would load quickly, read easily and not offend anyone’s love of typography too grossly. A plain and simple style for a plain and simple person, which is what you have. But the point of writing is to be read, and I’m aware that a ‘tired’ lay-out may put others off.

What do you think? Shall we stay with the tried and trusted, or shall I spring something new on you? I’m not intending to load the page with artwork or audio, but I may move the comments system over to Disqus so this would be a good time to speak up. Make your views known!

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41 thoughts on “A Question of Style”

  1. To be honest, I like the current format. I’m not sure that a change would improve it. I come here to read and to participate, not necessarily to be entertained 🙁

    I never access it via a mobile device, so I can’t comment on that format.

    Perhaps I’m to fuddy duddy to have a helpful opinion 🙁

  2. Tend to agree with UKViewer, but feel it’s particularly important that readers can access by mobile, so if that won’t be compromised, it might be worth an experiment.

    (BTW, I’ve been told that it’s safest to justify images to the left so that they’re least likely to become distorted on different devices.) Plain typography is also safest.

    Not sure how Disqus would enhance the present mode. Anyone can enter the conversation at any time if the spirit moves 🙂

    Personally, I like images and feel that the occasional Medieval line drawing, or something simple and evocative, may be worth trying. The generally ‘given’ wisdom is that blog readers do like pics.

    • As to images, apart from the fact that I am more of a typographer than a graphic artist (ran the Stanbrook Abbey Press for some years, which may explain) copyright is a headache, even when images are licensed under Creative Commons. With my professional web designer’s hat on, I could tell you some VERY scary tales!

  3. As you know, I wasn’t a fan of this austere style in the beginning, but it has grown and the words themselves have made it beautiful! I vote for staying the same!!

  4. I love this style. Love the white space, makes me feel contemplative for the time I visit the blog, makes it a moment of peace during my otherwise busy, often multi- tasking, noise & irritation filled day.

    It also leaves the words and the wisdom of those words to shine without distraction.

  5. I suppose it depends upon how much trouble changing things will make for you. If you are already changing some things and changing ths layout just becomes part of that, then , for me, one of the interesting things about using the web to communicate, is all the different things one can do. However, I also agree with the earlier replies, I read here often, am often given plenty to think about and am content if the layout remains the same.

  6. As the idea is to be minimalist, there is very little really that needs changing. It works well. You could go for a simpler sans-serif body text font if you wanted to go a bit simpler, but it depends if you want it to have a more traditional look.

    I suppose its giving the impression the site is minimalist to reflect the monastic nature rather than just being lazy/lacking ideas that is important from a visual point of view.

  7. The current style is beautiful and a true pleasure to the eyes in this age of increasingly over-loaded, ‘flashy’ web pages where several items try to catch your attention at once.

    Like probably many regular visitors to your blog, I come here for a bit of reflection, inspiration, and, dare I say it, sanity.

    As to typeface, to me sans-serif looks “stupid” , a bit infantile, too much trying to please the eye. Which is why so many pages use it. You could experiment with colours – blue on blueish-white (I’m sure there is a fancier term for your page background) looks nice but maybe there are other colours that would look good against it.

  8. I am in favour of the current format. It is clean, easy to read and without distraction from the primary content.

    I wish a few other websites, that could learn from yours, would adopt an uncluttered style too.

  9. No idea what disqus is and would prefer not to have another new learning experience!
    Just looked at the buttons at the top of the blog and found some random, redundant comments in Prayerline. Links and Contact.
    In Donate do we still need ‘our permanent home’, sounds a bit nomadish.
    In Links suggest a note making it clear that links to other Benedictine and relevant sites are available on main website.
    My eye dislikes the way the Donate and Top Blog side buttons sit.
    Overall though the clean, quiet design is very much to my liking and allows thoughtful, reflective reading of your words.

  10. I’m another who likes the clean, uncluttered look of your blog and wouldn’t want to see it change too drastically. As someone with poor sight, may I make a plea that whatever changes you may make don’t lessen good contrast with the background. Another commenter suggested blue on blueish-white which would be very difficult for me to read.

  11. The content of this blog is rich and deep. The plain and quiet style allows the substance of the blog to stand alone without distraction. This blog, as it is, is like entering a small and plain chapel to meditate and chew on the word (Word). I most often leave the page enriched, strengthened and spiritually nourished. I wouldn’t change a thing. That said, I have every confidence in your judgment.

    I often think of this blog as a little room of the monastery open to the world, a little room for which I am each day grateful.

  12. As an avid blog reader, my concerns are more with content, ease of navigation, and frequency of new posts, so no problems with the existing style &c of ibenedictines.

    However, some thoughts should you decide to change.

    Whilst style is secondary, although clearly not a blog I find the Vatican site particularly irritating in its combination of background and lettering. Regarding frequency, although most parts of Justin Welby’s site are quite good, he is clearly a tweeter rather than a blogger, and his blog is only infrequently updated.

    In our desire to reference primary sources, Frank Cranmer and I use hyperlinks quite extensively, and it can be problematic when URLs change frequently, as in the UK Parliament (when one day’s debates are updated into Hansard), and also on the Vatican Information Service (whose updating logic I haven’t worked out yet).

    Having said that, as a blogger one often feels tired with the same format, and has a desire to brighten up the posts with photos and other artwork. Our changing masthead provides some variety, but otherwise we tend to rely on an ad hoc our own photographs. The UK Human Rights Blog always has a photo or artwork, and this is not at the expense of requiring the reader to scroll down to find what the piece is about, for example Fr Z’s blog (and to an extent, ours) – perhaps more of a problem for small screen lap tops.

  13. I love it as it is. My sight is also poor but find the current style very easy to read. I tend to read your blog as soon as I arrive at my work desk in the morning. I’m so glad I found it.

  14. I only wish the mobile version allowed the full post to appear on feebly, reader, etc. as is, I only get a paragraph and have to click over to the website … Not always convenient to do so.

  15. I like the format, I read only on mobile device. There are two problems, 1st is small, the intro is very tiny and we need to click on read more to see what the post is about. 2nd more obscure, when I read a post it is not always marked as ‘read’. This is on an apple device. Both iPad and iPhone

  16. Sr, I didn’t think that the desktop and mobile versions of the blog were different? I thought that it only applied to the website? That said, I agree with yourself, UK Viewer, Melany, Mandy Hall, Jim, Margaret Yo and many other points made as well. This is a truly wonderful, and developing, space.

    My question would be, are you anticipating using Disqus to run the blog within the website, rather than as a standalone application? Surely the global capability is no different? However, I can’t yet envisage how conversations will be better connected across the web. Surely all conversations will stay within the blog and not communicate more widely outside? Or am I missing something?

  17. Personally, I tend to be of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school, when it comes to online stuff. I am not a big fan of Disqus, either, it can be a bit of a bear to maintain, and it has its quirks (disappearing comments, account validation issues) To be fair, these may have been fixed in the latest releases, but once bitten, twice shy.
    As it is, your blog is well designed, not over encumbered by plugins, and runs well. As far as blogs go, flash is not substance (and I don’t mean the Adobe thing..)

  18. I love it as it is. It’s my easily accessible oasis in a busy world which I look forward to every day. It grounds me and gives me food for my soul. Thank you.

  19. I really appreciate the spare, even minimalist, style you have currently. Being innately conservative (very much with a small C) I would be reluctant to fix something that ain’t broke 🙂

  20. One last warning on Disqus.. It “wants” access to your Twitter (and any other) social media tools you may use.
    There is little or no comment “site containment” or privacy with disqus, it prefers your commenters register with its service..
    …”What Disqus does is give any other Disqus user the ability to “Follow” you. This means all of your comments, on every site you visit using Disqus, are aggregated for them. You do not have the ability to block “Followers.” So if someone is stalking you in the comments, every time you post a comment your stalker is notified.”
    I’m not a blogger per se, but I have admin’ed and set up a fair number of them for others, and find the stock WordPress comment system far better than Disqus.
    Disqus has left too much of a bad taste/odour for me to recommend it.. However, as always, your mileage may vary..

  21. Thank you for making the time to respond to my question, and for being so positive with both the brickbats and the bouquets (especially the bouquets!). There are so many of you that I’ll make just a general response, if I may.

    Technically, almost anything is possible (famous last words); but not everything is advisable. The purpose of the blog is actually quite serious as it is a window onto our monastic life and I don’t intend to change the type of content posted here. The typography and design should reflect that seriousness, but personal taste is always subjective. So, I’ll think about your suggestions but make no promises. Please don’t feel slighted if I don’t adopt a suggestion.

    I have been trying to reproduce the problems some have reported with the mobile version. They are not caused by the coding of the site but by the way various operating systems render the code. I’m not sure what, if anything, I can do about them, but I’ll do some further investigating.

    I cheerfully acknowledge the need to bring some parts of the blog up to date but, as with our other websites, I am having to do things piecemeal, as time allows. Thank you for being patient.

    Finally, I’ve not had any problems with Disqus, which does have the advantage of a single sign-up process for regular commentators. I think I can arrange things so that no one is obliged to sign up to Disqus if they don’t wish but can still comment in the way that has become familiar.

  22. Good luck with the upgrades, and thanks for looking at a Disqus option for those of us who would rather not log in to it.. (paranoid on IT stuff ?? moi? – after a career in IT that involved a longish stint security and such, why yes, slightly..:) 🙂 )
    As far as mobile site, I can offer sympathies, there seems to be way too many variables across the mobile client space to really make a web experience work across ALL mobile devices…

  23. I also love the plain, simply layout. It’s beautifully simple and easy to read. I research and teach this stuff, and all the evidence suggests that the simpler the style, with the more black type and white space, the easier it is to read and comprehend (I am sure you know this already). Bells, whistles, images etc make some designers happy because they pretty things up, but I love the fact that you are tough enough to ignore such ephemera and concentrate on the text. So I don’t think this looks tired; to me it looks classically elegant. I’d urge you to persist with it, but if you want to try a new layout, why not give us a mockup to comment on?

  24. I like the simple format because I click on a blog to read it. I use a very slow connection, so disqus will drive me away. But if you can possibly move that share button so it doesn’t drop down every time you move your mouse down the page, I’d consider that a plus.

  25. Worry not, dear readers, there are no imminent transitions to all-singing all-dancing horrors due any time soon; and if I do implement Disqus, there will be no need for anyone to sign up to it. I PROMISE.

  26. I never cease to be astonished at any criticism of your site or words.
    Personally , I wouldn’t change a thing. It is completely Benedictine in style and content and, fortunately, lacking in banal unnecessary pictures/photographs which add little or nothing to the message,.
    Asking for opinions can be disastrous!

  27. Hello. I’m new to this blog, which I love and find inspirational and it also makes me think.
    I’m on the move a lot in my job and I rely on the mobile format. I love the format, which is pleasing to the eye. I welcome the words only and if there are pictures and audio I will feel that I have to look at it all and that would then be burdensome. So, my vote is to leave it as it is. And thank you for you almost daily blogs, which help to keep me spirituality grounded in my otherwise manic and chaotic life!

  28. I fully endorse the majority of comments and really like the unfussy and easy look of the blog. As regards colour-on-colour, my son did his final dissertation on the design of websites and people with colour blindness. I can’t remember the details, but it was fairly complex because there are different types of colour blindness. The real moral was that most web designers don’t consider colour blind readers at all.

    I think colour blind people would definitely appreciate retaining the current black-on-white.
    P.S. I always enjoy reading your blog.

  29. Thank you for all your comments. I’m now closing this post off to new ones. As some of you know, I have a bit of background in typography (Stanbrook Abbey Press, Veil Press) and, latterly (from the 1990s onwards), website design (Veilnet); so I appreciate all you say. ‘Consulting the faithful’ is, as Newman pointed out, often a way of affirming what one already believed to be true; but one must always allow for others to have insights to which one is blind oneself. THANK YOU.

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