Example

As you will probably notice, things look a little different around RobbSutton.com. As a matter of fact…I have gone against a lot of the advice I have given and the look at RobbSutton.com has changed a lot recently. Don’t worry…I still believe that not obsessing about design and just generating content is the only way a blog will survive. You can really get caught in a one pixel mentality that will make you into a web designer with yourself as the only client instead of a blogger.

But I digress…

I really wanted to go with something different this time around. While the colors are simple, the header is thin and everything else seems to be pretty straight forward…I wanted to do something with this blog that I have dreamed of doing for awhile.

Completely drop the sidebar!

Let’s be honest. How many times you do actually interact with the information in a 350px block roughly on the right. Rarely right? Maybe the first time you visit a site? It is already proven that ads convert the lowest there. I started looking at analytics and that was the least used portion on the site. In most cases, even the footer was used more often. The sad part….that is a third of your content space!

So what did I do? 

I designed the new look of RobbSutton.com to have no sidebar. It is officially a full width, one column setup site wide. You will not see any narrow column to the right or left anywhere on this site anymore.

Am I saying to go drop all of your sidebars? No. This might not be for everyone and it might not be for every subject matter. interactiveAs an example, I will be keeping the sidebar over at Bike198.com for now. Ultimately, I would like to do the same over there but at this point in time it doesn’t make sense. For a pure content blog like here…it is perfect and I already feel like I have room to breathe. It also allows for a lot more interactive, eye catching content due to the increased width.

Have you ever had one of those times where you wished you could wrap a wide picture or video within the content? How about embedded music or another bit of interactive content? With the increased content width (in this case 940px), there is a lot more flexibility to do what I want with my content.

While all of that is great, there is one real reason (outside of low conversion on sidebar content) that I decided to go with a single column setup. The web is in a state of change and I believe we are going to start seeing web design for content sites roll in this direction in the near future. My bet is that you already know without knowing it…so here it goes…

Why would all of these sites opt to drop a sidebar and go to single column?

Most of the time, you are reading in a single column already…

Responsive design has done incredible things for websites and designers. For the first time ever, you are able to keep your same look, feel and branding across multiple mediums. Now, when your readers go to your website, they are not hit with a difference experience than they would be on the web. They see the same design…it is just tweaked a little to fit their screen automatically. What does this mean for your content website? The content is then centered and the sidebar is dropped below the content so you are not reading extremely small text.

So what are you really doing?

Reading a single column website on your mobile phone or tablet when the main site might have sidebars (which you might be already doing for this article). Mobile web traffic is on the rise. It will be the majority of web traffic in the very near future which will make sidebar content even less visible. All I did here, was give you that same experience on the web as well so now my branding and feel really doesn’t change across any medium. When you go from your phone…to a tablet…to a computer…you are hit with the exact same experience.

What was the cost? Really nothing. I can still run advertising in the highest converting spaces. I still have a footer for some content and navigation hasn’t changed. The only thing I lost was the lowest converting section of my website. Damn. I’ll be staying up late at night losing sleep over that one.

As a general rule, I am pretty bad about launching things early for myself (another thing I tell clients not to do), so there are still a couple more things I will be adding like a search bar and newsletter signup form at the bottom of posts. I also have a dedicated homepage in the works that will be rolled out sometime in the near future.

So what do you think? Is this the future of the web as we know it? Does your sidebar convert or are you ready to drop it as well? Let me know!

Example

I honestly see no reason for hating WordPress. Millions of people simply can’t be wrong. Just look at the numbers. 13,800,000 blogs running as self-hosted installations, and 13,900,000 active blogs on wordpress.com (2010 data). Of the top 1 million websites (according to Alexa) 12.4% use WordPress. That’s a whopping 124,000 of them.

But still, you don’t have to be preaching WordPress if you don’t want to. So if you’re about to launch a new website you might as well use a different web content management system (CMS). Or don’t use any CMS at all, and build the site from the ground up with pure PHP and HTML. Although this is probably not the best possible idea since there are tons of great systems out there.

Here’s a list of 13 top web content management systems you should consider if you’re not really into this WordPress thing.

1. Joomla!

(http://www.joomla.org/)

I had been a Joomla! (don’t forget about the exclamation mark) programmer for a couple of years before I switched to WordPress. Joomla! is an advanced, full-blown open source content management system that powers 2.7% of the entire web (as it’s claimed on joomla.org). Joomla! provides many functions you would expect from a CMS, plus has an impressive directory of extensions (8,065 of them at the time of writing). This CMS is great for all sorts of corporate websites or portals, online magazines, e-commerce stores, small business websites, and other.

If you want a social proof here’re some websites that use Joomla!: http://gsas.harvard.edu, http://www.outdoorphotographer.com, http://www.quizilla.com.

2. Drupal

(http://drupal.org/)

An open source platform as well. Drupal is close to the top of this list not without a reason. It’s a great CMS for building corporate websites, information portals, enterprise applications and even blogs. Plus, you can choose from more than 8,000 modules (extensions).

Some websites that use Drupal: http://www.fastcompany.com/, http://www.popsugar.com/, http://www.symantec.com/connect/, http://www.observer.com/.

3. CMS Made Simple

(http://www.cmsmadesimple.org/)

The name itself is pretty self-explanatory. CMS Made Simple is the winner of the “overall best open source CMS award 2010” by Packt Publishing. It’s a scalable platform (suited both for small businesses and large corporations) and provides a really big list of features. Some of them are: SEO friendly URLs, user and group management, multiple language support, multiple themes per website, forms, polls, newsletters, guestbookÖ there’s no point to mention every single feature here, just go to cmsmadesimple.org and find out for yourself.

4. Plone

(http://plone.org/)

First non-PHP CMS on this list. Plone runs on Python. But what it runs on is not important to the end user. What is important though is its simple and easy to use interface. “Elegant minimalism” they call it. The new version of Plone is claimed to be 50% faster than the previous one and to be one of the fastest open source CMS platforms on the market. Its many features and constantly growing community makes it the top non-PHP choice.

5. XOOPS

(http://www.xoops.org/)

Back to PHP systems. Easy to use, feature-rich, and fully modularized ñ this pretty much sums it up. Some interesting features are: expanded users management and theme-based GUI (with over 1,000 currently available themes).

6. PHP-Nuke

(http://www.phpnuke.org/)

This one is old-school. It was one of the most popular systems when I was starting out as a PHP programmer. Fortunately, it hasn’t been forgotten and it’s still developed by a devoted community. The counter on phpnuke.org indicates more than 8,450,000 downloads, which is impressive to say the least.

7. e107

(http://www.e107.org/)

“e107, it’s pimp, init?” ñ one of the random sentences you see when you visit e107.org. This is a great, developer-friendly CMS with many interesting features, and if you think there’s something missing you can suggest a new feature. There’s a special section on the site for that. If you happen to be a product owner yourself then here’s a hint ñ there’s no better way of showing your community that you care than by letting them suggest new ideas for improvement.

8. Magnolia CMS

(http://www.magnolia-cms.com/)

It’s targeted mainly towards business users, so it’s no surprise it’s the CMS of choice for many government and large corporate websites. Among its many features there’s a possibility to preview content exactly as it would be seen by the website visitor. If you’ve been working with other CMS platforms you know that it’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to explain to your client why in the end the content looks differently from what they see in the editor. No such problem here.

9. dotCMS

(http://dotcms.com/)

This one is a Java-based content management system. You can choose from two available versions (free ñ Community version, and paid ñ Enterprise version). Similar to every CMS on this list this one provides a wide range of features as well. You can use it to manage small, micro-sites as well as large online magazines. If you’d like something built around Java this is basically the route to go.

10. b2evolution

(http://b2evolution.net/)

This is a blog content management system (similar to WordPress). Free and open source. It provides some classic, blog features but also many additional ones. It lets you manage files and photos, launch multiple blogs, use detailed user permissions and more. Of course, there’s a lot of available plugins too.

11. CuteNews

(http://cutephp.com/)

If you need something really simple you should consider this CMS. It’s basically just a news management system that uses some standard files instead of a normal database (like MySQL for example). Somehow it still manages to support things like commenting, archives, search function, file uploads, and even backup and restore.

12. CushyCMS

(http://www.cushycms.com/)

This CMS is probably one of the easiest to use platforms on this list. A “truly simple CMS” as the authors say. And it’s hard to disagree. I was really surprised when I learned how the CMS works because it uses none of the industry-standard ideas. The first surprising thing is that there’s no software to installÖ yea, how about that? I encourage you to find out for yourself. The video on cushycms.com is just 5 minutes.

13. Nucleus CMS

(http://nucleuscms.org/)

Basically a blog content management system running on PHP and MySQL (same as WordPress). What’s interesting about it is the fact that you can use it to launch multiple sites with a single installation. If you like to you can extend it with a number of plugins (which is kind of a standard for top-shelf CMS platforms these days). One of the more interesting features is the possibility to backup and restore the whole database with just a single click.

Which one is the best?

There’s no best or worst here. If you need a good, feature-rich, and safe content management system you can go with either one from this list. It’s best to check them all out and see which one appeals to you the most. And when you do, don’t forget to come back and let me know in the comments which one is it.

P.S. My favorite one is still WordPress sorry.

About the author: Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a 20-something year old web 2.0 entrepreneur from Poland who hates to work but loves to train capoeira. But anyway, tune in to get his blogging tips and tutorials.

Example

The following article is a guest post from Matthew Polo (his details at the end of this article). To submit a guest post to Blogging Labs, hit us up and we’ll get the ball rolling.

If you are ready to launch a WordPress blog and join millions around the world, there are some things you should know while your getting started.

1. Your WordPress Blog Does Not Have To Be On Hosted WordPress

You can use WordPress anywhere. This means that you don’t have to have a .WordPress.com blog, ie your blog doesn’t have to be your-blog.WordPress.com but can be your-blog.com. WordPress can host your blog for you or you can get your own hosting at a different company. Another useful feature is the ability to import or export blog contents to and from WordPress. This will allow you to keep a personal archive off line.

2. There Are No Contracts

Because its free you don’t have to commit to anything. You can leave anytime and WordPress will give you a complete xml download of all your posts and comments, so you can pack up and move your blog if you want

3. You Need A Plan…. And A Name

It is always a good idea to plan something before you do it. Develop a blog plan about why you are creating a blog, including the purpose, the target audience and the level of commitment to maintenance you envision. Try to conduct some market research on blogs that are similar and not similar to your vision and don’t limit yourself to only looking at WordPress blogs. Research some names for your blog that are consistent with your vision. Investigate the “About” sections of other blogs to see why they started as well as how well they are going after how long. This research could tell you roughly how your blog is going to go, but in no way is it a guarantee that your blog will succeed.

You should also decide whether you want to use an existing email account or specifically create one for blogging. I like to create new emails for each site and manage them all through GMail rather than use my personal one. It helps to stop people spamming me personally as well as separates my work and personal life and if I ever want to sell the blog I can give away the email address and be sure that I don’t keep getting blog related emails after I sold it.

4. Knowledge is Key and Keep an Open Mind

It is always a good idea to keep an open mind when it comes to your blogs development. Try to explore each WordPress feature fully before initiating full scale blog development. Getting to know each of the features and how to use them effectively will help your blog run smoothly. For instance, you can blog through email and mobile texting, and allow people to subscribe to your blog with alerts for blog activity. You can also create a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed to allow subscribers to view a summary and updates of your blog content anywhere on the web. These are simple things to set up, but if you don’t get in there and learn how to set them up your blog won’t work as well as it could.

5. WordPress Is Free. But There Is Some Stuff You Have To Pay For

The great thing about WordPress is that it is absolutely free, which is great if you want to give blogging a go because it won’t cost you a penny. However, there are some features that WordPress offer that will cost you a bit of dough. You can check out the paid features at http://en.WordPress.com/products/ but before you go “gun ho” on all the paid features I suggest giving the free version a good thorough go. There are plenty of plugins that you can download that will let your WordPress blog do anything, so I suggest giving them a go first.

6. One Account..More Than One Blog

Another good feature of WordPress is that you can manage more than one blog from the one account. This means that you won’t have to login to each one as you work on them.

7. You Should Subscribe To Other Blogs

You can subscribe to other blogs on WordPress easily. Reviewing other blogs to discover what others are blogging about, how they blog, blog layout, naming, content categories and tags not only will help you get a sense of what you can do with WordPress but will also get you out into the blogging community. Some good places to check out other blogs, topics and titles is through Technorati, Mashable and blog directories as well as check out other blogs blog rolls. You should activate social media buttons on your blog as well as follow other blogs through social media sites. This will keep you in the loop as well as help you get followers on your own social media pages.

8. Pingbacks Are Helpful

Pingbacks will alert others if you link to their website or blog, and will in turn alert you if another blog has linked to you. You can also allow their citations to show on your blog. An easy way to get back-links to your blog is to post articles with links to your blog in one of the free article directories, like top ranked ones Articlesbase and Ezinearticles. Although it won’t impact your blog massively. It is still a good idea to do it as it will start getting your blog out there as well as let the search engines see your blog.

9. Check Your Default Settings

WordPress has default settings that although help you avoid a long and boring set up process isn’t always what you want. For example comments are allowed for each post without prior approval by default, this means that people can write anything they want. You can pre screen all blog post comments before they post or you can turn off comments but I wouldn’t suggest it. The default for blog postings is public viewing. You can create a top level private view or create private viewing by post, allowing just yourself, friends or people with a code that you create. You can also create viewership ratings for content per each blog.

10. Submitting Your Blog To Directories Will Help Get Your Blog Out There

Although blog directories like Blogexplosion, Technorati, OnTopList, Blogdirectory, Blog Web Directory, and others found via Wikipedia and Alexa.com won’t make a massive impact on how many people will see your blog it will still help it get out there, which isn’t a bad thing.

Maintaining your own blog can be a very rewarding thing, so get in there and have a go. After all its free, whats the worst that could happen?

Matthew writes about personal finances for an impartial Australian credit card comparison website where people can find balance transfer credit card offers that reduce interest payments and help them get out of debt faster.

Example

Over the past couple of years, WordPress theme frameworks have been growing in popularity. With features like SEO integration and clean coding, frameworks like Thesis, Headway, Genesis and Platform Pro are continuing to take their bite out of the premium WordPress theme market. As you look at your blog and try to decide what look is going to go over well with your readers, it is natural to look towards these options due to their popularity in the market and marketing push, but are they the right option for your blog?

Over the past couple of weeks, I have redesigned my two biggest blogs incorporating frameworks. This blog, Blogging Labs, got the Pagelines Platform Pro treatment and Bike198 made the switch to Studiopress’s Genesis framework. Before we jump straight into if you should be looking to frameworks for your blog, let’s take a quick look at the before and after on each of my blogs.

Pagelines Platform Pro - Blogging Labs

Studiopress Genesis - Bike198

You can see the layouts and themes live by clicking here: Bike198.com | Blogginglabs.com | StudioPress Genesis | Pagelines Platform Pro

The Positives: Theme Frameworks

WordPress theme frameworks provide a lot of positive features for the blogger and these features are what make frameworks popular today. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant.

Easy Upgrades Over Time

In a typical setup, a WordPress theme framework acts as the underbelly to your theme. When installed, you do not edit or make changes to the theme itself, but you instead make a “child theme” that lays over top the framework. All of your coding, design and other changes are made within this child theme separate of the framework. When it comes time to upgrade Thesis, Genesis or any other framework you chose to run, you can completely upgrade the theme without having to change the core files again to reflect your changes. This is HUGE for bloggers who have really created their own look.

Provides A Solid Foundation For Custom Themes

Before theme frameworks, when you wanted a full custom WordPress theme, your designer had to go through the long task of converting their pages into the WordPress format. This procedure had a large cost to it as they are trying to get a specific look to integrate with WordPress. With theme frameworks, designers can take that look and lay it over a solid WordPress foundation seamlessly drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to develop a custom look. This also reduces to the cost to the blogger and allows for more “custom” options to lower budgets.

On the bloggers end, it also does not keep you tied to one designer as most of the community can work directly over these frameworks, so if your designer decides to hang up his designing hat…you can still find someone else that can work on your site without having to dig through custom code. The framework’s code is also very clean, so the blogger does not have to worry about the designers coding ability as that can have an adverse affect on page load speed and SEO if done incorrectly.

Hooks Provide Placement Advantage

Do you want to add a advertisement at the bottom of every article? How about a new global nav? This used to be a hard and tedious procedure as you had to dig through pages of code and test what would work to edit your core files and add that feature. Now…with theme frameworks and their implementation of hooks, you can easily add elements to your blog without having to edit core files. Some frameworks like Headway and Platform Pro allow drag and drop functionality and other frameworks like Thesis and Genesis have plugins that make things easier on the blogger. Either way…you are guaranteed to be able to add elements quickly and easily without affecting your core files.

Negatives: Theme Frameworks

However, like most things in life…nothing is perfect so you need to take a look at these drawbacks to theme frameworks before you make the decision to use one on your blog.

Do You Know How To Design?

When you activate your theme framework for the first time, you are going to notice that your site looks incredibly bland. Have you ever seen those plain white Thesis based sites popping up all over the web? That is because they bought the theme, activated it and started writing without any real knowledge of what it takes to make a blog look unique. Your blog design is one of your most important converting elements behind content. Your blog needs to stand out amongst the competition…not look exactly like it. If you do not have the funds or ability to make your WordPress theme framework unique, you are going to get frustrated as your blog looks exactly like everyone else that just hit activate and got to work writing.

While there are some premium child themes on the market and companies like Studiopress offer different child themes to go over their frameworks, be prepared to spend extra cash on top of the framework itself if you do not have CSS and php knowledge. Theme frameworks are not just plug and play like some other options from WooThemes, Elegant Themes and WPZoom which offer more out of the box options.

SEO Integration vs. Long Term Options

One of the marketing tricks of WordPress theme frameworks has been SEO integration. While I agree that their clean code does greatly help with SEO over time (Google hates messy code), theme frameworks also advertise their SEO integration with titles, descriptions and other elements that were previously handled by plugins like All-In-One SEO. In my opinion, by integrating all of those elements into your theme, you are marrying yourself to that theme over time and insuring your repeat custom basis with that WordPress framework by making it harder to switch in the future if you look to integrate a different look or framework. While it is true that less plugins equal a faster site, I still keep my SEO duties to a plugin so if I want to change my theme sometime in the future…I do not have to worry about porting that integration.

My Recommendation To Bloggers

As you are probably wondering by now…what is my recommendation to bloggers as you look to WordPress themes as a way to make your blog unique? Both of my main blogs are now running theme frameworks for the benefits they provide my sites. However, I have enough CSS and php knowledge to create that custom look that I was after without having to spend any extra money for a custom design. If you do not have the ability or funds to create a more custom look than the standard white on black that theme frameworks provide, I would start looking at places like WooThemes, Elegant Themes, WPZoom and Theme Forest to find a layout and look that fits your blog. There are enough great looking premium themes out there that you should not have to worry about looking exactly like your competition.

If you can afford to pony up for the custom look or premium child theme, WordPress theme frameworks are a great way to get clean code and a custom look without paying the high cost of a full blown custom WordPress option. The cost difference is in the thousands and there are plenty of quality designers that will work straight over any of the theme framework options. That also provides you with a solid platform to create edits as you see fit without having to contact your designer with every change.

As with most things in life, there is not one solution for everyone. You need to look into your needs and abilities to see what is the right choice for you. Just because everyone else is doing it…that does not mean it is the right option for your blog. If you plan on throwing up a stock install of a Worpress theme framework and making a lasting impression on your readers…you are going to be disappointed in the end.

Theme References Mentioned In Article:

WordPress Theme Frameworks

Premium WordPress Themes