When Web 2.0 first began with Google and Craigslist, one of the “innovations” was simplicity itself – empty, uncluttered designs that allowed users to get what needed to be done with a minimum of design elements.
I feel this basic concept has been forgotten recently, what with widgets, ads, videos, monetization, polls, spam, and splogs. Some blogs are so obscured with extra stuff that the content – the post itself – is nearly impossible to find.
It may be time to get back to basics. This week, I noticed several articles about clutter reduction, enough to say that excesses may be reversing and we’re entering a “clutter-reduction equals increased productivity” trend:
- Blain at Stock Trading To Go did a guest post at Zenhabits called Getting Productive, and a Clean Desk. He has some good suggestions, namely a daily task list (in order to avoid distractions), waking up earlier, and discipline to avoid procrastination.
- An article from The Consumerist suggests one way to feel richer is to remove clutter, suggesting that “unnecessary objects steal energy and attention”. This could be a reference to the wasted time cleaning, things, looking for things, or maintaining things – all time that could be spent being productive. Now imagine how visiting a cluttered blog is like entering a cluttered room.
- Newsweek: The Latte-Era Grinds Down: A sagging economy is goading people to refocus their lifestyles toward the essentials.
Since upgrading to WordPress 2.3 I’ve been on a quest to “declutter” my blog: cleaning it up for the specific purposes of increasing readability, removing distractions, and improving load time. Here’s a short list of what I’ve achieved so far:
- Simplified the header graphic to flat colors for smaller file size.
- Condensed all the “extra” stuff beneath each post (categories, trackback link, previous and next posts, related posts) into one grey box (this still needs some refinement).
- Removed the Technorati tags that would appear beneath each post, also allowing the disabling of a plugin.
- Changed the RSS feed link to “Click to subscribe” to see if a direct request works better at increasing subscribers.
- Moved the blogroll to the footer to reduce scrolling.
- Changed the body font to serif and increased the size for readability.
- Reduced file size of the most-used images using Fireworks, which seems to do a better job compressing JPEGs than Photoshop, due to options like smoothing and sharpen image edges.
- Changed the background image to a repeating GIF.
- Condensed CSS using “shorthand styles” which combines font attributes like font size, family, and line height all into one font declaration. Margin and padding can also be condensed.
- Changed instances of “0px” to “0”.
- Changed hex colors to three character equivalents where possible (#cc0000 changes to #c00).
- Removed extra carriage returns, tabs, and spaces.
- Removed unneeded comments.
- Moved some inline style declarations that were still in the theme files to the external style sheet.
- To do: A top-down analysis of all the styles to find any redundancies.
- Replaced the category tag cloud with static links, and disabled the plug in, thereby removing a hunk of CSS and querys.
- Reduced the number of top commentators, recent comments, and most commented posts.
- Removed the PayPal Donation button, iTunes widget, Technorati Widget, and Democracy poll.
- Replaced the MyBlogLog widget with a format that validates.
- My theme (basically a hack of Kubrick) had some relatively useless pHp in the header, calling up the stylesheet location and other WordPress information. I replaced these with static HTML. Read more about this sort of optimization here.
- Removed the MyBlogLog page tracker code.
- Used pHpMyAdmin To Optimize Your WordPress MySQL Database: I don’t know much about MySQL but here’s a good maintenance activity. If your server has phpMyAdmin, go to the interface. Select your WordPress database in the drop down (probably something like _wrdp1). In the table that appears, click “Check All” and then in the “With Selected” drop down, choose “Optimize Table”. The “overhead” column indicates tables that seem to accumulate mystery cruft over time, and optimizing or repairing the tables can do wonders.
- Deleted all unused plugins from the plugin directory.
So that’s about it for now, and as noted in a few places above – I still have much clutter-busting work to do. But here are some links to resources I found inspirational toward these refinements. You may find it inspiring and productivity-boosting to have a go at some spring cleaning to reduce clutter on your blog.