“Mullet”-style blog layout

Most blog layouts follow a standard format. The main stage is populated with the summary of 8 to 10 articles. A side navigation tab (on the left or right) allows access to category pages, archives (by date), and any contextual navigation.

This has obviously been a very successful layout. But one problem with this approach is that it only provides direct links to 10 stories. In order to visit the 11th story, the reader is forced to either
a)understand the blog authors (often whimsical) category structure, or
b)page through tedious monthly archives.
A successful web site should have direct links to as much useful content as possible on the front page (I think of craiglist as being the prototypical effective website: with one click you get down to pretty much any content that you are looking for). Most blogs simply don’t provide that kind of information density, even though there is plenty of space for it.
My new “Mullet” layout (rolled out over the weekend) solves this problem. The first 5 stories appear as before, with summary descriptions. This makes sure that the blog gives of the right “information scent”. But instead of having 5 more stories with summary descriptions underneath, I have links to the next 45 stories! This provides direct access to five times as much content as was available before.
I call it the Mullet for the obvious reason that it is much longer in the back (bottom of the page) than you would expect.
I’m pretty pleased with the results: casual readers won’t even notice a difference (the area “above the fold” is unchanged) but readers scrolling down to find older content will find what they are looking for more easily than they ever could before.
Thoughts? Feedback? Has anyone seen this before? Is this a useful approach?
Update: Like the mullet? Check out the long tail archive, a superior approach to chronological archiving of blog entries.

9 thoughts on ““Mullet”-style blog layout

  1. rashmi August 3, 2005 / 12:58 pm

    The logic behind this idea seems similar to that of Tag Clouds or Weighted Lists. Items are represented as a list – the more important items occupy more space. Similarly, a bunch of recent entries are in a list, the more recent ones also show summary text, taking up more space.

  2. amit August 3, 2005 / 9:56 pm

    I have a strong suspicion that this spatial reorientation in your blog is influenced by the minimised card approach in OCS…correct me if i am wrong

  3. Manu Sharma August 3, 2005 / 11:08 pm

    I think its a good idea though putting too many links can be a little overwhelming. Also, for this to work, the post titles must be descriptive (as opposed to clever ones) enough for the user to grasp the context of it. Search Engine Watch blog does this too.
    There’s so much that can be said about blog layouts (I think Nielsen’s coming out with his “top 10 mistakes” for blogs soon).

  4. jon August 3, 2005 / 11:52 pm

    The mullet is already taking off in japan!
    Google’s translation of the posting is good fun: I especially love the title…
    Rear hair pulling party
    And the explanation of the “mullet” concept for a japanese audience …

    ” the kind of hair which the Yankee of former times has done is long it seems.”
    Thanks for the link, big mac! You rock…

  5. Chas August 4, 2005 / 9:54 am

    Mullet (LOL). OK, let’s extend the hair-style metaphor:
    the Skater (bowl-top, shaved sides): a layout without left nor right navigation.
    the Beatles-cut (sides down to the jaw-line): a layout with both left and right nav.
    the Buzz-cut: a layout without a formal or visual header, nor left and right nav.
    the Beard: a layout with a visual prominent footer
    the Bee-Hive: a layout with an oversized header

  6. jon August 7, 2005 / 10:51 am

    Agree on the overwhelming part. That’s why I kept the top top five stories in standard format: otherwise it’s just too many links and people will “bounce off” the front page.
    RE: the names of stories, you’re thinking with your usability brain, not your business brain. My goal is to get people to read my content. If they read it, I succeed. Even if the stories weren’t exactly what they were expecting. That is not to say that story titles shouldn’t be descriptive AND fun (I think mine are). But a little bit of serendipity isn’t a bad thing.
    Does CNN include the first paragraph of each story on their front page? If not, than why should a blogger?

  7. Manu Sharma August 14, 2005 / 6:00 am

    Jon, it’d be very cool if you monitored the traffic and let us know after a month or so if this made any difference to the number of page views registered for first time visitors of your blog. That is, if you have a way to identify first time visitors and the corresponding data from the time you did not have the mullet.
    Also, since most newbies arrive (from search engines, technorati etc) on archived posts (where you have no mullet) rather than the blog main page, it’d be a good idea to have a mullet here as well. Perhaps including links to past entries from the same category to which the post belogs.

  8. Manu Sharma August 25, 2005 / 3:08 am

    Google Blog has a mullet on its individual post page such as the one here.
    This makes more sense to me as over 90% of first time users on my blog (as on most others) arrive on individual archived posts rather than the blog main page.

  9. justaddwater.dk March 16, 2006 / 4:28 am

    Mullet Layout: A user-friendly front page

    If you are a frequent reader and take a look at the front page sometimes, you might have noticed that we updated the layout quite a bit. The new layout is the first of many steps we will take to make the life easier for blog readers.

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