Pretty templates do not an update make

by Suw on May 10, 2004

As reported by Boing Boing and the BBC, Blogger has updated its service and user interface. But not very much.
The first incarnation of Chocolate and Vodka was hosted on Blogger and it was the first blog writing tool I ever used. It wasn't long, though, before Blogger's unreliability drove me over to Blog-City who have also, I noticed today, recently launched a new website, although not a revamped UI. Reliability became an issue at Blog-City too, and so I find myself here on Blogware instead. I also use TypePad when posting to Four Corners.
I still keep a few blogs going on Blogger, including the Clwb Malu Cachu blog. (Although I don't update it very frequently, because I am lazy and the idea of writing a big blog post in English and then doing it again in Welsh is not hugely appealing.)
Anyway, upon reading that Blogger had updated, I thought I'd pop along to see what goodies they've added. Call me cynical if you like, but I found myself rather underwhelmed by the Blogger 'update'. Ok, they've added comments, but not before time. Each entry now gets its own archive page. You can have an author profile page too, if you like. And photos. Oh, and they've added more templates and prettified (arguably) the UI.
Er? is that it? Is that an update? Looks more like minor tweaks and a bit of a tidy up to me, and certainly is not deserving of a 'holy crap'. I'm not hugely impressed by the new interface – it still seems ugly and clunky to me and no amount of designer-speak justification is going to make me think otherwise. Rounded corners? W00t.
The main reason I keep the CMC blog on Blogger is because it allows me to have a completely customisable template so I can make it look like it belongs with the rest of the CMC website, where it is hosted.
The drawback with this is that my archives regularly get screwed up. A while back I managed to find the time to sit down with the templates and fix what was wrong, but with this new page-per-post archiving system, my templates are screwed again. I'm going to have to sit down, again, and fix them, again. Maybe this is testament more to my poor Blogger template writing skills than anything, but it does make me wonder why I bother at all.
One of the things I love about Blogware is that not only is it easy to use on a day to day basis, it's also easy to customise the stuff on your site. Adding components such as search to your side bar(s) and tweaking your blog's layout is as easy, literally, as dragging and dropping. Blogger's advantage of having fully customisable templates is also its major drawback. It doesn't offer half of the stuff that Blogware (or Blog-City, or TypePad, for that matter) provides, and the templates are so easily broken that they're almost not worth the hassle.
It used to be that the option of a fully customisable template was attractive enough to offset the fact that Blogger didn't provide the options that other blog hosts offered, but that is no longer the case. Blogger doesn't offer integrated search, calendar, topics/categories, bookmarks, trackbacks, reviews (book, movie, music) or the ability to easily create custom components. And, worse than that, it doesn't provide server stats. At all.
This 'update' is not Blogger catching up with the other providers. It is Blogger wasting time and money on a redesign when it should be considering the fundamentals of its service and how it can add in the options that have become standard elsewhere. Blogger is going to have to do a lot better than this if it wants to compete again.

Anonymous May 10, 2004 at 5:26 pm

Well, it wasn't a 'holy crap' in isolation, it was a 'holy crap that's Blogger?'
Can't think of the title, but there's a story, maybe Vonnegut, where everyone is equal, and to be sure they are equal the beautiful have to wear ugly masks, and the graceful have to wear weights, and shoes of different heights. Blogger drags around over a million users, and however many hundreds of millions of posts, to keep it from being quick to add things. Those images above this comment box, to add formatting? I don't know how many thousands of times a day BlogWare serves those up, but Blogger would be serving them up millions of times a day. Even with Google's server farm, every tiny bit counts and costs. Thus, holy crap, that's Blogger?

Anonymous May 10, 2004 at 6:27 pm

I'm now a little fuzzy on the precise intonation of your holy crap, but I'll let everyone visit your page and make their own minds up as to what shade of holy crap you originally intended. 😉
I realise Blogger's huge – it was oversubscription that was killing them when I left way back when. But at the same time, now that they have Google behind them, surely they should start considering not how to conserve server space, but how they are going to keep Blogger competitive in the long run. If I were starting a new blog, from scratch, having never blogged before, well, Blogger is not the most useable UI, nor is it the most attractive in terms of features, so what is going to make Blogger stand out?
Maybe Blogger doesn't add new components to its service because it can't afford the server space and bandwidth, but if that's the case, well, they're in the wrong market. Compromising service to save your arse when the competition is already better than you never has been a sound business tactic.

Anonymous May 11, 2004 at 10:30 pm

Another rather nifty addition to the all-new Blogger is posting to blog by email; I love this idea and it's got me all excited about new possibilities.

Anonymous May 14, 2004 at 9:00 am

Sorry that you left blog-city, I personally enjoyed your blog – We're back on track now at the city and I noticed when I searched for you in google your blog-city blog is still at the top of the list! Come back and visit sometime 🙂

Anonymous May 15, 2004 at 8:25 am

Hi Mayoress,
Nice to see you over here. I have to say that it was a hard decision to leave Blog-City – you guys had been so nice. But although I shall keep the Blog-City sub going, until you can radically redo your admin user interface, I am afraid that I shan't come back to using that blog on a regular basis. I just find the UI too confusing and difficult to use. You need to do some in depth user and usability testing and redesign admin pages which are easier and more pleasant to use.
I do wish you good luck with Blog-City though.

Anonymous June 8, 2004 at 1:15 pm

> Blogger drags around over a million users, and
> however many hundreds of millions of posts, to
> keep it from being quick to add things.
Also don't forget that its much easier to support the addition of new features 'n stuff when users are paying for them.

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