Despite the criticism from some people who are calling it a pseudoscience, there is no doubt that Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese discipline, is as fascinated as it is wise. It’s the system that promotes the creation of harmonious environments to ensure the happiness of people who are surrounded by them. The fundamental aspect of Feng Shui is Qi (ch’i) that represents a “flow of energy”. If nothing blocks or disturbs this flow, then we have a positive environment, or a good ch’i, but if ch’i stagnates then we have a bad Feng Shui.

It’s pretty obvious what is symbolized by ch’i on a website: if a reader gets a nice user experience from visiting and exploring the site, if the site colours don’t hurt the eyes, the navigation doesn’t cause a confusion and the carefully constructed typography doesn’t cause a headache, then we can safely say that this web site has a very good Feng Shui. In other words, in the world of Web:

Feng Shui = Usability + Design

Now, that we’ve managed to decipher and see how important it is to have a good feng shui on a web site, and since blogs are fast becoming the most popular types of web sites, let’s go through some DOs and DON’Ts in blog Feng Shui.

DO pay an extra attention to the homepage – even for a blog it is still the most important page of the site. Despite the fact that people usually land on one of the blog’s articles from search engines or following links from other sites, most of us always check out the homepage afterwards. Be sure to check Jacob Nielsen’s Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability, though some of those guidelines apply to the blog’s overall layout, not just the homepage.

DON’T interrupt the positive ch’i with links that don’t say where they lead to, or open new windows, or present readers with a PDF document without a warning. We’ve all seen articles with links that say “read here and here“, or several linked words in a row – all to different sites. Every time I see such links, I mouse over and look at the status bar, trying to determine from the URL where that hypertext is linking me to. But what if the permalink is not user-friendly, or people are less tech-savvy than I am and don’t have all the time in the world to follow all the outbound links from that article. If you have to use a short and not very descriptive links, be sure to include them with the title attribute that creates tooltips that display the original title of the article when mousing over that link.

DO keep in mind how people read on the Web – they are not just scanners, they are “savvy selective scanners“. Write not just eye-catching but meaningful titles, break long paragraphs into several shorter ones, intersperse your main text with highlighted words (links, typeface variations, in a different colour), make it more attractive with appropriate images, write a gripping content.

feng shui colours

DON’T overlook the power of colour. Colour is one of the most effective and easiest ways to affect someone’s mood or energy flow. In Feng Shui each colour expresses one of its five essential elements: Earth (stability), Fire (high energy), Water (abundance and purity), Metal (clarity) and Wood (growth). Since Feng Shui colours are comprised from all colours of the spectrum — “yang ch’i – from red to yellow and orange, yin shui – from green to violet-black”, the important part is to learn how to design your site with a harmonious colour combination.

DO put more effort into understanding the principles of a good typography on Web. Be careful when combining typefaces on your blog. Cater your text size to users with different preferences, don’t limit them with having to read a tiny (or overly large) text on your site, avoid specifying font size in pixels or points (absolute size), use one of the relative font size options (em or percent) instead, so that its size can be increased by users if needed. A List Apart has posted a great tutorial on How to Size Text in CSS last November, so it’s still very much relevant today with people using different browsers to read our sites.

DON’T neglect your old treasures, use different ways in promoting your old articles, be it with adding Recent and Popular articles sections, or creating a separate Archives page, or displaying Related articles at the end of the post, or make a list of your personally recommended articles from the past, deep link to them from your recent articles, or you can do all of the above, and perhaps come up with something extra, to give a better guidance to your readers in exploring your site.

DO prepare printer-friendly versions of your site with CSS. There is nothing worse than having to print an article and ending up with dozens of pages with numerous page ads and broken pages due to the large graphics. Ronald has put together a quick how-to guide for Creating a Printer Friendly StyleSheet in WordPress, and A List Apart has a great article on how to get our websites ready for Going to Print.

DON’T break the consistency – one of the essential principles of usability. People are already used to seeing clickable blog titles, don’t substitute those linked titles with some additional buttons or links and expect readers to guess how to get to the full version of that page. Never underline your text if it is not a hypertext. One of the reasons why it’s not recommended to open links in a new window is because the default link behaviour is to replace the current page with the linked one – people love Back buttons, they make us feel more secure – we can always retreat down the same path that brought us to where we are now. Be consistent with your navigation, colour scheme and essential elements throughout all pages of the site. Don’t move around content blocks, layout structure and design of your blog too often: if I’m used to seeing your search textfield at the top of your blog I expect it to stay there during my consequent visits, without having to wonder where did you move to your Search bar this time. Make your new found readers wanting to come back and your old readers feel “at home” with a good Feng Shui.


What other important elements of a user-friendly design would you expect to see in this guide on blog Feng Shui? In your opinion, what are the most horrific mistakes people make from the usability’s point of view? What kind of blogs do you find captivating and engaging so much that you prefer to read them by going directly to the site rather than reading the articles from your RSS feeds or Inbox?

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17 Insightful Bits in response to “DOs And DON’Ts – Blog Feng Shui”

  1. Aha! An imaginative way to interpret the Ancient wisdom, dugg.

  2. Excellent round-up, Vivien.

    That printable version of my articles has been on my ‘to-do’ list for months now. ;)

  3. Thanks for the digg, Kriz :-)

    Thanks, David. And if I forget to prepare the printable version for my new design later on, I’d appreciate if you remind me about it ;-)

  4. Vivien, you must have done a lot of thinking about the direction you want your blog to go in; these last few posts have been nothing short of outstanding! What’s gotten into you?? Whatever it is, it’s great! Keep up the amazing posts! You’ve been giving me a lot of things to think about for my blog.

    I’m bookmarking Ronald’s Printer Friendly Style sheet article. I want to create one for my new blog design. It’s a great idea. Thanks for the reminder :)

    I agree with everything you’ve said about linking. I do the same thing (mouse over to see where it leads) and it’s frustrating if the post title is ?p=13948.

    Most horrific mistakes: too many to list. Not enough contrast from background to text and too small of font without the ability to increase it would probably be the two most glaring offenders. I also don’t like it when links are not somewhat standard: I prefer the blue text with underline, but understand changing to match the colors of the site. But please, do not remove the underline! AND NEVER UNDERLINE SOMETHING THAT’S NOT A LINK!! It’s infuriating to try to click on something that is blue and underlined but not a link. Why would someone do that?! *end rant* ;)

  5. Hi, Nice list. I have just recently changed my search bar location, is that why you said it? I changed it because I had only about 3 searches in 2 months so I didn’t think it was a good place to have my search bar.
    I agree with pretty much everything that you have there and I know my sites text cant change size :(
    I’m not sure how many people print articles but I think I have only done it once and even then i just highlighted what I wanted printed and pressed print selection. What about you guys? If it is easy to add, then I don’t see why not :) It’s on my to do list.

  6. Oh, thanks so much Lauren, it’s so sweet of you to say so.
    Let’s say I’m inspired by two new things – the re-design of my own site and renovations in our new place where we moved to last December :-) I’ve been reading lots of house&home magazines lately, and noticed that there are many things in common between “interior design” and “web&graphic design”: same essential issues to keep in mind when designing an interior and a site: colour, coordination, good taste, practicality, image, and… a good feng shui ;-)
    I think if one day I’d get tired of being a Web designer, I’ll try becoming an interior designer ;-)

    Jacob, no I didn’t mean your site when complaining about the search bar, I’ve seen it happening on several blogs. Where did you initially place the search bar on your site? Currently, it’s a bit too low in my opinion.
    Re: printing. I myself like to print long articles whenever I do a research, or just don’t have time to read at my computer and prefer to read it on the bus/seabus. Not everyone knows how to print only selected text, so I think it’s nice to have a printer-friendly version of your site. It’s on my to-do list for the new design too!

    Btw, Jacob. I once again can’t access your site anymore. The home page loads fine, but all other pages give 404 error:
    The requested URL /2008/01/21/banned-from-own-website/ was not found on this server.
    Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

    What’s up with that?

  7. Thanks Vivien for the heads up. I realised it the next morning… these things always happen when I go to bed for some reason. I have contacted my hosts and I am awaiting their reply yet again. I have had a look on the web and most places say that it is a .htaccess error, but I cant find the full solution anywhere so I am playing the waiting game again.
    My search bar was at the top right next to subscribe to my blog. I changed it to the far left middle because hardly anyone was using and it was so prominent.

  8. I think having a print CSS is a good idea because even though I do the same thing as you, Jacob, (highlight selection to print) sometimes I forget to change the print options to Print Selection! I’m not sure how difficult it is to set one up because I’ve never done it, but I think it shouldn’t be too difficult to set up a basic one.

    The only problem: people looking to print your site for its design will be very frustrated! I’ve run into that before!

  9. Inspired by these convos, I have actually written a tutorial on ‘printing the smart way’, for DailyBlogTip’s group writing project, which is up on my blog as we speak :)

  10. Nice one! Good job, Jacob. Now, does it mean that you won’t be creating a printer-friendly CSS for your site? ;-)

    Congratulations with your site getting up and running and again! What was the issue this time?

    P.S. I wrote this comment on your blog, but couldn’t submit it, got to this page saying: “Website currently experiencing some technical difficulties.” What’s wrong this time?

  11. Hi, I got the comment on my site, so it did work? I replied on my blog saying:

    The site is still not fixed, it is a temporary solution. There is a problem with my permalinks (you can see that some pages are using dates ie. /2007/12/12/ dates (this is the old way and the way i want it to go back to) but at the moment I am using the default ugly structure (ie. ?page_id=3) for a bad half working temporary fix. I have posted a support question over at the support forums…
    http://wordpress.org/support/t.....ost-681054
    But no answers yet. Sigh.

  12. Yay my website is 100% fixed. Woooooooo!

  13. when i searched the web for fung shui i never imagined that it could be used for website design too. you are very creative!!

  14. My advice would be to keep the page simple, free of big items and let the chi flow.

  15. Excellent information for my website. Actually two other friends and myself have a website and blog on the spirtual,emotional, practical and humorous side of sleep. It’s focus is on insomnia but not the webmd type of site. At any rate, I did a post on Feng Shui – brief as it is and now we’ll be incorporating your suggestions. If you get a chance to check it out, we welcome suggestions at the email address. I’ll be checking here frequently. Many thanks!
    Nancy @ Sleepcompass.com

  16. Hi,
    This is a great read that you have put up, really catchy and informative too.

    Thanks for sharing.

  1. How To Print Blog Articles The Smart Way

    [...] article was inspired by Vivien’s article Blog Feng Shui which told me about how bloggers can create print friendly blog articles by CSS. Vivien told me [...]

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on