I was inspired by the Medium launch this week and it got me thinking about my own personal blog.
I applied/requested an invite for Medium and Svbtle, but @ev and @dcurtis won’t invite me because I’m not startup cool. I’m through trying to be startup cool so I got to hacking together my own solution. If you also feel excluded by the startup-cool kids, feel free to use this as a guide to build your own minimalist theme.
For this redesign, I decided to just use tumblr for the CMS. Wordpress is too heavy for posting videos, photos, short posts, etc. Plus, the new theme editor on tumblr is incredibly easy to use, and Wordpress theming requires the use of PHP. I just selected the cleanest free tumblr theme, “Beta Prime” by Evan Walsh, and gutted it. I also hid all the tumblr controls - they are tacky.
To get this minimalist layout going, I made a single column that is set to full width on mobile in a media query. Try not to make the column too wide on desktop or it will be too hard to read because your eyes have to travel too far horizontally. As far as colors go, don’t ever use pure black (#000)  - try something like #262626. Using an off-white like #F7F7F7 for the background can be easier on the eyes also.
Typography is the most important part and is surprisingly involved. At least try to get a consistent vertical rhythm (involves math), and choose a readable font. I prefer serif fonts to sans-serif for readability. Medium mostly uses Georgia, which is a web-safe serif. Svbtle uses Proxima Nova through Typekit. Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, and Arial are decent web-safe sans-serif alternatives when used together.
I’m using Minion Pro through Typekit, which I’ve come to like from using Readability. It really is a highly readable font and it makes your blogging look sophisticated - Red Lobster and Ron Paul use Minion Pro. Minion Pro is not available on Google web fonts. I assume it would be more expensive to license the font and go with @font-face directly.
I would like to eventually add Disqus for comments - I’m not a fan of the current anti-comment trend on Svbtle, Medium, etc. The internet should be an open forum for all to discuss important topics like meta-comparisons of blogging platforms and Al Gore’s use of non eco-friendly urinals. I just hope Disqus is easy to customize because it really has become bloated over time. I only want basic threading and I’m not interested in voting, rankings, social, stars, etc.
It will be interesting to watch to see if Medium and Svbtle open their doors in pursuit of mainstream adoption, or if they stay exclusive and try for some weird content play. It’s really easy to enter this space and differentiate on design and growth strategy. I’d bet that someone else will still come out of nowhere to win the post-tumblr era.
Let me know what you think and follow me on tumblr if you have an account. I will be blogging about startup du jour and music as per usual. I am going to make a point to venture into other topics too.
EDIT 1: Made corrections from discussion on Hacker News.
I submitted the theme to tumblr as Minimvm. :)
. There are applications for #000 that aren’t bad. E.g., I’m using it to stage videos and photos. Facebook, YouTube, etc. do this too.