Let’s start with: you need a clean, easy to read, and well organized theme for your blog. That’s the contention of Sean at Mashable, early in a post showing 30+ 3-column WordPress themes. Interested though I am in WordPress, I’m more interested in the general question of blog design.
First of all, if you want a clean theme, you probably want just one sidebar, which suggests 2 columns rather than 3. A look at this blog will show that I’m speaking for myself. When I moved my blogging here, I decided that I wanted the sidebar to distract as little as possible from the content. That’s why there’s one sidebar, why it’s on the right, and why there isn’t much in it.
Second, why do you want a well-organized blog? Perhaps the strongest reason is so that people can find stuff at your blog. That, to me, means a search box that is prominent, or, at least, above the fold.
So it surprises me that, to find the search box at Mashable, I have to click down twice. There is a far more prominent search function, but it’s a link to the “search the Mashable network” page. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me. The search boxes at Read/Write Web and at TechCrunch are even less prominent than the one at Mashable.
I’d be interested to hear comments from Pete, Richard, and Michael about why their search boxes aren’t as prominent as I’d like them to be. They might reflect some of the points made in Blasting the Myth of the Fold, a vigorous post by Milissa Tarquini of AOL.