POPSICULTURE is the reviews blog I co-run with Dan Penman. It may look familiar - that's because its design has been so successful, I used a modified version here on Phronesis. It's custom-built (by me) from a three-column, dynamic header and footer layout with fixed-width sidebars.

The 'how-to' guide for the layout was HTML - I embedded the necessary Blogger elements into it to power the blog, styled everything with custom CSS and added the dynamic elements, such as a randomly rotating masthead image and all of the auto-updating sidebar contents.

In places it's a bit gimmicky, but mostly it's a fairly clean but content-filled design - to the left, mostly blog-related widgets to access the archive or our main topic labels. To the right, iTunes charts that update with each page refresh, and our latest tweets.

The centre column is obviously the main area for content to appear in, and gives me and Dan an outlet for our views on music, film, games and TV. I can't give any details about the affiliate schemes we're enrolled in, but in terms of site traffic we receive over 5,000 unique hits per month from all over the world and our live blogs tend to do pretty well - the Eurovision entry pictured above got views from the US, Germany and Australia as well as a number of UK locations on the night and we tend to pick up Twitter followers while live-blogging as well.


OK, I'm gonna break this down into two parts - firstly POPSICULTURE's relevance within the music industry, and then its importance as an example of the power of compelling web copy.

In terms of what we've achieved within the industry, we're now receiving free review copies of new music from a number of different record labels and PR firms. Probably the 'biggest' thing we've had so far is free entry to a Charlatans gig - which also proved to be one of our most successful articles, appearing on the Charlatans' own news page.

We're also followed (at the time of writing this) by The X Factor contestant Katie Waissel - she follows both the POPSICULTURE account and my personal tweets - after supporting her during the show and reviewing her music releases since then. The Official Charts Company also thanked us for our support on Twitter.

All in all we tend to rank pretty highly on Google for the niche music we cover and receive decent amounts of traffic for the mainstream acts we mention - our Black Eyed Peas review continues to perform well, even though a lot of the people who search for it make at least one typo in their Google query.

What does all this mean for your site? Well, I think POPSICULTURE is a fine example of the rules of web design as I see them:

  • a clear and crisp design with consistent sans-serif fonts and measured use of graphics

  • self-updating elements keep it looking fresh - to visitors and the search engines - in the weeks when me and Dan are too busy to update it much

  • clear horizontal navigation lets people click around the site - on POPSICULTURE the navigation bar links to particular label pages to reveal the latest posts, rather than to specific pages like here on Phronesis

  • plenty of affiliate links and iTunes calls to action

  • compelling, search-visible copy that makes every post a new landing page

All in all I hope POPSICULTURE is an example of how a relatively simple design, coupled with some decent web copy, can rapidly build up not just your site, but your standing on the web as a whole. It's also a lot of fun, and one of the projects I'm most proud of.