Attractive Blogs

  By Shamus   Feb 27, 2009   58 comments

I’ve noticed that there is a really strong tradeoff between aesthetics and functionality in blog designs. The more striking or impressive a blog design looks, the harder it is to find the stuff you’re looking for. I sometimes browse WordPress themes to see what the hip crowd is up to. Invariably I’ll find something sexy, look at it closer, and realize that the thing would be either a chore to navigate or monstrous to maintain. (Note that I’m not shopping for themes for this site or anything. All of my stuff is homebrew, old-school, table-driven, and hardcoded to meet the various eccentricities of this site. I’m just browsing out of curiosity, and because a lot of them are really pretty to look at. I drive a tractor, but I like to walk around and look at the sportscars on occasion.)

And I’m not kidding when I say this site is eccentric. On day one, you can pick any theme you like and run with it. As blogs age, their content inevitably places restrictions on formatting that weren’t there in the beginning. (Assuming you want your archives to look right without manually editing all of your old posts.) On my site, for example:

  1. DMotR strips are 600px wide. Any new theme I adopted would have to give at least that much room to the main column.
  2. I learned a while ago what while the number of people running 800×600 is pretty small, the number of people who reduce their browser window is quite high. This, coupled with the rise of the eee PC and the tendency to install web browsers on anything not made entirely of wood means you can’t go much more than 800 wide without making the site a pain in the ass for a lot of visitors.
  3. The theme needs to be able to handle wider-than-600px posts without suffering a complete formatting failure. (An overwhelming majority of WordPress themes are built in such a way that the sidebar will go on a walkabout if you break the intended width in a given post. This is one of the reasons for my devotion to the ancient cult of the <table>.)
  4. Auto-width themes – which simply expand to fill all of the horizontal space – are miserable to read on really wide monitors. Also, tucking images into the text (like I do here in my videogame reviews) becomes unworkable or goofy looking.

It quickly becomes apparent that I don’t actually have much freedom at all in formatting the site. 800px wide. 600px for the content. The balance goes to sidebar and whatnot.

But I’m curious what other people like, or what looks good. (Go ahead and throw in a link to your own blog if it’s something that works for you. No need to be shy. I don’t mind a little self-promotion.) Seeing nice themes in action is really different than seeing them on the showroom floor at WordPress.org. Yes, I know functionality and performance trump visual fireworks – the appeal of which wanes quickly – but it’s natural to want a bit of both and I’m curious about what other people find appealing.

Also: I’m sure my spam defenses will throw a tantrum if people start posting links. Please be patient with the spam filter. It is stupid and has no taste. I’ll approve comments as soon as I can.

EDIT: Sorry for the completely not-related-to-the-topic-of-the-blog post. I have a column going up later today, if that appeases you.

EDIT2: I’m really surprised at the number of people who actually like the site design. I’ll have to be careful not to upset whatever accidental alchemy I have in place when I make my tweaks to the site. Which reminds me: It’s possible to use an animated .gif as a repeating background on a page, right?

20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Michelle says:

    The table cult is a false cult…I’ll just get that out now :D

    My homepage is using a canned theme at the moment. I have too much work to get done to get to a custom design at the moment.

    Did you know you can actually shrink images on the fly depending on resolution? Em and %

    I finally got permission at work to ignore ie6…so I get to be arty and functional which is possible.

  2. Patrick says:

    I, for one, appreciate the clean and simple aesthetic of your site. I read many different blogs on games, gaming, sports, and various other things. Some blogs I have read in the past I no longer read just because navigating new content, finding old content and posting were made more difficult than necessary by the layout and theme.

    I think that the key goal of most blogs is to effectively communicate whatever information the author wishes to put out. As long as the theme or layout helps that its great. The moment it detracts from that it undercuts the entire point of the blog.

    Some of these themes do look very cool but do make things difficult to follow. Much like walking around with a boom box playing cool music might make you sound better but also harder to understand. Also after a while people would probably find you annoying and hard on the ears.

  3. John Lopez says:

    Simplicity. I like the current design, it is clean and functional, but with enough splashes of character it doesn’t look like someone who cranked up a content management system and walked away (a problem my personal site has; because it is true).

  4. Maddy says:

    I, too, appreciate your uncluttered layout. I can find anything I need without having to scroll through a lot of extraneous crap.

  5. Benjamin O says:

    I actually really appreciate your site design as well…clean and simple. It’s easy to read and looks good. Don’t go changing to try and please me. Or something.

    As far as it goes, however, my own site http://www.timemachineofguam.com is recently undergone conversion to wordpress using a modified theme. It’s where I post stories and stuff. I’ve not been at it as long as some people, but I think it works. Of course, there’s no accounting for taste.

  6. TehShrike says:

    I’m pretty lame, I’m just using one of the blogger.com templates – but still, it works really well. Also, my content doesn’t vary enough to impose the strange restrictions Shamus runs into (I stick to words).

    I haven’t messed around with many other content management systems, though I know everyone and their mom is using WordPress nowadays. I’m hoping to give Joomla a try in the near future, we’ll see how that goes.

    Shamus, isn’t your wife a WordPress/website master of some sort?

    • Shamus says:

      TehShrike: Yes, Heather admins a ridiculous number of blogs, and dabbles in theme design. She’s very much part of the newfangled CSS school of layout, and is just as exasperated as anyone else with my devotion to tables.

  7. Ham08 says:

    I prefer the plain Jane approach, so I think your website is perfect. It’s easy on the eyes, therefore, easy to read.

    Too many sites go overboard with the flash and fireworks which just distracts from the content and becomes an unnecessary aggravation for the reader. I suppose many webmasters do this because they don’t have that much content in the first place. I don’t know. Regardless, those graphics and advertisement heavy websites take a great deal longer to load (even with a 6mbps DSL connection) which annoys me to no end and makes me distrust the website. Moderation is the key.

  8. I found a theme that I liked for my blog (which is my name link). Unfortunately I can’t show it off, because my webserver (in my parents’ basement) is down and will be until I can pay it a visit! :(

    PS: I like the new click-to-edit feature, and how it has a button instead of just activating when you click the comment. But the big frame that comes up and covers the page is terrible!

  9. Michelle says:

    Your wife, she has the right of it.

    :D

    okay I’ll stop picking now.

  10. Hammer says:

    I think you have a very valid point. It took me a quite a long time to find the skin I use on my blog ( http://gamesofstate.net ), and even now I’m not massively happy with it.

    Unfortunately, every attractive looking skin I tried was hard to navigate or didn’t accept widgets. On the other hand, nearly all of the functional skins were ugly or extremely common.

    In the end I settled for something a bit ugly, a bit hard to navigate and decided that I would pay for a custom design when I can afford it (seeing as I don’t have the skills to do it myself).

    You make a good point about the 800px limit. I’ve been a bit naughty with that in the past because both my computers use widescreens. Since I realised that there was a problem though, I’ve changed the ways I use images in posts and so on so that you don’t end up with poorly formatted text, broken frames and so on.

  11. Ben says:

    I like what Woo Themes do with well, themes. They’re not free (most of ‘em) but they’re pretty and good.

    You can see them here and in action on my site Troll in the Corner.

    Having said that though, I like your site as well. Clean and simple.

    -Ben

  12. doosteen says:

    I prefer to keep it simple as well. I played with a couple of the WordPress themes until I found one I liked. Clean, easy to read and manage, custom header image. Nothing fancy.

    http://firstpersonblogger.wordpress.com/

  13. Nathon says:

    I can appreciate the need to keep pages under a certain width, but reading fixed width sites (particularly table driven ones) can be a huge pain. Long preformatted sections of text can glob up the whole thing and text based browsers (and screen readers) can have trouble with the tables. I tend to prefer things that expand to fit the space available. I’m not the css guy, but it seems like there has to be a max-width and a min-width in there somewhere. Of course, my site is neither bloggy nor run by blogging software.

  14. smIsle says:

    *squints eyes, and looks under the rug*

    It -is- made with tables .. tsk, tsk

    I once saw a house made entirely of wooden pallets, and i think a comparison is in order. :-)

    But then, I haven’t bothered to do more than a casual modification of my blogger layouts (colors, different backgrounds, etc. ). All of my other sites are just that, sites. None of them have any sidebars or posts or any other blog-like content.

  15. Lazlo says:

    I like the themes here… I actually use the Lawful Good, which strikes me as somewhat unusual….

    The only thing that ever strikes me about a blog’s theme is if it gets in the way of content. It’s what I hate about social networking sites, which are like blogs except that the themes tend towards making my eyes bleed and it’s wrapped around content that makes my brain bleed. Historically, I’ve generally written my web pages in vi or an equivalent… html, head, title, body, maybe h1 if I feel like having some formatting. That’s ugly as sin, but it doesn’t get in the way of the content. I come here for the content, and I think you’d need to cover the screen with javascript powered hello kitty animations to drive me away.

    When I started my blog, I stuck it on blogger and spent maybe 10 minutes looking through available themes. I like the one I chose, basically because I don’t think it’ll drive anyone away. I want driving readers away to be done by the huge wall of text screeds I post there… But, now that my readership’s getting up in the high fours or low fives, maybe I should have a poll or something…

    I think my philosophy on blog themes is a lot like your philosophy on games: a quintuple-pipelined blingmapper of a theme won’t make the content not suck. The only thing that graphics and themes can do is get in the way of the important stuff. If they can avoid doing that, they win.

  16. Doug Brown says:

    Our gaming group’s blog at dndpals.com uses a WP theme called “Subtle” that my friend cooked up. Apparently it was quite popular a while ago with the WP crowd. I don’t know much about that; I just know we don’t use it enough.

    And count me as a table fan. But then, I stopped doing html back when it was mostly handcoding.

  17. lebkin says:

    I am running just a free wordpress blog ( http://lebkin.wordpress.com/ ), and thus can only work with the stock themes. As such, it was a real struggle to find something that worked for what I wanted. I prefer my blogs to have a simple, clean format, with as little extra frills as possible. The key for me is readability and quick loading speed. I hate blogs that take forever to load due to fancy stuff I don’t care about.

  18. ydant says:

    I’ll give up tables for (certain types of) layout when they make CSS work without taking more work than the table equivalent… Sadly, in my job that means I have to wait until IE6 stops being used in so much of the corporate world.

  19. Unary says:

    I looked at some wordpress themes.

    Should I ever start a blog, I’m going to homebrew the whole thing, in perl, on apache.

    With tables.

  20. tables, tds, trs, oh my! All hail the table!

    Sorry, I… don’t know where that came from. I didn’t realize there was such a social stigma attached to using tables. I feel like I have to go… stand in a dark corner or something to atone for my web crime.

  21. Luke Maciak says:

    My blog is running a slightly tweaked Kubric theme (the default WordPress theme). It sort of grew organically with the blog as I kept adding features and custom hacks to it. Now I’m to lazy to change it.

    I recently did an overhaul of my tumbleblog /dev/random but I used a pre-made layout for it. I just hacked it into submission so that it works with Tumblr templating system.

    That’s really what I do best – code and hack. The graphical design, and photoshop wizardry is the area where I need improvement. So I tend to use stock themes, and then tweak them to my needs, rather than develop something entirely custom.

  22. Scott says:

    I like the site because it looks good and has full functionality on my Blackberry (which I am using right now!)

  23. Psychoceramics says:

    haha, design with tables.

    how 2003.

  24. Stuart says:

    I just use the iNove wordpress theme and it’s been going pretty good so far. Now and again I’ll go in and tweak something but mostly the WordPress plugins add the functionality I need. (I use a plugin to do the collapsing archives and the lightbox style images – go ahead… click a picture… sexy :-) )

    The only thing I’ve had to hack in at the moment is the navigation bar. I didn’t want links to static articles, I wanted links to Categories so that I can separate the site into logical sections. This seems to me like a fairly straightforward feature but I had to awkwardly insert hardlinks to category IDs in the header script. (Do you do this in any cool or special way Shamus?)

    (I have just noticed, to my shame, that I have not even changed the favicon)

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A bit of topic:

    “This, coupled with the rise of the eee PC and the tendency to install web browsers on anything not made entirely of wood”

    Khm…

    http://www.instablogsimages.com/images/2007/12/07/wooden-pc-mod_5638.jpg

  26. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Dunno if it’s widespread or not, but most of the people I talked to about this a while back (maybe a year or so) run browsers at about 1000px wide, whether they’ve got a 1024×768 laptop from five years ago, or a 1920×1200 Cinema Display.

  27. azrhey says:

    People still read blogs at the original page? Really?
    /sarcasm, sorry!

    I read almost everything through Google Reader so blog themes *shrug* they don’t bother me as much, sometimes I feel bad because the authors put time and effort into making their blogs look good and it gets all stripped out through RSS. From time to time, I come over watch the shiny dice and post a comment. I like the cleanlyness ( if that is a word ) of this site. As you can see in my bog ( link up there under my name ) i like minimal, pure, clean things. All things.
    My own blog theme is one of the basics of blogger stripped down to shades of grey with white dots for borders…

  28. Stuart says:

    Peter: Well – that’s the case for me – I don’t see a reason to keep my browser full screen and thus prefer sites to stick to an 800px wide guideline.

    I also find it a pain to see text sprawling from one edge of the windows to the other.

  29. ShockedMonkey says:

    “All of my stuff is homebrew, old-school, table-driven, and hardcoded to meet the various eccentricities of this site.”

    I feel a great disturbance in the Web. As if millions of standards evangelists suddenly cried out…

    @ #14 Nathon: max-width and min-width is exactly right. They’re pretty handy for making a fluid layout that’s well-behaved.

  30. Sharon says:

    So you decided to write a piece about making the site more attractive during the time it is sporting three pictures of you?
    How about you replace your picture with a picture of Heather?
    Please don’t tempt me like that. I feel so mean.

  31. Rutskarn says:

    I go for the “simple, but elegant” look (link in name).

    This is chiefly because I lack the savvy to do better and the energy to improve.

    Also, because Chocolate Hammer needs a smooth, rich aesthetic. Nothing to distract you from my immediate and your eventual madness.

    Edit: My Wavatar is…a little frightening. He’s got the haunted look of someone who’s been looking forward to the day when he’d get the chance to parade out there with the other Wavatars, every day, hour, and minute of his life…and now that moment’s come, and he sees who’s posting it.

    “Damn it, it’s the Chocolate Hammer guy. Why couldn’t it have been a drunk guy? Why couldn’t it have been a troll? Why couldn’t it have been a spammer?”

    We’re in this together, Wavvy-Jim. We’re in this together.

  32. Shamus says:

    I’m really surprised at the number of people who actually like the site design. I’ll have to be careful not to upset whatever accidental alchemy I have in place when I make my tweaks to the site. Which reminds me: It’s possible to use an animated .gif as a repeating background on a page, right?

  33. Angie says:

    I like your layout, just to add another data point.

    My main priority is text. I’m a writer and the point of every blog/journal/whatever I’ve ever done is the text. I want the main text area to be as wide as possible; seeing a blog where the main text area is only half the space (and the rest is blank once you get past the blogroll and archive and such) strikes me as an awful waste, and I’ve seen some where the “main” text column was only a third or less of the screen. That’s a major WTF for me.

    My knowledge of HTML is minimal (I type italic and bold tags with my eyes closed but have no clue how to get text to wrap around a photo) and my knowledge of CSS is nonexistent. I’m pretty much stuck with whatever is available at the click of a button. I love my main LJ because I left it on the default layout and the main text is about 90% of the screen width — sweet. :) Blogger’s default is a little less than half, which annoys me but I don’t see how to fix it. My WordPress blog is okay; I picked a decent layout and the main text is about 2/3 of the usable area, but it doesn’t scale up if you expand the window size — it just expands the margins — which is annoying.

    To people who know how to dink with this stuff, I’m sure this sounds lame. To me, though, I’ve got three different systems here and having to take the time to learn to dink with three different systems well enough to produce something that doesn’t look like garbage? Sure, I’ll get right on that. And once I figure it out, with my luck they’ll upgrade to some new neato-keen whatever system and I’ll have to start over.

    I’ll stick with the writing. [wry smile] And envy people who can design themselves a cool layout.

    Angie

  34. Julian says:

    I love your design. It’s easy to read, a marvel to navigate, and the colours are quite appealing (right now I’m using the True Neutral one; the gradient was a little jarring at first, but now I find it easier to read than Lawful Good)

  35. guy says:

    Your site is functional and easy on the eyes. Well, except for the themes that are not lawful good, but that’s because my eyes are uniquely sensitive to such things or somesuch. Focusing on white hurts in a way that focusing on black does not even if i’m reading free radical in a single day.

    Also, you do not commit the crime of having buried subsections. I think that’s far more important than not pissing off coding nazis.

  36. Blurr says:

    I like your layout very much. Clean and elegant. I also really liked the random little quotes you had at the top of the page at one point. Could we have those back?

  37. Erkenbrand says:

    This site has one of the cleanest, easiest-on-the-eyes designs of any blog I’ve seen in recent memory. I can’t think of a change that would improve the site. Keep up the good work! (as I chuckle at your .gif background tease)

  38. bbot says:

    My blog just uses the default nanoblogger 3.4 theme. It’s got some navigation cruft that I need to tear out, and the main content column is too wide, but it Just Works.

    @Michelle: Resizing images in the markup means that the browser still downloads the full image. This means that you’re wasting a significant amount of bandwidth if you end up shrinking an image by more than, say, 25%. It also used to be that the browser would use some ugly nearest-neighbor or linear scaling, and looks significantly worse than if you had used a proper image editor to scale it, but everything uses better algorithms now, so it’s less of a concern.

    @Angie: Columns are used because it’s fatiguing to read text that extends across the entire width of a large display. Incidentally, this is why newspapers use columns, and paperbacks do not, because a newspaper is so much wider than a trade paperback.

    This is something of a non-issue for a 1024×768 display, but on a 1920×1200, un-columned text is the visual equivalent of waterboarding.

    Edit: My word, my gravitar is just lovely.

  39. WanderingGrapefruit says:

    You wouldn’t happen to have stats for how many people use which colour scheme?

    Just curious. True Neutral for me!

  40. Rason says:

    Love the site shamus. I was really excited when you introduced the themes, because the evil theme is utterly awesome to read on

  41. Cthulhu says:

    Hmmm… I would have to say that my favorite blog design is your current one. (LG for me, the CE one hurts my eyes for w/e reason).

  42. Krellen says:

    I like your site just the way it is, Shamus. I’m tired of over-busy, so-called “pretty” sites, even when the pretty doesn’t make them less functional. I don’t always have a fast connection, and often run many programs at once, so the less scripting and java I have to wait for, the better.

    My boss, who is our webmaster, loves CSS. He has a bit of a point about it which he’s displayed in our latest website, as the use of CSS allows us to have a nice site that can be easily formatted in ways more friendly to those with disabilities (click the tabs along the top to experiment), but since we are a center for development and disability, we’re a lot more concerned about that than most people.

    Personally, I still tend to do all my page design by hand (ie, in Notepad) and use tables more than I probably should.

  43. Magichanics says:

    I agree with most people here that the site design is good as it is. I really like the fact that if you go to a particular category’s screen, all the posts in that category are displayed as their title only. I’ve browsed about 20-30 blogging sites in search of one with a feature just like it, but surprisingly, none of them did.

    So eventually I gave up and built my own website with a similar design philosophy, although a bit more graphical, as yours a week ago. Unfortunately it still auto-resizes the width of the page, but fortunately that’s not too much of a bother on high-res screens.

  44. Mari says:

    Put me solidly in the “like your current design” camp. I’m also not going to razz you about the lovely table design since I’m an old-school kind of gal and can’t get this newfangled CSS to do what it’s supposed to do either. Oh, I can make it work fine but like you, I’ve had it go walkabout one too many times. I like tables because I can put things where I want them and they tend to stay there. I get irritated when I put something someplace and it wanders off which probably should have inspired me to stay childless now that I think about it.

  45. AGrey says:

    I’d just like to raise my hand here and pledge allegiance to the cult of the table.

    as someone here who does all of his (admittedly infrequent) web programming in notepad, the table is my absolute number one friend

  46. Sylvia says:

    The more striking or impressive a blog design looks, the harder it is to find the stuff you’re looking for.

    I think I probably win the prize for this one – Can’t Backspace is impossible to search which makes me happy in an anti-SEO sort of way. I love WordPress and I have various other sites using WordPress for content management (completely useable and readable and searchable) but in every instance except one, I’ve ended up with a template from scratch. I would love to find something on WordPress.org that works straight out of the box but somehow it never seems to be the case. Or maybe I’m just difficult.

    I love your mom, she should comment more. :)

  47. K says:

    I like your page. It has exactly the width that is a good trade-off between wasting all my wide-screen area (why do screens come wide nowadays? I am working with text mostly, and that means that the stone-age macs did it right when the had higher than wide screens) and being so wide that I lose the line when reading.

  48. Blurr says:

    Shamus: I’m no web designer, but I had an idea. Why not make 3 1×1 white pixel images and link to a different one in each layout at the bottom. After that, a simple look at Webalizer should tell you the relative usage of the different themes.

  49. Maija says:

    I think some part of the reason why many of your commenting audience likes your layout is because they’re already in your audience, and as such they are familiar with reading your blog in its layout. People like navigating in familiar surroundings, so that’s why a lot of websites copy “established” navigation and layout styles (or why many games have such similar types of interfaces.)

    There are a number of CSS division layout tutorials in the web re: layout formatting, and I won’t even go into the reasons why division layouts are useful (for example the cross-platform problems with width you mentioned can be handled with style-sheets directed at different media types) since I’m sure your wife can provide you with those. But I suppose you go with what is best for you (much as is my antiquated attitude towards PHP, personally :)

    I’ve been making layouts since 1997 and I switched entirely to CSS and divisions in 2001, and I’ve never looked back and never even considered going back, since there’s so much more you can do with divisions in comparison to tables.

    I wouldn’t make paragraphs any wider than what you have here right now (as opposed to the writer above who wanted wide layouts), because I find reading very long lines from screen as well as paper extremely distracting.

    I write prose online, I study new media, and do a bit of freelance work making layouts. I read your blog sometimes, because it became a habit after reading DM of the Rings. Three times.

  50. WWWebb says:

    The design is nice, though when I full screen it on a widescreen monitor…well…it might as well be one of those flashlight iPhone apps. Maybe this is why people turn to evil…

    While your blog doesn’t really have any appropriate theme colors, it can be important to other site designs. For example, a fried of mine has a site that actually makes brown cute.

  51. ClearWater says:

    Would be nice to see some rolling dice as the background. It’s possible to use an animated GIF as your Windows desktop, if you’re into that sort of thing, or want to play a trick on some-one.

    Or at least you could in XP I believe (or was it 98?). Vista doesn’t accept GIFs anymore :(

  52. stringycustard says:

    I like this one as-is, too Shamus. I know the hassles you run into so I generally steer clear of any html whatsoever. This is a picture mock-up of what I wanted to do with my blog: http://twitpic.com/1u36d . It’s entirely Flash-based and will be browser-size scalable (without going mad on wide-screen). I’m hoping to make it as customisable as possible for viewers so they can pick colours, layout (like flipping the posts to the left and links on the right), and other stuff.

    It’s really just the first concept I knocked around so I need to actually make it work for usability (which is a big thing for me as I really can’t stand unworkable interfaces). Besides the blog’s mostly going to be about interface design (in apps and web and games and…).

    Hopefully I can break the fence on looks vs funcionality.

  53. Donald K. says:

    I keep up-to-date on your site with your RSS feed, so I don’t do much (any) digging through old stuff.

    The design here works really well, I think. It isn’t horribly cluttered, things don’t get stretched to the point where I can’t remember what line I started on without highlighting something (I’ve got a widescreen monitor), and the background isn’t full of annoying pictures that make text difficult to read.

    So… rock on, man.

  54. Avilan the Grey says:

    I use the Lawful Good scheme, partly because I didn’t even looked for an option to change it until I had visited this blog for over 4 months (I stumbled over the option). I really like the clear, text-focusing, reader-friendly layout.
    From a bandwidth point of view, I think design these days is irrelevant; even the slowest of the most common connection types (0,7Mbit AFAIR)is by far fast enough to handle the most annoying blog.
    That said, again, I prefer clean, fast and easy to read.

  55. Veekie says:

    I like the design, mostly because a lot of sites these days like to assume everyone runs their browser in full screen, and reading is hell from anyone who decides that white on black or black on white isn’t pretty enough.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!