Ever wonder what Tim Ferriss’s first blog looked like? The Old Designs of Big Blogs

It’s a little tricky working on your own blog, where there’s no guarantee of an audience like the one you’d get when writing for magazines and websites. And it’s next to impossible when you compare your beginnings with other robust blogger enterprises.

Pamela Slim, Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, Marie Forleo, and Gretchen Rubin are hands-down five of my favorite bloggers, covering everything from entrepreneurship, personal finance, life hacking and happiness. How did they build their great online operations? By creating great content and getting better–not by starting out perfect.

Pamela Slim

Pamela Slim’s book Escape From Cubicle Nation and the eponymous blogβ€”-is a perfect combination of inspiring and practical.

In 2005, it was a plain old Typepad blog!

Today, it’s beautiful:

Tim Ferriss

Before there was The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss blogged over at Cubicleescapeartist.com/blog, titled “Tim Ferriss: The Human Experiment Blog.” And no, it was not a looker:

As we know from the book, Tim used Google Adwords and Adsense to optimize his book’s–and new blog’s–title.

His last ‘I’m moving to a different website’ post has two comments, compared to one of his posts last week, which got 750 comments. And of course, it’s beautifully designed:

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi, like Pamela Slim, is a graduate of the school of Typepad.

Yes, I am trying to embarrass Ramit Sethi.

What I love about this screenshot of his website circa 2006 is that you can see how he’s never tempered his brash personality. Title of the book review? Rich Dad, Poor Dad (this book irks me) Sethi’s sense of humor really shines through the awful design–which, again, is still more than I have on this piece of crap.

Today, it’s beautiful and genuinely intimidating to all new bloggers:

And of course, his book I Will Teach You To Be Rich has given him license to add “New York Times bestselling author” after his name for the rest of his life.

Gretchen Rubin

I was a huge fan of Power Money Fame Sex, which Gretchen Rubin wrote years ago, and I started reading her blog The Happiness Project back when it launched. I was amazed at the amount of content she produced for the blog back then in 2006:

And it’s been amazing to see it turn into this:

What’s even better is her amazing book, The Happiness Project which she managed to write at the same time.

Marie Forleo

The Tony Robbins/Richard Branson/Oprah/Jay-Z love child powerhouse started out like this:

And now, of course, is purely fabulous:

So keep posting. Keep blogging. Don’t compare your beginning blog to other people’s blogs–they’ve been at it for a lot longer than you have.

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  • Haha these screenshots are so great. & I love the message you pulled from it: Focus on creating great value & content, and not on being perfect. That’s definitely something that we can all learn from!

    Thanks for the share.

  • This is motivating as I try to remind myself of this point all of the time. Although, I just recently went thru a redesign/relaunch. I know I must focus on extraordinary content and all will be well.

  • Great blog post – thanks for the read. Did you have the foresight to save screenshots in 2006 or did you visit the way-back-when machine?? πŸ˜‰

  • Karla

    I visited the Wayback Machine, archive.org, to get screenshots of the old blogs. I stumbled upon Tim Ferriss’s old blog via Pinboard.in–otherwise I wouldn’t have even known about it!

  • Rory

    Thanks so much for this! πŸ™‚ It gives me a lot of confidence that I can get started with good content and a not-so-perfect site.

  • You made my day and lowered my bar! Well, the latter is a joke, but you did make my day.

  • Thanks for posting this. I get caught in my website design so much and it prevents me from focusing on more important things. Ya gotta start somewhere right?!

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  • krnr

    actually, not all of them became more beautifully designed

    • Andrew Chapman

      Really? Which one(s) don’t you agree are better looking now? Cubicle Nation is the only one that looked pretty sophisticated originally. Doesn’t look as much better now than the others, but only because it was better to start.

  • Jana Kingsford

    This is awesome and I just shared it! πŸ™‚

  • This is brilliant, thank you so much for posting this!

  • Andrew Chapman

    This is a great before-and-after collection — thanks. And in fairness to all of them, the ability to customize and dress up a blog six or seven years ago simply wasn’t as it is now. So, though I get your point to “just start and write,” it’s also true that some of these examples (if not all of them) couldn’t look as they do now back in 2005-2007.

  • Douglas Taylor

    Great Idea Karla, nice post.
    Congrats on the book deal!

  • SocialSenator

    The is really awesome. never seen someone post the past snapshots like this. nice work and great idea Karla!

  • Thank you so much for this, Karla. It’s very reassuring to those of us still finding our blogging style. (But please don’t unearth my early blogs when I’m a famous superstar blogger…)

  • Guest

    Great encouragement, Tim! It’s hard not to compare myself to others, but I do need to remember the advice in this blog! Thanks!

  • willratliff

    Karla – Great advice and encouragement. It’s is hard not to compare myself with others. It’s good to see what others’ blogs looked like in the beginnings as well as the metamorphosis of these people and blogs through the years. Thanks!

  • Further Society

    Haha, my blog looks like these before pics. Takes time to get it going when your primary objective is to write. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Really appreciate the before and after effect. Just goes to show how things can develop with a considerable amount of effort.

  • Ben

    Thinking back to 2005 though, these probably didn’t look so bad at the time. Good looking designs are much easier to achieve these days.

    • Carol

      Correct! It’s the evolution of template design, wordpress updates and plugins and just how web style has evolved over time. Everything looks better now than in 2005…

  • I love this post. I use the way back machine all the time to inspire me when I’m struggling. Seeing what these folks looked like when they started out is awesome inspiration.

  • Emma Weise

    Just what I needed to see… Thank you! It’s reassuring to see that these great bloggers didn’t start off with the “perfect” blog… and that it evolved over time!

  • Cool. And very reassuring!

  • Great to see the evolution of their websites. And it’s just perfect for all those starting out right now, you don’t need a $5,000 custom designed theme to get started (this being said, I make my living as web designer!).

    It’s about finding a theme that’s good enough and constantly evolving over time. There’s no such thing as a perfect theme.

  • That’s inspiring, I have started a blog at http://thepathofmastery.blog.com, although i know i can produce quality content, i haven’t written a lot. If this big stars started like that, surely i will also reach where they are NOW if i consistently post quality content that improve the lives of my readers to be. Thank you Karla for the post.

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