The 10 Sins of Blog Usability
Optimizing Your Weblog
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March 26, 2007
“Sinning” is an archery term, which literally means “to miss the
mark.” If you’re blogging to establish a two-way dialogue with the
world, the “mark” is the optimal reader experience. The following is a
list of ten things that can hurt your blog’s usability.
10. Sending Mixed Messages
focus of your blog should be decided before your first post and then
committed to. Random blog entries about a melee of topics might work
for a personal blog read by friends and family, but is not a good
approach for a serious, professional blog. The lifeblood of any blog is
in its loyal subscriber base. And readers are more willing to subscribe
to blogs that talk about their area of interest on a consistent basis.
your blog’s “personality” includes the odd personal entry, create a
separate category for “fun stuff,” “random” or other “personal,” and
think about each post’s fit with your target audience before you
publish. Or start a separate blog on that topic and cross-link your
9. Making It Hard to Subscribe
are such an important part of blogging success, you need to make it
easy for users to sign up. Since not all users understand and use RSS
feed aggregators like Feedburner and Bloglines (also called
newsreaders), offer both email and RSS options. Make them very
conspicuous, preferably placing them at the top of your navigation menu
and above the fold.
Don’t be afraid to “ask for the subscription”
at the end of each post as well. Chicklets are mini-icons that make it
easy to add to feed aggregators and social bookmark sites like
del.icio.us and Netvouz with one click. You can find more information
on adding chicklets to your blog with the Chicklet Creator.
you are using free blog software and hosting, it may not be possible to
add these extra functions. So plan ahead when choosing your platform.
8. Inconsistent Posting
that you have a loyal fan base who are notified of every new post,
don’t disappoint them with time lags between posts. Pick a posting
schedule that’s realistic for your time schedule and stick to it. If
you can’t think of anything to post about, blog about someone else’s
post related to your topic and include a link back to that post.
this hurt your own blog to send subscribers away to another blog? No,
because you’re still offering them something useful in lieu of you
posting something. You can also leave a comment or trackback on the
other blog that links back to your post which can send traffic back to
you. Bloggers often monitor their trackbacks or incoming links through
Technorati, PubSub or other services. They might end up blogging about
you in return.
7. No Contact Info
Some blogs can pull off
the mystique of an anonymous posting. But if your website is for
business, it’s hard to have a two way dialogue when you make it
impossible to contact you. Transparency is fundamental to building
trust on the web. And you don’t want users to mistake your reputable
blog for a “splog” or spammy blog that scrapes content from other sites.
you don’t want to advertise your email address because of spammers you
can still enable comments on your posts. Yes you’ll still get spammed,
that’s the reality of the Web. Wordpress blogs come with Akismet
anti-spam which does a good job at catching most spam. You usually have
the option to moderate comments before they appear on your blog.
6. Not Moderating Comments
anyone and everyone to post whatever they want in your comments section
is asking for spam. Not only is this annoying to your readers, but it
really takes down the professionalism of your blog.
5. Excessive Advertising
fine to monetize your blog or use affiliate links, as long as they are
not intrusive to users and overshadow useful content. When ads appear
all over the page and even in the middle of posts, the user experience
suffers. Avoid contextual ads -- programs that highlight words in your
posts to make them look like hyperlinks, but popup an ad when they are
rolled over with a mouse. Just like having items appear clickable that
are not has been usability issue, so is tricking users into clicking on
ads or viewing ads when they appear to be hyperlinks.
And if your
blog is very new, it’s a good idea to wait until you’ve built up a
history of useful posts before running advertising.
4. Not Linking to Posts
you’re referring to something that can be found on the Web such as a
news story, another business, person or other blog post (whether on
your own or someone else’s blog), allow your reader to check out the
background info. Linking back to previous entries also builds page
strength for those posts and can help you with search engine rankings.
But don’t be afraid to link off your site, this generosity can help you
get noticed by other bloggers. And it’s also nice to give credit where
credit is due.
3. Dark Background, Light Text
What’s been a
general usability rule for years certainly applies to blogs. Anything
that makes your blog harder to read should be avoided. Remember, it’s
harder to read online than offline. The worst culprits for eyestrain
are white text on a black backgrounds, low contrast combinations like
black with red and busy patterned backgrounds. And it’s a good idea to
avoid blocks of red text, even on a white background.
2. No Search Box
visitors may remember a post that’s not intuitive to find through your
navigation menu or tag system. Regular readers might also want to find
their own comments, so make that possible by placing a search box
somewhere in your layout.
1. Hiding Navigation
software comes with a variety of lovely templates to skin your site.
But not all of these templates are optimal for usability. Templates
that require users to scroll right down to the bottom of the blog to
find navigation are not the best choice. Stick to conventional left
column or right column navigation.
One of social media’s best
gifts to the World Wide Web is the ability to “tag” posts by
subject/content and automatically create a navigation categories. Users
can easily browse by subject, and hone in on all your posts related to
a specific topic or microtopic. This also helps users find you on blog
portals like Technorati.
You also have the option of displaying
calendars, archives and tag clouds which may or may not be useful and
can clutter up your page. Keep in mind that with usability and design,
less is often more.
Taking some time to evaluate
your blog wearing the hat of your reader can greatly improve the user
experience. Considering what makes a user-friendly blog before you
begin blogging helps you plan for optimal usability right from the