Friday, December 09, 2005

Weblog Usability

In my previous life as a web developer, I was very particular about building and maintaining highly-usable websites i.e. websites that are easy to navigate; sites where readers can easily find content relevant to their needs; where readers can tell at a glance what the site is all about and who it is for; and sites that are well-suited to people of all levels of internet browsing experience and varying connection speeds. A tall order, some might say, but it was serious business to me and especially to the projects I worked on. Being (United States) federally-funded projects, meant that our websites had to be accessible by the entire range of our target audience.

Now that I'm spending more time on blogs (at least for the time being), usability issues have admittedly not being foremost in my mind. I mean, I make sure that my posts are well-written, clear and straight-to-the-point. I try to avoid rambling, long posts, because I know that I would never read an exceedinly long post on other blog, particularly those written in a single paragraph and without the use of line breaks. I try to link appropriately where I can. Lately though, I have been giving some thought to how useable my blog really is.

According to this list of top ten design mistakes made in weblogs, I am apparently doing a lot less than I thought I was.

  • I do not have an author biography, aside from the two lines below my blog title summarising what my blog is about. I also have no author photo, which according to this list, means that my blog is less personable and reduces the credibility of anything I have to say.

  • Some of my great blog posts are buried and this is something I have been thinking about lately. I do want people to find the good stuff, if they don't have time to read through the entire blog (and very few people do).

  • I most definitely mix topics. In this blog, I share my experience moving back home, discuss technology and natural hair, and reflect on aspects of my growing in feminism. While these are the major themes, my posts could extend beyond these and I've thought about how this must make it more difficult to find a niche audience.

  • My domain name is owned by a blog service and will be for the foreseeable future. Blogger is free and easy to use, though I might consider moving to a more sophisticated service like Wordpress someday, so at least readers can search for posts by categories.

I think that, overall, this list of things not to do provide a good framework for creating an easily-navigable weblog. However I think that bloggers should nevertheless feel free to adapt them to the needs of their blog.

For me, I prefer to write under a cloak of relative anonymity hence the absence of an overly descriptive bio and a photo. I believe that people will get to know what they need to know about me from the brief intro line at the top and maybe from my interests and my taste in books and films, as highlighted in my profile. I like to blog about a variety of topics and I can't imagine doing otherwise.

While these guidelines are probably aimed more at the blogs of corporations and other formal organizations (non-profits, schools, religious institutions, etc), I have taken a few lessons from them. At the end of the day, I write for me and if other people read my posts and choose to comment on them, that's great - I love a good conversation. If not, I will keep on writing anyway.


Everchange said...

I think your blog is very readable, and you do mix up the topics. Profiles are nice though because they tell you a little more about what makes the author tick, what he/she likes and dislikes, etc.

Just a heads up- I've changed my blog name - trying to go back to being unknown/anonymous (i.e. unread by my friends!). The link you have will soon be outdated. You'd probably be able to find me eventually anyway.

TRAE said...

well i love my blog. i gues it's quite free of design mistakes considering the points in that write up.

i like this piece:

"At the end of the day, I write for me and if other people read my posts and choose to comment on them, that's great - I love a good conversation. If not, I will keep on writing anyway"

but i admit time was when i was crazy about my blog getting a lot of publicity and hits. but nowadays i've realise that somwhow i really don't care...first and foremost i write for me.

Ore said...

@ Everchange: I'll think about the profile thing. I do like reading other peoples' profiles precisely for the reasons you mention, so perhaps I need to think about doing the same thing.

@Trae: I agree that writing for yourself is the only way to go, otherwise you might find yourself self-editing what you plan on saying and the end result is such stifled and dull writing (this is usually the case for me anyway). People who are interested in what you have to say will eventually discover your work.

Ore said...

@Everchange: I wish there was a way to find out your new blog URL. Well, I hope to find your blog eventually if it's still on blogspot.

Nkolika (you know who...) said...

Ore, your writing remains refined and refreshing. Keep doing your thing, gal.

Everchange said...

Seriously, if you click on the highlighted stuff in your profile, it shows you the other bloggers that like that particular book or interest, etc etc.

Ore said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement, Nkolika.

@Everchange, I will remember that tip!! I'll be on the lookout.......