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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Philosophy of Blog Design and Usability

In my former life, I used to be an Information Architect, the person who designs the usability, look and feel of commercial web sites. I managed a large group of user interface designers, content writers and editors and graphic artists. It was a totally bitchin' career and one that I often miss. When I was working, my guru was (and still is) Jakob Nielsen. Jakob has written most the seminal information on web design, and his web site contains an amazing amount of useful information, albeit for the non-initiated, kind of drab and plain looking. That's his style. He's the guy that designed the Google interface. What more can I say?

Anyhow, while reading Jakob's site I came across this article, that chronicles the good and bad of blog design and usability. Jakob includes ten issues that he claims will make a blog less interesting, readable, and less able to earn revenue. Here's a summary of those ten points:
  • No Author Biography: Simply put, trust is key, and readers prefer to know whom they are "dealing with". I'm going to work on this one.
  • No Author Photo: Everyone, Nielson feels, likes to link a name to a face. I'm guilty of this one. I guess a trip to Glamour Shots is in my immediate future. Gulp!
  • Nondescript Posting Titles: Explain what you are posting about. Remember, with the explosion of RSS and feeds many of your readers may only ever see the title to a specific post. I think this is common in the mommy blog sphere.
  • Links Don't Say Where They Go: User like to know where you are sending them ... the unknown is not bliss in my opinion (especially when it concerns the web).
  • Classic Hits are Buried: Link often to your most popular posts, so new readers know your history.
  • The Calendar is the Only Navigation: Use categories to help readers find more on a specific topic you often talk about, but beware, do not create categories that you may only ever post once about. Blogger doesn't support categories, but TypePad does.
  • Irregular Publishing Frequency: This is something that personally drives me nuts. If you have a blog, update it. Even it's just a little post, don't go weeks without a comment. Your readers lose interest and take your blog off their links list.
  • Mixing Topics: Stay on point, stay on point, stay on point. If your blog is about cooking, write about cooking. It would be silly for a cooking blog to have a political post on it.
  • Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss: Remember, once you post, your words are out there for the world to see for years to come. This isn't a problem for me, but I'd add to remember that your entire family can find your blog, and so can your friends, so be judicious about what you're whining about.
  • Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service: Own your own destiny and your own domain - Gosh, it only costs $9 a year or less! I'm going to do this soon.
Why is this usability thing so important? In two-words: Repeat Business. I want my readers coming back, time and time again. Building up readership enables you to eventually make a living off your blog, or even earn a bit of revenue. The experts claim that it takes 8-12 months to build up a loyal readership and the way to do this is to post frequently to your blog. In Bloggers 4 Hire, a web site that talks a lot about building a revenue stream for your blog, they recommend that 3-5 new posts PER DAY will keep your traffic statistics growing and your readership coming back for more. I know that most mommybloggers work or have young kids that need constant attention, so that amount of productivity seems daunting. I find that I can post at least 3 posts per day if I'm at all productive. I've always thought that it might be too much compared to other bloggers, but I'm seeing my traffic almost double in the last couple of weeks, so I might be on to something.

I know a lot of bloggers are doing this more for fun than as a possible revenue source, but I think it's nice to see what the professionals are talking about and recommending.

What's your take on this topic? Where are you on the list of 10?
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6 Comments:

Blogger Laurie said...

Those are great tips.. I can see where I need to make improvements.

I'm not looking for any $$ from my blog. It's just my place to express myself, and hopefully make someone smile or laugh.

And I finally linked you!

7/11/05 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Theresa said...

I can see most of those points, but I get stuck at the 3 to 5 posts a day. I look at it this way - I own the blog, not the other way around. If I have something worthwhile to say 3 or 5 times I day, ok. But to post just for the sake of posting? Bleh.

7/11/05 2:05 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

Although, when I open my Bloglines list, and I see some bold (meaning new content since last visit) titles with 1 new entry, and some with 3-7 or more, I'm reading those with 1 new entry FIRST. Then IF I get around to it, I'll open the other sites. Because if you use an RSS reader, as more and more people do, once you click on that blog you wanna stick with it until you're done, otherwise you have to mark posts as "unread" and save them for later, and it just gets to be a big mess....

Me, I like a post a day, or maybe a little extra or two thrown in, if it's something light. Laurie, for example, often has multiple posts in a day, but I always click on her feed, because I know the posts will be short (relative to my ramblings, anyway), to the point, and usually uplifting/funny.

I do EVERYTHING WRONG blog-wise. Everything! Way too many pictures, skipping from topic to topic, going from silly to serious on a dime, you name it!

7/11/05 9:34 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

Belinda, I don't think there is a wrong and right way to blog. I love your blog because it's SO YOU. I think you have a great talent for blogging, much more than many of the 'professional' bloggers I've read. I like the pictures, they tell a story of who you are and what your life is like. I think your blog is really well done, and I want to read it daily just to see what's going on in Arkansas. To me, that's a successful blog.

Oh, Fitty is on david letterman tonight. Ugh.

7/11/05 11:45 PM  
Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

Wow, this was really interesting to read (Michele sent me, I'm so glad!)
I'll have to go read more of Mr Nielsen's words of wisdom - does he have any special tips for joint blogs like Kim's and mine?
(ps - I have three year old twins and a seven year old - I'll be back for tips on surviving the next ten years too!!)

8/11/05 2:11 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I would'nt propose 3-5 per day, I think we may have said 3-5 a week. I'm not even sure I could churn out 3-5 well written pieces of content a day for one blog! If you get to that point, let me know I have a spot for you in the company!

Jim
Bloggers For Hire

1/12/05 4:22 PM  

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