10 Sins Of Blog Usability
By Linda Bustos Copyright
"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
The 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.
If 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 blogs.
9. Making It Hard to
Because subscribers 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
If you are using free blog software and hosting, it may
not be possible to add these extra functions. So plan ahead when choosing your
8. Inconsistent Posting
Now 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
Will 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.
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
If 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.
Allowing 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
5. Excessive Advertising
It's 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
When 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,
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
Returning 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.
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
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
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 start.