10 Sins of Blogging Usability

by Linda (January 26th)

“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

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 Subscribe

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 Chicklet Creator.

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 platform.

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 post.

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.

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.

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.

6. Not Moderating Comments

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 blog. This doesn’t mean you have to moderate each comment before it gets posted, but do keep an eye on new comments as even with the best spam filters, there’s always that one that gets through.

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 Posts

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, 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

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

Most blog 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 start.

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11 Responses to 10 Sins of Blogging Usability

  1. esther224 says:

    hi Cikgu Rosseni..our lecturer said that don’t know got making blogging include in our marks or not,the course outline don’t have ‘making blog’…so, what happen actually ya??

  2. Rosseni says:

    Which lecturer Esther? Dr. Kamisah knows about my assignment but she does not know the details. She has agreed that I will assign a small project worth 15-20% which would be allocated from either the percentage of the individual or group assignments or the combination of both. You are from the PKP or Science-TESL main stream group? Let me talk to her about this ok?

  3. esther says:

    ooo..is our dr.sharifah said so..she responsibles to give us the marks. she is the coordinator of the course..thanks.

  4. Rosseni says:

    ok, so that’s why Dr. Kamisah said she had discussed about me teaching the topic technology in CCT with Dr. Syarifah for the UKM SCIENCE-TESL group.

    Yes, if she, Dr. S is the coordinator then she decides about the final marking distribution between assignments and exam.

    I was asked by Dr. K if I can teach the topic and I said yes because it is part of what I try to develop in my PhD project. I told Dr. K that in order for me to teach about technology in teaching, I also need students to do a small project. I need students not only know the theory but also gain the skill to use technology for CCT so i can assess the output of my teaching ( the assignment’s objective/goal is that by doing reflections on the blog, students will be able to translate theories about thinking and blogging from lecture/online notes to practice reflection as a thinking process).

    As far as the grade is concern, I have told Dr. K it whould be worth between 15%-20%. Maybe she had not had the opportunity to discuss it with her yet but i shall leave all of that to them. I am still here now to help you pursue a generic skill for long life learning.

    Good Luck in your studies and thank you.

  5. esther says:

    oo…i see..thanks Cikgu Rosseni for your reply~:)

  6. esther says:

    oo, about the wireless spot teacher said during the lecture, my idea is to set it at kolej ungku omar. at here, only asrama can acess internet, others need to online at foyer that relates to tetamu ukm, but the line so bad and even ukm block the msn too. only foyer uo got wireless but the seniors blocks all don’t have the wireless to acess internet. by the way, uo is the centre that near to fst and many kolej.so i hope you can consider about this. thank you.

  7. Rosseni says:

    where exactly at uo would be the best place to set a wireless spot then?

    as to the slow connection, it is because Pusat Komputer set many firewalls to deny access to certain sites. How about YM, were you able to use it if not MSN?

  8. esther says:

    for me,i will suggest in the senior blocks area because we cannot access internet..MSN is better than ym…..

  9. Rosseni says:

    to setup is not much a problem but to pass redtapes as to where it may be located is rather time consuming, it seems that it has to go at least through the kolej pengetua and Pusat TM before submitting a working paper to Majlis Pengurusan Universiti. I have done the working paper and submit to my supervisor, the project head. From there on he said he will do what is needed.

  10. kotaro says:

    Great Info…thanks a lot!!

  11. Rosseni Din says:

    You’re very much welcome Kotaro :). It’s my pleasure.

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