on May 2, 2006
Since this is a blog about Anime from last year and videogames from last decade, it’s safe to say this thing has a narrow audience. So, I try to keep this thing running smoothly to avoid driving off what few people are generous enough to show up. So the following is interesting to me:
Via Mark I find Jacob Nielson’s Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. This is interesting. I try to run a nice blog that’s easy to read, comment, and link to, simply because I know how annoying it is when I’m using someone’s blog and it doesn’t work right.
So Nielson has ten things that he thinks are design problems on most blogs. Let’s have a look:
- No Author Biographies: I Have this. It isn’t much, but it lets people know I’m not an alien, a robot, or a dog. Lots of people don’t care about this, but when I hit a blog that interests me I always look around for a bio. If nothing else, I want to see what gender the author is. I hate trying to link to someone and talk about their work without using gender-specific pronouns. Grrr.
- No Author Photo: This one sounds silly to a lot of people. However, when I stumble on a new blog I almost always check the bio and look for a photo. If they have one, I’m much more likely to come back. I like to know who I’m talking to. A 61 year old woman who blogs about Quake 3 Arena is way more interesting than a 25 year old man on the same subject. If I run into a Catholic, West Indian black Republican who likes comic books, I’m going to take notice. If I wrote about the same subject, it wouldn’t be nearly as attention-grabbing. Does this make me a racist and a sexist?
Probably. Who cares? I can’t bear to even care about that sort of business anymore. The point is, unique viewpoints interest me a lot more than the viewpoints of unknown people. We’re used to knowing the gender and age of the people we’re talking to, and I take those expectations with me into the blog world. It’s entirely possible that the next generation won’t care about stuff like this.
- Nondescript Posting Titles: This sort of depends on what you’re posting about. Not every post needs a newspaper style informative heading. In fact, this Ambient Irony post is a great example of a nondescript posting title that makes the entry more interesting. If he had a “proper” title, it would ruin the joke.
- Links Don’t Say Where They Go: This is absurd. Most people can see the ‘ol navigation bar at the bottom, which says where they will go if they make with the clicking. It would make the whole thing clumsy and overly verbose if I gave a site title or domain name every time I linked something. Often I don’t even care if the user follows the link or not. If I mention Someday’s Dreamers, I expect most people will just read what I have to say on it, but those who have no idea what I’m talking about can click on the link for a little context.
If the thing I’m linking is the foundation for my post (if I want to build or add to what another blogger has said) then I usually mention them by name.
- Classic Hits are Buried: I wish WordPress had a nice way to highlight the “best of” posts. I’ve added the “Readme” to the right-hand side, but those are hard-coded. This wasn’t hard, but it seems like an inelegant solution. This thing is run by PHP, and hardcoding parts of the site offends my inner programmer.
- The Calendar is the Only Navigation: I gots me some of them fancy categories and whatnot.
- Mixing Topics: Well, it depends on how you define “topic”. Certainly a blog that is just about whatever the author is thinking right now is going to be unfocused. In that case the blog is more or less about the author’s life or work, and they had better lead a very interesting life or accomplish some very interesting stuff. I do neither, so I write about geek culture.
- Irregular Publishing Frequency: I think most people know this is important. It’s tough to keep up. I try for a minimum of two posts every day. On the weekends I build up a collection of short posts that I can deploy when I’m feeling uninspired. If I get a bunch of ideas, I try to save some for the next day rather than overkill one day and have nothing the next.
- Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss: Mark nailed this one, “…I don’t think this has that much to do with usability (at least, from a visitor’s standpoint).” Anyway, if any employer would refuse to hire me based on what I have here then I probably wouldn’t want to work for them anyway.
- Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service: Behold my domain name! Marvel at how it glitters so!
I would also note that as helpful as this is, none of this is a ticket to a successful (traffic-wise) blog. Steven Den Beste ignored almost all of this, as well as eschewing even basic weblog mechanics like comments, trackbacks, or even the most basic of them all, permalinks. Despite this, he was in the Technorati top 100 for a long time. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s like winning the bronze in the 100 meter dash – on a pogo stick. Sure, he didn’t get the gold, but… on a pogo stick?
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.