Tuesday, April 10, 2007

20 Blog Usability Tips

Tom Johnson has scrounged the Internet for what makes the difference between a good and a bad blog.  He's culled a number of sources to come up with his top twenty principles for creating a good blog.

Most of Tom's suggestions are great advice for every blog.  A couple, like getting your own domain name and creating an index are probably beyond most of our needs.  Here are a couple of that caught my eye and stimulated me to comment.

Number Two is one where a lot of "ministry blogs" struggle: Encourage Comments.  This is really important as it's the core of communal interactivity.  It's not the blog post that generates value per se.  It's the interactions of tens or dozens of commenters adding their bit of wisdom from the hive mind.  Blogs that don't have comments have much, much less value to the community because no one can interact with the content.  My own practice is to allow anonymous commenters and to almost never delete a comment.  I don't like anonymous posters...I think it's lame to leave a comment without leaving your identity.  But I'd rather have even that stilted interaction than none at all.  I've never deleted a comment either.  I've had some pretty horrible things left on another blog I write about the ministry side of my life...but I've let the comment lie.  I think it communicates a great deal about the commenter and sometimes that's to my advantage.

Number Three: Make it easy to subscribe.  If you are still reading blogs one-at-a-time in your web browser you're wasting WAY too much time.  Use a "feed reader" and allow other readers to subscribe to your blog easily.

Number Twelve: Allow readers to contact you offline.  It's important to leave an email address somewhere on your blog.  People may want to get in touch with you about something completely unrelated to your your last post.  They may want to help you, or may be asking for help.  Make it easy for them to connect with you.

All twenty of these principles are worth reading.  Most of them are "doable" for a guy like me...a few are not.  I'm not interested (yet) in having my own URL for my blog (#17)...but I may in the future.  Since I use Blogger, I can't easily created indexes (#16) or include related posts beneath each post (#11).  There is something here for everyone and it's a read worth your time.


Beth said...

I noticed the commenter (in the blog you referenced) who mentioned that it may be dangerous for women to blog under their real identity. (Not to mention any of those employees who got fired as a result!)

I've struggled with that and gone back & forth. I see other writers (female) blog under their real name, but then some use a pseudonym. I'm happy speaking openly under my own name in the e-community of course, it's just that thought of "what if . . ." from being out there on the web.
Probably most women have this as a ubiquitous awareness if not fear.

But hey, I definitely allow anonymous comments - those are safe. You can always delete them later if it's truly offensive, or simply a duplicate comment.

besides, I've used the Anonymous comment feature to post on my own blog, to give voice to the real comments of a shy friend who didn't want to post herself but didn't mind if I posted it for her anonymously. And then of course that allowed me to respond to "Anonymous" by answering her questions online :-)

my biggest struggle is time to blog - I probably take way too long crafting my thoughts and so if I can get one up once a month I'm doing great for my schedule, and I realize that's a poor blogging habit, but that's life during this season with small children.

Jeff said...

Beth, you raise some good issues, especially the issue of online identity vs security. Based on your comments, I think it would be good to revise my statement.

While I'm still generally against anonymous commenting, I think in many cases women can build an online identity without compromising her security.

That is, a lot of people have a pen name, but their identity in "meat space" isn't necessarily referenced. You can build a relationship with the person and their pen name, without knowing more "google-able" information. An email address can still be included on the blog without compromising security.

Great stuff Beth! Thanks for taking the time to comment and give me your perspective.

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