Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ Experiences

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I’ve been doing research on what distinguishes good blogs from poor ones, especially by reading “lessons learned” posts by bloggers. I’ve come up with 20 principles I think are worthwhile. Let me know which ones you agree or disagree with.
1. Pick a topic for your blog.

Pick a general topic you are passionate about, and stick with that focus as you post. Near the title of your blog, identify your blog’s focus so new visitors can know immediately whether your blog aligns with their interests. In the following image, the blog identifies its theme in the tagline and provides an explanation of the topic on the home page. Paradoxically, having a specific focus actually gives you more to write about. Like a novel, your blog takes on direction and purpose.

2. Encourage comments.

Allow comments, and respond to comments. Blogs are dialogues, not monologues. If you turn commenting off, you lose out on the Web 2.0 aspects of your blog. Comments enrich your thoughts and take you to a higher level of analysis. You benefit from the additions, corrections, tips, and other feedback from readers. To encourage comments, don’t require sign in. Activate Akismet and this math plugin to avoid spam. Add the Subscribe to Comments plugin so users can be aware of follow-up comments. When people comment, respond to their comments, and keep the dialogue going because this is what Web 2.0 is all about: connecting users to each other and sharing information.

3. Make it easy to subscribe.

Make it easy to subscribe to your feed by placing an orange RSS button in a highly visible location. Route your feed through Feedburner so you can keep track of your subscribers. You can also offer an e-mail subscription using FeedBurner. In the example below, subscription information is prominently displayed in the upper-right corner.

4. Include an About page.

Include an about page to let people know more about you. Are you a technical writer based in Seoul, a developer working at Microsoft, a Russian open-source business mogul? Your blog reveals your personal views, so introduce yourself to your readers. Don’t blog anonymously. You can include a photo in your About page — some think it makes you more real to your readers. Include some basic facts, such as where you live, your job title, your interests, and other biographical information. You may want to omit the company you work for, if content on your blog inappropriately reveals company information.

5. Present your ideas visually.

In this culture of scanning and clicking, long blocks of text aren’t read. Break up your text with visuals—graphs, charts, photos, blockquotes, and videos. Annotate the images to reinforce your meaning. Creating Passionate Users always reinforces its message with visuals. If you get photos from other blogs or from Flickr, include a link back to the source. Most popular blogs are visually rich.