Usability Issues With Blogging

Jakob finally gets round to writing a piece about blogs so I thought I’d better get round to blogging about it. I’m surprised it’s taken him this long frankly, perhaps he just thought that he’d covered most of it all before with his lists of things you shouldn’t do? So, to take arms against his sea of issues:

No Author Biogs
JN asserts that to post anonymously (or at least without a full biographical reference) is to erode the credibility of your comments and that users have a natural urge to know more about the writer. I’m not sure this is the case. I can think of several popular blogs that have no explicit author biography and are none the poorer for it. Do we really demand this sort of content? Is a contact email not sufficient if your inquisitive mind is not sated? JN assumes I suppose that everyone’s blogging about subjects they really ought to be qualified in. Along the same lines is ….

No Author Photo
Has he really thought this through? Does it really matter to the user if their readers can’t see who they are? Do we care, as consumers of literature, that we don’t really know what Shakespeare looked like or that our latest tome from Amazon didn’t have a mugshot of the author? Just because JN’s gurning mug is plastered in the NNg site in high-res (and interestingly only vaguely on his blog-like useit site) doesn’t mean I remember it more than anonymous blogs with a strong visual identity. In essence, I remember the look of a page/site, not the author’s face – a person I am highly unlikely to meet. Personally, keeping a photo off my blog has meant that I’m unlikely to see my face utilised for ‘inappropriate purposes’ by errant friends, colleagues associates and net weirdos.

Nondescript posting Titles
Is the joy of writing headline copy not the skill involved in capturing the essence of the story but in an intriguing manner. It might not always be obvious what the content will be but I would agree that it should tempt the reader to explore further. When seen a purely a link (ie. When the post has moved off the front page) it should remain as engaging and tempting as it did as a headline. In that sense, headline writing is indeed “the most important writing you do.”

Links Don’t Say Where They Go
JN’s missed a trick here. He could have praised the blog community for reviving the lost art of contextual linking. I see more contextual and descriptive hyperlinks amongst blogs than I do almost anywhere else. Bloggers, in their desperate hunt for more readers, have taken on board the benefits of using the sort of links that search engines love. Of course, there are still some of us that occasionally slip in the odd ‘click here’ or ‘more’, we’re human after all and sometimes, in the spirit of quick postings, it’s just not worth my while re-phrasing a paragraph to make a link descriptive.

Classic Hits Are Buried
Here JN is absolutely spot on. I for one know which posts are popular but I also know that they’re popular because people find them through Google and I don’t actually make reference to them that often in other postings. This is principally because I thought it bored people, regular readers, to keep hearing about the same stuff. I will, however, reference the most popular posts in a sticky link in the right menu as it can’t hurt and might actually make new visitors instantly discover worthwhile wheat amongst my blogging chaff.

Calendrical Navigation Is Rubbish
I would have to agree here too. I so often come across blogs when googling for subjects only to click on them and find the relevant post missing. A search using the native tool is regularly ineffectual and you have no idea where to start clicking through dates to find stuff. This blog is constrained by the fact that it’s a generic blogger-powered one and therefore can’t do categories. Believe me, if I had the technical nouse I would have added a better archival system and navigation months ago. I blame Blogger. (BTW: Some other people have discussed calendrical blog archiving)

Irregular Publishing Frequency
This is like people telling Wayne Rooney to calm down. It’s simply the nature of blogging that it will be infrequent. In its purest form blogging represents the erratic ramblings of web-connected individuals, capturing thoughts, moments and experiences online. In the same way that it’s unrealistic to expect them to have biographies and high-res press photos, it’s unrealistic to expect them to stick to defined publishing schedules (a la Alertbox). It’s enjoyable, in a frustrating way, to await the arrival of a new posting from a blogger you’re interested in. I would not want to dictate to people when that should be posting. The benefits of RSS feed readers is that they notify you when posts are updated and this usually is a damn site quicker than traditional web pages.

With this in mind, to tell people not to post if they having nothing to say is for others’ to make judgement on the worthiness of the articles and to my mind that’s a bit wrong. A blog will, inevitably, contain a bit of rubbish every now and then. In many ways it makes the better (more worthy) content stand out more.

Mixing Topics
A subject close to my heart. I mix content all the time. Some customer service, some user-centric web development, cars, holidays, one anglia, Taco Bell, politics, economics etc. etc. As long as there’s an even thread in the blog – in my case customer/user-centred thinking – then it’s ok in my book. People like a bit of irreverence. Granted, if you set a site up like useit then it’s going to seem odd if Jakob starts talking about his dog, his problems with public transport or the economic policy of China but in most public blogs the joy is figuring the connections between the apparently disconnected. Finding out a little about the character behind the writing – without being spoon-fed such information in the biography (vide supra)

Forgetting That You Write For Your Future Boss
Ok, so the web is persistent. I find stuff on there all the time that should have expired a long time ago. I find some stuff on my blog which I’m a bit ashamed about (see Katrina ramblings) but it’s going to stay. I’d not be stupid enough to expose myself to legal action or severe controversy as I know my current boss reads it. Bear that in mind and keep some perspective (bosses are human too) and I can write to my heart’s content. I am naturally cautious about appearing ‘expert’ – especially on topics I’ve only ever really dealt with academically – but people are still visiting you site for analysis, though and consideration. If you shy away from forming opinions then you really are saying nothing at all. As a future boss I’d find that a little sad and vacuous.

Having A Domain Owned By a Weblog Service
… i.e. blogger. Well, apart from expense, blogger got me online in minutes and has supported pretty much all of what I wanted to do – except category archiving. We can’t all afford servers, hosting or spend the time setting up MovableType, PHP, MySQL etc. etc. As far as I can tell, blogger keeps advertising away and has ensured that I’m instantly part of a major blogging community – all for nothing. I’d love to move to my own server and I accept JN’s argument that the longer I leave it the harder it will be so if he wants to sponsor my move to a standalone site could he let me know?

Technorati :

No comments: