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Do You Want Your Blog to Be User Centered?


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Poll: Do You Want Your Blog to Be User Centered? (10 member(s) have cast votes)

As one of your blog requirements, is usability on the list?

  1. Yes (7 votes [70.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 70.00%

  2. No (2 votes [20.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 20.00%

  3. Depends (Please explain in a post.) (1 votes [10.00%])

    Percentage of vote: 10.00%

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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 12:24 PM

One of the nagging thoughts that's been on my mind, especially as a result of beginning to perform blog usability reviews and comments on the interview by Aaron Wall

Blog Usability Interview with Kim Krause Berg

is that I wonder how many bloggers even WANT their blogs to be usable? By that, I mean, do they want their blogs to be user (reader) centered? Do they want it to be read every day, or visited once in awhile? Do they want to write to their readers, or speak at them?

It relates to incentives. Goals. What's curious to me is that so many blogs aren't genuine blogs. They are, as Michael Martinez has been calling them, Mushblogs. I see these in my feeds quite often and have started to figure out which are not worth clicking on. They are titles with a gobblety gook of words and/or description of words that are tossed into a heap and make no sense. These are blogs that aren't for people and so, usability isn't considered.

I was wondering. For you that are blog owners. How much do you really, honestly care about the usability side? By this I'm referring to meeting your visitors needs, conveying your posts with clarity and thought, and related things like communicating brand or creating community. Or, is the sole priority to rank in engines and/or generae ad revenue and nothing else matters?

For fun, I threw in a poll too :)

#2 joedolson

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 12:29 PM

Usability is important to me as a major element of any website - what your interview with Aaron Wall (or should that be Aaron's interview with you?) demonstrated to me was a whole category of very blog-specific concerns which I'd never really considered. My blogs are both simply sections of my overall websites - so I hadn't thought of them in quite that context. Since I'd considered my websites to be at least reasonable usable, I never went that next step - seriously analyzing my goals or other considerations.

I always hope to convey my thoughts clearly, but I don't deceive myself that many people are actually reading the blog - my thoughts have been more in the direction of providing some information which people might happen upon and find interesting or valuable.

Or, at least, that I do :)

#3 send2paul

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 01:46 PM

Hmmm...

My personal blog that I've had for the last four years has been the testing ground for my HTML and CSS education on the web, within the confines of free blog hosting and all that it does,(not), entail. It has gone through stages of being pimped around blog forums and rings, (oh those blog rings with the "and you must insert our HTML link on your homepage" rules!), and so is probably a little slap dash in it's coding, (although I think it's reasonably okay).

At one point I was concerned about the look of the blog - in my very social blogging days - where I had a huge list of links to other people's personal blogs, and my time was spent "keeping up with Joneses" as regards the newest gimmick - scrolling i-frame shoutboxes, or inbedded webcam software. But I think the whole usability aspect of basic blogging is not something that the average Joe, (sorry Joe! :) ), is concerned about, because most folks start off blogging with Blogger - or some other free/packaged blogging set up.

But when blogs are becoming part of business websites, then there is potentially a different story there. I still think that the average punter thinks that a blog and a website are two different beasts - and how possibly can you combine the two? I believe it is only when the company website designer/IT dept, (in a large commercial company), is incorporating a blog as part of a business strategy, then the same usability rules and regs that were applied to the company website, (if any were used at all!), would/should be applied to the blog.

Smaller businesses, or folks like myself, still use Blogger etc - use the website template as the Blogger/blog template for the blog, and link to/from it.

#4 rynert

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 01:58 PM

I am just about to go into 'blogs' for my wedding site - but I am not really sure where the line between on topic and regular content and blogs really is - on my site people can already submit their views / experiences which we then publish on the relevant page - so how is a blog different?

Blogs are new to me... I am sure I will discover what makes them distinct from updated website content, supplemented by visitor contribution, soon enough :)

But, when I do produce one it will be all about user experience / useabilty - no point otherwise!

Edited by rynert, 19 May 2006 - 02:00 PM.


#5 Aaron Pratt

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 10:54 PM

I see many SEO's with blogs eating up internet real estate fast. Lee Odden is one of these people and is someone to watch and learn from, there are others like myself who are not really in it for anything. We have the freedom to live, learn and take risks because we are not focused on making money in the SEO game (we are more webmasters than SEO's).

The problem with blogging for keyword real estate is that you often lose your readers, the long posts all worded up to own the phrase are often hard to read but a skilled business blogger can hold the reader and own the phrase at the same time. I can count the SEO's on less than one hand who are doing this now but they will hold 80% of SEO real estate soon!

Aaron W., Michael Gray and several others do marketing evangelism not because they are high on themselves but because it is good marketing strategy and if there was nobody visiting would they still post? Yes they sure as hell would, it's game on and there is nothing wrong with that. :)

Teacher and Student (most people only know how to be students, students fuel your success if you are a business blogger, students are those who read your blog and link to you.)

Blog evangelists do very well at keeping a healthy mix, if they didn't you would see less posts to their blogs. Comment numbers are a good thing to watch if you are blogging to own a specific niche but visitors are only a small part of the equation.

So I guess the question is "What's in your wallet"? :)

#6 A.N.Onym

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 06:07 AM

I guess I'll second joedolson here.

Usability is not a question whether to make a particular site user-friendly or not, but it is the way of thinking about websites.

If you start thinking of how to make the visitors experience pleasant on your business site, you will think about this on any other site.

So to answer the question, absolutely. Not that I have a blog right now, but should I have one, my first priority would be to make it user-friendly (categories, easy to read, etc), as it is really easy to fill a blog with content, not how to structure it.

Btw, Kim, have you determined a set of templates that are the most usable for certain types blogs?
Like a particular template may be good for informational, formal blog, and another for a personal blog?

#7 bwelford

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 10:52 AM

It's clear there are two levels at which the question, "Do You Want Your Blog to Be User Centered?", can be discussed.

Some are looking at the usability aspects and there's a lot to be said there. In general I find the average blog is more usable than the average website. That's because the usual software that is used often comes with usable navigation.

It's the other level that's much more challenging. That's a question of the content and who it is intended for. In other words, what's your motivation in writing the blog. Do you do it for yourself because you like to write or do you write it for others.

I think an important issue once you've gone beyond that question is the information content ratio. How much new stuff will your typical reader find relative to the amount they've got to read? It links to Aaron's real estate aspect. Some write long because they don't have time to write shorter posts. :) Others write long because they're trying to maximize their chances on keyword searches and thus their Adsense revenues.

I guess it depends on what your audience likes. I'm a KISS person so I like shorter posts and try to write that way too. I hope that means that the information content of my posts is high.

The master of that of course is Peter Da Vanzo, who used to be a moderator here. He has one of the longest running blogs on Search Engine Marketing called searchengineblog.com. He seems to be using a few more words per post than he used to, but the information content ratio is still very high. That's an example to be emulated IMHO.

#8 cre8pc

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 01:09 PM

Btw, Kim, have you determined a set of templates that are the most usable for certain types blogs?



No. This is because I don't think that way :) This is how many people approach blogs, however. They pick the template first, then decide what they want to do with the blog.

When I review a blog, the first thing I do is go back to the pre-dawn idea stage, to explore why the owner wants a blog and what they plan to do with it. Then, the design is explored to see if it fits their goals.

Everyone has different goals, web experience and expectations. If they intend on being around for years, they may want to consider templates that include ways to categorize and search archives. If they are only in it for mushblogging, then who cares what template they use?

For those that want to do multi-purpose blog/sites, than the software backend and host are the first items to consider. Research and planning go a long way towards less headaches in the future.

#9 A.N.Onym

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Posted 21 May 2006 - 09:50 PM

Alright, let's clear this up a bit.

No matter what criteria you use to categorize blogs and blog users, there can be some categorization involved.

Some bloggers, as you have said, want to restructure the blog and need categories.
Some are just content with posting anything anytime.
Some don't post often, but still would like to make everything easy to find.
Some just want a blog for their corporate site.

Have you noticed any patterns for information architecture, which you suggest to various types blog users with various intentions?

Afterthought afterthoughtThis pretty much sounds like the original question, but it states that I was focusing not on 'template first, ideas later'. After you analyze the intent for having the blog, does a certain page layout spring to mind? Is there a certain layout that springs to your mind more often than others?




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