Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Top Ten Blog Design Mistakes

Almost the end of the year, so time for some reflection and rethinking of my blog. It's almost 11 months since I started the beast so it's a good time to take a step back and examine what I'm doing right, what I'm doing wrong and what needs to change.

As a first step I took a look at Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes by Jakob Nielsen. Yikes. I'm in bad shape. On this scale I'm absolutely positively 100% guilty as charged on four felony indictments and kinda sorta strongly suspected of committing three more crimes; but I can definitely see reasonable doubt on two charges and hope I can be acquitted on a technicality on one count. Where's Mark Geragos when I need him?

OK. First the technicality. Nielsen's mistake #9 is "Forgetting you are writing for your future boss". I see his point. Some of the stuff in blogs would be highly embarrassing if dredged up from the Internet archives in five or ten years by a potential hiring manager. Need to watch out for politically incorrect language etc. Oops. Yesterday I used the B word to describe a female character in a novel. Try explaining that to some corporate human resources feminazi at an interview. Oops. There I go again. The technicality is that I am retired and don't plan to need a future boss. If I do work at all it's likely to be as a temporary sailing instructor or something similar and (a) since when was colorful language a disqualifier for sailing jobs and (b) what chance is there that your average yacht club is going to do that intensive a background search? Not guilty your honor.

Then we have mistake #10: Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service. OK. I have to plead guilty on this one. But why is this such a big deal? Nielsen appears to have two objections. Firstly he says that using a free weblog service like Blogger means that someone else "owns your destiny on the Internet" and then goes on to paint a scary future of degraded service quality and various "user-repelling advertising techniques" that the weblog service owner might impose on you. OK Jakob, life is full of risks, but I'll live with this one. Nielsen's second reason for disdaining the use of a domain name such as is that it is "the mark of a naive beginner who shouldn't be taken too seriously", the equivalent of having an email address. Hey Jakob, enough with the cyber snobbery. And by the way, please don't take me seriously, whatever you do. Geeze this is a blog, not the New York Times. (And lately a lot of folk aren't taking the Times all that seriously either.)

Then my lawyer will quickly move for dismissal of the first two charges, No Author Biography and No Author Photo. OK, the bio may me brief and the photo may be fuzzy but they are there. They may not be all that effective in building trust and credibility which is why Nielsen thinks they are important. But I hope that they provide some kind of image of a real person behind the words.

And now the jury must consider charge #3, Nondescript Posting Titles. According to Nielsen, "Users must be able to grasp the gist of an article by reading its headline. Avoid cute or humorous headlines that make no sense out of context." Ohoh. I'm in deep doodoo on this one. From Where do flies go in the winter? to More Dead Squirrels I am the captain of cute, the numero uno of nonsense when it comes to post titles. I thought it added to the humor of the post but apparently it's a no-no. But please note Doctor Nielsen, I have reformed; see the very informative (and boring) title of this post. But can I be relied upon not to backslide into my old ways?

Enough for one day. Court is in recess. Tomorrow the jury considers the most serious charges.

1 comment:

Mike said...

The blogging tips are appreciated. I am guilty as charged of disregarding these rules. Now however, I can break them intentionally.

Thanks for including me in your bloglist. Wishing you fair winds and an early thaw.

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