In years past, when I spoke out against comments in blogs, or ads in blogs, I was stuck in a certain belief pattern. I hate being stuck because there’s no movement and no room to grow. Certainly, there’s no permitting new ideas, when you settle on a “My way is the right way and everyone else is dead wrong” affirmation. So, when I saw a blogger post about what else not to do with blog design, I felt relief to learn I didn’t agree with him.
In Ten Things to Avoid When Designing Your Blog, I can understand why the author recommends things like:
1. Feedreader buttons – as in, putting all 20 buttons or so in your sidebar
2. Tag clouds = visual nuisance
3. Long blogrolls – as in, the never-ending list on the blog homepage
4. Social bookmarking buttons – as in, clutter.
5. Ads = ugly eye candy
If you’re looking at blogs from a “usability is simple design” perspective, yes. Adding all those blog toys to your blog is like leaving your clothes all over your bedroom. You know where everything is and it’s nearby if someone else needs it. It looks like a mess to everybody else, but its Your Room. That’s the hidden bonus of blog ownership.
I look at blogs as bedrooms that we invite everyone into. This is because, unlike traditional web sites, blogs are more intimate. Blog authors, (The real ones anyway. Not sploggers.) are more likely to write from their hearts. They share more of themselves. They may want to create a community, and a blog is one way of doing that. It’s easier than fiddling with launching a forum. Blogs started out as something separate from other websites and continue to look and function differently. Their usability requirements are therefore, different.
If you were to remove the blogrolls and feedreader buttons, you are removing the first visual clues that the page belongs to a blog.
Advertisements are crossovers. They exist on business websites, personal sites and now, blogs. Blogs are evolving as more people contribute to their gene pool. This is where I’ve begun to personally get unstuck.
I know that some of my friends at Performancing.com were throwing darts at my picture whenever I’d voice frustration at ads or building blogs for anything other than online journals. I smoothed my ruffled feathers when I saw how Nick Wilson was sailing their ship over there. They’ve created more opportunities for bloggers than anyone else (other then blog software makers). It meant changing the blog birth code. They challenged it to adapt and be productive in an ever changing blogosphere.
In doing so, blogs, in their pure original state, are no longer online journals of one-sided conversations. I cherish that energy myself, but I know it’s a rare blog that can take its reader on a journey. I love to be told a story. I love being invited into other worlds that are different than my own.
The article above points to another one called Top 10 Ways to Uglify Your Blog. Again, the rule of thumb seems to be this. “Don’t link to other sites.” This has always been a blog trait because they are social sites. It’s understood that blog usability means making it easy to find related blogs and related posts. For many blogs, this equates to buttons and text links. Since blogs often have a requirement that says, “Provide link bait at every opportunity”, we will find SEO’s inside blog code, fluffing up the pillows.
There are ways to simplify the arrangement of blog functions. This is the challenge for usability designers.
I don’t agree that every human is stupid and we must design for stupid people. I know that many web designers think this way. I can’t. The way I see it, people enjoy the Internet because it expands their personal world and they’re willing to try new things. Blog design is intended to take readers by the hand and guide them around the socks lying on the TV set, to all the things we can know about you.
If I like your room, I’ll be back to visit and I could care less if you have button clutter or 324 friends.