Friday, November 24, 2006

evaluating blog contents and functions

How do we decide what to put in our blogs? What policy or rules do we apply to determine "in" or "out", "on the blog" or "off the blog"?

A blog can contain, in body or sidebar or navbars:

* text posts
* photos
* RSS feeds
* email subscription forms
* reader polls
* cartoons
* browser promo buttons
* feedrolls
* graphic links
* "best of" link lists of your posts
* credibility features (e.g., Consumer WebWatch)
* testimonials
* blogrolls of other blogs
* chat boxes
* comments posted at other blogs trackers
* text ads
* graphic ads
* search boxes
* contact forms
* mp3s
* embedded podcast or video players
* donation (tip jar) buttons
* special links to relevant sites (e.g., Wikipedia, Google Analytics, Career Journal)
* downloadable products (like software, games, PDFs or ebooks)

...and much more.

I have printed out my drastically reduced blog contents, to enable me to more easily assess what I have left, and how to group things in logical formations. Like all feed syndication widgets in one place, all contact info and functions in another spot, and so on.

How To Determine
Blog Content and Functions:

The test for any item on a blog must certainly be:

(1) "Does this humanize my blog and make it less cold?"

(2) "How does this convey my expertise or personality?"

(3) "How does this really benefit my readers?"

(4) "Is this nice, but adding a download time burden for dial up users?"

(5) "Does this make my blog claustrophobically cluttered?"

(6) "Why am I REALLY putting this on here? Narcissism...or Altruism?"

(7) "Are smart or popular bloggers doing this? Why or why not, I wonder?"

Restless Conclusion:

Sometimes I find myself wanting to impress people with my technical savvy, my web design skills, my many alleged talents. But why be so exhibitionistic and self-absorbed? I'd rather have a link to "How to Do Such and Such" than have a demonstration of how I can do such and such.

Was the Digg feedroll on this blog actually benefiting anyone? Did my Library Thing sell any author's books or turn readers on to good books? I do know that my Swicki/Eurekster custom search engine is used by half the daily visitors to this blog, because I get feedback via email from Swicki, and can compare it to my Google Analytics or Sitemeter stats.

What's YOUR opinion?

How do YOU determine what to include or exclude on your blog? How do you prioritize and organize the items in your sidebar?

How often do you do a re-design? A new photo of yourself? A new color scheme?

How many new enhancements have you added to your blog since you first started? Do you visit successful blogs and study what they're doing with functions, buttons, and design?

Static there any future in it?


CK said...

Good stuff. I watch the patterns of the info. my users seek for (e.g. about pages, certain functions) and work to keep those easily found. I also switched from a 3-row design to a 2-row design so to keep all info. on the left.

I also re-designed my blog about 3.5 mos. ago to make it "cleaner" and I'm always looking at others' blogs to see what enhancements can make the blog even easier to navigate.

Nutty as I am I don't use RSS readers but actually go to many blogs each day, partially for the experience of being at others' sites and to see what I can learn from their layout. No doubt I'll re-design again next year as I learn more best practices, it's ongoing.

steven edward streight said...

I hope Dave Winer, Robert Scoble, and Doc Searls don't hear me say this, but I hate RSS feed readers.

I used Awasu, which is a great feed scraper/reader/aggregator, for about a month, then gave up on feeds.

Dave Winer has said that feeds are primarily for constantly updated news, and not so much for what we do with blogs.

Like you, I prefer to manually visit a blog and see all the comments, ads, sidebar items, etc.

I like how Evan Williams recently said "Blogrolls are the new feed readers". I use my blog as a web portal, which is why I tend to load my sidebar with tons of links.

Having said this, I strongly urge you to go to Feedburner and set up a simple RSS/Atom feed widget for your blog, to enable those who do use feed readers to subscribe to your blog feed.

You could increase traffic dramatically by doing so.

We only shoot ourselves in the foot by not accomodating user behavior and desires.

CK said...

I do have an RSS feed (have since day 1). It's the first option on the left when you log on to my blog.

I don't expect others to have my viewing habits...was just telling you how I view others' blogs. That's all.

steven edward streight said...

Oh, well, that shows how observant I am.