It’s very rare that I agree so wholeheartedly with someone as unyielding and black-and-white as Jakob Nielsen, but his most recent article, Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes, is really excellent.
The ease and proliferation of weblog authoring and hosting solutions has unleashed an ever-growing number of blogs upon the internet and I think it’s high time someone looked at what this explosion has done to the usability of the internet.
Here are my additions/expansions of Jakob’s thoughts:
Nondescript Posting Titles
You’ll get more Google love if your post titles and post/archive URLs contain words and phrases related to the topic your blogging about. Being straight-forward trumps clever sometimes, especially if you want to be found by the search engines.
Classic Hits are Buried
For those bloggers that don’t want to call out their most popular/highly trafficked posts in a navigational element, at least use trackbacks. If you mention something you “blogged last week” link to it and send yourself the trackback. This way, both posts will reference one another and visitors can easily find your continued discourse on a topic without resorting to search.
The Calendar is the Only Navigation
If you use categories, tags or some other categorization system, link to it.
Irregular Publishing Frequency
Best New Year’s resolution I ever made was to post daily on this blog. Sometimes I post more, sometimes not at all (which is counter to Jakob’s advice), but I made a dedication to doing more blogging. If you put in the energy, time and effort you will see results.
Here is where Jakob and I part ways. I think it’s fine to mention other topics outside of your scope, so long as your core remains consistent. Most folks don’t have the energy/ability/expertise to write more than one blog, so being personal and passionate is better than being just passionate. I think the strength of the blog comes from the honesty and not necessarily the adherence to one topic of the author.
Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
Hosting is cheap, blogging software is easy to install and manage, therefore you need to ditch blogspot.com. With all the splogs out there and the recent anger at Google (see Chris Pirillo’s rant and screencast), if you’re going to be a blogger, a serious blogger, you need to buy a domain name. It’s fun and it’s easy and even if it doesn’t relate exactly to what you blog (like mine) it’s yours and yours alone.
Your mileage may vary, but I think Jakob is attacking a key point concerning blogs without stating it directly: they’re too easy to create. Most people aren’t taking the care to consider user experience beyond their pet theme or design (or they’re a splog) and so a lot of good features get left on the office floor.
I’ve yet to enact all of Jakob’s suggestions, but I’m doing my part to keep my content pure and my links golden.