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I was reading an article on the web by Jakob Nielsen called "Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes." It is a summary of the most frequent mistakes people make when creating their blog. The guidelines he lists are aimed at someone who is writing for a larger audience, not just someone blogging for family and friends.

Reading it made me cringe because I am guilty of some of these mistakes. There goes my blog-career.

Here are some of the mistakes listed (Nielsen's comments are in bold text and my commentary is in plain text):

1. No Author Biographies
It's a simple matter of trust. Anonymous writings have less credence than something that's signed. And, unless a person's extraordinarily famous, it's not enough to simply say that Joe Blogger writes the content. Readers want to know more about Joe.


Looks like I pass on this one. Yes! Score one point for me.

2. No Author Photo
A photo is important for two reasons:
1-It offers a more personable impression of the author. You enhance your credibility by the simple fact that you're not trying to hide. Also, users relate more easily to somebody they've seen. 2-It connects the virtual and physical worlds. People who've met you before will recognize your photo, and people who've read your site will recognize you when you meet in person (say, at a conference — or the company cafeteria if you're an intranet blogger).


Ok, I get half a point on this one based on the fact that I do have a personal photo, although it is a blurry photo taken from afar. I like my photo blurry, that way when it's 10:30 at night and I'm in the checkout counter at the drugstore in my velour sweatpants and flip flops with no makeup buying my nasal spray no one will be able to look at me and say, "Hey that's that weird lady who blogs on the Advocate. She is obsessed with her cat named Mango." Ok maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. I would never wear velour.


3. Nondescript Posting Titles
Sadly, even though weblogs are native to the Web, authors rarely follow the guidelines for writing for the Web in terms of making content scannable... 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.


Wow, I sure am guilty of that one. I admit I will never be able to follow that rule without going to some sort of blog-headline-writing support group. Click on this link to see a listing of all my blog titles.

4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
Many weblog authors seem to think it's cool to write link anchors like: "some people think" or "there's more here and here." Remember one of the basics of the Web: Life is too short to click on an unknown. Tell people where they're going and what they'll find at the other end of the link.


Guilty. Although I am trying to avoid this and add more descriptions when I add links. Go here.


5. Classic Hits are Buried
Hopefully, you'll write some pieces with lasting value for readers outside your fan base. Don't relegate such classics to the archives, where people can only find something if they know you posted it, say, in May 2003.


Yeah, I can't do much about that one. Moving on...

6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
A timeline is rarely the best information architecture, yet it's the default way to navigate weblogs. Most weblog software provides a way to categorize postings so users can easily get a list of all postings on a certain topic.


See my comment on #5.

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
Establishing and meeting user expectations is one of the fundamental principles of Web usability. For a weblog, users must be able to anticipate when and how often updates will occur... If you usually post daily but sometimes let months go by without new content, you'll lose many of your loyal — and thus most valuable — readers. Certainly, you shouldn't post when you have nothing to say. Polluting cyberspace with excess information is a sin. To ensure regular publishing, hold back some ideas and post them when you hit a dry spell.


Hear that? That is the sound of me polluting cyberspace. I guess Al Gore will show up any moment and reprimand me. He invented the Internet you know.


8. Mixing Topics
If you publish on many different topics, you're less likely to attract a loyal audience of high-value users. Busy people might visit a blog to read an entry about a topic that interests them. They're unlikely to return, however, if their target topic appears only sporadically among a massive range of postings on other topics. The only people who read everything are those with too much time on their hands (a low-value demographic).


Ok by now I'm considering throwing the towel in on this whole blog thing. I guess my blog is best suited for lazy people who have to much time on their hands. However I like being able to write about gadgets one day and then my obsession with Maine or going fishing with my dad the next. I hate rule 8.

9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
Whenever you post anything to the Internet — whether on a weblog, in a discussion group, or even in an email — think about how it will look to a hiring manager in ten years...Years from now, someone might consider hiring you for a plum job and take the precaution of 'nooping you first...What will they find in terms of naïvely puerile "analysis" or offendingly nasty flames published under your name? Think twice before posting. If you don't want your future boss to read it, don't post.


I don't know what a plum job is, but it doesn't sound like anything I'd be interesting in doing as a career. I don't even like plums, they make my stomach ache. However I am careful about what I write for the reason listed in rule 9. It would be great for me if I could have a career in writing. (It would probably help if I used proper punctuation and grammar when I post. I still need to work on that.) So if you ever wonder why posts or comments disappear mysteriously there's your reason, I'm just looking out for myself.


10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
Having a weblog address ending in blogspot.com, typepad.com, etc. will soon be the equivalent of having an @aol.com email address or a Geocities website: the mark of a naïve beginner who shouldn't be taken too seriously.


Now remember that these rules are not for those who blog to let their friends and family know what they had for lunch or did on the weekend. I used Blogspot for a while before I started blogging here. It was good practice for me in the blog world.


Plenty of good information in this article. I probably won't follow these rules as closely as I should, but perhaps one day I'll be writing professionally in spite of my blurry photo, haphazard posting and cyber pollution.

To read the entire article written by Nielsen click here. To hire me for a non-plum job click on my contact link.