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Blog Tips No.755

About two weeks after the beginning of the Technorati link campaign, through which I got to know many other blogs (and got a few more visitors myself), I wanted to write together a few thinks that came to my mind about blogging and blog design. I don’t claim that these are absolutely new (hence the not really serious no. 755 in the title), since there are other (and often better, more extensive ;) ) articles with blog tips elsewhere – e.g. at Daily Blog Tips, Lorelle on WordPress (both Englisch), BlogForMoney.de, Software Guide, Perun (all German), to name but a few.

It’s just about my opinions(!) and experiences with things that I came across while working on my own blog and on my journey through the world of blogs (where I don’t want to insult anybody even remotely – I don’t tell any names, anyway…).

:pfeif:

Content overview:

  1. Clean up the sidebar(s)
  2. Readability
  3. Test different browsers
  4. Test without JavaScript
  5. Link colors
  6. Don’t mix languages
  7. Don’t carry it to far

1. Clean up the sidebar(s)

(Sidebars are the link/navigation bars to the left and/or right of the main content.)

Topic Categories

I’d suggest to use either just a few of these – about max. 10 –, especially if the blog concentrates on few topics; or, if you want to cover a whole lot of things, don’t show a huge unstructured list of 25 or 30 categories, but instead make it a little more compact and differentiate by importance (number of posts), like I do with my category cloud, or organize it with sub-categories.

You can of course also combine few categories with many tags, and display the tags as cloud – but not necessarily 100 and more tiny tags with a dozen big ones; you should leave out the rarest at least in the sidebar and link to a more extensive tag cloud.

Monthly Archive and Calendar

I think only very few visitors are interested in long lists like “May 2005, June 2005, … August 2007″, because they don’t care when the interesting posts have been written when they’re browsing your blog to find more interesting stuff. A dropdown list, as also described at WordPress.org, is certainly a more elegant solution. (With a few changes, it can even be used without JavaScript – who can’t wait until I describe that more detailed in the future may ask me now…)

A calender that shows the days of an entire month is really useful for blogs that have some relevance to certain dates, e.g. blogs about shows, clubs, etc. – for others, I think you should rethink if it’s really necessary or if you better use the space for something else.

2. Readability

Don’t use tiny font sizes (except for tag clouds; and especially not in images) where you need a magnifying glass to recognize the text – or enlarge the font size in the browser, which, in the extreme case, destroys the page layout, and it’s one step more that you force on your visitors, what may keep them from further browsing through your blog.

Don’t use color combinations such as dark grey on black – a little contrast is not bad for reading, and very few blogs are “underground blogs” where something like this may be considered “kewl”…

(However, I noticed only very few such cases during my journey through the worldwide blogosphere.)

3. Test different browsers

At least the most common: IE6/7, Firefox, Opera; maybe Safari (also available for Windows). Because they don’t agree on how to display certain things, and that can cause major differences in position, font size etc.

I once had the case with a forgotten </h2> tag in the sidebar which didn’t hurt in Firefox und Opera , because they implicitly closed the <h2> at the end of the surrounding section (<div>), but not IE, which caused a gigantic footer. (An experience which later helped me help the Bad Astronomer with a similar problem with non-wrapped links that protruded at the right hand side or were cut off.)

4. Test without JavaScript

Not least thanks to the Firefox extension NoScript, which allows to disable/enable JavaScript (and Flash etc.) on a site-by-site basis – defaulting to disabled –, which isn’t too unpopular as protection from some evil things and annoying web site elemets, there will be visitors without JavaScript.

Now I don’t demand – no, I’m not demanding anything here, so: Now I don’t day that everything down to the least nice dynamic featire on a web page must work without JavaScript – but the basic functionaliy should. On my journey through blogistan, I hardly encountered actual problems (which of course you can only know if you test it) – there are rather some “normal” web sites where the main content is covered, torn apart or invisible without JavaScript –, a little note with <noscript> on affected elements can’t be wrong, though. If, for instance, I don’t see any comment input field, I’m glad if I see a “please enable JavaScript for comments” in sufficiently visible design.

5. Link colors

To offer the visitors a better overview, it can’t hurt to give already visited links (a:visited) a different color (e.g. violet instead of blue) so they can easier recognize what they have already read and what not.

6. Don’t mix languages

Okay, that’s rather a minor point – a German blog that has English navigation elements such as “previous entries” or “comments” (such as from the WordPress default installation) loses a little attractiveness at most only for visitors journeying through blogtopia that don’t speak English, which in most cases will be irrelevant for your target audience. (I, however, must think about my parents here.)

(With my completely switchable blog, I’m probably rather an outsider, anyway.)

7. Don’t carry it too far

Neither with sparsity and lack of detail in the design, not with abundance of links, widgets, images, buttons, smilies etc.

And not with the “irresistible urge” that you must write posts even if you currently have no special idea, nor with refraining from posting because you have no “perfect” idea for a longer period of time. Of course that depends on the type of your blog, diary-like ones have (and shall have) a higher number of posts and more varying posts in the first play, anyway, than strictly topic-related ones.


:bye: Well, that’s it for now. Maybe it helped someone a little… if you happen to have questions: go ahead, ask! (A list of the plugins I’m using will follow soon..)

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the tips, I found the last one especially important as I see many blogers that posts sometimes just for the sake of posting, saying almost nothing.

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