As a web consultant and educator, I’m often hired to review and critique a lot of websites and blogs, making recommendations on what works and doesn’t work, then working together to make it work better.
I recently ran across a website-that-wanted-to-become-a-blog hosted on a very limited web host published with HTML styles long abandoned in 1999. The web pages were written and “published” in Word, FrontPage, Microsoft Publisher, and other old WYSIWYG-but-not-really early web publishing programs, but not consistently. It was as if the site owner or administrator kept changing programs over the life of the site without ever stopping to consider that the site would work better if it met web standards established in 1999 rather than perpetuating the old.
As you can imagine, I had a lot to say about the old, over-coded, error-filled, and table structured site.
Over the years, I’ve heard myself repeating the same points over and over again with clients who didn’t want to learn about web publishing but went ahead anyway, using whatever tool they ran across – and are still using when there are better and more flexible programs around. Now that they want to move into WordPress, they are trapped by their own lack of foresight, ability and knowledge, but also the changing times of technology.
Over the next week or so, I’ll be covering some of the redundant points I make with these clients on improving their blog, as well as some tips and insights into web and blog design. I believe that if people listen, web reviewers and consultants might be able to stop being redundant on these points. Or at least have something they can point to and say “I told you so.”
My first point is on clarity.
Clarity of purpose, intent, and point. This is what is missing from many sites and blogs. The moment the visitor arrives from a search engine or another site, they must know in an instant what this blog is about.
In other words, it must look like it has the answers to their questions.
Have you arrived from a search engine or link to a site with an expectation, only to find that you can’t figure out what the site is about? Your eye scans the page, every word, every graphic, and you still are unclear about what’s going on here?
Do you really know if visitors to your blog arrive with the same expectation, only to feel the same way?
What is this blog about? Who is blogging? Why are they blogging? Why are they blogging about this subject? How good is this information? How reliable? Can I trust it or them? Do they have what I need? How would I know? All leading to “What am I doing here?”
Here’s a quick checklist for developing your blog’s clarity:
- Blog title defines content.
- Post titles define content in posts and represent the entire blog’s purpose.
- The content supports the blog title, post title, categories, tags, and headings.
- Every link, category, tag, navigation, blogroll, or otherwise, on the blog explains what it is at a glance.
- Every link, title, navigation element, blogroll, category, tag, post content, etc., clearly reflects the blog content.
- All graphics are useful and immediately recognizable subjects, and add to the content’s purpose. (Not pretty for pretty’s sake or some myth that says you have to have a picture because pictures attract attention.)
- All advertising complements the content and purpose without distraction.
- Colors are easy on the eye and complement the content and purpose.
- Nothing distracts or detracts from the content.
When everything on your blog supports its intent and purpose clearly, visitors say to themselves, “This must be the place.”
And if you don’t know what you are blogging about, then how can anyone else know.