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January 26, 2009

Launching a Blog in 24 Hours: Lessons Learnt

24HBCMy absence from the Blog Herald in the end of last week was due to me participating in a very cool event called 24 Hour Business Camp here in Sweden. Some 90 web entrepreneurs, split over 52 teams, gathered to create a web project each in 24 hours time.

Naturally, I went with launching a blog. I chose WordPress as my blog platform, although any other hosted one would do as well, of course. However, since I consider myself a WordPress expert, and given the immediate time crunch, I went with what I knew.

Now, 24 hours is a lot of time if all you want to do is to install a blog, setup permalinks, and slap on an existing theme. A decent theme is easy enough to customize, and then you’re basically ready to go. I didn’t do that, I built an add-on theme (or child theme, as they are also called) for my Notes Blog Core theme. That is something in-between, because the core is there, but not the defining elements. read more

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December 9, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: Friends Don’t Let Friends Use Ugly Blog Themes

In honor of my ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, I’d like to celebrate with a Twitter quote from NctrnlBst of Baker’s Hours:

@lorelleonwp where would I be without you? Friends don’t let friends use ugly blog themes. ? LOL

@lorelleonwp I believe the exact words were “coyote butt ugly” lol

Twitter comment from Nctrlbst on friends don't let friends use ugly themes

Just as friends don’t let friends drive drunk, do you have the courage to not let your friends host an ugly blog theme?

In this season of thankfulness, forgiveness, and festival honesty, why not tell your friends their blog designs suck? read more

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September 29, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: Out-of-Control Blogrolls

Save us from the out-of-control blogrolls, lists of links that run on and on and on and on and on and on and on…listing everyone who ever started a blog on the whole planet – well, it feels like it.

Your blogroll links are important in the minds of Google, and they can add or subtract points in your PageRank scores. You better take your blogroll links seriously, ensuring you are linking to blogs that will complement yours as well as complement theirs.

As part of this ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, let’s take a look at how we are abusing and misusing our blog’s blogrolls. read more

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September 9, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: Your Ad Here

Is your blog filled with “Your Ad Here” titles with empty space all around it? Honestly, WTF?

As part of our ongoing WTF Blog Design Clutter article series, let’s look at people’s attempt to inspire advertisers on their blog, and where it falls down as a design element.

The empty ad space that sits there with the note “Your Ad Here” isn’t very inviting. In fact, it’s just wasted space. If there are no ads there, then there is a lot of wasted space in your blog’s sidebar. read more

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September 8, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: The Death of the CAPTCHA

Many say, “It’s about time.” Others are saying, “We told you.” Either way, it’s as official as it gets. Bye-bye WTF blog cluttering CAPTCHAs. According to the Guardian in “How Captcha was foiled: Are you a man or a mouse?”, the CAPTCHA has been proven to not work.

While most of this ongoing series on WTF Blog Clutter has been focused on the blog sidebar and design elements, a big clutter element is the continued use of the CAPTCHA with comments with the misguided belief that it would stop comment spammers. NOT.

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, created to ensure that humans can read the letters and numbers in a way that computers can’t, so automated scripts and bots can’t leave a comment on your blog. Pass the test and you’ve earned the right to comment. Except that the CAPTCHA techniques have been broken and bypassed easily by computers for years. read more

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August 30, 2008

When’s the right time to use a Magazine-style blog theme?

Filed as Features with 6 comments

Magazine style blog themes seem to be all the rage right now – with sites like TechCrunch moving to more of a magazine/newspaper style approach for their main blog pages.

Even Chris Pearson has a new magazine style theme coming out soon to complement his successful Thesis Theme.

So when is the right time to use a Magazine style blog theme?

Smashing Magazine took a look earlier this week and offered some advice along with some key descriptors of what makes up a Magazine-style theme: read more

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August 29, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: Are You Ignoring Your Uncategorized Category?

The WTF Blog Design Clutter continues with a look at your uncategorized category. Have you been ignoring it lately?

Most blogs start life with a single category as an example called “Uncategorized”. I don’t know why or who started it, but it’s a dumb category name, especially if users don’t know they can change it from the start. It could be called General, Topics, Articles, Stories, or a lot of other non-specific labels. Unfortunately, it is Uncategorized and we’re stuck with it.

With more and more people covering their categories and tags into heat maps or clouds, they often choose the design look emphasizes your most popular categories or tags in the largest, most bold font. For many, the word most emphasized in these category clouds is Uncategorized. read more

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August 26, 2008

FriendFeed previews beta version of new design

Filed as Features with no comments

FriendFeed, the highly popular social discussion site used by many (including me!), is previewing a beta version of their new site design over at the FriendFeed blog.

The design will feature several new features, such as Friend Lists:

Friend lists enable you to organize your friends into groups. With friend lists, you can get updates from your family separately from your coworkers, or you can add an acquaintance to a list and remove them from your home feed.

Another new feature is seeing a feed of your friend along with all of their subscriptions:

You can now see a feed of a person and all of their subscriptions. This new feature is a great way to show your uninitiated friends what your FriendFeed experience is like, and it is a great way to find interesting people you haven’t subscribed to yet.

All of the new beta features, layout, and design can be seen at beta.friendfeed.com.

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August 15, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: What to Call Your Feeds and Ads

In Unrelated Ads Angst and Feed Clutter, part of the WTF Blog Design Clutter series, I talked about how to name the ad and feed sections on your blog so your readers and visitors aren’t confused with jargon or misleading representation.

Many of you asked me what title or label should be used to lure your visitors into clicking on your ads and subscribing to your feeds without driving them away or confusing them. Let’s brainstorm some possibilities.

Naming Ad Sections on Your Blog

If you use a misleading title for your advertising or “sponsored” section, you can really upset your readers and visitors when they click through to an ad. That’s a sure way to lose visitors. You need to warn them, but you also need to entice them to click, if your blog is serious about making money.

Like most online advertisers, Adsense is very clear about what you can and cannot do with their ads, including the use of deceptive titles that infer the ads are not ads. You need an honest, transparent, yet motivating title for your ads.

“Visit Our Sponsors” is simple and generic, as is “Our Commercial Recommendations.” You can be blatant with “Advertisements” or “Ad sponsors” as long as that still complies with the terms of service for the advertiser.

What about something more appropriate to your blog’s topic?

If your blog is about cars, why not title them, “Drive Some Business to Our Sponsors.” If your blog is about cats, what about “Our Sponsors are the Cat’s Meow” or “Here Kitty Kitty! Shop Here!”

Contextual ad services require keywords near their ads and on the page, so why not add more by being clever, not deceptive. You cannot imply the links in the ads are publisher-created content, but you can say they are ads or sponsors with some imagination.

You can also color the background or the area around the ads to set them apart but also integrated into the blog’s design to draw the eye towards them without distracting from the content. There are many ways of highlighting your ads without words that helps the visitor recognize them. Research the guidelines the advertiser provides, as some do not allow graphics or design emphasis, and check their top revenue earners to see what they are doing.

Naming Feed Subscriptions on Your Blog

As featured in the article on feed clutter, I cited an article by Copyblogger about changing the title of your feed subscriptions from “Subscribe” to anything else could improve your blog’s subscription rate and help clean up the WTF confusion that term represents. If “subscription” implies payment, then what terms do you use to promote your blog feed?

The answer depends upon your reader’s familiarity with feeds. If they are familiar with feeds and feed readers, then all you need is the feed icon.

If they aren’t, what words can you use to get readers to sign up for your blog feed?

You can use phrases that link to your blog’s feed, or to a Page with a listing of your various feed options. Here are some phrases to consider:

  • Keep up with my blog!
  • Add this blog to your feed reader.
  • Want to know how to keep up with my blog?
  • Track this blog.
  • Follow this blog.
  • Follow me.
  • Frequent Reports and Updates
  • Follow me where I lead…
  • Stay up-to-date

Again, be clever with the phrasing and match it to your blog’s purpose:

  • Cat blog: Track this cat
  • Auto blog: Take a trip with us!
  • Nature/Outdoor blog: Take our hike!
  • Travel blog: Track Our Travels
  • Sailing blog: Chart Our Course With Us
  • Medical/Health blog: Want a daily dose of My Blog?

Use the feed icon to add some visual hint and have fun with the all the possibilities. Got more suggestions?

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August 12, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: Video and Pictures

As part of the ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, it’s time to tackle all those videos and pictures you want to share with the world through your blog.

There are two ways of sharing video and pictures with your blog readers and friends. Only one influences your blog’s design.

Example of appropriate use of videos in a blog\'s sidebar, reflecting the blog\'s purpose.

Example of appropriate use of videos in a blog's sidebar, reflecting the blog's purpose.

Typically, pictures and videos are shared through your blog posts as part of your blog’s content. Many bloggers want to share videos and pictures through their blog’s design, typically in the blog’s ever crowded sidebar. Some even want to go so far as forcing videos to start the moment someone lands on the page with the video, a serious no-no on the web. Let the reader choose to initiate the video.
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