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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 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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August 11, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: Where Are You?

We talked about whether or not to show the weather on your blog. Now, it’s time to talk maps in our ongong series on WTF Blog Design Clutter.

Maps have come a long with with the advancements of Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps, especially with the integration of satellite maps and introduction of Google Earth where you can actually see where you are going or want to go. Or where you live. Online maps make the world closer and smaller, and they can make your blog more personal.

Is it important to have a map of where you live or work or play on your blog?
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August 9, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter: How’s the Weather on Your Blog?

Let’s talk weather with our ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter.

Honestly, do you need a weather report on your blog?

Before you answer, ask yourself if it important to someone who lives 3,000 miles away that it’s a pleasantly cloudy day in your neck of the planet? Does it help them understand what you blog about or why?

If you are blogging the weather, then temperatures, humidity, and general weather status reports are appropriate and helpful. If you are a financial adviser, you better display the weather report for the stock markets you cover as that can impact commodities, and skip the rainy forecast in Montana where you call home. read more

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August 7, 2008

WTF Blog Clutter Design: How Many Feed Icons Do You Need?

A question came up during this WTF Blog Design Clutter series asking how many feed icons to we need on our blogs. We looked at feed clutter on your blog but how many is too many and which ones do you need?

How many do you think you need?

The two most popular feed types are RSS and Atom. That’s it. How many feed icons do you have on your blog? Hmm?

These are the types of feed, the code that generates the feeds based upon XML formats. From here, there are different types of content that can go into the feed, various off-site alternatives for handling your feeds (called feed subscription services), and many colorful, cluttering feed icons that promote all the different feed readers. read more

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August 5, 2008

WTF Blog Design Clutter: Incoming Feed Clutter

Yesterday, we looked at the clutter that can be found on many blogs for visually displaying outgoing feed information. Today, let’s explore the clutter of incoming feeds as part of the WTF Blog Design Clutter series.

With the ease of adding incoming feeds to your blog through widgets, bloggers are stuffing their sidebars with incoming feeds. Incoming feeds have become the next generation blogroll. Like the long blogroll lists, these incoming feeds can quickly get out of control.

At first, this made sense. If you want to recommend specific blogs and content, then having a feed or feed aggregator in your blog’s sidebar acted like a scrolling ticker blogroll in a way, giving your readers more options to explore. Unfortunately, many bloggers found too many visitors were finding the help they needed on those incoming feed links, clicking away instead of digging in deeper to their own blogs.
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July 29, 2008

WTF Blog Design Elements: Twitter, Tumbler, and Microblog Babble

As we explore our blogs and clean out the clutter in this ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, we’ve looked at the pros and cons of blog clutter with too many “friend” pictures and badges, calendar archives, and most recent comments and shout boxes. Remember that clutter is in the eye of the beholder – the visiting user – not necessarily the blogger. What we see when we visit and use our blogs is not necessarily what the visitor and return reader see or experience. We need to explore our blog’s design through their eyes to help them use and read our blogs.

The usability factor in web design is critical. We often add design elements (widgets and gadgets specifically) to our blog for fun or novelty. We’re flush with the excitement of the latest and hottest whizzbang goodie and we want to share the fun on our blogs. If your blog is getting cluttered with a lot of WordPress Plugins, Widgets, Gadgets, Scripts, and whizzbangs, maybe it’s time to analyze these design elements to find out which ones are most important to your blog and its users – and which one are just clutter.

Today, I want to explore the pros and cons of microblog clutter on your blogs. Are you microblogging?
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July 24, 2008

Blog Design: WTF Is That Doing There?

Remember the old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression? You personally may get a second chance to sway that first impress, but your blog doesn’t. If you don’t grab them within the first micro-seconds of a visit, they won’t subscribe and they won’t be back.

Digging through a lot of blogs recently to research an upcoming article, I found myself thinking “WTF” as I looked at the designs. I was constantly distracted from the content I was eager to read through and quote towards things that blinked, flashed, or listed irrelevant stuff. My eyes had to work overtime to stay focused on the information I was there to glean.
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July 22, 2008

Are Blog Archives Working for Your Blog?

Your blog archives are the list of months some bloggers keep in their sidebar that link to monthly chronological collections of their blog posts. In the early days, a site with such a monthly listing in their sidebar meant this was a personal blog. Without it, it was a website or professional site.

Are you still displaying your blog post archives? What benefit do bloggers get when the offer a long series of months and years in the sidebar of their blog? Do visitors and readers really use them? Do you?

With all the worry about duplicate content and Google’s PageRank, if your blog is generated similar or duplicate content within the categories and tags, then why do you need to clog their databases with archives?

Have you ever found archives in a search result? I do all the time. I click though hoping to find the answer to my question and find nothing. That information might have been on page 4 of that month’s archive of posts, but now, the natural chronological push from the present to the past of the blog structure may have pushed the information I need onto page 6.

How would I know? read more

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