What Should You Remove Or Add On Your Blog?
Everton Blair of Connected Internet asked an important question of his readers:
What features would you like me to add or remove from this blog?
When was the last time you asked for such input from your readers?
In an article about listening to your readers, I mentioned the huge risk BCC News’ Newssnight took asking readers for input on their web design.
Hundreds of people responded. Some of them were very tough…and informative. What surprised me the most from among the volume of comments was the very high level of technical web design savvy…Overall, there was little discussion about the site’s content or how pretty the design looked, or how much they liked the colors. It was totally about “get me what I want with the least amount of effort on my part, do it right, and get it to me now”.
It’s risky to ask our readers for input. We might get some. Still, it’s important to step back and get a new perspective of our blogs by those who use our blogs.
When we first designed and developed our blogs, we were eager for all the fun goodies and gadgets we could add to it. It was just too much fun to see things dance, whirl, and click, and a lot of fun to experiment with the code, making our blogs do what we wanted. Even though what we wanted and common sense didn’t often match. It was just too much fun!
We thought of ourselves having the fun rather than our readers enjoying what we’ve done.
Then we transition to the next stage of your blogging life to realize that our reader’s point of view is more important than our desire to play with gimmicks. You realize you’ve been cluttering up their view with your toys and something has to go.
How important is it to add icons next to a commenter’s name that tells they that you know they arrived on your site using Firefox web browser, they live in England, and are using Windows. Excuse me, but they know all that. Why clutter up your blog with information the reader already knows? Besides, it’s kind of scary. You want participation on your blog, not people starting to wonder what else you might know about them that they might not want you to know.
How important is it that you have a 40 meter long blogroll? How many people even click on blogroll links any more? Are these folks really your recommendations or everyone and anyone who ever linked to your blog?
How important is it that the front page of your blog must be overloaded with ads when the real ad traffic is on individual posts where people arrive when they search for your information and content?
How important is it that they find what else you’ve written about this and other subjects? How important is it that they stay on your blog or be sent off somewhere else?
Think about how your readers view your blog and tell us what you think needs to be removed, or added, on your blog.
What Blog Design Elements Must Stay on Your Blog?
I think the most important question should be:
What are the most important elements on your blog?
Once you know what must be there in order to help the reader read, help the reader click, and keep them reading your blog, then the rest is fluff and clutter, right?
So, help me answer the question. What are the most important elements on your blog? What do you think needs to be removed or added to your blog to make it a “better” experience for your readers?
Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on Lorelle on WordPress, and is a long time support volunteer for WordPress. Lorelle travels too much and reports about life on the road in Taking Your Camera on the Road and covers family history and genealogy on Lorelle’s Family History, teaches and presents workshops and programs, and writes for many blogs, ezines, and magazines.
The author of Lorelle on WordPress and the fast-selling book, Blogging Tips: What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging, as well as several other blogs, Lorelle VanFossen has been blogging for over 15 years, covering blogging, WordPress, travel, nature and travel photography, web design, web theory and development extensively as web technologies developed.
I was writing about something similar a few days ago (or at least, the conclusions are similar). The answer is almost always “thoughtful reduction”… reduce the cognitive load on users. Having 101 different ways to navigate your site isn’t that useful.
I’ve recently hit the “what’s most important” phase of blogging and have found the toughest part to be scaling it back to the bare essentials. Blogs should be pretty, but not ornate. They should be informative, but not verbose. They should offer information without overload. (Not always the easiest rope to walk for me, personally.)
I’ve recently redecorated my own blog utilizing the “less is more” mentality and will continue to tweak that. But, I agree that early on, adding the cool gadgets for ourselves was much more “weighty” than considering what was most important to our readers. As we mature as bloggers, so do our blogs (with only occasional tumbles back into the playground mentality — if we are both vigilant and lucky).
As a designer, the most common problem I see with blog designs is clutter. Too much stuff, too many gadgets, too many blogrolls. The other day I was asked to look at a site that was no longer loading properly. It had 43 images and was running 23 scripts. A lot of sites appear to be working towards this goal.
I also recently asked my readers about my blog’s usability and received great feedback about which elements should be removed, changed or tweaked a little bit. The poll was very helpful in terms of guiding me when people didn’t leave a comment.
Overall, I think it is very important to ask the readers of a blog because they are the ones who are using it. Yes, you might like it your way but I think “customers are always right” applies here as well.