June 8, 2013

Blogging sins: flaws a blogger must avoid

We have been publishing posts about what bloggers should avoid in different compartments of blogging. We list below the blemishes we found in many blogs during the compilation of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs and otherwise. As the list was becoming quite long, we broke it into two parts. The first part is here and the next one is more on blogging sins..
These posts have been updated in December 2015, with new research and survey inputs. We have also added links to help visitors with additional information.

A. How people spoil their blog's look and feel

  •  Not caring for blog design at all.
If you write well, you are a good writer and thinker. But if you ignore all other aspects of blogging, you are NOT a good blogger.
  • Plain design without even archives and bio.
Wearing plain clothes is OK, but wearing nothing is too much, isn't it? Google says, when you do not give away your identity, it reduces your site's web reputation.
  •  Only one post or photo on the home page and almost nothing else.
It makes the blog look clean, but deprives the visitor of other resources of the blog. He should now look for links that would take him to older posts, etc Navigation is one important aspect of any website design.
  • Too big image in the top portion of the blog.
It is like hiding the entry gate of your house under a huge billboard. However good the board is, will you like visitors to crawl under it for entering your house? Showcase your best resources in the top 10 inches ("above the fold" part) of the blog.
  • Collage of photos as top image.
It often leads to your blog starting with clutter. A bad first impression. If you want to make a collage, use a good photo-editing tool suited for blogging.
  • Too much clutter due to numerous small and oddly-colored elements in the body of the blog.
Colorfulness is OK, but people should not be lost in the mêlée. A bigger 'no' in blogs dealing with serious subjects.
  • Sidebars hanging much beyond the main column, mostly due to a series of badges or a long label list or an unending blogroll.
Does it make sense to unbalance the design for the sake of lists that are only supplementary to the main content of the blog?
  • Dynamic views on Blogger platform: keeping an unsuitable view as default.
All views do not suit all types of content. Check what suits you; in case of doubt, go for the standard design.
  • Popups and songs playing automatically.
Unless you want to irritate the visitor, don’t indulge in these gimmicks. A popup or self-playing song is suitable only in very rare cases If you insist on having a popup, delay its arrival
  • Blogs in portal, magazine or website format.
Well, blogs often grow into portals and mags. But they should not lose interactivity and diary type arrangement of posts. If a portal subsumes a blog, let there be a menu item ‘blog’ and a click on it should open the blog, rather than everything getting mixed up in one giant platform.

Having a blog designed like a normal static website has its problems as given in this post.
  • Wrong sized photos and widgets.
Different sized photos and elements too much broader or narrower than column width irritate, and they show you are sloppy.
  • Fixed width of columns rather than in percentage terms; not responsive design. 
This is slightly technical. Choose a design in which column widths are in percentage terms. Otherwise, when a visitor has a small monitor, if he reduces the window size, or when he browses on a smart phone, only a few columns will be displayed. If he has a wide monitor, the site will leave space on its sides.

When a blog or website automatically fits into the small screen of hand-held devices, its design is called 'responsive design'. Websites not designed with this flexibility make browsing difficult.
  • Too many badges.
Each badge must prove its worth or it should go out. Even if you must have a number of badges, there are more sensible ways of keeping them than cluttering the page. Why badges, any widget (Blogger calls them Gadgets) that does not suit the context is not welcome. More on effective use of widgets here.


B. How bloggers end up making blogging a one-way affair

  • Disabling commenting on posts; no way to contact except through social networking links such as Facebook.
What does one do if the visitor has a query to make privately? No email ID or contact form on the blog makes him feel the blogger is not interested in his suggestions, feedback or a business proposal. You are also denying the visitor the facility to comment on your post right where it is located. Does it make sense for the visitor to read your post here and go to your Google+ account to comment?

Commenting on blogs, however, is on decline. If you are a big blogger, you can think of stopping comment facility on the blog or restricting it but not when you have just started a blog or need a community who will regularly visit your blog.

If you have no commenting facility and no social networking links either, you are too big for a blog; you should open a Twitter account so that your fans follow you. 
  • Writing email ID as: kpnd[dot]2008[at]gmail[dot]com.
What do you achieve by doing so other than making life difficult for a guy to say hello? If you thought it will kill spam, do look for better ways.
  • Insisting on too many entries or clicks before one can comment; a form with many text boxes / captcha / need to login / comment moderation.
Only one or two of these should suffice. More than that is rude. 

Like to visit this post on putting captcha on the comment box or not?
  • Keeping comment placing away from other interactivity buttons such as for G+ and Facebook. For example, keeping commenting link under post heading but other such links in the footer.
It is a bad idea to offer tea to the visitor at the dining table and keep snacks on a different table. No?  
  • Taking profile / 'about me' link to Google+ and not giving any details in 'about' link even there.
It is worse than not telling anything at all about yourself or the blog.

You can visit the next post in this series here: more on blogging sins