June 28, 2017

Why it is a good idea to open links in a new tab, and how to do it on the blog/ website

Opening links on a new tab is now a normal browser behavior.


When you place a link on your website or blog, it can either open on the same tab, thus replacing the open page, or it opens in a new tab. 

When tabs first appeared on web browsers, they were lapped up by people though they looked annoying to some. And when tabs had become a norm on desktops, came mobile browsing in a big way. Initial mobile phone browsers did present a problem when a link opened in a new tab. 

Some diehard fans of 'single window, single tab' user experience still don't like links opening in a new tab but majority find it a better option.

The older lot also argue that tabs are being abused by many advertisers and therefore should not be there. You by chance hover the cursor over an ad or a text link and it quickly opens the ad in a different tab; not only that, the ad tab opens on top of the genuine tab. But such obtrusive ads can come in many other ways; only because some are misusing it should not make us shun it.

The main reasons why I recommend that links should open in new tabs are:
  • The reader can keep reading the original article and would visit the link (which is staying quietly in a new tab) later. There is no distraction in reading the original or the linked article. 
  • Many readers do not come back when the new page replaces the original one. This diversion leads to visitors leaving the site/ blog, thus hurting SEO and monetization.
  • Readers who get a new page on top of the original page (in the same tab) often get confused, as they have not yet finished the original article. Moreover, if the visitor clicked a link on the first page, and then clicked a link on the new page and then clicked a link on the third page, he would not be able to read any article the way it is written.
  • Though it is always an option to come back to the original page by pressing the 'back' button on the browser, that generally takes one to the beginning of the article and not the place up to where one had read the article before clicking the link. 

Let's see how tabs affect browsing on mobile phones. While doing research for this article I installed and checked all available browsers on mobile phones. I found that most browsers have tabbed or single pane browsing as two options available in 'settings'. All new browsers have a small corner where the number of hidden tabs is shown. Now most sites and blogs are mobile friendly; that further removes the pain that used to be when the mobile window used to be cluttered and any other tab would make the things even more confusing. 


How to make links open in new tabs


Opening of a link in a new tab is a standard HTML attribute to the LINK tag. If you don't know ABC of linking and are curious about what it means, let me explain:

All pages/ posts that we make on a website/ blog are written in the standard web language called HTML. When you want a particular word or picture to link to another web page, you insert the following in the HTML code of that page:

<a href "linked page URL" >text which becomes linked</a> 
[The text written in blue has to be replaced with actual expressions.]

Now, you want this link to open in a new window. You only have to add target="_blank" within the HTML tag. 

Let me give you an example of a link that opens in a new tab:


I opened the HTML of this post on blog editing window of my platform (i.e. Blogger) and at the present location pasted the the following expression:

<a href "http://indiantopblogs.com" target="_blank">India's Best Blogs in one place</a> 

What it has done is that it has written the words India's... and linked them to IndianTopBlogs website. When a visitor clicks on it, it opens the ITB website in a new tab on his browser.  

Blogger and Wordpress give this option of opening link in a new tab when in the post editor or page editor, you provide hyperlink to a word/ phrase. If your blogging platform or site builder software does not have this option, just add target="_blank" and there you are! You can use this anywhere where you give a hyperlink using HTML tag <a></a> .


HTML for blogging

For those interested in more details:

The target attribute can also be used with images and area (as part of image maps).

In case of images, target is part of <a> tag itself. <img...> has to be placed within <a> and </a> to make it hyperlinked, like this:
<a... target="_blank".. >
<img...>
</a>

If you want to make parts of an image hyperlinked, the target attribute is to be within <area> as follows:
<img...>
<map>
<area 1... href...target="_blank"...>
<area 2...... target="_blank"...>
</map>

June 25, 2017

Are all Indian blogs impacted by new GST taxation law? Questions answered



Indian blogs and GST

Brief points about Goods and Services Tax and why this post


India has ushered in a massive indirect tax reform by introducing GST in place of a number of indirect taxes that were being levied till now. It is applicable throughout India. The erstwhile sales tax, service tax, excise duty, etc all are subsumed in it.

There is clarity about GST applicability and rates when people and firms do traditional businesses. Blogging is mostly a very desegregated, individualized activity in which the blogger sells its blog space for selling his own or others' goods directly or through advertisements or other arrangements. The income streams are often varied and small, except for established bloggers who earn millions through blogging. There is a lot of confusion on many aspects of applicability of GST to blogging. Let's clear some cobwebs.


How is blogging in India impacted by GST?


Blogging is a service that the blogger provides. Under GST, being a service, it needs to be registered and taxed according to the applicable provisions.

There is no doubt that blogging comes under GST. The income coming from advertisements, affiliation, sale of e-book/ software etc through the blog - all come under GST. However, like other services, it gets exemptions under limits or activities specified in the Act or rules.


Provisions in GST relating to blogging


The following specific provisions of CGST/ IGST seem to relate to blogging: 

Section 24
The  following categories  of  persons  shall  be  required  to  be  registered under this Act:
xi) every  person  supplying  online  information  and  database  retrieval  services  from  a  place  outside  India  to a  person  in  India,  other  than  a  registered  person [etc]

Explanations (in different sections)
14. (1) On supply of online information and database access or retrieval services by any person located in a non-taxable territory and received by a non-taxable online recipient, the supplier of services located in a non-taxable territory shall be the person liable for
paying integrated tax on such supply of services:
Provided that in the case of supply of online information and database access or retrieval services by any person located in a non-taxable territory and received by a non-taxable online recipient, an intermediary located in the non-taxable territory, who arranges or facilitates the supply of such services, shall be deemed to be the recipient of such services
from the supplier of services in non-taxable territory and supplying such services to the non-taxable  online  recipient  except  when  such  intermediary  satisfies  [etc]

(16) “non-taxable online recipient” means any Government, local authority, governmental authority, an individual or any other person not registered and receiving online information and database access or retrieval services in relation to any purpose other than commerce, industry or any other business or profession, located in taxable territory. 

(17) “online information and database access or retrieval services” means services whose delivery is mediated by information technology over the internet or an  electronic  network  and  the  nature  of  which  renders  their  supply  essentially automated and involving minimal human intervention and impossible to ensure in the absence of information technology and includes electronic services such as,––
(i)   advertising on the internet;
(ii)  providing cloud services;
(iii) provision of e-books, movie, music, software and other intangibles through telecommunication networks or internet;
(iv) providing data or information, retrievable or otherwise, to any person in electronic form through a computer network;
(v) online supplies of digital content (movies, television shows, music and the like);
(vi)  digital data storage; and
(vii) online gaming;

16. (1) “zero rated supply” means any of the following supplies of goods or services
or both, namely:––
(a) export of goods or services or both; [etc]

This article in Economic Times tried to explain the matter, followed by similar others. What has happened is that instead of clarifying the doubts in the mind of blogger, these have made the matter even more confusing. 

This series of articles have said that
(i) if a blogger earns more than Rs 20 lakh (=2 million), he needs to register for GSTIN and pay GST [implying that those earning less need not pay GST];
(ii) the tax rate would be 18%; and
(iii) there would be no compensation (refund of tax credit etc).

The topic has been better discussed in a number of taxation websites and forums. We have contacted some CAs and also raised queries on some online forums to elicit answers to bloggers' questions. The general opinion is as follows (and there are different opinions on some aspects):
  • In theory, all bloggers who earn from their blogs come under the purview of GST as they are in the 'business' of providing services.
  • When the earning of a blogger takes shape of business income earned by selling services, it would be necessary to register, pay GST and file returns. Such bloggers were already required to pay Service Tax @15%, now that tax turns into GST and goes up to 18%.
  • There are moderate to severe penalties for not registering, not filing returns, not paying tax and hiding income.
  • As of now (unless there is a clarification from CBEC or a case law decides against it), it is strongly felt that AdSense income will not invite GST, it being treated as export income because it is currently being received from Google Singapore in convertible value of foreign currency.
  • Incomes received from India-based affiliates, affiliate networks or advertisers would definitely come under GST. 
  • Payments received on sale of ebooks, music, software, etc through the blog will definitely invite GST.
  • It does not matter whether you have an office or work on a laptop while sitting in your hostel room. If you earn income, it is taxable. 
  • [added:] After 6th October, 2017, there is clarity that bloggers earning below Rs. 20 lakh per year need not register for GST.

 

What should I do as a blogger?


If you are a small blogger and earn a few bucks, do not worry. Concentrate on blogging and be alert. On this very blog, we'd keep updating bloggers about new clarifications on GST.

For Blogger blogs hosted by Google, the company has come out with a notice to update GST details and that in future its payment notices will be GST compliant. That should also not worry you. Update your details if it asks you for that. 

For your AdSense income, sit back and keep alert about any clarifications. As of now, if the payment is coming from a foreign office of Google, don't worry at all.

Beware that Google may decide to start invoicing India-based advertisers and then paying India-based bloggers from their India office. If that happens, there may be invoices sent to you along with payments so that you calculate your GST liability. That may not happen soon.

If you make a large income through other sources using the blog, you should better consult a tax consultant.  Consultants too are not sure about interpretation of different legal provisions and rules, so their advice too is not yet final.

This is just the beginning. There is a lot of mix-up and systems are not in place even for brick-and-mortar businesses. Things will take time to clear up. Government is already talking about a 2-month window for taking all businesses on board. Blogging will not be among the priority businesses.


DISCLAIMER

We are not tax experts. The opinions and suggestions given here are based on our understanding of GST's applicability to blogs based on our study of government documents, advice available on the web and advice sought individually from experts. Bloggers may take their own decisions and make sure that they do not break GST or any other law. 

June 21, 2017

How to review products on the blog and earn money

We earlier published a post on how to make shining product reviews on the blog and how it can be a handsomely paying stream. But halfway through that post, we realized that many blogger friends have not yet tried their hand on product reviewing at all.

The present post is for bloggers who have only recently created their blog or have a long running blogs but have not yet tried product (and service) reviews.


For very new bloggers: How to open a blog and bring it to a respectable level


If you are very new to blogging or have thought of starting your first blog, can I take you to another section on ITB where I have published many posts on creating the blog, nurturing it, avoiding pitfalls and so on: look in the right column, there is the 'New bloggers' corner' where you have links to a number of posts specially made for new bloggers. (It is better to read them first, because the present discussion will be more fruitful once you have learned the tricks of the trade and experimented with your blog for some time.)


What are product reviews?


Product reviews are nothing but articles about products (or services) produced and offered by others. The products can be daily-use items, books, music DVD, a spare part, big merchandise, a course for competitive examinations or an online service. Anything that people sell and buy. 


I sometime review products that I use. How do I go forward?


As a blogger, you might sometimes review a few products after using them, but that is not what we are aiming at. Such reviews do not come high on search pages and are not taken seriously by selling firms. We are talking about product reviews that the blogger can use to earn money.

start blog and review products to earn money

As a 'professional' review blogger, it is necessary that people start knowing you for your excellent product reviews. So, you will devote the blog fully (or its significant part) to reviews. In fact, keeping the reviews as one part of a wholesome blog works better than just reviews, especially when the other content has synergy with product reviews. For example, if you have a blog on make up, you can regularly review beauty products on the blog. A photoblog can regularly review photography equipment. A yoga blog can review yoga mats, yoga pants and yoga classes.

There are so many product review sites; why would firms and buyers care for a small blog? 

 

WWW is so big and there are so many people surfing it that there is space for everybody. You have small shops along side huge brand outlets even in the most famous shopping malls, isn't it?


You can sure have your place, and it would shine in a crowded marketplace too, if
  • Your reviews are exceptionally good so that people visit your blog again and refer it to others;
  • You promote the reviews through social media, SEO etc so that people know where your blog is and come to you for more;
  • You monetize them by having a paying arrangement with the brand/ seller so that you earn out of your hard work.

Yes, there are big review sites and blogs, but many people want to research beyond the opinion given there. People want specific information given without hiding facts. People also want a variety of opinion to arrive at a right buying decision. So, a blog that gains authority because of honest and informative reviews becomes more and more sought after.

Another points to note is that most big businesses of today started small. Most big travel bloggers (some with travel agencies, portals and many employees working for them now) have confided in us that they started as individuals wanting to travel a lot and writing about it. Some didn't know a bit about blogging! So, be sincere in your effort, work in the right direction and work a bit hard - and success will be yours.

Should I review a range of products or go for a narrow niche?


It will depend on a dozen factors, and so you should do good research. Don't go for a wide niche as you are a newbie blogger. How narrow, will depend on your location, the type of product you'd review, your expertise and so on.  

Generally speaking, go for a narrow niche but not too narrow. As an individual budding blogger, you can't compete with huge review and comparison sites. So, having a review blog on digital cameras will not get you anywhere unless you are patronized by a camera store or company. On the other hand, if you review products that are in demand and are special in some respect, your blog will soon be popular among those buyers and will come high on Google search pages when people search for those products. For example, restaurants in a tourist destination of medium size.

On a paper, write down the range of products or services you will like to review. For example, you are a cook/ foodie/ food connoisseur and will like to review restaurants in Delhi. It is a fairly good market and would perhaps get you good traffic and affiliations. But in 2017, there are at least two dozen well-established travel sites, two dozen blogs and a dozen trade directories with large number of reviews already posted there. You realize that you need to narrow down. So, make a list like this:  restaurants in Delhi... non-vegetarian restaurants... restaurants serving Bengali cuisine... Bengali non-veg restaurants in East Delhi... Best fish dishes available in Delhi...etc. Now, if you go for 'Bengali non-veg restaurants in East Delhi' out of this list, this might be too narrow and you might not have many good restaurants to review after ten reviews. Because there are not many big Bengali restaurants in this location (though it is as large an area as Paris), you might not get advertisements from these restaurants. Moreover, there may not be enough people looking for this type of food, so even if you are on the top of Google page, you might not get enough number of people coming to you. Hope the example helps how to determine how wide or narrow your niche should be.

Do study your audience well. Who will come to you and go by your advice? Where does the audience live? What are the likely lifestyle and search habits of the target audience? Should you review product of mass use or those used by the elite? And so on. 

Study your competition and adjust your niche. Google keyword planner is a great tool to study the keywords which are most used for search. You should use it also for optimizing your review posts for the right keywords so that more people come to you by searching that product on Google and other search engines.

Is it OK to approach brands/ sellers directly, offering reviews on payment?


You can have AdSense and affiliate ads (e.g. Amazon, CJ) from the very beginning but approaching sellers directly - wait. If you are a new blogger or you have not reviewed products so far, it is necessary that you build up a solid portfolio before approaching sellers directly. 

And yes, once you have a good number of reviews to show, it is not only OK to approach them, it must be your regular drill. 

Make a directory of firms that sell your type of product, and approach them by whatever means you feel as the best way - by email, phone or meeting in person - depends on various factors.

In whatever way you contact them, these are the best practices you should follow:

  • Choose the seller with care. You should not be desperate to get any seller. The chances of a shady seller giving you a good deal are more than an established one agreeing for it. But it will hurt badly in long run if you are not discreet in selecting the seller.
  • Be ready with your terms. Don't sell yourself cheap even in these early days. At the same time, don't show attitude. Be the real you. Offer short as well as long term deals, and make the long-term deals more attractive. 
  • Be ready with your arguments. Have convincing arguments - backed by facts - and at the end they should feel that a review on your site will help them.
  • Showcase your assets. Make a one-page flyer about the blog, which should describe the blog, its target audience, any good comments you have received, any deals you have made, and its traffic stats. Give one or two lines about yourself. Send it electronically as part of your email. Keep its print ready if you intend to meet sellers in person. 
  • Be polite and accommodative but slightly persistent. If the other guy wants to test your standing, he might  be cold to your offer. If that happens, walk out but leave the door open by suggesting that if they wish to still consider your offer in future, they could call you at ... number OR they should not mind if you ring them after a week just to see if they have a change of mind.

Why it is often wiser to buy the product than ask for sample


You will learn the tricks of the trade as you go, and you will get plenty of free products, as some beauty, fashion and travel bloggers have shared with us. We also know that books keep pouring it to bloggers who review books.

But one thing is sure; don't wait for the thing to come to you if you feel you have a duty to review that product. For example, highly reputed reviewers get smartphones free when these are launched, but even mid-level bloggers are not likely to get them free for a review. As a blogger reviewing mobile phones, you need to review the mobile early. In such a case, you will need to read all the information available on the web and based on your understanding of the features, you will present your views on that smartphone. You must, in such case, tell beforehand that your opinion/ advice about the set is based on ... (links) and you have not used the set yourself so far. 

We have seen many bloggers of beauty products reviewing products after buying and using them. Such bloggers get a fan following because the reviewer is under no obligation from the brand to project good aspects of the item. 

But there is no harm asking for the product or service, and it would come free especially when the seller is desperate or it won't cost him much to gift it to you (e.g. a book, an e-book, a software, a free stay before tourism season). 

How do product reviews go with affiliate marketing and AdSense?


There is no harm having any type of ad on the blog along with reviews. However, sometimes a seller who gives you good money for his reviews might put the condition that you will not serve his competitor's ads. But don't worry; such situations can come when you are an expert - and in that case you will have all the wisdom to take the right decision.  

What if seller demands only praise, no honest review?


Yes, you will have to deal with such situations. That's why I said above, choose the sellers discreetly and be ready with your terms. 

You have opened the blog for earning from blogging and reviewing, not for fighting with sellers or teaching the bad ones a lesson. So, avoid bad sellers from the beginning. After that, you will have good sellers whose products and services will be genuinely good. The wiser the seller, the more open he will be to nuanced criticism.

If you find a product bad after using it for free, you can tell the seller, your review will have those bad points or at least the review will not be all positive. So, either he improves the product (e.g. customer service in a hotel or a bug in software), takes it back from you (e.g. key for a software), agrees for the review, or you don't carry the review. You can have your say only when you had made these terms clear before you used the product - that's what makes it even more important to make your terms clear in advance.

Why should a reviewer put disclosure; does it not sound apologetic? 


Disclosing your affiliation with the product or service under review is a good practice. Instead of wakening you in any way, it gives you great advantage in terms of credibility. It also gives you higher marks in internal rating done by search engines. Moreover, if someone gets hurt because of your recommendation, your disclosure would save you from any legal action by the users.  

Take a few examples. You would caution that the face cream you have reviewed has a high concentration of aldehydes and products with extra formaldehyde can cause rashes. Or this particular yoga should not be done by people with a history of bone fractures. Now if a lady gets allergy after using that face cream or a guy breaks his bone after doing that tough yoga asana, they won't be able to sue you. Similarly, if you mentioned that your views about that food supplement are based on your experience and you are in no way connected with the brand, people would take you at face value. (But it must be true too.) If you review a restaurant after a press trip or a paid dinner and mention about it, people would believe you more and will even forgive you if they find that you have praised the restaurant slightly more than it deserves. Got the point?

By the way, the US FTC has detailed guidelines on what should be taken in mind when endorsing a product. [This is a link to a pdf doc, which might not read well on mobile.] 

We have still many ideas that we have got from blogger friends. If you have any questions or wish to share your experience with fellow bloggers, either put them as a comment or send to kp.nd.2008@gmail.com . We intend to come with another article on the subject later.

June 19, 2017

Best Indian blogs 2017: travel, parenting, tech, photo, personal blogs and many others

We released the Directory of Best Indian Blogs on June 1 and now we have arranged the blogs category-wise as in the previous years.

This year, we have a new category of Parenting. On the other hand, we did not find many good blogs on Sports and so have dropped that category. We'd be able to include Lifestyle category from next time only; this time, blogs claiming to be lifestyle blogs fit in the major category to which they belong. Many blogs with good resources on more than one niche have been included in more than one category.  

More details on the categories are available on the category-wise blog listing page.

As has been the trend, most blogs in the Directory are personal blogs and those with comments on all things on the earth, with no significant resources on other categories. But only because they are not 'professional' or not focusing on making money does not mean they are any less; in fact, some blogs in the personal category are eminently outstanding.

If your blog is in the Directory and you feel it has not been given the right category, do write to us. Before sending us an email, please be sure the blog has enough resources to be included in the category in which you want it to be.

After release of the Directory, we've received over two hundred emails asking us to include their blogs in the Directory. Most of these bloggers are those whose blogs have been in the Directory year after year but were not there this time. We found that these were mostly those blogs that had some technical rather than quality issue. We have re-examined such blogs and restored them where required. A few more blogs have also been added. 

best of Indian blogging

June 15, 2017

Reviewing products on blog pays handsomely to blogger and brand. How to do it effectively?

Reviewing of products is one of the best earning streams for bloggers. The following are obvious niches for product and service reviews:
  • food products
  • restaurants and hotels
  • travel packages
  • beauty and health products
  • gadgetry and equipment
  • books
  • movies
  • website hosting services 
  • online services
This list does not mean other topics are less amenable to reviews on blogs. In fact, there are numerous narrow niches (e.g. 'ethnic jewellery' or 'Carnatic music instruments') in which reviews could be more rewarding because (i) there is less competition from advertisers and bloggers, and (ii) people interested in such specific items are likely real buyers. 

What constitutes a good product/ service review


goog product reviews on blogs

In technical terms, the review should have
  • lucid language, mostly in first person voice (i.e. 'I used it and found...' rather than 'People who use it say that..."
  • readable font size, color; wide enough column; overall neat looks of the site/ blog
  • text broken into sections that deal with different aspects (e.g. where to buy, different shades available, price) 
  • links to relevant places (e.g. product site, a page describing the chemistry of the product, a wiki-how page on using such products)
  • photo(s) that help in seeing the product from different angles (e.g. different colors available, photos showing how to use it, packaging, trailer in case of film, jacket in case of book)

    In terms of content, the blog should give
    • honest opinion, without hiding obvious negatives and telling half-truths
    • useful insights for taking a decision and not 'balanced' or wishy-washy and confusing ideas
    • detailed information so that the buyer does not run away to other sites
    • to the extent possible, personal experience gained after using the product
    • proper conclusion at the end of the review.
     

    How do I write great product reviews


    (This section is for reviewers who find their reviews not doing well. If you are a blogger venturing into this field now, we have another post on how to start a blog meant for review of products.)

    To make it straight and simple, we pose you these questions.

    Do you review relevant products?

    It is obvious that the product or service that you review must belong to your niche, and yet a good number of bloggers are seen reviewing products that do not fit well with the subject of the blog. Just so that you must publish a big number of reviews or some offer has come your way, you should not post reviews on unrelated products. We have seen occasional book/ beauty-product reviews on personal blogs and are acceptable as these are hobby posts to be shared with known people. But a fiction review on a fashion blog: NO, if you mean business.

    Do you do enough research before writing the review?

    Review, whether of a nail polish or a web-hosting service or yoga mats, needs proper knowledge of the product - and this knowledge comes from subject expertise, long use/ experience, keen observation and study of others' articles and sometimes research papers.

    Do you use personal voice or the review looks detached?

    Generally talk straight to the reader/ visitor; do not talk in third person. Tell about your experience with the product, so that it is believable and convincing. That also helps you connect with the visitor, who might ask you further questins through comment box/ contact form/ email.

    Do you look reasoned, and not superficial, emotional, unsure?

    The review should be well reasoned and not based on emotions. Don't ever get influenced by a free offer or the sales pitch on the product site or what you were briefed during a press trip to a new hotel.

    Never publish a review in a huff, e.g. you bought a new kitchen gadget and it worked fantastic. You can share the joy on your personal blog/ FB page or WhatsApp chat, but not on your professional review blog. What if the product fails in a few days? What if much better products are available in the market? What if you bought it for an exorbitant rate but as you are a rich lady it looked cheap to you? At the same time, do not publish a review if you are fed up with a product and its customer service is awful. When in anger, you might miss some fine qualities of the product or a key step you yourself did not take while making the complaint.

    Is your presentation appealing? 

    You might write an outstanding review but if it is not packaged well, people will not read it or stay on the blog long enough to finish it. Be sure that the review meets the quality parameters given in the section above, 'What constitutes a good product review'.

    Do you disclose your link with the product?

    Disclosure is a MUST  in case of all reviews. Disclosing your relationship with the brand/ product that you are promoting is not only ethical best practice, it can save you from legal issues in case someone claims that he was harmed by following your recommendation. US's FTC has given detailed disclosure guidelines which are worth going through.

    Do you promote your reviews well? 

    Finally, if you do not promote your reviews, it is likely that people will not know about them. If people do not know of  your excellent reviews, they won't get you popularity and money. So, promote them well.

    Use social media, WhatsApp or other chat groups, email list and other tools to let people know about your latest review. Be part of forums, Google Plus communities, Facebook groups and other such forums active in your niche. Tweet the post, cross-link with other similar posts, tell your friends or clients or colleagues about the post. Write on product evaluation and comparing sites. Don't fritter away your energy in many promotional efforts but focus on what suits your type of product.

            Like the article? You can think of tweeting it:

    June 11, 2017

    How to choose the right font and text style for yout website or blog

    Updated: August 2017
    Answer these 5 straight questions to see whether your website or blog has the right type of text or you need to take some corrective action.

    1. Is your website/ blog for reading or viewing? 
    If mainly for reading, does it read well?

    Blogs and other websites either have a lot of text or images/ videos/ podcasts. If there is a lot of text to read, any flaw that makes reading difficult hurts the website. For such types of websites, take care that-
    • the text size is big enough (but not too big);
    • the text is in dark color on a white or light background (or the reverse); 
    • the font is with rounded edges, such as Verdana or Helvetica or Georgia (not like Times New Roman);
    • the text is normally typed, not italicised, not in ALL CAPS;
    • there is no distraction from an underlying image background

    2. Does your website have large passages of text? If yes, does it flow well?

    If the site has a lot to read, take care that-
    • the reading column is wide enough so that the text does not flow down endlessly and eyes do not have to move left-right too much;
    • the prose is composed in small paragraphs;
    • the passage is broken by sub-titles, bullets, highlighted text, etc

    In this BBC News story, there are paras of just single sentences. It helps assimilating the content.

    3. Are you sure, the text does not distract smooth reading?

    Whether small or big passages, whether title or body text, the text should not be such that it is too playful. If it is, that becomes word-art, and has a purpose other than focused reading (e.g. it can be used as an image with a famous quote).

    Take care that-
    • the font is not too flowery;
    • the text is not unnecessarily colored;
    • when the text is differently colored, it is uniformly done (e.g. all sub-titles can be red while the body text is black);
    • the text is not animated

    (Fun sites and kid's sites are an exception; these can have funky colored text. But here too, the main text should read well.)

    4. Is the website for a special group? 

    • Websites for the aged and those with poor vision need bigger text size. The text may be in white, on the black slate, for greater contrast and less eye-strain. The links should be bold and have a contrasting color.
    • Handicapped people need text (and links/ buttons) arranged in a way that not much clicking or scrolling is needed.
    • If you are a big organization, please have an accessible version of the website/ blog.

    5. Is your site mobile friendly?

    On mobile, websites render well in single column.
    With more people accessing websites on mobile phones, this is a must. 
    • Wordpress and Blogger have in-built option to show the blog on mobile phones in a single column.
    • Websites should either be 'responsive' in terms of web design, or should have a mobile version.

    In August 2017, we see BBC Sport website going for a new font. Called BBC Reith, this font will be part of overall design sprucing that the BBC plans to do and 'will be easier to read, and clearer, especially on small devices', says BBC Blog
     
    Related posts:

    We have dealt with this topic in detail in other posts. If you have time and inclination, you can go to these resources:

    i...This detailed post is dedicated to use of proper fonts on blogs and websites. We've discussed how the font type, its size, contrast and other characteristics are important for the website.
    ii...On this post on text color on blogs, we've discussed how the color and of text determines readability. Text color also adds to or spoils the blog's personality.
    iii...This post is specifically on choosing the right font for your website, and what fonts are available free.

    June 7, 2017

    Trump, Modi teach social media discretion, and how! ... and other social updates

    You need to be discreet, social media tells conceited presenters


    Trump and Modi, the two most followed global political leaders have taught a lesson to indiscreet television celebrity presenters in an interesting way.

    Donald Trump is known for his indiscretion on social media and public life elsewhere. But that does not allow Kathy Griffin, the comedian, to hold a bloodied head of Trump on her show. Initially defiant, she later sought apology for her action when she was roasted on the social media. I went way too far. The image is too disturbing. I understand how it offends people, she had to state publicly.

    Well, it was not 'too disturbing' in the case of Narendra Modi, but social media made a senior journalist to pay for not knowing that he is one of the most followed world leaders on Twitter, nearly as popular as Trump. Megyn Kelly launched her show for NBC News with an exclusive interview with Russian President Putin and Indian PM Modi last week. In her chat with the Indian PM before the interview she asked him, "Are you on Twitter?" You can imagine the type of responses she got on Twitter itself!


    trump on mediaComing back to Trump. Trump has tweeted that the mainstream media is bent on throwing him out of social media. He followed it up by saying that if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH. Let's watch how the mainstream media reacts! 

    Is Instagram causing mental health issues?


    Instagram is seen the worst among social platforms when it comes to mental health of the youth.

    In a recent study of British young people (aged 14 to 24 years) by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), young people and youth said Instagram was the most negative among popular social media platforms in terms of mental health and well-being. They judged the five most popular platforms as follows:

    • YouTube (most positive)
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Snapchat
    • Instagram (most negative)

    At this link, you can visit the mental health and social media report.

    And here, one of our earlier snippets on social media and well-being


    Mary Meeker's report on internet


    Meeker has regularly been releasing her report on Internet Trends. Her latest report is mostly affirmation of earlier trends, but as it is the latest let's have a look at some major trends:

    • There are likely 3.4 billion internet users at the end of 2016 and they are growing at a nearly constant rate of around 10% per year.
    • Online ad revenue has, for the first time, exceeded that of television, growing at 22% per year and mostly driven by mobile. Facebook and Google are growing the fastest in getting ad revenue. 
    • Ad blocking is picking up, especially in developing markets.
    • Voice recognition apps/ assistants are now able to recognize human voice up to nearly 95%. That's fantastic indeed, no?
    • Video gaming is the most engaging online activity, with Asia taking lead in terms of engagement and revenues.

    In case you missed...
     
    We could not bring you social media updates in the last four weeks as we were finalizing the Directory of Best Indian Blogs. So, some social media and blogging snippets from the recent past:

    A Russian court has convicted a 22-year old blogger, Ruslan Sokolovsky, for a video on YouTube, in which he was seen playing Pokemon Go in a church.

    Before being pulled down, the video was viewed 1.6 million times!

    Russian blogger with pokemon go

    The blogger was not immediately jailed as the 3.5 year blasphemy sentence was suspended. He, however, was under house arrest for last many months.

    Facebook has started cracking down on clickbait sites, the ones that serve ads on the go as we browse the FB stream.

    FB's news feed is now beginning to have less of such ads, especially in the top part of the feed. Expect fewer ads of magical sex-boosting, body-building solutions and cheap gadgets. Let's see how effectively it works, because YouTube, Twitter and other platforms are also trying to check poor quality content, obtrusive and misleading ads, hate/ crime/ child porn visuals etc, but with only mixed success.

    British PM has blamed internet for terrorist attacks that have taken place in recent months in the UK. She has wanted a global regulation of cyberspace to prevent it from allowing safe spaces to terrorists. While 'free speech' warriors are upset with that, Australian PM has echoed her viewpoint and has called upon social networking sites to proactively tackle terrorism related content.


    Some internet experts say, the issues have become too inter-twined to be solved just by sanitizing Facebook or Twitter.
     
    Ethiopia shut down internet for nearly 12 hours to check cheating in countrywide exams.

    Well, cheating through social sites or apps or tech gadgets is rampant, and authorities the world over are struggling to check this, with limited success. 


    Some countries such as Ethiopia and Algeria can afford to pull the plug but can others do that? Even when it is known that terrorism in Kashmir was being propagated through social media, the Indian government did block out internet for some days but could not sustain it for long.