On Latest Jakob’s Alertbox: Top 10 Design Mistakes in Weblog Usability

I respect Jakob Nielsen a lot and mostly he makes a lot of sense. Especially, he stands for improvement in, and therefore talks a lot about, two topics that’ve been close to my heart: UI & Usability.

His latest Alertbox column titled “Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes” surprised me by its appearance; wasn’t expecting him to write on the subject this early. The introduction at the top really does make sense and clearly shows he understands the unique nature of blogs.

When I started reading the list of mistakes, I started nodding my head.

  1. No Author Biographies: Okay, I’m guilty of this and i’m going to correct this immediately. My About page has needed the edit for a long time anyway.
  2. No Author Photo: Guilty again but I don’t think this is going to change for me.
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles: Not guilty. :)
  4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go: Not guilty (mostly). :) However, though I agree that such links do indeed bring the usability of the blog down, it is usually taken for granted by the users. They want the commentary and not names to links and where they encounter strange blogs and do not trust the author, they indeed do take the necessary care before clicking.
  5. Classic Hits are Buried: Partially guilty of this but largely due to the fact that I don’t know WordPress hacking yet.
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation: Agree. WordPress provides categories though and therefore, not guilty. :)
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency: Very guilty. 😉 However, this is a slightly borderline thing. I don’t think that the publishing frequency is such a big usability issue. In a way, if you think about it, it does bring the overall usability down of a blog but is it so much that it be listed as Mistake #6 in Weblog Usability Designs Mistakes list? I disagree. BTW, is it even a design issue?
  8. Mixing Topics: This is something that is slightly controversial. Perhaps partially true for a narrow segment, mixing topics is not really such a big usability issue with blogs. They are supposed to mix topics unless they’re subject-specific blogs. Most people who post different subjects on such blogs do it very intentionally and fully knowing that it’s going to be for the better of their blog and themselves. In a way, this is not much of a usability issue either, especially in light of the discussion in #6—the Categories feature that is in use in almost all blogs now very efficiently takes care of this issue.

But IMHO, #9 (Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss) and #10 (Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service) are nothing but pure advice on content. Whether or not somebody will be able to attribute a certain piece of information to me decades after I’ve written has nothing to do with the usability of my blog. Similarly, having a certain provider’s name in the URL of my blog has no effect either and is purely a non-affecting cosmetic that, if it makes a difference, does so only because of a psychological bias in the user’s mind.

This article is going to get a lot of press in the Blogosphere (heh) and I’m looking forward to reading other people’s opinions and rants.

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