So, Jakob Nielsen is the “cranky old man” of web design, but he’s mostly right. Still, when I saw the title “Weblog Usability” I scoffed . . . weblogs suck! Criticizing “weblog usability” sounds a bit like criticizing children for watching cartoons.
But, like I said, he’s usually right. How does my “weblog” . . . I call it a “web site” with an “online journal” that predates that awful awful word, “blog” but . . . I’m running WordPress, this is a . . . a . . . blog . . . well, how does dannyman.toldme.com stack up to Nielsen’s standards?
No Author Biographies — Guilty as charged. I should do that. I really should, like I did the links page . . . it would help readers figure out “who is this guy” and help a few decide “oh, hey, let’s follow dannyman’s content.”
No Author Photo — No problems here, mate! I’ve been a big flickr whore, lately. Though, the random picture on the upper left, a few of those are random family members, just to make things fun. :)
Nondescript Posting Titles — I used to do this a lot. I think for personal web logs, this is a common thing . . . blah dee blah blah blah . . . de blah . . . random random. That’s okay, but I try to write short “articles” on my web site now, so I try to keep titles short, succinct, and catchy. Titles are hard, though.
Links Don’t Say Where They Go — Enh, he’s mostly complaining about people who link here and here . . . it is good to make the text of your hyperlink at least vaguely descriptive of what would follow, and that is what I try to do.
Classic Hits are Buried — I hadn’t even thought of this . . . but some of the challenge with that is . . . what are your “classic hits”? I’ve been playing with Google Analytics the past few weeks, so now I have some idea of what is most popular on the site the last few weeks. Tricky problem to solve, though I do have the “related” plugin running over there on the right . . . help people stumble around, at least. As well as the archive page . . .
The Calendar is the Only Navigation — Amen, Brother Nielsen! That’s a big gripe for me, too. So, I’ve removed the calendar thing, and put far more effort into trying to offer paged, per-category navigation, and slick things like making monthly and yearly pages run in forward-chronological order, so you can read like a book, see? (Er, I have some fixing to do . . .)
Irregular Publishing Frequency — Guilty! I probably average just under a post per day . . . maybe every other day? But, if I go a week without saying anything, and then dump three articles . . . who wants to read that? For a while I tried to postdate entries so things would come out one per day. The main frustration with that is that WordPress doesn’t have a WYSIWYG “preview” feature . . . and I habitually tweak something after I “Publish” . . .
But I do so very much like the idea of publishing on a “regular” basis. And I try not to publish crap. It actually kind of feels good to have an entry “in the can,” so to speak. This post will be post-dated. :)
Mixing Topics — Now, here is where we hit close to home . . . this is . . . this is, on the one hand, my personal medley of whatever Danny has to talk about, but on the other hand, it is pretty rough on readers, especially non-technical ones . . .
My frustration with this, is that I don’t have enough material, I feel, for multiple blogs. Still, at least for Unix stuff, it might be neat to get together with some friends to collaborate on a technical blog. Keith? Dave?
Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss — Amen! I was once asked on an Interview about a statement I had made on my web site about how I had never run Microsoft products on any of my computers. That was a long time ago. But, you have to be careful that what you say doesn’t cause trouble for your current employer, and you have to consider that, like political candidates, your “public record” may come back to haunt you.
But, you can also turn this around. If you have a demonstrated, public interest in sharing knowledge, employers can see your value. And, if you are going to miss out on a job because the employer doesn’t want to hire political nut-jobs or whatever, well, then you’ve saved yourself some aggravation?
All the same, I try to:
- Avoid cussing, mostly. (My kids will read my web site too some day!)
- Avoid identifying my current employer. (This web site is not about them, at all.)
- Avoid sounding like too much of a nut.
Also, I like to try and follow technical mailing lists . . . you go there for support anyway, right? But you also get to help colleagues, and in both cases, your words will ring round and round the Internet in countless archives, granting you both enhanced PageRank, and a better chance of professional name recognition. “I recognized your name from postfix-users,” I was told by a manager shortly after being hired.
Also, it is perfectly alright to do some non-work activity at work, right? All the same, you don’t want your blog to look like you spend your work days blogging. Keep to an entry a day, and maybe do the proof-reading at home before bed, so the publication timestamp comes off-hours.
Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service — Say it with me! DANNYMAN DOT TOLDME DOT COM !! Sure, I’m a little too pleased with my own hostname, and it confuses some people who want to know why there’s no www, but I have thought that maybe I could do some WordPress hosting on the side, with the offer of <foo>.toldme.com domain names as a draw.
On the other hand, I think that seperates the wheat from the chaff. There is a substantial difference between “someone with a livejournal” and “someone who is seriously into their own blog.” Nielsen’s rules don’t apply to casual bloggers. Only nuts like me. :)
Anyway, so . . .
- Add a short bio page sometime.
- Collaborate and start a technical blog sometime with some interested colleagues.
- As ever, fix up the navigation.
- And somehow figure out how to pull off a “best of” page . . .