There were some good suggestions about Weblog Usability on Nielson’s site, posted October 2005. Some suggestions about writing style that are general purpose suggestions for the web, but I also mention this because the Walker Blogs missed his first and second points.
1. No Author Biographies
Unless you’re a business blog, you probably don’t need a full-fledged “about us” section the way a corporate site does. That said, the basic rationale for “about us” translates directly into the need for an “about me” page on a weblog: users want to know who they’re dealing with.
It’s a simple matter of trust. Anonymous writings have less credence than something that’s signed. And, unless a person’s extraordinarily famous, it’s not enough to simply say that Joe Blogger writes the content. Readers want to know more about Joe. Does he have any credentials or experience in the field he’s commenting on? (Even if you don’t have formal credentials, readers will trust you more if you’re honest about that fact, set forth your informal experience, and explain the reason for your enthusiasm.)
2. No Author Photo
Even weblogs that provide author bios often omit the author photo. A photo is important for two reasons:
- It offers a more personable impression of the author. You enhance your credibility by the simple fact that you’re not trying to hide. Also, users relate more easily to somebody they’ve seen.
- It connects the virtual and physical worlds….
Nielson’s point is certainly interesting, sharing an author’s credentials on a blog makes perfect sense but I had never seriously considered having author images (they remind me of the Wrox covers which I’ve never seen as flattering). I certainly wouldn’t have put it at #2 on my list of usability errors, ahead more serious problems like #5 Classic Hits are Buried which is a mistake I realize we have also (partially) made. On the plus side point #8 about Mixing Topics supports our rational for splitting the Walker Blogs up into 6 different sites.
If you publish on many different topics, you’re less likely to attract a loyal audience of high-value users. Busy people might visit a blog to read an entry about a topic that interests them. They’re unlikely to return, however, if their target topic appears only sporadically among a massive range of postings on other topics.
Just a few more things to think about when starting/fixing/maintaining a blogging initiative.