Top 10 blogwriting mistakes

Top 10 blogwriting mistakes

Want to know why no one’s reading your blog? Then you definitely want to read Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox column, which discusses this week the top 10 design mistakes for blogs.

Tim Harrison, the guy behind the new and awesome Internet portal and who re-designed my blog, alerted me to this column and it’s a good one. Here are the top ten design mistakes.

  1. No Author Biographies

  2. No Author Photo

  3. Nondescript Posting Titles

  4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go

  5. Classic Hits are Buried

  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation

  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency

  8. Mixing Topics

  9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss

  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

Okay, I probably violate a couple of those, but I’m so entrenched in where I am now, it wouldn’t be worth it to fix it. Other mistakes I’ve avoided completely. And the rest are things I will keep in mind.

I know that one of the hardest tasks, whether it’s for the blog or for the magazine, is writing memorable, punchy, informative, and catchy headlines. It’s harder than you think, as witnessed by all the mileage Jay Leno has gotten out of unintentionally funny or weird headlines.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Some of those I think are right-on, but there are several I don’t agree with. If I had a blog, I’d post my objections, but I don’t, so I guess I don’t have anything to complain about. smile

  • I have one objection.  If you read far enough into his comments, you will discover that he gives seminars for webloggers who want to improve.  Which means that he has a financial stake in what he has to say.  So what makes him right enough to pay for his knowledge? Blogging has only been around for a few years.  Which means, I should think, that he is an “expert” only because he says he is.

  • If you look more closely, he’s been working in the field of human interfaces and usability, especially of web sites, for as long as there’s been a Web (or close enough). He does real studies with real people trying to use web sites and telling him what works and what doesn’t and then measures people’s actual responses. He’s not making this stuff up out of thin air.

    For people who design web sites, Jakob Nielsen is a big name in usability and interface. You may not agree with everything he says, but you at least listen.

  • Good tips.
    The “Irregular Publishing Frequency” is a huge one. I find I don’t check on blogs that are not updated daily. That’s why I think Amy Welborn’s “Open Book” and Dom’s “Bettnet” are my favorites.

  • I agree on the publishing frequency bit. I expect most y in the minority thinking of blogs as personal editorial pages, or personal discussion boards. However, I think it is very foolhardy to suggest to an aspiring blogger that he is a nobody unless he puts his real name and identity out there. As a woman, I reject that entirely. I’m not particuarly afraid of stalkers or violence, and I’ve been regretably sloppy in the past, but I “resent” any suggestion that I must reveal my identity. Plus, it seems like most bloggers offer evidence that is verifiable by an interested third party; this is what is (to my mind) most respected as true information, and if it is third-party verifiable, then it doesn’t matter if it’s coming from “The Anonymous Avenger” or “Jacob Van Engen” or whathaveyou.

    But again—if you want to be on CNN, then you have to publish your name. Numbers 7 and 8 don’t strike me as being capital offences by any means. Then again, I’m stuck with an old fashioned model. Number 4 and 5 I’m ambivalent. Number 7 isn’t really much of a problem if you use the RSS.

    The one on this list I can shout AMEN! to is number 6. This is something that may prevent me from regularly reading a blog, if I can’t go back and get a good idea of what goes on on that blog.

  • anonymity is the basis and prerogative of the internet poster. I have no expectation that anyone should reveal to me his real identity, much less a photo.

    I completely agree.  Anonymity is the purpose of the internet.  Instead of personality and journalistic bias, supposedly we get facts devoid of political correctness.  If I want anchor desk celebrity, I can turn on NBC news.  If I want unpopular points of view, I surf the web.

    I’m still waiting for the first robbery of a popular blogger’s house when the blogger has announced he will be out of town for a conference.  Doing so seems to me to be the height of foolishness. 

    This venue is even more public than the television.  On TV, what the commentator says it hanging out there in the atmosphere for a day or two and then consigned to the dark recesses of memory.  Comments on the web remain available seemingly for an entire lifetime.

    It will be interesting in the future to see how popular bloggers will handle changing their opinion when finding themselves on the wrong side of an issue.  We haven’t had a significant enough shift in Catholic thinking since blogging began to see how this is going to play out.  How do you go about eating your bytes?

  • I don’t know that anonymity is the purpose of the Internet. I think equality of access is the point. CNN’s web site gets no more special access than mine.

    And I don’t think we should see these as hard and fast rules. I see his point on Numbers 1 & 2, which is why I don’t blog anonymously. You can certainly do so, but the hurdles are higher.

    I think it’s helpful and entertaining when you can relate to a person. Amy Welborn’s blog would be interesting regardless of whether she was anonymous or not, but that she also talks about herself some, that she talks about her children and her trips, and that I can picture her in my mind when I read what she says goes a long way to differentiating her from the vast crowd of voices. I think it helps to get to know someone personally.

    As for Carrie’s last point, I’ve admitted error in the past and done so prominently with a link back to my erroneous comments. No big deal.

  • Yeah, I can see it would be no big deal if we are talking about one comment.  I was thinking more in terms of a major change in philosophy that would involve lots of blogs that could hardly all be linked.

    For example…when AOL went to flat rate I was a dedicated ecumenist who had found fellowship with other Christians at an interdenominational children’s camp where I had volunteered and where my daughter made her second home while in high school.  Never mind the reasons I chose to do that for now.  Let’s just say that I thought it was in line with the new ecumenical stance in the Church.  Had I been blogging back then, it would have been all over my blog.

    Now that I’ve been investigating where ecumenism leads, I’ve taken a big step back…make that several steps back.  My present attitude toward ecumenism is vastly different from my past attitude.

    How would I go about undoing those blogs that were never written if I had been blogging back then?  A blogger could easily get a reputation for believing precisely what he no longer believes. 

    I suppose one could always set aside a week to delete all the old blogs.  That wouldn’t even work in the case of a change in domain (or whatever you call the blog provider).  You might not have access to be able to delete.

    Of course it occurs to me that writers have always had to deal with this.  Their early books often reflect a different philosophy from their later books.  Artists, too, come to think of it, go through “periods”. 

    Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mound.

  • One Catholic blogger wrote about how a reader came to her neighborhood to complain about something she wrote. That’s too scary. I don’t want some nut bothering me or my family so I blog under a pseudynym.

  • One of my pet peeves is the ” clever” title for a post. I want to know what the post is about in plain language so that I can decide if it is something I wish to spend my limited reading time on.