Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ Experiences

I’ve been doing research on what distinguishes good blogs from poor ones, especially by reading “lessons learned” posts by bloggers. I’ve come up with 20 principles I think are worthwhile. Let me know which ones you agree or disagree with.

1. Pick a topic for your blog.

Pick a general topic you are passionate about, and stick with that focus as you post. Near the title of your blog, identify your blog’s focus so new visitors can know immediately whether your blog aligns with their interests. In the following image, the blog identifies its theme in the tagline and provides an explanation of the topic on the home page. Paradoxically, having a specific focus actually gives you more to write about. Like a novel, your blog takes on direction and purpose.

Theme

2. Encourage comments.

Allow comments, and respond to comments. Blogs are dialogues, not monologues. If you turn commenting off, you lose out on the Web 2.0 aspects of your blog. Comments enrich your thoughts and take you to a higher level of analysis. You benefit from the additions, corrections, tips, and other feedback from readers. To encourage comments, don’t require sign in. Activate Akismet and this math plugin to avoid spam. Add the Subscribe to Comments plugin so users can be aware of follow-up comments. When people comment, respond to their comments, and keep the dialogue going because this is what Web 2.0 is all about: connecting users to each other and sharing information.

Enable comments

3. Make it easy to subscribe.

Make it easy to subscribe to your feed by placing an orange RSS button in a highly visible location. Route your feed through Feedburner so you can keep track of your subscribers. You can also offer an e-mail subscription using FeedBurner. In the example below, subscription information is prominently displayed in the upper-right corner.

Subscribe to RSS

4. Include an About page.

Include an about page to let people know more about you. Are you a technical writer based in Seoul, a developer working at Microsoft, a Russian open-source business mogul? Your blog reveals your personal views, so introduce yourself to your readers. Don’t blog anonymously. You can include a photo in your About page — some think it makes you more real to your readers. Include some basic facts, such as where you live, your job title, your interests, and other biographical information. You may want to omit the company you work for, if content on your blog inappropriately reveals company information.

About page

5. Present your ideas visually.

In this culture of scanning and clicking, long blocks of text aren’t read. Break up your text with visuals—graphs, charts, photos, blockquotes, and videos. Annotate the images to reinforce your meaning. Creating Passionate Users always reinforces its message with visuals. If you get photos from other blogs or from Flickr, include a link back to the source. Most popular blogs are visually rich.

Present Ideas Visually

6. Keep posts short and to the point.

Keep the text in bite-sized chunks that readers can quickly consume — brevity forces you to get the point quickly. A good post can be 1-2 paragraphs long. Even if your posts are lengthy (like this one), remove all filler and communicate your message concisely. You can also chunk up long posts into several small posts, or use subheadings.

Keep posts short

7. Use subheadings for long posts.

If you do post long, use subheadings to break up the text. Copyblogger is a great example to follow. Also use the “Read more” tag so users can scan down the front page without having to scroll eternally. In the example below, Copyblogger breaks up his lists with subheadings and keeps his paragraphs short.

Keep Posts Short

8. Link abundantly.

Links increase readership and let others know you’re writing about them. Others can see incoming links in their blogs. Links also enable trackbacks and pingbacks, allowing your content to appear in the comments section of other posts. Blogs are collaborative, linked conversations. The example below shows a trackback. I linked to another blog in my post, and that link appears as an excerpt in the comments section of the original post. The Kramer plugin is helpful for automating trackbacks, and you can use it to show inbound links in the sidebar of your blog. Links also boost your Google rankings, converting your blog into a powerful search engine optimization tool.

Trackbacks explained

9. Make headlines descriptive.

Avoid vagueness and ambiguity in headlines. Readers scan down a list of titles in a feed, so the article title is telling of whether they’ll read the post. With millions of blogs and new content daily, readers have to skim, scan, and jump around just to keep up. Make it easy by clearly describing your post’s content in the headlines. Copyblogger has some excellent advice for crafting headlines. You can also entice readers with some copywriting techniques, such as asking interesting questions, making lists, stating paradoxes or contradictions, or just being exuberant.

Headlines

10. Archive by topic.

Archive your posts by topic rather than date. (Date archives may be appropriate for blogs that are personal journals only, rather than topic-driven blogs. For topic-driven blogs, date archives mean little to readers.) About a dozen categories is a good number. You may not know all your categories until you’ve been blogging a while. Along with the archives, include a search feature.

Category archives

11. Include a list of related posts beneath each post.

Many users find your site by searching for specific information. When readers find your post, why not point them to other posts on your site with similar information? Doing so can increase the page views per reader. In WordPress, you can automatically create a Related Posts section based on matching keywords with the Related Entries plugin. If you want more control (with more effort), use Darren’s Related Posts plugin. You type keywords in the Custom Fields section of a post, and posts that match the keywords are connected as related.

Related Posts

12. Allow users to contact you offline.

Readers may want to contact you offline with a question or comment — perhaps to propose a book deal or to extend an invitation to speak at a conference. You will be perceived as an expert on your topic (the go-to-guy for that topic), and the user’s question may not be related to the comments section of your latest posts. If you make your contact info readily apparent, users can reach you. You can use a contact form plugin (Contact III) or simply make your email address available. In the image below, an editor from Wiley posts — with embarrassment — an invitation for a book deal within the comments.

Contact offline

13. Present your real viewpoint.

“Be yourself and speak your mind,” John Chow says. Readers enjoy the personal aspects of a blog. If you never voice your opinion, your blog loses appeal. You don’t have to reveal your personal life, but a glimpse here and there is appropriate and provides human appeal. In the following screen, the writer expresses her frustration with health insurance limitations. You can rant and still keep it professional (as she does).

Speak your mind

14. Write for your future employer.

A blog can be a dangerous tool, and you should know that your future employer, and possibly your current employer, will read it. Avoid posting anything confidential, gossipy, overly-emotional, rude, company-related, or otherwise self-damaging and unprofessional. A blog can be both an asset and liability depending on the information you post. There are at least a dozen stories of employees fired for blogging. Respect your company’s information restrictions, and don’t jeopardize future employment opportunities.

Fired

15. Include a Top Posts section.

You can use the WP-PostViews plugin plugin to automate a Most Viewed posts section, or you can create your own list of classic posts. Once your classic posts leave the home page, they’re often buried in your site. Like displaying trophies on a mantle, showcasing your classic posts allows more readers to find and enjoy them.

Top Posts

16. Provide an index.

Much of your site’s traffic comes from search engines. And many readers are first-timers on your site. Providing an index readers can quickly scan (such as with this site map index plugin) is an excellent way to let users skim your entire post collection. An index may increase the page views per visitor. It also shows you just what you’ve written. It’s like a Table of Contents for your site.

Index

17. Get your own URL and match it to your blog’s title.

If your blog title doesn’t match the URL, it will be harder for users to remember the location of your site. It pays to use your own URL. Even if you just purchase a domain and point your hosted WordPress.com blog to it, it looks more professional. Readers don’t always use RSS to read your blog’s content.

Match Title to URL

18. Include a Recent Posts section in your sidebar.

A recent posts section in your sidebar provides an at-a-glance index for your latest posts. Especially if you write long posts, the recent posts section allows readers to see what you’ve been up to without scrolling down a lengthy page.

Recent Posts

19. Reward commenters for commenting.

If you add the Show Top Commenters plugin, you can show the people who most frequently comment on your blog. This is a simple way to create your own community of readers with similar interests. You should read their blogs and comment on them as well. In this way your blog turns into more than just a one-person show: it becomes a virtual community.

Top Commenters

20. Post often.

Posting regularly to your blog, such as daily, every few days, or every week, will change your experience of blogging. It will help you stay engaged with your topic. It will build a greater community of readers, who will post more comments. More comments will make blogging more rewarding and fun, not to mention more content rich for your site — leading to more page views from search engines.

However, if you have nothing to say, don’t blog fluff. That annoys readers even more than not posting and you will lose readers. But if you stay engaged with your topic — reading articles, books, other blogs; listening to podcasts and other recordings; attending events and seminars; and reflecting on the work you’re engaged in — you will have plenty to say each day. Whether you can carve out the time is another matter. The Technorati graph below shows that the most popular bloggers post about twice a day; the least popular post a dozen times a month.

Technorati Report on Posting Frequency

Resources

I’m interested to hear your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree with any points in particular? Did I miss something major?

Adobe RobohelpMadcap Flare

This entry was posted in blogging, general on by .

By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm primarily interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication (video tutorials, illustrations), findability (organization, information architecture), API documentation (code examples, programming), and web publishing (web platforms, interactivity) -- pretty much everything related to technical writing. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog either by RSS, email, or another method. To learn more about me, see my About page. You can also contact me if you have questions.

278 thoughts on “Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog — Condensed from Dozens of Bloggers’ Experiences

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  4. catherine

    Excellent post! Really good suggestions, and you obviously practise what you preach. Btw, I got here from Bokardo – which proves that point no.8 works.

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  6. Ian Wilker

    Another Bokardo referral here — HUGELY useful post and list of resources, especially for new bloggers.

    I’ll be seein’ you in my feedreader from now on…

    — Ian

  7. Rhonda

    Hi Tom

    Great list of suggestions and advice!

    My only issue is with #4 “Don’t blog anonymously”. Many females blog anonynmously – especially for their personal blogs – as they are concerned about their safety and anonymity both online and offline.

    You only have to read what’s happened to Kathy Sierra recently to realise that blogging anonymously is a *must* for many women. Many men don’t understand this, but then, those same men often don’t understand how a woman has to be totally aware of her surroundings at all times when she is out walking alone – even in daylight. For us, it’s a way of life; for many men (not all!), it’s not even a consideration.

    Blogging anonymously may be the only option for some women.

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  14. Rise

    Tom,

    This is one of the best posts I have read on effective blogging. You have collected relevant information and presented in a very unique way.

    I also like the layout of your blog. It proves that you mean what you write.

    As you can see, I already have some of your recommended components in my blog. Will add the rest soon. Thanks.

    -Rise

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  16. Chad

    I have a usability tip for your blog: get rid of these snap popups! As I use a wheel-mouse to scroll this article I keep getting distracted by silly popups as my cursor passes over links. This ‘feature’ is very annoying to me, and makes me want to stop reading your blog.

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  18. Marek

    Thanks for putting this together. Well done. I agree with using visual items to accentuate your posts. It makes for more interesting materials. There are many royalties-free images that can be used and videos out there that you can find just about anything you want.

    Thanks for some Word Press plug-ins.

    I tried activating Akismet about 6 times throughout the past 3 months and have not received the confirming email from WordPress folks. Not sure what’s up with that. I use Spam Karma 2 – it is very nice.

    Best,
    Marek

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  22. Michelle

    I agree with almost everything and say thanks for the advice.

    However, I think having a related posts plug in on every post plus an archives by category is redundant. Blogger already lets you label each post anyway so having a plug in for related posts is particularly unnecessary there.

    There is a lot to be said for keeping your blog uncluttered and with all the ads I see most blogs don’t have the extra space to also add a recent posts list, an archive by topic list, an index and a top posts list–it’s just too much. Perhaps picking one or two of those items would be a better use of space and have more impact. Otherwise it’s like driving down a highway cluttered with billboards, you stop reading them pretty quickly.

    Also, I don’t think that having a matching URL is such a big deal. I hear a lot about it but have had a steadily growing readership with my plain old blogspot.com. Perhaps there should be some distinction made, my blog–Scribbit–is the only thing Google pulls up when queried with that word so plenty of readers who don’t bookmark me can easily Google me and get there. That can’t be done with more generic titles. That could be the reason I don’t see a matching URL as an issue, but I never hear that side of things brought up.

    Thanks again, great list.

  23. Michelle at Scribbit

    I agree with almost everything and say thanks for the advice.

    However, I think having a related posts plug in on every post plus an archives by category is redundant. Blogger already lets you label each post anyway so having a plug in for related posts is particularly unnecessary there.

    There is a lot to be said for keeping your blog uncluttered and with all the ads I see most blogs don’t have the extra space to also add a recent posts list, an archive by topic list, an index and a top posts list–it’s just too much. Perhaps picking one or two of those items would be a better use of space and have more impact. Otherwise it’s like driving down a highway cluttered with billboards, you stop reading them pretty quickly.

    Also, I don’t think that having a matching URL is such a big deal. I hear a lot about it but have had a steadily growing readership with my plain old blogspot.com. Perhaps there should be some distinction made, my blog–Scribbit–is the only thing Google pulls up when queried with that word so plenty of readers who don’t bookmark me can easily Google me and get there. That can’t be done with more generic titles. That could be the reason I don’t see a matching URL as an issue, but I never hear that side of things brought up.

    Thanks again, great list.

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  25. Mark Alves

    Excellent post that demonstrates the good advice you’re advocating.

    Did you consider including a 21st principle on whether/how to display social media bookmarking options, such as Digg buttons and Technorati tags, in a blog?

    Also, for ongoing advice along the lines of your post, http://www.dailyblogtips.com is valuable.

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  30. Tom

    Thanks for all your visits and comments. This post actually doubled my feed subscribers overnight.

    I want to respond to some of your comments:

    Chad, I took your advice and removed the Snap Preview plugin. Instead, I added more descriptive title tags for the images. I needed a second opinion and saw that Darren Rowse surveyed his readers on Snap Preview and found the majority also disliked it. Thanks for the feedback.

    David, thanks for the info on Chartall.com. That’s a quick, handy charting tool. Nice.

    Marek, you said you tried activating Akismet but haven’t received an email from WordPress? Do you have an API key? You might read this support forum thread. I’ve heard good things about Spam Karma too, so if you’re not being deluged with Spam, consider the problem solved.

    Rhonda, re blogging anonymously, I agree that Kathy Sierra’s situation gives one something to consider. Nathania has good advice: If you think you might run into problems, use a pen name. Still, I’m not sure how many bloggers run into this problem. Certainly take precautions if you think it might be an issue.

    Michelle, your point about keeping a blog uncluttered raises an important point. I agree with you about simplicity, and having too many links can be distracting. I may have gone overboard with the related links, category archives, index, and recent posts. However, I don’t have Google ads on my site (anymore). I can see how all of these things — plus a dozen other widgets — can clutter the content. Thanks for pointing that out. Simplicity is definitely something to keep in mind.

    You made another point about the URL. It’s not really a big deal if readers can easily remember it. However, even if you have a hosted domain in your URL, (like tomjohnson.blogspot.com), you can pay $10 to buy a domain and point it to that blogspot URL. Mainly, the URL field should somehow match the title of your blog, even if only part of it matches.

    Mark, you mentioned adding social bookmarking plugins for Digg buttons and Technorati tags. That’s a good suggestion — I’ll have to implement that.

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and links.

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  34. Brian

    Every day I feel more and more like my concept of a blog is unique. I don’t agree with some of the points listed here as they seem too Technical Communications-oriented. I argue that blogging is far more freeform than most people assert, and though this list is full of very helpful tidbits they are not guaranteed to be a perfect fit for every blog. After all, according to one of your previous posts, (some) blogs should be considered perpetual beta.

    That being said, your point about archiving by topic instead of by date is a revelation. It fits my blog format perfectly. I love it. I’m going to make this change to my blog ASAP. However, this wouldn’t be a perfect fit if one were blogging about a chronological series of events, for example.

    I also found it very interesting to see you recommend abundant linking. I’ve always liked this practise because it gives readers the option to delve deeper into topics I mention in passing, yet they are sufficiently unobtrusive that they don’t slow down the reading of the sentence. I’ve read rebuttal to this, however, and get the idea that some people are turned off by mid-sentence hyperlinking.

    All in all, this is an excellent, sensible list and I really enjoyed reading it. I still argue that these are items for consideration more than a line in the sand separating legitimate blogs from amateur ones. I blogged on this very topic yesterday as a matter of fact. Check it out if you’re interested:

    http://blog.demodulated.com/2007/04/10/however-you%e2%80%99re-blogging-it%e2%80%99s-wrong/

  35. German Rumm

    About abundant linking. Some people tend to link each word in a sentence to a different website. I dislike it very much and never click on any of those links.

    I guess this is because of “don’t let me think” principle – I don’t understand which link is more relevant to the topic, and prefer not to click any of them. It also helpful when blog post contains summary links (in the end of the post, for example), but I didn’t see many examples, maybe it’s my personal preference.

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  38. Allen Holman

    Hey, thats my puppy! Thanks for the link.

    Excellent tips for anyone that’s involved in blogging and wants to write compelling content that actually reaches people – Thank you for compiling them.

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  43. Tom

    With #11, on including a related posts section, I updated that section to recommend a different plugin: the Related Entries plugin. It creates related entries automatically, which makes it much easier. Sometimes you wonder how the posts are related, but the majority of the time they are. With the Darren’s Related Post plugin, you would have to manually go back and add keywords to all your posts — no small feat for bloggers who have 200+ posts.

  44. mahud

    Thanks for the Article, Tom. I’ve added some of the Plugins you mentioned, and created an account at Feedburner.

    That’s the easy part.

    Creating good content is a bit more tricky, but I’m working on it ;)

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  47. Jaap Kooiker

    Excellent post! Thanks for the advice, i’m going to install the plugins you recommended. Now the only thing I have to do is keep my blog updated :)

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  71. Tom

    Some more thoughts on #15, including a Top Posts section. I just read some research Josh Porter published on Bokardo about how users are heavily influenced by aggregate data, such as a Most Downloads or Most E-mailed section. Users follow the wisdom of the crowd, and will often click these top articles. The result is that the rich get richer and the poor poorer. In other words, the stuff at the top of your list gets clicked even more. At any rate, this is another argument for including a Most Viewed or Top Posts section on your blog.

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  89. engtech

    One point you left out about usability: create your own post slugs.

    took me forever to figure this one out, but it’s always in your best interest to manually type out the post slug you want so that you get something fairly small and that doesn’t have any weirdness from accents or special characters.

    This is the post slug for this post…

    /twenty-usability-tips-for-your-blog-%e2%80%94-condensed-from-dozens-of-bloggers-experiences/

  90. Tom

    Yeah, sorry about the slug (URL) for this post. The instant I hit publish, I realized I forgot to customize the slug. But I didn’t want the pings and trackbacks to get confused, so I left it as is. But good point.

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  126. Hans

    Tom,

    I think your tip #2 (encourage comments) is a great tip. Your first resource on the post is also a great resource. I happened upon Jacob Nielsen’s research that stated that 95% of a blog audience never comments. I created ClickComments as way to get that 95% engaged with blogs (which makes them stickier). Our hope is that those 95% will start getting accustomed to commenting and when they want to express more they will leave traditional text comments.

    Please check out our service and tell us what you think.

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  128. Tom

    Hans, your clickcomments plugin seems interesting. I’ll give it a try — just added it. Thanks for the tip.

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  158. Tom

    I agree that enabling dialogue is one of the biggest appeals of blogging. It’s an interactive medium. My readers’ comments make the writing experience more rewarding, not just for the feedback, but for the additional knowledge and insight they add to the topics I’m writing about.

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  176. andrew

    Thanks Sparky. You rock. I have set up a blog (as you recommended) and am working through a couple issues (cant get email functions to work yet, and which template to use) but your info has been very helpfull.

    You are da man’. Hope all is well in Utah!

  177. Tom

    Andrew, I’m so glad to see you’ve joined the blogosphere. So where’s your blog? As for themes, I think Studio Press looks like a good theme.

    Yes, all is well in Utah. I love it here, but of course I miss my family and would like to see baby Hannah.

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  180. Karen Goodman

    I saved your post when I was just getting started with my blog last November, and reading everything I could find. I just revisited it, and have to thank you. This post really reinforced to me that I’m focusing on the right things. My blog certainly has room for improvement, but the tips you offer are the guidelines I’m trying to live by.

    One thing I have been struggling with for a couple of months is trying to find a way to add popular posts to my sidebar. The system I’m using (Point 2 real estate websites) simply doesn’t offer that feature. For some reason, when I read this post again a lightbulb just went off. I just created a new tag category and put a * in front of it so it would be the first Tag in the list (* Popular Posts). Then I went back and added this tag to every post that has more than 50 views excluding my monthly market reports. I’ll start including a link to the Popular posts with my related posts at the end of each article, and it should serve my goal of keeping these posts from getting lost in the archives. I can’t wait to change my minimum requirement to 100+ views instead of 50 views.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  181. Tom

    Karen, I’m glad you found something useful on my blog. I checked out your site. It seems you’ve gotten off the ground and are moving forward quickly. Looks great. Re the popular posts, I use a plugin from Alex King called Popularity Contest that automatically generates a list of the top 10. With some of the posts, I honestly don’t understand why they’re so popular. But this top 10 is always a feature I look for on a blog. Your technique seems like it would work, but it creates more work for you. Thanks for the note.

  182. Karen Goodman

    Tom,

    Thanks for the reinforcement. I wish I could use plugins, but my blog’s system (CMS?) doesn’t allow it. I can’t add anything that has java, and can’t do anything with changing the layout of the sidebar. There is another template I can use that allows some custimization, but there are other downfalls.

    I konw that the blog isn’t as flexible as if I went with WordPress or Typepad, but since my blog is an integrated part of my website (which I really need for my MLS home search and featured listings), every post is increasing the SEO on my website along with my blog. It’s the best solution I’ve come up with as an agent whose job is really to sell houses, and this website stuff is just a means to an end.

    My target audience is also not sophisticated blog readers, so they aren’t likely to notice the differences between my blog and the ones that are really spiffy.

    I’m focusing on content, and figure that is the most important thing to have it be an effective business tool.

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  187. Niels

    Hi there,

    Good article about usability and how to build a successful blog. I am blogging about usability as well, hope to see you there some time. Thanks for the article!

    Nielss last blog post..Nokia 888

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  195. Sire

    When refering to a another blog one must remember that in order for the trackback function to work you have to link to a particular post and not just the blog’s home page.
    I think a lot of people also forget how much it appreciated it is to actually visit the commenters blog and reciprocate with a comment of your own.

  196. Sire

    When refering to a another blog one must remember that in order for the trackback function to work you have to link to a particular post and not just the blog’s home page.
    I think a lot of people also forget how much it appreciated it is to actually visit the commenters blog and reciprocate with a comment of your own.

    Sires last blog post..Joining The Crazy Blogging For Money Train

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  198. Blogging tips

    If you want to write blogs to boost your online business, you need to make it a habit to post your blogs regularly. If you are seriously considering this as part of your marketing methods then you have to start with the right habit. You cannot write today and be gone tomorrow. Your efforts will be put to waste and there will be no effect to your business. Regular and consistent blogs are the ones that generate good results for any business. Success in blogging cannot be felt instantly. It might take some time for your web log to become visible to many internet users.

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  201. Nancy

    Hey, these are some amazing tips. And judging by the feedback these great tips are getting they are resonating with your readers. I am going to try and put this to some use for my photography and digital camera blog. Thank you.

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  203. nickler

    Great posts are hard to do consistently on a day-to-day basis. Probloggers really have to work at it. I thought about all the different ways and angles a blogger can approach choosing posting topics

  204. Ebay

    Thanks a lot! I feel like first time reading like a tonne of useful info in this single post. I better practice them now. Thanks again.

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    In Free Blog Backgrounds And Textures you’ll find some very beautiful free patterns here for making tiling backgrounds, which are great for blogs… A template can be thought of as a pre-made Website… A template is a pre-made layout for your web page… Each template includes fully coded html index and content pages, as well as a set of blank images and Photoshop files to make your customization job as easy as possible…

  210. Oak Bedsides

    Hey that was really amazing post… Thank you for suggesting 20 tips for making the blog more attractive… I will definitely try to apply all these 20 tips to my blog.. Really all those 20 tips are so important for once who creating the Blogs.. I liked point to encourage the comments that point was really good.. And through comments only will increase the traffic for the blog..

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    It was a great article. Your ideas are great. It was really very good article. These 20 tips are really very helpful for me. I really appreciate you. This was amazing. Twenty Usability Tips for Your Blog – Tips for increasing the usability of your blog for your user is great.

  212. Stephen

    I thought your one on ‘Keep posts short and to the point’ was funny after reading the length of your post :) But honestly I agree with a lot you said. I am a big fan of community participation and regularly invite people to comment on my blog, I noticed that when you engage with a user at the start of your post by asking for their thoughts they are not only more inclined to do so but also to take a vested interest in what you are writing about.

    1. Tom

      Stephen, good point about asking a reader for their thoughts at the start of the post rather than at the end. Sometimes if I ask at the end, it’s often ignored.

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  214. Mariano

    Great advice in this article. I’ve been looking for ways to get popular/top 10 posts up on my site, and your article gives some great advice and links to get there. Also validated some other approaches I’ve had to blogging, so thanks for that!

    My favorite part of this whole post is “5 reasons you should treat your employees like dogs”. Classic!

    Do you have any advice in terms of *when* is an effective time to post articles? How to publicize them? That’s something I think would be very valuable to bloggers.

    Thanks!

  215. Colette Mason

    @Alltop_Blogging just tweeted this and I followed the link.

    Some very good advice here.

    That archive by topic tip is great. As I’ve spent most of my professional life working on websites, not blogs, it hadn’t occured to me that date categorization isn’t very helpful for the user, apart from showing you’re posting fresh content.

    I’ll go and update my site with that feature now – Thanks :)

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  220. mehera

    Some of these posts and links are a real gold mine. I wish I had run across this blog before I did practically every blunder and no-no listed on some of these responses and tips links!

    1. Tom

      Mehera, thanks for the note. Glad you found the tips to be useful. I’d revise the post a bit now, since I no longer follow every one of my usability tips. I do try to follow most of them, though.

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    Having a topic for a blog is the start of all things.

    Getting comments makes a blog to write by itself and to climb in search engine rankings by itself.

    Presenting your ideas visually will keep readers on your blog.

    Keeping posts short and on the point will keep readers coming back for more.

    Presenting your real viewpoint is the thing that will make your blog different without the fear of someday getting short on inspiration.

    Any of the 20 points in this post can make a huge difference in a blog and everyone of them should be dutifully observed.

    But the key point is why having a blog in the first place and this should be shared with readers. Readers will participate in the blog more directly and bring much more in the experience.

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  226. Kathy Cook

    This is brilliant – thank you! I have just created a new blog, Blogworm, at http://tvustudent.wordpress.com, as part of my postgraduate research project/ dissertation into blogging and blog usability and user experience. I am investigating if good usability in Blogware relates to go usability in Blogs they create – or not. I am going to do hueristic usability evaluations of different Blogging tools and usability tests of different blogs. I am going to post my research findings on my blog as I go, plus all the info I dig up as I do my project. I’d love to hear your views as I start to publish findings, and how they relate to your own here. As a starter, for getting my blog off the ground to be as useable as possible, this article is very helpful. Thank you.

    1. Tom Johnson

      Interesting idea — does usable blog software lead to usable design? I think that yes, certainly that would be true. Part of the usability of WordPress is the way the code is architected. It’s broken into a lot of separate files so you can easily zero in on the code you need to change. In contrast, Blogger’s code is compiled into one big file. You can change all the code in Blogger, just as you can in WordPress, but changing it in WordPress is a lot easier. Hence more people are able to make the changes that they need in order to implement a more usable design.

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  230. Woman's World

    Interesting!! You’re right about our favorite post often buried deep and never comes back to the surface. Creating a list of all posts ever made and put a link for that list on the homepage/top nav-bar is a way to prevent this happening. Thank you for reminding us.

  231. Kathy Cook

    Hi

    I have just finished my usability study of 5 personal blogs.

    The following were ‘basics’ which blog designs are generally doing well, and are expected by users, if they’re not part of the user interface the impact on user satisfaction is very great:

    1) The right information at the right time to readers to gauge readership (comment counters, retweet counters, Facebook ‘like’ counters)
    2) Clear Time and date info on when a post was posted
    3) Enable users to easily View comments and Leave comments.
    4) Provide good profile info – with a photo

    The following would resolve the main issues users are having with blogs:

    1) Make subscribing easy: offer Email subscription as well as RSS, provide self-explanatory text and instructions, and make it really visible in the first part of your blog screen above the page fold.

    2) Make it clear what your blog is about. A blog shouldn’t be a puzzle. Self-explanatory descriptive titles, headings, introductory text and welcome messages will all help to resolve the mystery of what a blog is about and why you’re blogging.

    3) Keep the main stuff above the first page fold – long pages make users work too hard. Good content architecture and structure in blog content categorisation, tagging and pages all reduce the effort needed by users to scroll.

    4) Give users a search facility to find information. Make the search visible at the top of the first page and give it labelling to show it is to search the blog. If you have search function don’t bury it down several page folds – put it where users need it – at the top.

    5) Get organised down there! Linking to related articles or posts, tagging, and content categorisation, consolidate the number of tags so there are not hundreds, and use a tag cloud or category cloud or some kind of navigation menu so users can see the content options at the top of the first screen. Pages also help to organise content.

    6) Give them clear navigation on every page/ screen with a persistent link to your main page as the Home Page.

    7) Help your readers to share the love. Twitter Retweet, Facebook ‘like it’ and email sharing are all essential.

    I have published the complete usability study on my blog at http://tvustudent.wordpress.com

    Kind regards

    Kathy

  232. Nicky Douglas

    These are all great ideas. I have found myself not link as much as i should be – I am definately going to pick up the frequency of these.

    Its great that we have the ability to use top posts, relevant posts etc.. the tools we have available to use and the integration with other Social media are creating a whole new blogging world.

    Great article.

    Thanks

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  235. Mike

    As I’ve spent most of my professional life working on websites, not blogs, it hadn’t occured to me that date categorization isn’t very helpful for the user, apart from showing you’re posting fresh content.

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