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With Blog Usability, Provide Context and Avoid Mystery Puzzles

Jun 28, 2010 • general

A PhD student studying blog usability, Kathy Cook, published some worthwhile research about blog usability. Cook recommends bloggers keep the following in mind:

1. Subscribing makes users think too hard.
2. Mystery puzzles make users think too hard.
3. Long pages make users work too hard.
4. Users can't find information, can't search.
5. Get organised down there!
6. No navigation, no way home.
7. Users can't share the love.

She also rates the usability of blog platforms and finds WordPress to be the most usable.

Cook's most interesting usability tip is #2: "Mystery puzzles make users think too hard.

Blog user interfaces do not provide sufficient information at the right time when users need it to explain themselves, too often users don't know what they're about, why the blogger is blogging. Titles, headings, introductory text, welcome messages are all needed and need to explain to users what is in this blog and what it is about.

A similar observation could be made about most help files. Getting the right information to the user at the right time is the main problem of help. But blogs also suffer from this problem. With posts on many different topics, published irregularly, by so many different people in different contexts with different purposes, audiences, backgrounds, and assumptions, it's no wonder that readers frequently find themselves asking "what is this blog and what is it about."

Read the research here: Blogworm | A blog by a masters student studying the usability of Blogware, blogging, and blogs.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical communication — Swagger, agile, trends, learning, plain language, quick reference guides, tech comm careers, academics, and more. I'm interested in simplifying complexity, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture and findability, and more. If you're a technical writer of any kind (progressional, transitioning, student), be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here. You can also contact me with questions.