Twenty Ways to Make Your Blog More Usable: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at WordPress
Speaker: Tom Johnson Time: 1:30PM - 2:30PM 20 April 2007
Track: Content Development
This session is designed for both beginning and experienced bloggers. While the principles of blog usability are independent of the platform, this session focuses on WordPress, due to its popularity and flexibility. This session will be useful to people using blogs for chapter sites, personal sites, magazine sites, company sites, corporate blogs, and other purposes.
The following topics will be covered:
Setting Up Your Blog Correctly
You'll learn how to set up a WordPress blog. We will discuss the advantages of using your own host versus the WordPress host (WordPress.org versus WordPress.com), how to choose the right theme (1,2,3,4 column themes, post widths, web 2.0 styles), and how to extend functionality with essential plugins.
Formatting Your Content To Be Readable
If your content isn't readable, your blog wont be read. We'll cover some important principles of readability, including font type and size, line spacing, use of graphics, links, paragraph and post length, white space, column width, blockquotes, titles, and subtitles. Examples will illustrate concepts.
Making Your Content Findable
Are you posting into the black hole of cyberspace? You must ensure that people can find your blog. You'll learn tips for attracting users, such as tagging your posts with relevant search engine keywords, adding your blog to your signature, commenting and linking to other blogs, incorporating search engine optimization plugins, and providing prominently visible RSS feeds and e-mail subscriptions.
Making Your Content Interactive
Much of the appeal of blogging comes from the interactivity you experience from your users. You'll learn how to build interactivity into your blog by allowing users to comment (without your blog getting deluged with spam), enabling trackbacks, embedding surveys into posts, and allowing users to rate posts. You'll also learn how to monitor users online in real-time and track hits.
Satisfying the Reader's Desire for Information
To be appealing, your blog must have a defined niche and theme, clearly identified in a subtitle and carried through with each post. You can also help satisfy the readers desire for information by automating lists of related articles after each post, organizing posts by category rather than by date, and integrating audio and video. Most importantly, you'll learn how to feed your creative mind in a way that allows you to generate a new post each day.
Customizing Your Theme
At some point, you'll want to customize your theme. You may want to change the header image, modify the font and line spacing, or create unique templates for pages and posts. To do so, you have to modify the CSS style sheet and source files. We'll cover how to identify and modify the right styles and how to manipulate basic code tags that make up your blog.
Using Your Blog as a CMS
If you're using your blog as a content management system, you'll want to auto-generate subpages within pages, include and exclude certain pages and feeds, define different user roles and viewing levels, and possibly make the front page static while still having the blog available from another link.
About Tom Johnson
I'm a technical writer based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.