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With Blog Usability, Provide Context and Avoid Mystery Puzzles

by Tom Johnson on Jun 28, 2010 •
categories: technical-writing

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 San Francisco Bay 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.

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