The New Blog School

Technorati Tag: blog

As part of the new website screen capture project for this site (which we've owned for just a few weeks), we've looked at over 1000 blogs in the last few days. Wow. Our eyes hurt and our heads hurt, but we are nothing if not noble, so please learn from our pain, and consider these lessons from The New Blog School...

LESSON ONE: Simple Is Best! As a rule, you have 6 seconds to grab our attention...not because we don't like you (we do!), but because we have hundreds of other blogs to review.

So if your blog doesn't load in 6 seconds, we're leaving. We have to. So please don't fill your site with images that are 1 meg each and will take until next week to load.

Have all your images on your own site. Linking to external images will probably fail, probably sooner than later. If you must use a free image hosting service, make sure it delivers images in 6 seconds or less.

NOTE: All of the loading problems to date have come from only two places. AOL Journals and AOL Journals is pretty ugly, but worse than that, AOL did not deliver the images. And if a pageload stalled, it was usually because imageshack did not deliver the image. Shame, shame, shame on them both.

LESSON TWO: Be Considerate. Make your blog useful or informative in some way... pleeease. Good writing can make almost any subject one or the other. Take the time to craft your words.

Do not cut and paste from Word or other word processor. Your page will end up decorated with weird characters and question marks.

Spell check. Especially headlines!

Learn to use the blogging software. Take your time and refuse to be intimidated or confused. Hosted services like Blogger have "control panels" that are designed for ordinary, non-techie people (like most of us), so you should be able to get a decent blog going. Remember, your blog is a reflection of you.

If you use flashing graphics or unneeded javascript animations, or require readers to download plugins to see them, we're probably moving on.

If you have video on your blog and it starts without the reader clicking a button, we're out of there.

If your navigation is still full of "edit me" or "edit this navigation," your blog is not quite done. Spend a bit more time with it, then start marketing it. We'll wait!

And if you must have ads - and we know a girl has to make a living! - please use them tastefully, otherwise you'll look like a splog (spam blog). (We're re-thinking our own ads with this in mind, even as I type.)

LESSON THREE: Design Is Beyond Important. Good design enhances the content and does not hide it "below the scroll". We came to your blog to read your brillant thoughts, so let's get to them! If we can't figure out your blog in 6 seconds, we're on to the next one.

Design for an 800 * 600 screen. If we have to scroll left to right to left to right to read your blog, we're leaving before we get carpal tunnel.

Now, if your page is attractive, you'll likely get more spend than 6 seconds...but if it's covered in 1996 Windows icons, or is wallpapered with one giant photo over and over so we can't read the text, or has 5,000 little pictures all on the main page because you like each and every one of know the rest. Cultivate an air of mystery: keep some of the 5,000 to yourself. :-)

Low contrast or weird contrast text (pink on blue) are hard to read and make our eyes hurt, so if that's your design choice...we'll leave you to it. And we'll leave.

Check your blog in more than one browser. At a minimum, check it in IE and FireFox on Windows. Layouts that may look gorgeous on one browser can fall apart on another.

If you use external services like Technorati, blogads, blogrolling etc., excellent...just put them last in the design. Because if they don't load fast (or at all) they prevent the rest of the HTML after them from rendering, which means an incomplete page - and we're off to go read a complete one. We're fickle like that.

Remember: good design doesn't have to be fancy or expensive (see lesson 1). Keep it simple, think of your reader, and use the tools you have. We can't wait to see what you publish!

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