How often do you look at your own blog?

by 1389 on June 9, 2007

in 1389 (blog admin), art and design, blogging, browser, mobile web, tech tips

“Why would I want to do that? I haven’t forgotten what I wrote last week. Besides, I’m busy. It’s time for me to get out the next blog post!”

Do you know how well your blog is working?

There’s no substitute for bringing up your own blog in your own browser and taking a good look at it on a regular basis. It’s even better if you also view it on other platforms and browsers. If your blog has a mobile web interface, be sure to set up the proper environment to check that too.

Here’s what you can learn by putting yourself in your readers’ shoes:

  • Does your blog actually display? Don’t laugh. I’ve looked at a lot of blogs lately, or tried to look at them. I was surprised by what I found.Your blog may be among the many that won’t even come up at all.

    How do you know it’s running if you haven’t tested it recently? If you’re serious about blogging, you won’t want readers to find that your blog is down. If that happens too many times, readers will stop visiting because they think your blog is defunct. Worse yet, other bloggers and webmasters will stop linking to it.

    You can’t just assume that your hosting provider and your blog publishing system are making your content available, unless you monitor your blog regularly.

    • Does the entire main page load up on the first try? Or does the loading process stop before the page is complete, leaving you with pictures or text that are cut off in the middle or missing entirely?
    • Does the initial page provide everything that the reader needs to begin navigating, including excerpts or full text from one or more recent blog posts?
    • When you click on the URL for an individual blog post, does the entire page become visible, including comments?
    • Are your outbound links working? Check your recent blog posts. Click on outbound links individually or run a utility. If a link is dead, either fill in the updated URL, or delete the link entirely.
  • Is all of your text legible? If you want people to make a habit of reading your text, give them an unrestricted view, and don’t give them eyestrain and headaches.
    • Is any of your text hidden behind misaligned widgets, add-ons, photos, or other text elements?
    • Is there too little contrast between the text and the background?
    • Is your background so loud or busy, or your layout so cluttered, that readers have a trouble focusing on your text?
  • Does your blog take too long to load? Remember, people may be browsing from anywhere in the world, sometimes from mobile devices. They don’t all have as much RAM as you do on your desktop. They don’t all have broadband connections with unlimited access at no additional charge.So don’t try to make them drink from a fire hose. Their connections will time out, their browsers will crash, they may incur extra charges. Many readers will give up and never come back.

    If you want those readers to stay, make it easier for them.

    • Limit the total size of blog posts, text, and graphics that appear on your home page, and on each subsequent page.
    • Break the data stream into chunks and let each reader decide what to see next.
    • Don’t cram your last fifty blog posts onto one display. These endless vertical scrolls hog system memory and run at a snail’s pace. All too often, the text at the end is cut off. Readers hate that. Instead, display full-text blog posts individually or in small groups.
    • Don’t post high-resolution graphics directly on the page. Let your readers click on a thumbnail view when they’re ready to display or download a large photo or chart.
    • Don’t autoload music or videos. Readers are always complaining about websites or blogs that monopolize their bandwidth, make unexpected noises that disturb others, or launch some sort of multimedia extravaganza without asking. Let readers decide by clicking on a link when they are ready to see the next set of blog posts, watch a video, or play music.

    Does your blog offer an RSS or Atom feed? There are many advantages to offering a feed, so you certainly should set up that feature if you haven’t already.

    • Subscribe to your own RSS or Atom feed. That way, you can be sure that it comes out promptly and is formatted correctly.
    • Use full feeds, not just headlines or excerpts. Don’t frustrate users by making them wait for something else to load in order to finish reading your article. Also, some search engines use your feed to index your blog, so it’s to your advantage to provide the complete text.
  • Are readers leaving comments on your blog? If they do, be sure to pay attention. You may even find some good ideas in the comments for this blog post!

The bottom line: Review your blog regularly to make sure it’s functional and user-friendly, and you’ll be sure to attract and keep far more readers.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 June 10, 2007 at 4:34 am

Also (learned the hard way) look at it when you’re not signed in as an admin. Sometimes what you see in admin view is very different from what other readers see.

2 June 10, 2007 at 8:37 am

Wow, hadn’t thought of that! Good point!

3 June 13, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Great post. Very important. I also like to get input from others on how my blog looks. You’re welcome to provide feedback any time. I need all the help that I can get!

4 June 15, 2007 at 4:23 am

Thought of something else I forgot to mention…

On some blogs, I find that there are various things in the left and right sidebars, but no blog post text shows up in the main center column until I scroll waaaaaay down on the page.

I don’t know why this happens, but it’s inconvenient and disconcerting at best, and it makes the blog appear to be malfunctioning.

Unless the reader knows to scroll that far down on the page to locate the actual blog post text, the reader cannot help but assume that the blog post text page is failing to load. The reader may try again by clicking the refresh button, and when nothing changes, he or she will most likely give up.

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