21 March 2008
A picture’s worth a thousand words: Increasing Your Blog Appeal, Part 2
From the feedback I’ve been getting, these posts are being useful to some bloggers, and that’s great. The only thing I want to stress is that nothing here is meant to be taken as criticism, merely as observation and suggestion.
Appearances are important with blogging. Most of us know of blogs we read in part because they are simply so beautiful to look at, with clean, interesting design, good use of photographs, and of course, good articles. What’s appealing to look at? Here are some pointers.
Limit the posts on your front page. If every post you wrote for the month of February loads when someone clicks on your site, some visitors are very unlikely to stay. For example, although we have highspeed, it’s sometimes a bit erratic due to our location and our provider’s business having grown faster than anticipated, and our speed drops to nearly that of dialup. For those on dialup, loading a page that is full of posts, each full of photos, is nearly impossible. In Blogger, you can adjust how many posts appear on your front page, and I’m sure it’s the same for other blogging sites. Likewise, if you post archives on the side of your blog, people can easily find earlier posts they may have missed or want to revisit. Personally, I limit my blog’s front page to 3 days worth of posts, which is normally 3 posts, though occasionally—like now—I’ll do more than one post in the span of a day.
Photo use: Photos are the eyecandy that can catch a reader’s attention, and if a fine photo or seven is backed up by interesting text, you’ve got a winner. Just bear in mind to scale your photos so they aren’t too large. Most people know this, but it’s really frustrating for someone on dialup to arrive at a favourite blog only to find dozens of images, each more than several hundred K in size, all of which take time to load. You don’t need to set your photos at more than 72 dpi for computer screen resolution, and a few inches wide and high will give perfectly fine photos at sizes that aren’t unwieldy.
Blog appearance. I love that so many of us are customizing our blog templates and making them totally unique. Two things to check: that whatever colour of text you’re using works on the background colour without causing eyestrain, and that your wallpaper is tasteful but doesn’t offend the eyes. There’s one blog I’ve stopped reading because the background pattern and colour combination literally makes my head hurt, and it’s a pity because it’s a nice blog.
Advertisements: I don’t mind a few Google ads or other ads that are related to gardening, but if a site is so packed with ads that I can’t find the actual post, I don’t go back. Plus I avoid blogs that are blatantly commercial, encouraging you to make money from some homebased MLM or hyping a score of products they’ve probably never seen. From years of reading, however, I confess to having an interesting talent—the ability to read around advertisements and be completely oblivious to them, whether in magazines, newspapers, or websites. I could go to any site right now and read a post, be able to say what it was about and what the photos were—but not what any ads were about. I do post reviews of books and tools that I can recommend, and so do others, and I really appreciate those who review items in a balanced way.
Accessories: Personally—and I stress this is my personal taste—I don’t care for music, dancing babies, flashing gifs, or most videos on blogs. When I’m reading blogs, I can actually switch from my usual music for working—Chopin, Bach, or Mozart, as a rule—to the more contemporary stuff I’ve loaded from my cd collection into iTunes. And strangely, audio files of birds twittering or the computer equivalent of Muzak clash rather strongly with Sonata Arctica, Steve Earle, Damien Rice or Within Temptation. (Yes, I am that eclectic). Videos don’t bother me as much—I like webcam feeds of birds, etc—but I have to switch browsers to look at them, as currently one browser is having a tantrum about some video files, and I suspect this is a problem for others too. Plus these can eat up bandwidth, and as noted before, the whole world isn’t on broadband/highspeed internet yet.
One Important Caveat: This comes from an associate of mine in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: have a care just how much personal information you put in your blog. We hear warnings to be careful of what we post on sites like Facebook, but my associate reminded me about blogging, as did a discussion with a friend who is also a credit union manager. As sad as it is, there are unscrupulous people out there with nothing better to do than prey on good people.
Next time: How about those numbers?