Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Things on a Stick Thing 25: Blogger's Toolkit (or in the common parlance..."How to Pimp Your Blog")

20 Usability Tips For Your Blog

Following my Master Plan to be more methodical and thoughtful this time around with the 23 Things, I'm going to hit every part of the "DO"s. There are a ton of Things in Thing 25 so this post will be a long one. I considered breaking it up but I have other post topics I'd like to cover for myself so keep your 2.0 eyes peeled here for the Thing 25 Saga.

1. Pick a topic for your blog.

I absolutely agree with this. Although it may seem initially appealing to do stream of consciousness blogging about whatever pleases you, even you will soon become bored. If you are writing for yourself or your imaginary audience about something that you are really fascinated by, you will be inspired to write far more frequently.

It is cheating, and a BAD SIGN when you subtitle your blog "...and anything else I feel like writing about". You can certainly offer off-topic items, and write about something not specifically on your theme, but its best to just slide those posts in under the wire rather than be sort of in-your-face about the whole thing.

I will say, counter to this in a way, if you are a public library reference librarian, you get every question in the world, a high percentage of which are unique things you've never been asked, no matter how long you've been in the field. This gives you huge leeway in your blog because the sky is the limit. You actually can talk about anything at all and be spot on topic. Tis good to be a librarian :)

2. Encourage comments

I certainly encourage comments and allow anonymous readers the ability to comment. This is really nice for those who read your blog but don't have one of their own. I would not get discouraged if there are no comments, nor can you assume no comments mean no readers. Blogger has a nice step by step help page on enabling comments:

How do I enable comments on my blog?

If you'd like to see if someone really is reading or if your words are floating unread in the ether, get a site use counter (probably covered later in these things).
I use Blog Patrol here, which gives a count and lets you know what people are reading and searching for that brings them to your blog. It can be a little quirky signing in sometimes, not loading, but you can just check later in the day.

3. Make it easy to subscribe:

Easier said than done! I recall having difficulty with Feedburner in Round 1 and here it is again. I bet this is some tricky way of having people re-do some of the tough stuff so they get the knack of it. Hmmpf.

Feedburner has been purchased by Google. They have a sign in on the Feedburner site that does not take your Google sign in. However, if you circuitously get to Google's page you're fine. Why they make you jump through that sign in hoop, I don't know.

In fact, signing in through Google only lets me have the ability to burn feeds and connect with an aggregator such as Bloglines. I am going to let this go for the nonce.

4. Include an About Page

I made a few changes to my original page. Not many.

5. Present your ideas visually

I really like adding some type of visual to each post. Even if I have alot of text, the perfect picture or cartoon or altered image brightens things up.

6. Keep posts short and to the point

This is mostly a good idea but it has to depend on what you're writing about. For pithy posts...go to Twitter!

7. Use subheadings for long posts

I understand the principle of this but in truth I rarely read what is continued on another page. This is probably a necessary technique when you have many updates or multiple posters and frequent updates. For a solitary blogger, it seems unnecessary.

8. Link abundantly

You definitely should credit others and link to the work of others who enhance or support your view.

9. Make headlines descriptive

This will make the reader decide to stop and look. If I am laughing at my heading as I type it, I know the post will be a good one.

10. Archive by topic

I like the idea of this but I'm already lagging terribly on these Things so I'm not going to ponder it now. I also fear the topical archive might take up too much sidebar space.

11. Include a list of related posts beneath each post.

I think in a more technical blog this would be useful. It seems like hubris to do it on a blog you write for fun.

12. Allow users to contact you offline

I had a mailbox for the blog briefly and had nothing but you've won a lottery in a foreign country scam-mail.

Currently someone could leave a Meebo message, but I am seldom logged in there and can never remember my password :(

13. Present your real viewpoint


14. Write for your future employer

My future employer is aways out in the timeline, but it will be me, retired and sitting in the sun with my spouse and beagles so, I'm okay on this one :) :)

15. Include a Top Posts Section

Again, this seems self-promotional so it is not for me.

16. Provide an Index

The one listed is alas for WordPress only.

17. Get your own URL

If I ever become famous I'll be sure to get one.

18. Include a Recent Posts section

Good idea for many, but for my purposes, it takes up prime sidebar real estate. I'm trying to recommend books and authors and other sites as much as I am interested in what I write myself.

19. Reward commenters for commenting

Excellent for high traffic sites, or as a means to promote comments on a high traffic site but I think it might also discourage some to be listed with a puny commenter score.

20. Post Often

Definitely a goal, but there is in truth not always time or inspiration.

More Useful Blogger Tools

Post by Email This could be useful while traveling but otherwise not so much.

Google Gadgets I'm a big fan of gadgets, for instance the Feedjit map that shows where my visitors hail from.

Make your Blog Talk!

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