Nielsen’s list of blog usability issues and me

October 18th, 2005. Tagged: WordPress

Jakob Nielsen posted his vision on the top 10 usability problems with blogs. As always, a fascinating read, a bit exaggerated at times, a bit of provoking touch at times... if you haven't, be sure to subscribe to get notified when he posts a new article in his Alertbox.

Anyway, here's the list along with some comments. Basically I'm running pretty unmodified version of the popular WordPress software (although most of the issues are blogger related, not software's) and I'm guilty as charged on most of those points :(

  1. No Author Biographies - half guilty, I have a scan of my ZCE certificate, it's a start!
  2. No Author Photo - guilty. On the todo list!
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles - well, I'm doing my best
  4. Links Don't Say Where They Go - yep, sometimes they don't. The use of the "title" attribute is suggested in the article, which is very nice, I have only two issues with it.
    First, it's not very widespread, therefore people don't expect to see it, hence they don't rest their mouses on links, waiting for descriptions. And as Mr. Nielsen would be the first to agree, setting and meeting expectations is critical.
    Second issue - it's a common concept in SEO that thou shalt always use title attributes. Therefore all SE optimizers plus all spammers will make sure they use titles up to a point where it's no longer considered "organic" optimization. So at some point Google will decrease the value of the title if not penalize you for its overuse. Something like: "Hmm, all links have titles on this page, fishy, veeery fishy..."
    On the other hand I do hate it when a see links like "Some people say" where every word is a link to a different site.
    And let me be nasty on this - Jakob has a link in his article and then says: To see a link title in action, mouse over the "link titles" link. Well, that sentence makes two incorrect assumptions jeopardizing
    the usability of the article: a/ the visitor has a mouse and is capable of using it and b/ the link title is supported by the visitor's browser
  5. Classic Hits are Buried - guilty as charged, I've been meaning to put a "Most popular posts" on the side. Sometimes I resist my urge to post new entries only to avoid pushing a popular posting out of the homepage.
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation - Not guilty, I have categories. It really is annoying when calendar is the only option to navigate a blog. But I believe this is fixed in most blogging apps. Maybe this was an issue at the beginning, when all blogs were more "logs" than "web".
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency - guilty. Hmm, but scheduled publishing sounds more like work and blogging is supposed to be fun.
  8. Mixing Topics - guilty. But than again, a person has many interests and does it make sense to setup new blogs (and establish a posting schedule!) every time you want to post on a different subject. I think 7. and 8. are more aimed at more of the corporate-enterprise-marketing-ad blend of blogs out there.
  9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss - guilty. Actually no, not guilty! I've never thought I'm writing for a future boss, so how could I forget :D
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service - Not guilty, I own my shiny domain.

I can only add to the list:
11. Miles of homepage
I mean when you list the latest postings in their full length on the homepage. Apart from making the page too long and slower, it makes it unusable when you've structured your postings with header tags. In such cases it's hard to tell which is the title of the posting and which is a heading tag in its body. Personally I tweaked my WP install to show only summary on the homepage.

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5 Responses

  1. Hmmm… I sent a trackback to this posting yesterday but I guess it’s not working?

    Here’s a ‘manual trackback’ ;)

    I was inspired by your post and did the same thing on my blog mentioning your posting in the introduction. :)

  2. No idea what happened. Since you don’t even mention porn, casinos and viagra in your posting. ;)

  3. Well, your post can be of great help for people. Sometimes we face problems with our blogs and don’t know what to do. I thought only I had such problems. But having read your post, I’m sure that it isn’t so.

  4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go — it is true that people dont’ how to react to links with title=”..” attribute set :) However, I found using the JS snippet of snap.com to be very useful — it indeed says where the links go, plus it has a tiny thumbnail screenshot, which is also very useful, since there are people that “remember” in `images`, and not in `text` :)

  5. I have never had problems with my blog. May be the only small problem that sometimes occur is the choice of topic to write about. I want people to be interested in what I’m writing.

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