I don’t always do a ton of volunteer work but my January was marked by a lot of it, between writing and copy editing for Team Justin and judging the CWAs. In both circumstances, I frequently paused, considered the work I was doing, and questioned the quality of my efforts. “This is so much fun,” I would say to myself (and the kids … whoever was in earshot.) “This is so much fun that surely — surely — I must be doing it wrong.“
In the case of the CWAs, doing it wrong involved one HECK of a spreadsheet (of my own making, for I am Keenerella, Queen of the Overdoers). As juried awards, all nominated blogs were subject to the organizers’ awards criteria, which I highly recommend all bloggers review and take to heart.
There were a few niggling instances where my own biases didn’t align with the prescribed criteria (let there be no doubt: their rules ruled). Obviously, I don’t think that having a unique domain name is necessary — in fact, the reason I stick with joyandwoe.wordpress.com is because I find WordPress.com domains load faster than WordPress.org ones, and I value load time over a special URL. As part of their Ninjamatics‘ usability/accessibility guidelines, they also recommend that links directing to pages within your own blog open in the same window. I understand the rationale but prefer new windows (as a blogger and a blog reader).
But when those are the only points on which there was notable disagreement? That is one impressive list of how tos, right there. I’ll say it again: do yourself a favour and read through their suggestions and see how you can incorporate them into your own blog design. Your blog will be better for it.
To give you a taste of what you can learn — which is my nice way of saying “stuff you should already be doing, kiddo” — here are my personal favourites, which I’m presenting with minimal commentary (for once in my life):
- Make sure that you place your website’s primary navigation links above the fold, which is approximately within the top 600 pixels of your website. (More usability tips: 12 ways to increase the usability and accessibility of your weblog.)
- Make sure that you have a static about/FAQ page devoted to some kind of explanation of yourself and/or the weblog. (Okay, I have to comment on this one. As a judge, I also had to award points for “authenticity,” and without this kind of page, without more about who you are and where you’re coming from, scoring — and feeling — authenticity was tricky. Yes, you will through in your writing. Yes, blogging is about showing. But it won’t kill you to tell. More transparency tips: Five things that lend to a sense of transparency and authenticity in a weblog.)
- Create a masthead, or have a masthead created for you, that you can trust to make a memorable and positive first impression. (More design tips: 12 factors in the creation of an aesthetically pleasing weblog.)
- Pay attention to detail. Has the content been edited for spelling and grammatical errors? (I say: It should be. I don’t always catch every tiny mistake on first posting, but I do reread what I write, and if I find a mistake, I fix it.)
- Make sure that if it’s meant to be interactive that it IS interactive. In other words: “I feel like this one is so obvious that it barely needs discussing … but broken commenting systems and audio and video players and whatnot litter weblogs across the internet, and it’s crazy-making.” (Hint: Don’t make your readers crazy. If they’re reading your blog they’re already well on their way. Check out these additional tips on interactivity and functionality.)
This is by no means an exhuastive list — remember, I only noted two usability tips, and Ninjamatics serves up 12! These are just the not-so-obvious areas where I nodded really hard, for a very long time.
To better blogging!