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When your feed is easier to read than your Blog itself

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This is an alarming trend in many blogs that I want to subscribe to. The most interesting factoid in this complaint of mine is that many of these blogs belong to big shots in the application development, promotion and design arena. In many cases they provide ample reasons for their blogs’ appearance (much of which I disagree with personally) but since they are the masters of their domain, my opinion really does not matter. In some cases, a lot of their readers agree with their design tactics and believe that they are appropriate and even well justified.

I need to flesh out my thoughts and realize that an accusation like this is irrelevant without any examples to look at directly. But since antagonism is not my intent and I quite like and respect most of these people, I will refrain from pointing out any particular links.

I might be wrong and crabby about all this and so I ask you. The three main questions are:

1) What visual prompts make a blog a blog? A blog in the “skinned” form of a magazine with changing information in (all) three thin columns, is very hard to read. I personally really dislike the highly fashioned blogs with weird fonts and a big celebrity picture up on top (e.g. fan blogs) but then again I don’t read those much. How many columns are too many columns? Should all three columns contain dynamic information? I dont think so. Should one column be discernable as the main column which contains the real meat of the blog? I think so. Which column works best as the main column?

2) Are the customary blog contents (such as the archives, calendar, categories etc.) important to the readers’ experience? Can they be tucked away in smaller, less conspicuous areas and still make the blog easy to navigate? (I know someone that does this incredibly successfully and I find their blog a joy to read)

3) I know colors matter but do we need lots and lots of visual cues to make our blogs look fancy? By visual cues, I mean the little permalink icons or the comment icons or even fancy little icons to denote links. (I am guilty of this myself) Does the little comic thought icon (I don’t know how to describe it any better) make a blog look better? My problem is that I am a little slow and every third blog finds a new little icon to denote comments and I get lost. Thank God for alt tags!

Till I find myself to be a little more tolerant and because I really want to read your content, I will just subscribe to your feed (which you hopefully provide) and read your content my way.

Oh, and please do not find a way to send the comment thought icon in your feed.

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  1. Dhruba Bandopadhyay (2 comments.) says:

    I agree with you about the broad notion of this post. In many cases the blog feed is easier to read than the blog site and makes it easier to decipher with a quick glance the worth of the content. The question I’d like to ask is why are the users really visiting blogs? Is it for worthwhile content or is it to marvel at the technical and aesthetic accomplishments?

    I believe the audience is split into two kinds where one kind visits for the content and the other rather more geeky kind visits for the latest plugins, hacks and design incorporations not only to marvel at them but also to learn from them and aspire to them.

    I also believe that blog authors are of the same two kinds – the kind that wants to write and is satisfied at that point and the kind that wants to incessantly configure and code and is only too happy to write about it.

    Understanding the reader’s perspective is easy. They are attracted by a good blend of worthwhile content housed in a universally pleasing design originally introduced to sites by word of mouth/link. Information overload and clutter is off putting. Generous whitespace and moderate use of colour is inviting.

    Understanding the authors’ perspective however is a little more difficult. There is the kind that sees blogging as a literary artform, as the web equivalent of a diary and has learnt just enough code to allow them to house and present the content. There is the kind that lusts after the attention other blogs get and in vain start their own web presence to gain the recognition of fellow bloggers and friends. There is the kind (myself) that never really intended to blog initially but was pleasantly surprised when they stumbled across it and once they have begun can’t figure out how they ever did without it. And lastly, there is the kind that you refer to as the “big-shot” who relishes and thrives upon their next technical challenge and views their blog as their personal techno-playground and from it derive iteration after iteration of redesign for the purposes of practice and self satisfaction and endless plugins, hacks and enhancements for the betterment of us all.

    However, perhaps, looking at it from the divided perspectives of readers and authors is a little naive. Perhaps, in the end readers and authors are interchangeable like money since those who pay out eventually get something in return. Those who begin the trend by writing are eventually those who read elsewhere and leave comments. It is a mutual practice of give and take in a ever changing pool of information that quenches the insatiable thirst of curiosity.

    I have this dreadful feeling that didn’t even come close to answering your questions but I just couldn’t help myself. This is what I interpreted your post to be about – wishful thinking!

  2. chris (1 comments.) says:

    Your WTC, Mark, is among those I fully read the one I’d think of as “being easier to read in my feed”. Several reasons to that: Content-wise, you’re posting a lot of links to interesting plugins/addons only few of which will be of interest to me at any given point in time; structurally: your use of a small serif font, long lines, presence of a scroll bar at my preferred window size. This and the presence of ads.

    (I know about the struggle of those who, like you, invest a lot of time and money and understandably wish to get some of it back. And that ads are considered an acceptable means of making a bit of money from a site. I just happen to hate the. If you injected ads into your feed, I personally would unsubscribe from it, as I have done for feeds from meta-sites that create feeds from, eg, news outlets that don’t provide any.]

    Anyway, I have taken two screen shots: this is what this article looks like in my browser and here’s my Bloglines version.

    And keep up the good work, I do appreciate it!

  3. Mark (34 comments.) says:

    Perfect! I love this kind of constructive input. I will try to modify my markup to suit some of your requests.

  4. Matt (64 comments.) says:

    Yeah the side-scrolling thing on this site has been driving me nuts, but I don’t use any aggregators so I keep coming back anyway.

  5. Mark (34 comments.) says:

    Now why didnt anyone tell me?? :)

  6. Sherri (10 comments.) says:

    I despise jumping/moving text when I hover something. Sometimes the shifting really throws everything all wacky. I’ve seen this in IE and Mozilla browsers.

    I think using decorative underlines for links causes that: it doesn’t affect the text-link when it’s hovered, but when an image-link is hovered it puts that decorative line under the image, and all text under jumps down a few pixels. Then when the hover is done, the text jumps back up. I’ve seen jumpy text when using bold for hover links too.

    I don’t like radical background color changes on hover either. If it’s just barely noticable, that’s fine.

  7. stiven boahin (1 comments.) says:

    i want to work in ur company



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