Patricia Capracotta 53 articles

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What Makes a Good Blog?

The function of a blog is to inform the reader. The best way to succeed in achieving this goal is to use social media networks to promote your weekly or daily posts, to constantly strive to provide something of value to your readers, and to understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO).  Among the most important factors in determining what makes a good blog, readability and simplicity of design rank the highest in desirable design features, followed closely by “multiple navigational elements”,  an engaging comment section, a “well designed header and custom footer”, a “visually appealing and user friendly sidebar”, good use of images,  SEO optimized code, great post titles and a clear call to action, “prominent opt-in subscription” options, a “search” bar, and monetizing if you want (Singh, 2011).

 

Most blog designers recognize that in order to reach their readers and be successful, the blog must pay attention to five design elements “content, appearance, graphics and images, social media, and SEO” (Five, 2012). A blog with amazing content and poor design will never be read, while similarly a blog with a stunning design and lackluster content will be dismissed quickly too. Balancing design with informative and readable content is the main objective for a successful blog.

 

The blogs that I reviewed belonged to classmates Matthew (http://mattwrightcapstone.blogspot.com/), Shelly (http://shellylmathewis.blogspot.com/), and Michael  (http://immikecohen.blogspot.com/). With the exception of Shelly’s blog, the first thing that I noticed about all of these blogs was that there was not a subscription option readily available or visible on any of them, and there was little to no information about the author. Matthew’s blog was difficult to navigate and offered too many choices for reading his content; which according to Hick’s Law, the more information a reader has, the longer it takes for them to make a decision. In terms of design, this translates into the more you have going on on your page, the less involved the reader will become. Matthew’s blog also pushed the theory of Proximity; which tells a reader that items that are grouped together will be related. Because Matthew’s blog had a newspaper type of layout, with the posts very close together and little to distinguish one from any other, the eye wants to take in all of it at once and becomes overwhelmed.

 

This was not the case on Michael’s blog. In fact the opposite might be true here. His design is minimalist and there is a lot of white space. He does not use the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio in his design. Even the text areas are not well formatted or visually appealing. The Rule of Thirds “is a method of composing elements to be visually pleasing in addition to identifying ways that users eyes will scan across the page”(Johnson, 2010). Blogs actually conform to this rule by offering one, two, or three column layouts with the columns intersecting at the places where the eye will be drawn. The Golden Ratio asks us to examine which “proportions are naturally most visually appealing” (Johnson, 2010). Michael also uses a written-word header and does not provide any spacing between the words, further detracting from the visual appeal of the blog.

 

Shelly’s blog, although eye-catching in a shade of red, is also off-putting for that reason. The contrast is too stark and startling, and distracts the reader from her content; which is well-written and nicely presented. The theory of “Occam’s Razor” tell us that “the simplest solution is often the best” (Johnson, 2010). We can get carried away with color, graphics, and intricate design that has nothing to do with what our users want or need from the website. Because users will only access a mere “20% of the content on the site”, it is more important to have a keen eye and sense for the value the content provides, and remove what is not necessary (Johnson, 2010). “Design simplicity is elegant, sophisticated and much more effective than the complex decorative style that is so prevalent on the web these days” (Johnson, 2010).

 

The reviews and comments on my own blog seemed to focus upon the fact that my design was very simple, to the point of being bland, and that I needed some graphics, or a flashy background to help offset the neutral palette. I intend to add some featured images in either black and white or sepia, I would like to alter some of the headline or post text colors to a red shade, and I will alter the background of the main blog window to a contrasting or at least complimentary color to help offset the text from the rest of the page. For the reasons outlined above, in particular Hick’s Law and the Pareto Principal; which states that “most of your users will perform a small percentage of actions”, I am reluctant to make more than these changes until I can determine what kind of interest or lack-thereof is generated with those changes (Johnson, 2010). By determining which actions my users will engage with, I can fine tune the page to focus only on those things that draw the reader’s attention.

 

2012 © Patricia Ross
References
Five components of a successful blog. (2012).
Johnson, R. (2010). Ten laws to design by.
Riley, K. (2009). Cultivate your blog and its audience. The Masthead, 61(1), 4-6.
Singh, K. (2011). 15 elements of a great blog design.

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