• The distance between the top of the page and the title of any given blog post … i.e., the header, banner ads, bread crumbs, etc. etc. … should be as small as possible given the constraints of the blog.
  • The title text in the header and the title text of a given blog post should be real text, easily selected and copied, and written in simple type with proper upper case/lower case. If it is to be in all caps or small caps, that should be a style added to the natural text.
  • The title of the post should always be a link to the post itself. Thus, for instance, if you’ve been visiting a comment so the URL now has a link to the comment, hitting the post title should reposition you to the main entry without the bookmark.
  • The title of the post should be closely followed by both the date (preferably with a time stamp as well) and the author. And, if this post is on a site you own, a link to edit the post should be physically nearby this area as well.
  • “… the titles of the posts should [provide a very good idea] as to the contents” [Richard Simons] as should excerpts.
  • The main column where the post is written should be flexible width constrained by well thought out minimum and maximum values.
  • Links within the post should be of a very obvious color. It is probably good to have a slightly different color for visited links.
  • “Blogs should be magnification-friendly. The content is primarily text. A visitor should be able to magnify and not have any weird layout issues or performance issues (shame, Twitter) as a result. SciBlogs doesn’t seem to have any issues here.” [John Moeller]
  • All blogs should have the name of the blog owner readily identified if it is not on each post, and it should be very easy to find an email address, either under “contacts” or “about.”
  • Snorking* buttons should be readily available. A “tweet” or “twitter” button should cause the post to be tweeted, and should NOT bring the reader to the blog writer’s twitter page. Social networking buttons should include twitter, facebook, google+, and one or two others in plain view, and a pop out menu or box with all known options available.
  • “A blog should be able to load quickly. While this is occasionally a function of the server, more often it is a reflection of the noise and clutter of the sidebars and graphics.” [Mike Haubrich]
  • Objects that continuously download or actively communicate with other places, or that automatically reload the page at arbitrary moments, should not be allowed. [JakeS]
  • The site should make a good-faith effort to run in the absence of Java, Javascript, cookie and Flash support and/or permissions, and the site should be HTML compliant and use cookies only in a friendly sensible way and not a nefarious evile way. [JakeS]
  • It should be “easy for people to post comments & respond.” [SteveR]
  • Recent comments should be on the sidebar [Silver Fox] preferably near the top of the page.
  • Some sort of blog list or set of links on the sidebar is nice [Silver Fox]
  • “The blog should be updated” frequently, perhaps once a day or more [bks]
  • There should be no mouseover events that are not very subtle! (Sorry, Mike Licht, I can’t endorse popouts! But you do make a good point that could be dealt with ….)
  • Link-out to other URL’s should not be miniature mystery novels. It should be obvious what the link if to [following Mike Licht]
  • There should be an RSS feed. If it is just a summary, it should link to the main blog article.[Eunoia]
  • In case someone is reading an archive article, there should be an obvious link/button to take him to the current blog.[Eunoia]
  • There should be a block of links to recent and/or popular blog articles in a sidebar.[Eunoia]
  • There should be an ABOUT the author (i.e. blogs should not be anonymous, stand behind your opinions!).[Eunoia] However the “author” may well be a pseudonym.
  • Pictures should be … compressed jpgs to keep loading times low for the non-DSL readers.[Eunoia]
  • Use human readable well thought out slugs, typically the post title. [JakeS]
  • Advertisements [or other objects] which emit noise in any form is an abomination unto God and must be exorcised from thine site with extreme prejudice. And fire. [JakeS]
  • Videos should be used properly and thoughtfully, though opinions differ on what this entails.[Art and John]
  • The blog post should be usage-compliant, including such things as spelling out acronyms except those that are LOL speak, of course.[Art]>

Add what else you think is good in the comments and if I agree I’ll add it to the list.

Comments

  1. #1 John Moeller
    September 11, 2011

    Blogs should be magnification-friendly. The content is primarily text. A visitor should be able to magnify and not have any weird layout issues or performance issues (shame, Twitter) as a result. SciBlogs doesn’t seem to have any issues here.

    Not only should an author consider the visually impaired, but I’m officially in my late 30’s now and I don’t want to kill my eyesight squinting at 12 pt text on a high-res screen from a foot away (thereby also giving me neck cramps). I should be able to recline comfortably and see the text from a good distance.

  2. #2 StevoR
    September 11, 2011

    Good writing and interesting stories. :-)

    Make it easy for people to post comments & respond.

    Polite and civilised, intelligent, pleasant and witty followers?

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich
    September 11, 2011

    A blog should be able to load quickly. While this is occasionally a function of the server, more often it is a reflection of the noise and clutter of the sidebars and graphics.

    My blog currently loads slowly, and I am investigating ways to fix that.

  4. #4 Richard Simons
    September 11, 2011

    I agree with all the previous comments and would add that the titles of the posts should give some hint as to the contents. I rarely visit one set of blogs because, although there are some gems, the authors delight in giving uninformative titles and I don’t want to wade through the whole lot.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    September 11, 2011

    John I wanted to include your point originally but the wording did not come to me late last night while starting this. And yes this is not just for officially visually impaired.

    Steve, I”m tying to stick with the technical issues in this particular post. I had not originally said anything about comments because I’m not sure which technologies I personally happen to like. But yes, making it easy is very important. I shouldn’t have to put in secret passwords and swing a dead chicken over my head six times first!

    Mike: It would be interesting to see wordpress template benchmark tests.

    Richard, I tend to agree. Sometimes it is very tempting to provide a title that is very smart, but does not do the job. I wonder if this discussion will touch on the RSS experience?

  6. #6 Silver Fox
    September 11, 2011

    Recent comments on the sidebar are good to have, and I like a list of blog or other links on blogs, also. (Maybe this all gets into “What to have on your sidebar.”)

  7. #7 bks
    September 11, 2011

    * The Blog should be updated at least once per day.

    –bks

  8. #8 Mike Licht
    September 11, 2011

    The link “mouse-over” should identify the destination, ideally the post or article title, author, and blog/newspaper/journal title. This keeps attribution information from cluttering the text yet allows readers to determine if they want to click the link. Links should open in new windows.

  9. #9 Eunoia
    September 11, 2011

    1) There should be an RSS feed. If it is just a summary, it should link to the main blog article.

    2) In case someone is reading an archive article, there should be an obvious link/button to take him to the current blog.

    3) There should be a block of links to recent and/or popular blog articles in a sidebar.

    4) There should be an ABOUT the author (i.e. blogs should not be anonymous, stand behind your opinions!).

    5) Pictures should be e.g. 80% compressed jpgs to keep loading times low for the non-DSL readers.

    6) I should be on your blogrolls (http://www.savory.de/blog.htm ;-)

    7) Cuius rei demonstrationem mirabelem sane detexi hanc marginis exiguitas non caparet…

  10. #10 Art
    September 11, 2011

    Good-on-ya for mentioning the need for the date be immediately available. People too often treat articles and blog posts as if they were post-it notes that disappeared, never to be seen again, shortly after they are posted.

    Fact is that a whole lot of the stuff posted on the web will, has been, available ten or fifteen years, sometimes much longer after that, after it was first posted. Not knowing when a post was written makes many of them hard to understand. I read a post written ten years ago that implies that some even happened recently and I’m not sure if the writer is well informed but writing ten years ago, poorly informed and not keeping up with current events, purposely focused on history and actively ignoring recent events, or simply nuts.

    On the technical side it is confusing to read an article about computer hardware touting the ‘latest and best upcoming technology’ from a decade ago.

    In both cases if the post has a date and year clearly posted it is much easier to interpret and frame the context of the post. I advocate that people write as if what they write will be looked at a decade or three after it is posted.

    My other pet peeve is that people use acronyms without defining them. The best policy, IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) is to spell it out the first time it is used in an article. Fifty years from now that handy acronym may not be so common and readers may be left scratching their head. Spend the extra ten seconds and lay it out clearly.

    Other common sense recommendations are that you never use a video when a picture will do and never use a picture when text will do. If you post a picture be sure to crop and format it to be a small as possible while maintaining clarity. A small picture with a link to a larger format is a nice way to handle it.

    IMHO too many people use videos as a crutch. Yes, it takes time and effort to compose a bit of text to accurately and compellingly convey a thought, but the end result is almost always more compact, and more elegant than a video carrying the same message.

  11. #11 JakeS
    September 11, 2011

    Your URLs should contain the title of the page they lead to, so people whose browsers display the linked URL as a tooltip see some meaningful information, rather than a string of alphanumeric gibberish.

    Advertisement which emits noise in any form is an abomination unto God and must be exorcised from thine site with extreme prejudice. And fire.

    Similarly, under no circumstance should you embed an object in your site which continuously downloads content from elsewhere, requires uninterrupted connection or otherwise places demands upon the reader’s connection after the page has been successfully downloaded.

    The site should make a good-faith effort to run in the absence of Java, Javascript, cookie and Flash support and/or permissions. Or at least throw up an intelligible error message to the effect that any or all of these needs to be enabled.

    If your site offers or requires the user to submit information upon each visit (such as username, contact e-mail, etc.), offer the user a cookie that can remember and resubmit this information for him. Corollary: You should not offer cookies unless they store information the user would otherwise need to manually resubmit upon revisiting your site. Finally, cookies, being unencrypted, should under no circumstance display non-public information (passwords, non-published e-mail addresses, etc.) in clear text.

    Comment threads should be nested, and the level of nesting should not be arbitrarily limited without a compelling reason.

    Comment sections should be kept clean of linkspam.

    Make sure your site is HTML-compliant. “Everybody uses Internet Exploder” is as pernicious a mistake as “all the world’s a VAX” was in previous decades.

    – Jake

  12. #12 John
    September 11, 2011

    Here is second to Art’s (#10) observation about videos as a crutch. It is bothersome to have to watch a video, or start it, just to get the sense of the topic at hand. “Just watch this and you’ll see” is not good hospitality. A one or two sentence abstract to introduce a video is not too much to ask for, in my humble opinion.

  13. #13 Drivebyposter
    September 12, 2011

    I would say the blog posts should take a definite stance on whatever the topic is and declare it firmly (where appropriate). I’ve come across blogs/websites/Youtube channels/etc where all of the entries were “Here is a controversial topic. I am staying out of this one.” What point is there in that?

  14. #14 Eunoia (again)
    September 12, 2011

    1) Your readers WILL have different levels of education. So KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Counterexample : Making erudite jokes in Latin (as I did in my previous comment) will not generally be understood (e.g. in the USA) ;-) Use a simple vocabulary.

    2) Group your NAV Tools together.

    3) Don’t use colour coding; 3% of males are colour-blind.

    4) Blinking text is a sin.

    5) Verify that your page displays correctly in at least 3 major browsers (e.g. Firefox, IE current and previous versions, Opera).

  15. #15 Eunoia (again)
    September 12, 2011

    1) Your readers WILL have different levels of education. So KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Counterexample : Making erudite jokes in Latin (as I did in my previous comment) will not generally be understood (e.g. in the USA) ;-) Use a simple vocabulary.

    2) Group your NAV Tools together.

    3) Don’t use colour coding; 3% of males are colour-blind.

    4) Blinking text is a sin.

    5) Verify that your page displays correctly in at least 3 major browsers (e.g. Firefox, IE current and previous versions, Opera).

  16. #16 Mac
    September 13, 2011

    In reply to: “The Blog should be updated at least once per day.”

    Nonsense. This one has caused good blogs to go bad. It depends entirely on what the purpose of the blog is.

    If the purpose of the blog is to give updates on intellectual property case law – then it should be updated when there is new case law. I’ll subscribe to that blogfeed and read all new entries.

    But if the owner of the blog decided to follow the ‘I must update at least once a day’ then the blog becomes useless to me. Specialty blogs are a great resource – but they become useless if the owners feel the need to update them more often than they have useful things to say.

    I’ll add a suggestion:

    All blogs have a life-cycle. One day you aren’t going to feel like keeping the blog going- that’s OK. If the blog is cc licensed then it can live on after you have lost all interest – and you definitely shouldn’t just destroy it. If you don’t want to keep your domain going any more – just move it to blogspot (or whatever) and leave it findable for people who are interested in the topic.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    September 13, 2011

    Nonsense. This one has caused good blogs to go bad. It depends entirely on what the purpose of the blog is.

    Good point. This may be more of a strategy to consider than what a good blog needs.

    But if the owner of the blog decided to follow the ‘I must update at least once a day’ then the blog becomes useless to me. Specialty blogs are a great resource

    There are actually quite a few blogs that I follow that are like this, and I once developed one for the U. of Mn. that did just that

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