As I reassess my own blog designs, I have come to the conclusion that clutter is a state of mind that doesn’t just stop at your desk. It is virtual too, and it has a big impact on how I as reader perceive other writers’ blogs. I have begun studying other people’s blogs for design ideas and I have come to the conclusion that there are 3 main culprits for blog clutter. I’m probably not sharing anything new, but the following often detract from my reading experience:
- long posts
- too many ads, or ads in the wrong places
Keep in mind that I’m not perfect and I’ve often been guilty of the first two. It is by making these mistakes that I am learning to be a better blogger.
I don’t have a problem with widgets as an idea. Some of them are quite useful and I understand that WordPress, for example, is so strong partly because of its range of useful add-ins. However, it’s all about the context. If the widgets don’t help the story your blog is trying to tell, should it really be taking up valuable real estate? For example, if you have a tech blog, do you really need a widget keeping everyone up to date with your latest Jaiku or Twitter micro-post?
2. Long, long, posts
Use expandable post summaries. Please. I know not all platforms use them (Blogger for one doesn’t, unless you are prepared to have a half-useful XML hack-around), but if your chosen platform permits it, use them. Large chunks of text make it very difficult to scan the front page looking for relevant material. Post summaries allow the casual reader access to a wider range of your content, which can only be a good thing.
3. Too many ads, or ads in the wrong places
Ads are fine, but place them nicely. If you want them in the sidebar, that’s fine. If you want them between each post, okay. If you want them in the header or footer, go for it (although if your page goes off the screen, I may not see any in the footer), sure, why not. What clutters the screen is when all of the above options are exercised. I understand why you have put the ads there, but I’m here to see your content, not to have third parties try to sell me something.
While I’m on the topic of ads, if the ads are too large and intrude on the reading, I’m just going to switch off. If you look like you’re trying to sell me something I didn’t come to buy from you, I’m switching off. If every post is divided with ads, splitting up the content inside a post, ruining my reading flow, I’m probably going to surf away. Keep the ads simple and relevant and I’m much more likely to click through on a couple. Flashy, intrusive and all over the place is likely to just push me away.
What pieces of virtual clutter distract you?