Blogs are an evolution, and keeping it up is a big commitment. Usually you end up focusing on just creating new content on some sort of consistent interval, but the biggest problem with keeping a blog up to date is revising all those elements you once thought you would use, but now realize are not useful at all. This is my 400th blog post on this blog, and I recently rebranded the blog slightly to make the name simpler. Now I am thinking about to carry through the theme of simplicity to improve the user experience on the blog even further. Here’s my list of ways that I plan to rethink the interface of my blog or have elements I have already replaced:
- Kill your about page – About pages usually suck. And if you use the Blogger platform for your blog, chances are they suck even worse than usual. The problem with these pages is that they are static, offer little information and usually have no personality. My solution was to replace my about page with what I called my Social Media Bio. For me, that was what I would really want people to see if they clicked on my name or wanted to know more about me.
- Replace trackbacks with blog reactions (or something similar) – Here’s the problem with trackbacks – they are optional and so only usually account for one fourth (or less) of all links to your blog. For example, Technorati lists this blog as having 786 unique blogs linking to it. To date, I have received only 214 trackbacks. And these days, 50% or more of all trackback requests I get are spam. To augment the trackbacks, I put a "blog reactions" counter for Technorati links on the bottom of each blog post as well. There is always a big gap between that number and the number of trackbacks (usually zero). I am considering getting rid of trackbacks altogether.
- Rethink your blog roll – My blog roll are blogs that I admire and read, but it’s very tough for me to keep it up to date. At this point, I think that about 50% of the blogs that I read consistently are not on my blogroll at all. Finding the time to update this is difficult, and at the moment I feel it’s incomplete. I am tempted to remove it altogether or figure out a better way of having it more automatically update based on what I am actually reading. Perhaps I need to aggregate my feeds and publish those into a page like others do.
- Lose the stupid or outdated blog badges – When you first start your blog, you tend to put in a lot of silly things on the sidebar to take up the space. One of those was the "my blog is worth …" widget – but there are many others. Going through your blog to find these dated badges and getting rid of them is a great idea. Especially because when newer readers make it to your blog and don’t know that you have had these up for some time, it can make your blog look dated.
- Improve the blog header and branding – I rebranded the name of the blog but have not yet really updated my header with a new custom look. I plan to do that very soon and hopefully create a stronger brand for the blog in the process. That tends to be one of the most difficult elements for non-designer bloggers, as it requires me to get someone with design skill (ie – not yourself) to work on a new identity. Look out for that to come soon.
- Optimize the sidebar – Based on hearing from users about how they navigate the site and popular links, I have a better idea of what sidebar elements are most useful. I have not yet put that into use in optimizing the order of the sidebar, but this is going to be a priority as I try to make the experience better and more "sticky" to keep readers on the blog for more time and help them find older content that would be useful or relevant to what they are looking for.
Those are just a few thoughts on what I plan to change or have already changed on my blog to simplify and improve the experience. So let me know what has frustrated you about this blog or about the interfaces of blogs in general … I’m open to suggestions.