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Blog : Posts tagged with 'Jakob Nielsen'

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All in the timing

In which we wonder if things should be more regular


The other day, I wrote a post that essentially said: “today was a Thursday, but it felt like a Friday“. The next day – when it was still the top post on the page – Gordon replied: “hang on, it is Friday!”

I know it’s hardly a serious thing, but it set me thinking: should I try to stick to a more rigid posting schedule? After all, it’s convenient for the readers if I’m nice and predictable: posts coming up at the same time every day, not just maybe one a day, at some point. The Plain People Of The Internet,* the theory goes, are used to, say, predictable telly scheduling,** and would like predictable blog scheduling too.***

As it is, the blog is updated when I can think of something. Usually, this means late at night, which (in turn) means that, say, a Thursday entry doesn’t get read until Friday. Sometimes, though, it means lunchtime. Occasionally, I post something early in the morning: this means I have been Organised, and drafted something properly. Most of the time – like now – I write whatever’s on top of my head, and press post straight away. Should I be a bit more organised about it?

* apologies to the late Myles na gCopaleen, whose column in the Irish Times was often visited by the argumentative Plain People Of Ireland.

** Presumably apart from the ones who watch BBC 2.

*** I think I originally read this in something by Nielsen, but I can’t find the quote right now.

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Freedom of speech

In which we ponder competition among blog hosting companies


Back in the mists of time, I wrote about Jakob Nielsen‘s top ten blog design mistakes. Including: not having your own domain name. My response: there are several sites I read and respect that do do this, but if you want to be completely sure you control your own reputation, you need to control your domain name too.

One thing I didn’t consider, though, is that the people who host your site can, if they want, control what you put on it. Filter out things they don’t like. You could, for example, do what News Corporation subsidiary Myspace have been caught doing: censor links to video-hosting sites, presumably because these sites will soon become News Corp’s competitors when Myspace introduces its own video-hosting service. You might think you can say anything you like on the internet – but if you’re a Myspace user, that apparently doesn’t apply.

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Byline

In which we think about design and credibility


Going back on last week’s post on Jakob Nielsen‘s top ten blog design mistakes: his Number Two Mistake is: no author photo on the site. Thinking about it, out of all the mistakes on his list, that’s almost certainly the most commonly-made.

Faces are better-remembered than names, he says. People will come up to you because they recognise you from your photo, he says. How many bloggers actually want that to happen to them, though? I know I don’t. It makes you personable; it improves your credibility if people know who you are.

I said before that I don’t believe it would give me any extra credibility. I don’t think you need to know what I look like in order to believe the stuff I write here; and frankly, I don’t care whether you believe it or not; I know myself how true it all is. Thinking about it again, though, I’m a bit suspicious of his reasoning; and what makes me suspicious is: comparing his theories to the way newspapers work.

If you look at most national newspapers – I mean, British ones – their regular columnists will have byline photos.* You know what they look like, so, the theory goes, you should trust them more. Columnists, though, aren’t there to write things you need to trust them about. They’re there to write down their opinions, which may well be – and often are – complete bollocks. The news pages, which are the parts you’re supposed to believe are true, don’t bother with byline photos. They don’t always bother with bylines. These people, though, are the ones you’re supposed to trust, and their words are supposedly more trustworthy because of their relative anonymity.

Of course, this all breaks down when you consider that most bloggers see their role in life as over-opinionated commentators, not the byline-free just-the-facts news types. I wanted to mention it, though, because it’s a different angle on how trust works in the media. Who do you trust more?

* There are occasionally exceptions, of course. Satirical writer Charlie Brooker‘s Guardian byline pic is a drawing of a vaguely person-shaped blob.

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Mistakes

In which we consider how well this site scores against Nielsen’s standard


Website design and usability expert Dr Jakob Nielsen has published his list of the top ten blog design mistakes. So, I thought I’d go through the list and see how many of them I’m making.

No author biography, no author photo. Well, there’s a kind of biography, but certainly no photo. I don’t want you to know who I am. It wouldn’t mean anything unless you already know me in real life. Telling you more about myself wouldn’t gain me anything in credibility, which seems to be the most important point here.

Nondescript posting titles – I do this all the time. Mostly because, as he says, writing good headlines is hard work. Partly, though, because this isn’t a news site. If you look at a newspaper, the concise descriptive headlines Nielsen favours are all over the news pages; but the comment sections’ headlines are deliberately vaguer and enticing.

Links don’t say where they go – I try not to do this, because I know it’s bad for search engines.

Classic hits are buried. If I ever write some, I might think about doing something about this.

The calendar is the only navigation – in other words, you should try to categorise everything properly. I’d say I score half-marks on this one.

Irregular publishing frequency is about the only thing on the list you can’t accuse me of, unless you want to complain about me not always posting at the same time every day.

Mixing topics. Hah. I don’t even have a topic.

Forgetting that you write for your future boss – this is why I don’t tell you much about who I am, in the hope of avoiding this problem. Nielsen thinks that trying to avoid this is hopeless given the march of technology, though.

Finally, Having a domain name owned by a weblog service – lots of well-known, well-respected sites do do this. I see the point, though: you need to control your domain to control your reputation. Not something I need to worry about, though.

Totting up, I seem to have hit six (and a half) of the top mistakes in weblog design. All of them, though, are all very good points when made about a different sort of site to mine. I just don’t feel that those six mistakes I’ve made are a problem for me at the moment – and some of them might be mistakes, but they’re decisions that I deliberately took. I’m fairly happy with the nature of this site at the moment, whatever an expert might say.

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