Blog Design Issues

Attention, all bloggers! I must take task with a handful of design issues in many of the templates you use. So please take a look at the following issues and see if any exist on your blogs. If so, please correct them immediately.

  1. Header Links – I’ve noticed that quite a few people neglect to include links back to their main page in their site headers. Ideally, readers should be able to click on the site header at any time and be returned back to the main page. Sadly, this is often not the case. It’s not that big of a deal when readers arrive at your blog by way of the main page. They can click down to an individual entry to read or leave comments then simply click ‘Back’ in their browser to return to the main page. But what about those folks who arrive at your blog by way of individual entries? They read, they leave a comment, then they want to browse the rest of your site. In the absence of a header link, the only way to get back to the main page is by modifying your site’s URL and truncating down to just the main address. It’s inconvenient, to say the least. Correcting this problem is easy enough – simply modify your header.php file and encapsulate your site’s title in a link tag. An additional option (notice I did _not_ say alternative) is to add a small navigation bar into your sidebar that includes a ‘Home’ link to your front page. This makes it very easy for readers to get back to the front page at any time in their browsing experience, making their stay on your site much more enjoyable.
  2. Sidebar Content – I’ve been to some sites where the sidebar is longer than the front page of the blog itself due to the vast amounts of clutter. In my opinion, a good rule of thumb to follow is this – keep sidebar content to a minimum. I realize that many folks have become emotionally attached to the use of chiclets and graphics, but the fact of the matter is that most sidebar graphics are not necessary and even detract from the overall look and functionality of your blog. I’ve been to some sites where I actually had trouble finding the navigational links because they were so buried inside graphics and images. Lose the chiclets, folks; if necessary, create a separate page just for them and use that page to advertise all your favorite sites. Ideally, the only things that should be in your sidebars are your site navigation links, archives, searchbar, and categories, blogroll (with a limit being placed on the number of these, as well; some folks seem to think that half a dozen blogrolls aren’t even quite enough), metadata, a link to your RSS feed (if you have one), and maybe room for one or two small flourishes (I have two sideblog categories I use for one-line entries). Essentially, your sidebar content should be reserved for those things that will help your readers find their way around your site more effectively. Everything else should be put into blog entries or separate pages. Tidy things up a little bit, and make your blog easier on the eyes (and the nerves).
  3. Old Comments – Some people like to turn off comments on entries that are older than a certain number of days. The reason they do this is because comment spammers like to target those entries with Internet graffiti. But for legitimate readers who stumble across those entries and want to add to discussion by leaving a comment, it’s very frustrating when they can’t. Most blogging platforms nowadays have some pretty good methods of blocking comment spam while still leaving all entries open for public discussion. “Akismet”:http://akismet.com has plugins for a wide variety of blogging platforms as well as a couple of discussion forums and photo galleries. Blogger uses image verification (a less than ideal remedy that nonetheless does the job). Whatever platform you use, I suggest you take the time to research an effective solution for comment spam and turn those comments back on. Your readers will thank you.
  4. Next/Previous – It’s a standard practice for new readers to a blog to read down through all the entries on the front page before proceeding to the second. Imagine how annoying it is when they get to the bottom of the page only to find that the ‘Next’ link is missing for the second page. For most blog owners who do this, they reason that readers can simply click through to their archives by using the links in their sidebar. That’s one solution, but it’s not very practical. It involves readers having to scroll back up to the top of the page, since the last entry on the page tends to be located a fair distance below the archives links. It is much simpler and less hassle to let readers simply click on ‘Next’ to continue reading. Most visitors to your blog probably won’t ever read anything older on such sites, no matter how interesting the content is to them.

Ultimately, the point of having a well-designed template is to dress your writing up a little bit and, more importantly, make it as easy as possible for your readers to gain access to all your writings.

So, go take another look at your template. If it has any of the issues mentioned above, consider fixing them or switching to a template that has a more solid design.

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