Jakob Nielsen released some blog usability tips in October 2005 and said that the biggest usability problem of blogs is that it’s hard for new readers to understand your site and trust you. To get around this he suggests:

  • About me page with a photo of yourself to help your credibility and create a connection
  • Descriptive post titles – even more important for RSS readers
  • Linking the right words so people know where they’re going
  • Highlight earlier popular posts and link back to them in later posts (few people will have read all your blog posts)
  • Categorise posts
  • Stick to a regular publishing schedule
  • Keep blog posts to a narrow topic field – or establish multiple blogs if needed
  • Use your own domain name – it looks more professional

Catalyst Design Group published a report in July 2005 on blog usability for the mainstream internet audience. Suggestions after usability testing with people who were unfamiliar with blogs included:

  • Make it clear (on archive pages as well as main pages) that the site is a blog
  • Make it clear about exactly what happens when you submit a comment – whether all comments are moderated or will appear immediately etc.
  • Explain what RSS/XML is – be aware of any language used on your site which may sound technical or foreign to non-bloggers (e.g. permalink, trackbacks)

Fireant Gazette has some further suggestions:

  • Make the font size large enough to be read comfortably
  • Don’t make the post width too wide – it’ll be harder to read
  • Dark text on white background is generally the most preferrable combination

Pretty basic advice, but when you’ve been blogging for three and a bit years, it’s easy to forget how much you’ve learnt about the blogging world and what it’s like for a non-blogger discovering your blog for the first time. It’s a good reminder to check the language you’re using (not necessarily in your posts, but around them).
One of the main things that bother me about many blogs are their sidebars – they can be incredibly cluttered and confusing. Consider moving some of the things on your sidebars (like blogrolls, favourite books/music) to separate pages (links, about me).

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