Thoughts on Jakob Nielsen on weblog usability
I cannot resist pointing to Jakob Nielsen's latest column, Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. If you're interested in usability issues, and anyone interested in making effective web sites had better be, his columns are usually worthwhile. (One of my embarrassments is that I haven't been reading him much lately; I used to care about this quite a lot.)
I think that Nielsen's weblog usability issues, like a fair amount of his writing, are aimed at what I would call 'commercial' weblogging; weblogging done more or less explicitly with selling yourself in mind. People blogging for other reasons should apply a certain amount of salt. For example, I know quite a few bloggers who consider it a feature that their weblog doesn't have a detailed author bio or any sort of author photo.
(For another perspective on this, see the recent issue of prominent academic political science blogger Daniel Drezner failing to get tenure at the University of Chicago, such as this New York Sun article. At least one contributor to the Volokh Conspiracy legal blog is explicitly doing so pseudonymously until he gets tenure, and I'm sure there are bloggers who have adopted online pseudonyms that are just less obvious.)
Reading Nielsen's list of ten issues makes me a little bit
rueful. WanderingThoughts is certainly failing on several that I think
are important, such as giving links good titles and not having a a
list of my 'greatest hits' (or at least what I think are my most
interesting articles; Google tells me that my greatest hit is still
this article on a bad
yum error message).
And most blogs could stand to improve their long-term navigation. (At
least I recently put in global index pages.)
However, I disagree about a lack of regular updates being a serious usability issue. In the old days before RSS frequent updates were very useful (and merely regular ones a useful fallback position). Today, the growth of syndication feeds and feed readers makes this much less important. (Even Nielsen's Alertbox has had a low-tech syndication feed for years, in the form of a mailing list for announcing new columns.)