What Makes for a Reader Friendly Blog?

posted in: Blogging, Reading, Writing | 27

Welcome to The Written Word Wednesday edition of my blog. Today’s topic is blogs and making them reader friendly.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m no expert on blogging. I’ve only just started this journey recently myself and my blog is in a state of transition as I learn. I think I’m finally going to have to break down and buy one of the WordPress for Dummies books out there as there are things I’d like to do and undo on my site that I’m not quite sure yet how to do. I’ve already learned a lot of the technical stuff since the first day and my “What the heck am I doing???” mantra. But there is so much more! So much. So so much. <sigh>

I am, however, an expert reader. I’ve been doing it since I was 4. I’m not saying how old I am now, but believe me when I say — it’s been a long long time. I can’t even begin to estimate how many books I’ve read. I know it’s in the thousands. I read anywhere from 3 to 5 a week. And I’ve read hundreds of blogs on many many many topics. Heck, I even read the back of cereal boxes when there’s nothing else there to occupy me. But what Captain Crunch was up to probably doesn’t really matter for this post. So moving on…

I’m going to give you my opinion on the 3 most important things that makes blogs user friendly and makes me want to keep coming back for more. Are you ready?

The number one thing of course is content. You have to have something to say that is interesting and helpful. No one wants to read a blog about what you do everyday. I wouldn’t even want to read a blog about what my best friend does every day and she has some pretty interesting days.  And no one wants to read a blog from someone who does nothing more than hawk his or her books.

Give us something interesting. Something that’s going to inform or amuse us; makes us think, laugh, cry. Today alone, I have laughed, teared up and taxed my brain with different blogs.

If you have a hobby or are an expert at something, share that passion and knowledge. Maybe you’re still learning about something — let us learn along with you.

Take writing for instance. There are a few people out there who can probably call themselves experts at writing. Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Nora Roberts come to mind. But for the majority of us, I think we’re still learning. Especially in the changing marketplace and with all the new opportunities available to authors out there. That doesn’t mean we can’t blog about writing and reading and authors. We learn as we go and so do our readers.

My Favorite Author

Then there are specialized topics. When I did investigations for the state and for the family courts, I was considered an expert for the courts.  So I feel good about sharing my knowledge and giving my opinions to help those who are stuck in family court and co-parenting hell. Not that co-parenting itself is hell. If you’re both trying and doing your best to co-parent effectively, then it’s really easier and more peaceful than the alternatives. When one or both of you resent the other and don’t try…that’s when it becomes hell on earth. (Ummm…sorry, my topics seemed to merge there for a second. I’m a little ADD today.)

I don’t give advice, but I share what I learned during those nearly twenty years and hope my readers will come away a little better for having read my blog. I know that not everyone is going to want to read about custody, access and co-parenting, but if I can help a few people, that’s what I care about. It’s also why I write about authors, books and writing on a different day and why I have a day set aside I can write about anything else that pops into my head during the week that might not fit into the other two days. There’s something there to help others, something I’m interested in and then something that may be a surprise to me as well as to the reader. Not that I think this is the perfect way to do it. It’s just the way I do it. Everyone has to find their own thing.

So, think about it. What insights do you have to share? What do you want to learn more about that you can pass on to your readers as your knowledge grows?

I think the second most important thing that makes a good blog is readability. Is your content readily accessible? Is it clear, unobstructed? Is it eye-friendly?

I have read some wonderful blogs in the past. The content/posts were very informative, humorous, or important in other ways to me. I loved reading them. But, it was disaster for my eyes. If someone has to constantly try to read past the bright colors and other objects covering the words or try to see hard to read fonts & shades…they probably won’t keep coming back.

I’ve had problems with my eyes since forever I guess. I had to get really thick bi-focals in third grade. As technology improved, the glasses weren’t so thick, thank goodness. My senior year of high school I got contacts. After more than 20 years of wearing those, I finally had Lasik Surgery. Best thing I had done for myself at that point.

I could see perfectly for about 8  years without glasses of any kind. Then about a year and a half ago, I had to start using reading glasses. Probably caused by all the reading, writing, glare from computers and well yeah, I’m getting a little older.

Now by the end of the day, my eyes are really tired and they don’t like to have to work hard at reading. So, if I’m on a blog where the words are a challenge because of the fonts, hues and obstructions, chances are I’m outta there. I’d have to be really motivated to stay put and read.

When I’m reading a blog, I want to be able to find the posts easily on a side bar. And better yet…they should be categorized, so I don’t have to wade through tons of posts on duck hunting (which I have no interest in) to get to one about Keanu Reeves (not that I go searching those out or anything.. but sheesh I think he’s pretty awesome and I thought that by putting his name in here, he might google himself and end up on my blog. How cool would that be?) And, if you’re reading this Keanu — I’m not really all that old! I’m just trying to make a point here.

Ummm…where was I?

Oh yeah! Readability. So think about your readers. Not everyone has perfect eyesight and it may make things harder on them than it is worth it to have bright and flashy or dark and gloomy, etc. Have an older person or someone you know who has eye problems read your blog and see if they have difficulty with it.

And finally, the third most important thing (in my opinion) for a user friendly blog is to make it easy for people to comment. I hate to start commenting, get all my thoughts written down only to discover that there is no way for me to actually do so.

Some blogs have it so you have to sign in via facebook, twitter or some other program. Believe it or not, there are people out there that don’t use any of those. And even though I do have both facebook and twitter accounts, I don’t sign into anything using another program/website. It might be safe, but I like to keep things separate.

In my humble opinion I think its best to have a way for someone to sign on with their name/url or even anonymously. If you’re worried about spam, download a plugin that will help keep spam from posting to your site. The only one I can recommend is Akismet because it’s the only one I’ve used. (And it works great!) I’m sure there are others out there.

What’s almost as bad as not having an easy way to login is having those CAPTCHA plugins someone has to try to figure out in order to insert the phrase into a box. Don’t know what a CAPTCHA is? According to Wikipedia, A CAPTCHA “is a type of challenge-response test used in computing as an attempt to ensure that the response is generated by a person.” (Check out the geek & poke website where I got the cartoon below. Very cool!)

Basically it’s those really fuzzy sets of numbers/letters that can make a person crazy if stared at too long.  (If Data can’t figure it out; I have no hope. ) I will say that the technology has gotten better and sometimes you can ask for a different one if you can’t read the first that pops up. But, if I have to make more than two attempts…I don’t. Period. I have too many other things calling for my attention. Keanu? Have you made it to my blog, yet?

Anyway — here are the main three again:

1. Content rules your blog.
2. Readability and accessibility are vital.
3. Make it easy for people to comment.

What about you? What makes you love one blog while not liking another so much? If you want to give a shout out to someone’s blog you think is very reader friendly, go ahead and post a link in your comment. I’m giving a shout out to Kristin Nador’s blog Exploring Creativity  One Venue at a Time. It’s clean, easy to read, with categories on the sidebar and it’s easy to comment.

And if you don’t mind, tell me how you think I can improve mine to make it better. I’m all about improvement. (And I’m a writer. I can take critique. I won’t curl up in a ball and hit my head over and over. Well, no more than an hour anyway. LOL) I know I have this little scrolling search box on the sidebar. I have no clue how to get this off there. I don’t know how it got there. So, if any of you more tech savvy people out there know — please help!

Thank you all for stopping by. You might tell Keanu that I’m crossing my fingers in hopes he’ll show up. It’s getting pretty hard to type, so I’ll bid you adieu for now. ;-D

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Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

27 Responses

  1. Ashley

    Hi Rhonda, Great topic. I would add that blogs should be kept short. Our lives are so busy. There are so many interesting blogs. I love it when a blog writer comes to their points quickly. Cheers, Ashley

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Yeah..I know this one got away from me. I have ADD today. And Keanu didn’t help! LOL Thanks for stopping by Ashley! 🙂

      • Ashley

        Hi Rhonda,

        Actually, I thought your blog was just fine. And Keanu is always welcome. 🙂 I’ve seen some blogs that go on for pages and pages and pages.

        Cheers, Ashley

        • Rhonda Hopkins

          Thanks Ashley! You’re very sweet. Seriously though…it WAS longer than I had planned. LOL Did you ever just have one of those days when you couldn’t quit writing? My former boss accused me of writing a book rather than a report for the court many times. And Keanu’s been on my mind as they’re showing the Matrix films on AMC this week. Thanks again and have a great evening! 😉

          • Ashley

            Och, I’m so jealous! I have the opposite problem. I write a sentence when a paragraph is called for.
            And be sure to keep Keanu on your mind. It’s actually a very good sign. 🙂 Cheers.

  2. Catie Rhodes

    Good blog, Rhonda. One thing on your blog: I can’t make hard returns (paragraphs) when I reply/comment. When I press the enter button twice my text just appeared right underneath the previous paragraph with no space. Watch. I’m going to do it now.

    See?

    Other than that, I like your blog. I like your content. I like you. LOL

    I know on my blog, I get wrapped up wanting to put everything in that right sidebar. I never know what should stay and what should go.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Awww…thank you Catie! I like you, too. And your blog. 🙂

      I have no idea why it won’t let you make hard returns. It lets me. (Or it looks like it does. I’ll have to see when it actually posts.) I’ll try to figure out how to fix it. As for the side bar, I know. I don’t know what to leave there either. I don’t want it to look too busy, but, I want things available for my readers. I might have to do a separate page or something for some things. That might be better.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I appreciate it!

  3. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    I’ve been reading a lot lately about how to make your blog better and you’ve hit on some good points. Thank you for that. What catches my eye first is a headline that makes me WANT to read it. Sometimes it’s appropriate to have pictures if they enhance what the blog is about. If there’s a video to watch I don’t want to have to click a million links to get to it. I want it to be right there so that I can press play and watch it without leaving the blog site. Additionally, I agree that I don’t want to have to write a biography about myself in order to leave a comment. Captchas are irritating, but they don’t make me leave the site. I feel that if I’ve read the blog, I want to leave a comment no matter what, so I do the captcha thing and be done with it. Also I don’t want to read a blog that is so long it takes me 10 minutes to read it and another 10 minutes to leave an appropriate comment. I sometimes spend 2 hours reading people’s blogs and I like the short, succinct ones that give me info in a short blurb. THANK YOU for this post.
    Patti

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Patti! Thank you for stopping by and pointing out some other great ideas. I’m getting the feeling my blog was too long. LOL I knew it was. I just couldn’t stop. And I couldn’t cut. Thanks for sticking with it though. You’re awesome! 🙂

  4. Jennette Marie Powell

    Usability – Yes!!! Thank you from a web designer/programmer whose main areas of expertise include usability! And one who’s starting to dislike small text more and more. Also, the pic of Keanu Reeves doesn’t hurt. Although it could be higher up. And you need a drool smiley. LOL just kidding – sort of!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      LOL! Don’t think I wasn’t drooling. Did you know he wrote a book? I just found that out. I’m really not a stalker or anything. I honestly don’t think I’ve googled him in over 3 years until now. Or is that 3 days? j/k Apparently, he wrote a satirical picture book for adults, called Ode to Happiness. I know he has this very “sad” image out there. But, I never think of him that way…just private. The man acts, plays bass, and now he writes. Is there anything he can’t do? Anyway, thank you so much, Jennette, for stopping by and joining the conversation with your thoughts on blogs! 🙂

  5. Julie Glover

    Great post! I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I don’t stick around for hard-to-read blogs either. There is someone whose posts I would love to read, but my eyes rebel every time I click over to her blog. It’s sad. And I do the captchas, but I grow weary of them.

    By the way, I think authors may have to experiment a little to find content that is both their passion and attracts readers. Learn from what people comment on!

    Thanks again, Rhonda!

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you so much, Julie! You’re right. Experimentation is key. And to paraphrase Kristen Lamb — The world won’t end because you do something differently. I’m glad you stopped in to join the conversation. Have a great day! 🙂

  6. Julie Glover

    One more thing, Rhonda! If you allow me to sign in with FB, my profile pic pops up. Without that (as a Blogger, not WordPress user), it’s just my name.

    (Unless someone knows how to get around that.)

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thank you, Christine! I’m glad you dropped in and took time to leave a comment. Have a great evening! 🙂

  7. Angela Wallace

    All your points are great, but where I get hung up (writing my own blog) is trying to figure out what content *is* interesting. Fear plays a big role in that struggle (something Kristen Lamb’s workshop will hopefully beat out of me). There’s “interesting” and there’s “useful,” and sometimes I wonder if I fall under “useless.” Okay, no need to wallow in self-pity.

    And I completely agree with readability! I read one blog I like, but the color scheme definitely strains my eyes.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Angela! I think it’s only natural for all of us to have self-doubt and worry about whether we’re saying anything anyone wants to read. But you don’t have to worry. At least not in my humble opinion. I really enjoy reading your blog. I thought the one from Wed (?) about soundtracks for books was inspiring. Thank you for for stopping by and taking time to comment. Have a great weekend! 🙂

      • Angela Wallace

        Thanks Rhonda. 🙂 I was actually really worried about posting that one and almost didn’t! I’m thrilled people actually liked it, and I guess I just proved Kristen’s point that it’s our quirkiness that attracts readers. I shall try very hard not to hold back in the future. 🙂

  8. Debora Dale

    Rhonda, I agree with every point you’ve made here. The most important to me is the readability factor. There are some blogs that I absolutely love but cannot read without having seizures. I wind up copying the text and pasting it into a word document so I can see it clearly. Then, I go back to the blog to comment. It’s an easy fix if someone wants to try – they can keep the edgy or flirty or even neon colors on their blog as long as the printed space is a gentle, light background with dark letters.

    Great pointers here!