Why I Won’t Read Your Blog

Expose Your Blog

I surf around quite a lot of blogs, thanks mainly to blog exchanges like Expose Your Blog which are like StumbleUpon but based only on blogs, and have the added bonus of gaining you reciprocal traffic. I used to surf on other exchanges too, but they are all losing traffic and are poorly maintained. Expose Your Blog is relatively new and quite a small but vibrant community of those enthusiasts of personal blogging that haven’t defected to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others.

I thought I’d share a few reasons why I might be put off by blogs, and tune out if I land on them again. If you can think of anything else, I’d be pleased to hear it in the comments. Feel free to share your pet peeves too :).

Reading: If your blog is hard to read, then why read it?

  • Don’t use busy backgrounds that interfere with the foreground text, especially if that foreground is not separate from the background because it’s semi transparent.
  • Don’t use super-small text or change text size, colour or font mid posting. A different style for quotes, captions and other elements can work, but stick to one style per type of content and make your main text as simple and easy to read as possible.
  • Don’t make adverts obscure the key content you’re trying to push. Your blog will not make you rich, get over it.
  • Don’t have too many wacky widgets all over the place. Pick the ones that best represent your personality and stick with them if you must have a couple. Try to keep them aligned so that there aren’t loads of different widths of widget all higgledy-piggledy on the page.
  • Don’t have so much fixed content at the top of your blog that it’s not obvious where the fresh, unread content starts. This last point is particularly important on blog rotation sites because someone who’s already read your blog wants to identify what’s new since last time!
  • Do make sure there is good contrast between your foreground and background. Some people have awful screens; some people are not blessed with good eyesight.
  • If you are going to use teasers, make sure I get a good idea of the article content before I click a link to read more.

Writing: that’s what your visitors are here for.

  • Don’t apologise for the lack of posts, or make promises you might not keep like posting more often soon. It will only look worse as the most recent posting date recedes into the past.
  • Do set a reasonable rhythm of posting and stick to it. No point being one post a day for a while then nothing for ages. Better to set a reasonable goal for yourself and stick to it. I try to make an update about every ten days, I can’t manage more. If I have a great idea for a post a couple of days in a row, I store them up as writing prompts for the next post.
  • Commenters: they might want to write too. Don’t make life difficult for them by requiring them to have a specific website ID like Blogger or OpenID. Let them post anonymously, using either a CAPTCHA or moderation to stop spam. I’ve actually typed nice comments to people only to find that I can’t post them anonymously. The nice comment is thus wasted, and my time with it. Yes, I have a Google account but I don’t want it all over the blogosphere.
  • Crazy punctuation, over-use of quotes, lots of exclamation and question marks. Tough one this, because some people can do it and it totally fits in with their character and works. Other times it just looks like filler and detracts from an otherwise interesting read.

I edit myself a lot and try to be as good as possible, but obviously I am guilty of some of these crimes. I’m happy to hear your suggestions if you have constructive criticism of this blog.

19 Responses to “Why I Won’t Read Your Blog”

  1. HJ Smith Says:

    I agree with the points you’ve made; well put. I especially agree with you about busy backgrounds and wacky widgets.

    I’m also not a big fan of animation on blogs; many simply take too long to load even with a broadband connection.

  2. Andy D Says:

    You have a lot of very good points here. I hate music on a blog. Nothing makes me leave a blog quicker than music that automatically starts up when the page loads.

  3. fruey Says:

    Hello,

    @HJ Smith, quite right. Loading time in general, because of huge images (filesize wise) can even be a separate subject from animations, which can load quickly but be very annoying and tiresome on the eyes especially if close to the text of an article you’re trying to read.

    @Andy D, I usually surf with the speakers off, turning them on when I need to listen to something. I have too often been a victim of sudden bursts of sound! Nothing worse than audio blasting out as soon as you arrive on a site (and even worse if it’s coming from an advert).

    Thanks for the comments!

    -Fruey

  4. Anji Says:

    I agree with your ideas. Something that always disappoints me if I leave a comment is being ignored. I know I’m slow to ackowledge comments myself, but I get round to it in the end. I was also upset when I left a comment, it was waiting for moderation and never appeared, I persume the blogger just never got round to it.

    A lot of teenage blogs have weird colour schemes, us older people just can’t see to read them.

  5. fruey Says:

    Hello Anji

    I think I almost have enough material to have a follow up on improving your etiquette or improving “visitor engagement” to your blog… on the comment subject alone.

    It’s disappointing to not see responses, even more so if your comment gets stuck in moderation. I made a detailed reply to a blog once that was never moderated, it upset me particularly because it was a thought out reply to an interesting article. I certainly recommend responding to all comments in a timely fashion.

    As for weird teenage colour schemes: the under 20s don’t have the monopoly on that :).

    -Fruey

  6. Dirty Butter Says:

    “Don’t have so much fixed content at the top of your blog that it’s not obvious where the fresh, unread content starts. This last point is particularly important on blog rotation sites because someone who’s already read your blog wants to identify what’s new since last time!”

    This is the biggest problem I’ve seen with blogs on surf exchanges. I try not to be guilty of it, but sometimes it’s hard to do. Too many blogs use huge images at the top, and you have to scroll to see anything else.

    As for writing wasted comments? Been there, done that, too. Grrrrr

    I found you on Expose Your Blog!

  7. Jan Says:

    I think all of my irritants have been covered. Except I do hate when one apologizes for not having written for so long as if we’ve all been waiting with bated breath. I really don’t care.

  8. fruey Says:

    @Dirty Butter the problem is often accentuated by the fact that even after scrolling, what looks like the start of the content may also be adverts and a “sticky post” which never changes…

    @Jan, yes the apologies often sound too much like the blogger is just talking to their self-conscious rather than engaging with a reader about something interesting or unusual.

  9. Don Says:

    Your review of what is good fits with my thoughts! For us graphically disinclined, such as me, finding a good solid, clean template is hard to find though.. I think I finally found my likes, but it is pretty plain… (Which I like…)

    Don
    http://exposeyourblog.com

  10. Kath Lockett Says:

    Spot On. Any complicated widgets, music or too much ‘guff’ on the top half of the site has me switching off immediately (or clicking off, I should say).

  11. fruey Says:

    @Don, there are some minimalist themes out there but they take some finding. If you’re with wordpress.com you then can’t customise them too much though, so if you really want it to be just so, you have to develop it yourself. I built this theme and launched it over five years ago… it’s had a few minor changes since then. You have to know a bit about PHP and HTML though, which isn’t in everyone’s immediate reach.

    @Kath, yes I “click off” sites quite quickly when I am surfing around if they haven’t made some effort to put content before guff.

  12. cube Says:

    At first I thought your post was going to be hostile, but I found your ideas thoughtful and covering some of the most annoying things about some blogs. Loud music is the only thing I would add to your fine list.

  13. T. T. Douglas Says:

    Agree with all your comments and the commenters here. I have gone to the other side and have received comments that my blog is too minimalist, (read that boring) because of color scheme etc.

    My biggest irritant is load time. I want a blog to load FAST so I can see if I want to read it or not. If it takes a long time to load, then I simply move on because of the wait. Harsh, maybe, but there are way too many blogs and too little time. Cheers.

  14. fruey Says:

    @cube, pleased to have surprised you. It would be all too easy to pick on particular blogs and stuff I don’t like on them, but it would be hostile and uninteresting. I’m more interested in the general readability points – everyone has the right to make their blog their own.

    @T.T Douglas, personally I think minimalism is good, but perhaps a little personal touch wouldn’t hurt. The content is good though, I enjoy MOTW each time I see you on rotation. Load time is a good point indeed… more than five seconds and I’m irritated. Blogs should be able to load pretty much instantaneously.

  15. laneerg Says:

    I agree with everything you mentioned, as well as what a few of the other people added (loud music.) I try to respond to people who comment on my posts, but sometimes they slip through. Dark backgrounds are probably my biggest peeve, and my second would be where more of the blog is advertising than actual content.

  16. fruey Says:

    Hello Laneerg,

    If people comment on an old article it’s not so bad if you don’t respond quickly. But if you have recently published something over the few days the article is fresh I think it’s good to keep up (though not always possible!).

    Dark backgrounds can work, but it’s rare that you see a good mix of text colours and images that work with dark backgrounds. However I think photography blogs in particular can get away with dark backgrounds.

    Totally agree on “more advertising than content”. I’ll not fight through ads to read the actual content.

    -Simon

  17. Robert Scott Lawrence Says:

    Yeah, making it hard to comment definitely is a baddie. Although it seems like the obvious thing to do when setting up a blog, if my comments don’t show up because they’re in “moderation” limbo I’m less inclined to ever go read a blog again. The spam catchers are good enough to week out most spam, actually, and live-time commentary is always better.

  18. Robert Scott Lawrence Says:

    That’s “weed” out. Apparently I can’t spell.

  19. fruey Says:

    Hi Robert,

    It’s rare that moderation is required on a blog, though some high profile bloggers may make good use of it, as long as they can react quickly enough to approve comments. On most blogs it’s unnecessary as you say since Akismet and others weed out spam very well.

    -Fruey

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