I haven't published a blogging tips post in a while, so I thought I'd talk about some of the common mistakes that I see. Many bloggers don't realise they're doing them (I think I was probably doing all of these to start with), and over time I've realised certain things either frustrate me when I'm trying to navigate a blog or I know that bloggers just don't know how to change them.
As always everyone's preferences are different so you may not agree with all of them, but some things are based on basic principles of design and some things just make me want to bang my head against a brick wall due to the frustration it causes me! Unfortunately many blogging mistakes are because of the restrictions of Blogger as a platform (don't get me started), but there are ways round it to make the experience easier for your readers. I'm also not saying my blog is perfect - far from it. It's a constant work in progress but I always sit up and take notice when I read things online that I know I could implement, so I hope these points will help some of you.
Some have been mentioned many times before but I think they're important to say again, and others are not mentioned very often at all. I'm starting with the latter.
Mistake 1. Not having a favicon
Not having a what? A favicon is the icon associated with a website shown in the the little tab of the address bar of a browser. It also shows up next to the site name in a list of bookmarks. If you look at the tab for your blog in your window, does it have the generic orange Blogger logo (Blogspot blogs) or a blank/generic icon that's not your avatar or logo for your site? It's really, really easy to change it - click here for a quick 4-point tutorial. It'll make your blog stand out amongst all the other tabs. (I'm assuming that everyone, like me, always has at least 15 tabs open in a window at any one time.)
Mistake 2. Using captcha
On Blogger blogs, the use of captcha on the comments form seems to get bloggers' backs up more than anything, yet so many blogs still have it. Personally I'm not quite as annoyed by it since Google made it a lot easier (now a three-digit number compared to the indecipherable gobbledegook it used to be), but I tweeted about it recently and the general consensus was no, don't use it under any circumstances. If you're not sure whether you've got it switched on, check right now. Go to Settings > Posts and Comments > Show word verification? and make sure it says "No".
Mistake 3. Centering text
Compare the following two paragraphs:
1. A whole block of centered text is hard to read - your eyes can't return to the same starting place on each line as it's constantly changing.
Like white text on a black background (also difficult to read), it messes with your brain's logics.
Text that's difficult to read will put readers off, even if they're only aware of it subconsciously. It's a big graphic design no-no. Novels are never written with centered text, are they...?
2. A whole block of left-aligned text is easy to read - your eyes can return to the same starting place on each line as it never changes. Like black text on a white background (also easy to read), it works with your brain's logics. Text that's easy to read won't put readers off, even if they're only aware of it subconsciously. It's a major graphic design rule. Novels are always written with left-aligned text, aren't they...?
Mistake 4. Not making images the same width
This works on exactly the same principle as the centered text - your brain has to work harder to go back and forth as you scroll down through images. Depending on how you store and upload your images, you can either resize all your images to the same width before uploading them (use picmonkey.com or similar to do this), or resize them proportionately in the HTML. I explained how to do that in this post.
Mistake 5. Not having social media icons on the blog (or having them but with broken links)
If I've found a blog I love, I usually want to connect with the blogger via their social media channels. I want links to their social media accounts to be easy to find and right there in front of me. Likewise if the links take me to an old account that's no longer in use, or the link is broken, I'd have to be really desperate to follow (stalk) them by Googling their social media account. Don't make your readers have to work for it; give it to them on a plate. Wordpress makes creating them easy with plugins, Blogger doesn't, so you'll need a tutorial on how to create them. There are loads online, but if you want to know how I do it, this tutorial is almost exactly how I create mine (and nicely described in layman's terms).
Mistake 6. A blog archive that lists months only - no post titles
The jury's out on this one as I've read some opinions to the contrary, but I often want to search for a particular post in someone's archives. Some blogs I've read say no one wants to read old posts of yours, but I do, so here's what I look for. If you're going to have a Blog Archive, don't just have the months and years listed (or worse - just months where you have several Octobers and you lose track of the year). That's no use to anyone, so if you're going to do that then you might as well not have an archive at all.
If you do provide one (and I'd urge you - DO have one), then make sure the post titles are included. If I want to find that yellow dress outfit post you published sometime in the summer, it should only take me a couple of clicks to find it... I can work out from the titles which one it probably is. A list of months won't help me at all, so I just won't bother looking any further. To add/change it (on Blogger blogs), go to Add a Gadget > Blog Archive > Options and make sure you tick "Show post titles". You can see what it will look like in the preview.
Mistake 7. Not using your name anywhere
Please put your name somewhere. If you want to remain anonymous that's fine - at the very least use your first name or a pseudonym. Put it on your About page, at the end of your blog posts and on your social media bios/profile. It's very hard to communicate on a personal level when you cannot find a blogger's name easily. I wouldn't write a letter to someone without writing their name, and I wouldn't leave a blog comment without addressing it to them. Not everyone does, I know, but you're putting off those who do want to get to know you without a name.
So that's my 7 for this time - there are loads more I know but these are are my main bugbears. What are your bugbears? (I just wanted to say 'bugbear' again.) Were there any here that you didn't realise you were doing? Do share in the comments!
P.S. Why not have a read of my posts What 3 Years of Blogging Has Taught Me and 11 Top Blogging Tips From the Experts?
Linking up to: Let It Shine, Friday's Fab Favourites, Blogging Better