This Blog Breaks the (Design) Rules — Should I Reform?

Jakob Nielsen is an authority on web design. When he writes Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes, one should at least pay attention.

By my count, this blog only clearly adheres to two three of the ten rules, and totally fails at least three, arguably five — and doesn’t do too well on the last two either.

1. No Author Biographies [arguably FAIL] (I do link to my homepage…)
2. No Author Photo [arguably FAIL] (ditto)
3. Nondescript Posting Titles [FAIL sometimes]
4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go [FAIL sometimes] (I do try to be conscious of this one, but I get sloppy sometimes).
5. Classic Hits are Buried [FAIL]
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation [PASS]
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency [PASS]
8. Mixing Topics [FAIL MISERABLY]
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss [FAIL] (Tenure is nice)
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service [PASS]

Should I change my ways?

PS. Please treat this as an open invitation to make any other blog-related comments/suggestions.

Incidentally, it’s clear that I’m also very bad at publicity: last night at dinner, one of my colleagues asked rhetorically if I had a blog, and seemed taken aback a bit when I said that well, yes, I did.

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17 Responses to This Blog Breaks the (Design) Rules — Should I Reform?

  1. tommy says:

    Also, you should link to Tampa’s favorite blog, Sticks of Fire. All the cool Florida blogs do it!

  2. Jim Carlson says:

    Your blog ain’t broke; don’t fix it.

  3. Pat says:

    I think, at times, Jakob can be off his rocker. Other times it’s the people that treat his writings as if they were gospel handed down on stone tablets from the top of Mt. Interweb. Anonymity and free-hosting are not mistakes. How are you supposed to write a short headline that is “descript” enough for everyone…and on and on.

    Right there I’ve tagged 3 “mistakes” of Eschaton. Granted, Duncan Black is no longer anonymous…but was for a long time. He doesn’t have time to run his own hosting. He also has a loyal readership which “get” his nondescript headlines.

    Although it’s not really his fault, people tend to forget that Jakob speaks in generalities and that what he suggests may not apply to what you are doing.

    I’ve read his books and he has done the web a world of good…I’m just sayin’…

  4. ExcitedEYE says:

    What About Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement?
    Selective attention is very powerful, and Web users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation. (The main exception being text-only search-engine ads.)

    Unfortunately, users also ignore legitimate design elements that look like prevalent forms of advertising. After all, when you ignore something, you don’t study it in detail to find out what it is.

    Therefore, it is best to avoid any designs that look like advertisements. The exact implications of this guideline will vary with new forms of ads; currently follow these rules:

    * banner blindness means that users never fixate their eyes on anything that looks like a banner ad due to shape or position on the page
    * animation avoidance makes users ignore areas with blinking or flashing text or other aggressive animations
    * pop-up purges mean that users close pop-up windoids before they have even fully rendered; sometimes with great viciousness (a sort of getting-back-at-GeoCities triumph).

  5. I look at those 10 design “mistakes”, and they are so alien to my experience that I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to criticize them properly.

    #1,#2,#5,#8,#10 seem to be a mistake _only_ if your sole reason for having the weblog is narcissism, so anything that would hide the glorious light of Me!Me!Me! would be a Bad Thing. If, on the other hand, you’re doing your weblog as a high-tech mimeograph machine, the personalities involved are pretty irrelevant.

    #3 is stupid. One person’s nondescript posting title is another person’s brilliant scheme.

    #4 is another Me!Me!Me!, but trivially so. Attribution is good, but it doesn’t have to be done inline — that’s why G-d invented footnotes. And, personally, a weblog that’s a constant stream of “well-connected person {name} said …” and “as well connected person {name} was writing about …” creeps just a little bit too close to being an online gossip column.

    #7 — regular publication dates are for magazines. Ditto for #8; if I want to read about just one thing, I’ll go to the newstand and pay money for something written by professionals. When I’m online, it’s kind of fun to read a mix of political snark and Friday Dust Mite Blogging.

    #6 run headon into #8. “Categories? Aren’t those one of the signs of a badly designed weblog?”

  6. lee says:

    Nielsen’s target audience is corporate types. You can probably ignore most of that stuff (I really don’t care what you look like ;-).

  7. anon says:

    When I zoom the small text at it gets larger but narrower at a faster ratio. By the time it is good for reading the column width is to thin.

    This it nitpicking on since you asked. Otherwise yours is one of the best I read.

  8. I find the text samll enough that on most monitors I have to zoom it, which works in Opera but not as well in most other browsers. I find the text/background contrast too low in the darker of the alternating light/dark background stripes in the comments.

    I think you are doing a great job, but people read what law professors say for their words and ideas. You don’t get brownie points for the graphic design of a legal brief or law review article, only for confomrity to orthodox graphic style.

  9. cw says:

    I enjoy your blog, but damn is it ugly. Not sure you should care, though.

  10. Brautigan says:

    Jakob’s site is ugly, annoying and difficult to read. ‘Nuff said.

  11. adam says:

    I’m using his posts as a starting point for thinking. For example: bio? picture? sure. No mixed topics? Sorry, Jacob, you’re a droning bore.

  12. michael says:

    For those who say the typeface is too small: what screen resolution are you using? What browser? What size screen do you have?

  13. anon says:

    Regarding the small typeface I have screen res 800×600. I could up it to 1024×768 but I like the larger format. I am using Opera version 7.23. My screen size is 13.5 inches measured diagonally.

  14. Steve says:

    Jakob Nielsen is a self-righteous windbag. The heck with him.

  15. idlecrank says:

    “8. Mixing Topics”

    Ummm…isn’t that the point of a blog? Sounds like someone really “got it.”

  16. Mostly 1152 x 864 pixels; 18″ diagonal (18″ actual measurement; 19″ nominal) CRT; Opera 8.5 for Windows. Thanks for the much improved color background in the comments! (but the type is still too small for my taste….)


  17. Pingback: Sticks of Fire: a Tampa blog

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