Shards of Consciousness

Three Ways to Get Me Back to Your Blog

At last count Technorati is tracking over 50 million blogs. Obviously I don't want to read anywhere near all of them. There are only so many hours in a day that I am willing to devote to reading blogs. When a blog does pique my interest, there are three things I look at before spending much time at the site. Follow these guidelines and I'll be back.

  • Style. Make your text easy to read. Don't use super small type. Don't use light text on a dark background. And for goodness sake test the layout in at least Firefox and Internet Explorer. If it's broken in my web browser, I won't be back.
  • Substance. Say something original or say it in the way only you can say it. You're an individual. Don't repeat the same things everyone else is talking about this week. Or, if you just have a burning desire, have something original to say about it.
  • Interaction. Leave comments turned on or I won't be back. I may not leave a comment very often, but I like to have that option. When I do at least acknowledge my existence. And I don't like to read spam comments. Use some type of moderation or a comment spam trap to keep this garbage off the internet.

1 Pingback to Three Ways to Get Me Back to Your Blog

  • [...] Rick on his blog Shards of Consciousness has a post called “Three ways to get me back to your blog” where he highlights the importance of style of your blog. He says that light text on a dark background is a real put off for him. The text has to be very easy to read. [...]

15 Responses to Three Ways to Get Me Back to Your Blog

  • Great points!

    I would also add (perhaps to the substance category): "Stay on Topic!" It's important to have a niche and to stick closely within its bounds.

    That's what keeps me coming back, and I hope that's what keeps my readers coming back. :)

  • Good post Rick - though I have to disagree with some things both you and Jason said:

    1. "Don’t use light text on a dark background." - Straight white on straight black is terrible, I agree. But some blogs (for example: http://veerle.duoh.com/) can do the light on dark thing really well. 456 Berea Street had a great article on this last week - in the comments, some people argued that dark text on white backgrounds can hurt the eyes after a while. It all depends on the contrast between the two colours.

    2. Stay on topic - well, I'd argue it's better to 'stick with a general theme'. Sure, if enough people are interested in your topic, then it's better to please them by keeping your posts focused on one topic. But I find 'mixing it up' not only keeps me interested, but brings me more readers. Of course, it IS different for all blogs.

    3. It's hard for some web designers to be able to create a theme that looks great in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. I've covered this a few times on my blog. Unless you've actually tried making a template look good in both browsers (trust me, it's not as easy as you'd think it is) I think it's unfair to demand that of web designers. Or maybe I'm just extremely lazy ;)

    OK OK, end rant. I'm pretty sure no-one read all of that through entirely :D

  • Thank you, Jason. After saying don't ignore my comments, it looks like that is what I was doing. I'm sorry, I was out for the evening.

    For the most part, I agree with you. It's okay to wander sometimes (this post being a case in point), but for the most part stay with what you tell people they are going to find when they come to your site. Liz Strauss at Successful Bloghad a great post today related to this.

    Thanks for coming by, and thank you for the conversation.

    #246 | Comment by Rick on August 28, 2006 6:17pm
  • Hi Yvonne! Thank you for the compliment. And yes, I read your comment in it's entirety.

    1. Yes, some sites can do a decent job with the light on dark, but it may depend on your eyes. The link you gave looks nice, but it would tire me more quickly than a light on dark. I can see others have the opposite problem. I think a lot of it comes from the monitor being backlit.

    2. Yes, it does depend on the type of blog. It also depends on what you lead people to expect when they come to your site. I'll usually find a site more interesting that has a theme that it stays with. Normally the theme is a subject area, sometimes a tone. You mix it up with your subjects, but we know it's you talking. :-)

    3. I'm not a web designer. I'm a sometimes C++ programmer/social worker. I wouldn't try to design a theme from scratch, but I do know simple is easier to get to work in both major browsers (ignoring IE 5, IE7, Opera, Safari, and the other browsers with even smaller usage levels). I'm willing to play with an existing theme to get it to look the way I want. This one is a case in point. It started life as the Kubrick that comes with Wordpress. It's frustrating to go to a blog and find the posts way down at the bottom of the page due to problems with the CSS, or part of one column covering the text in the next. No layout will look exactly the same in the major browsers, but the designer can get the general layout correct. I don't think that's too much to ask. That's my rant about that.

    #244 | Comment by Rick on August 28, 2006 6:36pm
  • Thank you for your well thought-out reply Rick - I love discussions like this :)

    1. In the end, I guess like all things when it comes to web design, it comes down to personal preference. I was just attempting to refute the idea that dark text on light is universally preferred, or even, 'better' than light on dark.

    2. Yes, that's exactly what I meant! Sites which are hilarious in some posts, and then downright serious in the next, don't fit well with me.

    3. This was the Kubrick theme? Didn't recognise that at all! :P Content at the bottom of the page is a big problem with IE6 - specifically sidebars. My experiences so far with IE7 aren't going very well - the content in my sidebar is floating at the bottom of the page. Luckily, not many have upgraded ... yet :(

  • I didn't know the light on dark thing was supposed to be universal. The whole post revolves around personal preferences, but I figure I'm normal, so other people would feel the same way.

    Yeah, it's Kubrick. I'm lazy, too.:) But it had the basic look I wanted and framework I needed, so I went with it. Of course now that I have it almost the way I want it, I'm starting to look for a new them.

    I suppose I should look at IE 7, but until it's out of beta I'm not going to worry to much about it. This site probably sucks in it.

    #242 | Comment by Rick on August 28, 2006 7:33pm
  • Of course now that I have it almost the way I want it, I’m starting to look for a new them.

    LOL! That's always the way it is, isn't it?

    If you're wondering what your site looks like in IE7, you can always ask on the Wordpress support forums (http://wordpress.org/support) - they're all extremely helpful.

  • I rarely spend more than a few seconds on a site with white text on a black background. If I do, after a minute or two my eyes begin to hurt rather badly. I thought it was just me.

    As far as my preferences are concerned the KISS principle is the key to getting me back again, along with well written, useful and interesting content.

  • Thanks for coming by, Trevor, and thank you for the compliment.

    As I said above, I think a lot of it has to do with the physics of monitors and the way our eyes are designed. White in on black paper still seems harder on my eyes than black ink on white paper, but nothing like looking at a web page designed that way.

    One thing I find interesting about this post is the amount of conversation it has generated. People like to talk about their work, and how to make it better.

    #236 | Comment by Rick on August 29, 2006 2:08am
  • First, Rick, great post! I've written about this a few times myself. I love blogging about blogging.

    To all: I think that in general you're correct about light text on dark background. Really, I do think you're mostly right. I know that on my blog, with the light on dark it may drive some readers away, but I have it styled that way because I like the way it looks ;). So, I suppose it's for selfish reasons.

    Regarding staying on topic I agree with the conclusion y'all have already come to.

    Regarding the way a blog renders in ie and firefox, Yvonne has a really good point. I think that it's sooooper hard to get it to display exactly the same in both. In fact, I think that's what you said, Rick, that it's super hard to get them to display EXACTLY the same. But I do think there's something to be said for a site that displays best in Firefox but is still usable in ie. That's how mine is.

    Rick: Man, you've done really good on this kubrick theme! excellent, excellent work.

  • Hi Ben. Thanks for stopping in. I see what you mean about your theme. You're right. I wouldn't be able to spend much time on it. But like Yvonne said earlier, a lot of people swing the other way. If you like it, and your readership likes it, that is the main thing that counts. And aren't we all selfish? Most of us blog because we want to blog. The site and its design is an expression of our personality and creativity.

    It is super hard, if not impossible, to get the display exactly the same in both Firefox and IE. I would try to get it to display best in the browser the majority of your visitors are using. Two thirds of my visitors use IE, so I try to get things looking the best there. If the majority use Firefox, aim for it. If you have a Mac site and the majority use Safari, target it, all while keeping the major structure the same in the major browsers.

    You all are making me blush about the theme here.:*)

    #234 | Comment by Rick on August 29, 2006 4:35am
  • I think you make a good argument, though, Rick. I had a slightly modifies version of Kubrick running on my site before and I've switched back to it. I don't know what it is about a clean, light design.

  • That's like looking at two entirely different sites! The current design is definitely easier on my eyes.

    Usability issues and the tools you need to include in your site aside, I tend to think of the design as the cover of the book that is your blog. A transparent cover, but still a cover. You want it to invite someone to come in, but you don't want it to distract them from what's inside after they do make the decision to stay. A clean design does that.

    At the other extreme, I don't like extremely bare designs. They are either boring or tell me the owner of the site can't be bothered with appearances. It is the substance that matters, but people are more likely to stick around to get to the substance if it's in an attractive package.

    #231 | Comment by Rick on August 29, 2006 5:48am
  • Love your suggestions! I agree fully. I like the comment factor of blogging. And if the blog doesn't 'work' on my browser, that is a killer for me too.

    Great blog~

  • Hi Annie,

    Thank you,and thanks for stopping in. The 'broken blog' syndrome seems to happen more when the person's primary browser is Firefox. Personally I like Firefox better, but a lot more people use Internet Explorer. The commenting is the biggest factor with me, I think. Appearance is subjective, but comments are at a minimum courtesy, and at best interesting and build relationships. If I just want to read, I'll get a book or magazine.

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