Top 5 blog usability tips

by Martin Reed on 7 August 2007 in Articles

Blog usability tips

I have only been running this blog for a short time – I made my first ever post on 3rd March 2007. During this time however, I have learnt a lot – both as a writer and as a blog reader.

I have found myself becoming increasingly frustrated of late with usability issues on some blogs that can so easily be corrected, and I want to share these today.

I am hoping that if you find your blog doesn’t comply with these tips you will be inspired to make the necessary changes to enhance its usability.

1) Ensure your logo links to your home page

It is pretty much a standard convention now that your site’s logo should link to your home page. Almost every visitor to your website will click on your logo and expect to be taken to your site’s index. Don’t frustrate them by not following this convention.

2) Place the link to your comments form at the end of your articles

I seem to be coming across an ever increasing number of blogs that have the link to their comment form at the beginning of an article. This makes absolutely no sense – why would I comment on an article before reading it? The natural process of blog reading dictates that someone will read an article first, then decide if they want to submit a comment.

At this time, they will be at the end of your article. If the link to the comment form is not there, most will not bother looking for it let alone scroll to the beginning of the article on the off-chance it is there instead.

I often find that blogs with a low number of comments (particularly for their traffic levels) fail to have a link to their comment form at the end of their articles. Don’t make the same mistake!

3) Moderate comments quickly

If you have set your blog comments to ‘Moderate all’ then ensure you approve them quickly. Contributors do not want to see their time being wasted – if they submit a comment and it doesn’t appear to get published on the blog, the chances are they will not try a second time.

4) Respond to your comments

Comments are there to add value to your articles. It is in your best interests to foster a sense of community at your blog. You can do this by replying to comments left by contributors.

If you receive a huge number of comments on a daily basis, you shouldn’t feel obliged to respond to each and every one but you should take the time to reply to any questions or specific queries.

5) Make your ‘tab order’ logical

A lot of people fill in forms solely using their keyboards. These users will move between each input form by using the ‘Tab’ key – make things easy for these people by ensuring your forms (particularly the comment form) have a logical tab order.

Once the first input box is selected, every press of the Tab key should move the cursor to the very next box in the form – not two boxes down, or away from the form completely!

Your opinions

Does your blog satisfy my usability tips? What importance do you place on the points I have raised in this post? What are your own blog usability tips? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.

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Biddy August 7, 2007 at 5:24 pm

5/5 from me. The one I’d add is “don’t make it necessary to become a member of anything to comment on a blog”. Wordpress users seem to be particularly guilty of this, and it’s infuriating to be made to jump through hoops to prove I’m not a spammer, just to be allowed to comment on someone else’s blog. Combatting spam is important, but it’s just as important to not alienate potential members of your community. (Where one draws the line between the two is a favourite soap-box of mine at the moment, so I’ll stop commenting now… :-D )

Webd360 August 8, 2007 at 2:29 am

Interesting point about comments at the bottom, when I installed my new theme it had comments at the top, but I think I am about to change that

lcd plasma differences August 8, 2007 at 4:49 am

Very important tips…I HATE it when the logo doesn’t go back to the home page!

Anhony Feint August 8, 2007 at 5:41 am

Well im guilty of not having my logo link to the homepage. I will get around to it one day!

Skellie August 8, 2007 at 6:09 am

These are all great tips. Luckily, I think I’m doing all of them — but that’s only thanks to the talented author of my theme.

My pet peeve is bloggers humoring themselves with their sidebar. Why should a MyBlogLog widget be above a link to your About page?

A good general rule is to order sidebar content in order of use to your readers. In an ideal world this would apply to advertising, too ;)

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 8, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Biddy – You make a good point; I have lost count of the number of blogs I have been interested in submitting a comment to only to find I need to register in order to do so. Needless to say, that blog ends up not getting a comment from me. It is also evident that others feel the same, too.

Webd360 – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE change it! It drives me crazy, and I am not the only one that gets infuriated when there is no link to the contact form at the end of an article!

Anthony – Why wait? It only takes a few seconds! Get onto it now and it’ll be done, and you will be making your site’s users far happier.

Skellie – I agree. So many people forget to focus their website on usability. Visitors are the most important asset of any website. Every single detail should be focussed on making the user experience the best it can be.

Smiley August 9, 2007 at 6:54 am

This article doesn’t apply to me but thought I’d say I think your blog meets these standards atleast.

I especially wanted to comment regarding the ‘tab’ thing. You have no idea how frustrated I get when I’m filling out a form, press “tab” and it goes across to some random button or doesn’t work at all.

I cleared my cache etc earlier so I’ve just had to re-fil my details above and used the tab key nice and smoothly; the way I like it!

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 9, 2007 at 11:32 am

Smiley – Well I could hardly write my top five usability tips without observing them myself, eh?!? :)

Shane August 11, 2007 at 7:49 am

Very simple but very important points Martin. No comment link at the bottom of the post is one of my peeves too.

It’s also important to have your name on the post so people can address you when they comment. Otherwise it’s like “Hey you, great post!” haha

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 11, 2007 at 10:23 am

Shane – I often find the things that are most important when it comes to usability are often the simplest to do. People who commit such slip-ups really have no excuse!

I agree that not having the author’s name on a post can be a little annoying; even worse are people that leave comments using the name of their site and fail to include their name anywhere!

Brad August 16, 2007 at 11:10 am

Good post. It seems like common sence, but I’m always surprised when I run across a blog that doesn’t employ basic usability.

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 16, 2007 at 10:57 pm

Brad – Thanks for your comment; very often it’s the simple things that make all the difference!

Paul August 31, 2007 at 6:45 pm

You have some excellent tips in this blog entry! I especially agree with the fact that you need to quickly moderate user comments and actually respond back to them.

Martin Reed - Blog Author September 2, 2007 at 9:30 am

Paul – I am glad you found this article useful. I am having trouble keeping up with comments the past few days as I am currently abroad touring Iceland. Normal service should resume shortly, though!

Bare April 14, 2008 at 3:39 am

I do love these tips. If I comment on a blog without a response from the author, I feel like perhaps the author doesn’t care all that much about his or her readers. Responding to comments will make readers feel invited and comfortable while they’re at your blog. This encourages return visitors! Thanks for the great article!

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 15, 2008 at 10:57 am

Bare – I agree with you. I have commented on a couple of blogs where I am a long term reader, often with what I consider to be highly constructive comments. The lack of a response makes me wonder whether it is worth the effort of contributing. Not a good way of developing a community!

Link Building July 4, 2008 at 10:24 am

I totally agree with you about the blogging tips. It is, also, very unpleasant to not get an answer when you post a comment and you don’t get a feedback when you really need one. It is a sure thing that I will not post on such a blog for the second time.

Japhy July 7, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Nice post. Have you read Jakob Nielsen’s blog recommendations?

Martin Reed - Blog Author July 17, 2008 at 1:18 am

Link – You’re right, when I ask questions or make constructive comments I feel ignored if I do not receive a response. Sometimes it can be hard for a blogger to respond to every comment made on their blog, but they should at least answer any direct questions.

Japhy – Thanks for the link, there is definitely some valuable information there!

Flug August 14, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Hej Martin,
I really appreciate you´re thinking about usability-subjects, since this doesn´t happen too often. Very well then, you are sharing them! You are right in the most points, but not every webmaster likes to answere the comments. Not everyone has the same motives! But by publishing topics. What´s really anoying is when you submit a comment and you are not informed about whether it is awaiting moderation, has been saved, whatever, then you don´t know what happened and you most probably will lose this contributor, that´s right.
Anyway: Great tips and great blog!
Kind Regards

Tertius October 1, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I myself am very surprised when I find a website that has #5 out of order. That’s just crazy!

I have noticed that my theme is organized so that the ‘comment’ link is in the wrong position… I’ll have to see to that.

Thanks for these basic usability hints that so many of us just seem to forget about. I’ll be expecting a quick reply to my comment… Which is don’t really think is all that necessary. It’s good practice none the less.


Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Flug – Usability often seems to be a forgotten art these days; I wonder why that is? Is it because of faster connections? Is it because of the rush to be perceived as ‘Web 2.0′? In any case, one aspect of the Web these days is the increasing importance of community and social interaction, so surely we should all be replying to blog comments – even if it takes us a while ;)

Tertius – I still see it even today, and sometimes on highly trafficked blogs. I am glad you enjoyed the article, and I hope my reply was fast enough!

David Hamill November 3, 2008 at 11:51 pm

These are nice tips but I wouldn’t say they were the top 5. Making your logo link to the homepage is nice to do but as long as you have a clear method of getting to the homepage it isn’t massively important. No reason not to do it though.

I’d say that choice of font and line length are more important than a lot of these things. Between 10-14 words per line average is a good length. Also an easy to read font without large paragraphs. Use sub-headings to break up your content. People won’t always read every paragraph.

Lastly but most importantly write in plain English. Nobody will thank you for using big words and complicated sentences.

Smiley November 4, 2008 at 2:03 pm

I think making the logo link is very important. It’s an automatic reaction of mine to click on the logo on websites to be taken to the home page.

karel zeman November 8, 2008 at 5:33 pm

When refering to a another blog one must remember that in order for the trackback function to work you have to link to a particular post and not just the blog’s home page.
I think a lot of people also forget how much it appreciated it is to actually visit the commenters blog and reciprocate with a comment of your own.

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 17, 2008 at 8:29 pm

David – Thanks for your contribution. You raise some important points – after all, if people can’t read your content you are wasting your time, right?!

Smiley – You aren’t alone; I would guess that the vast majority of people expect to be taken to the homepage when they click the logo.

Karel – Good points. Not really relevant to usability as such, but still valid nonetheless.

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