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Top Ten Blog Design Mistakes

Posted By Darren Rowse 18th of October 2005 Blog Design 0 Comments

Jakob Nielsen has put together an interesting article with the Top Ten Design Mistakes that he sees bloggers making. It’s a pretty insightful list – not definitive by any means – but definitely helpful in my mind.

1. No Author Biographies – I’m amazed that so many blogs don’t have any information about who is the behind them. Not essential information but common sense in my books to be transparent enough to tell people who you are.
2. No Author Photo – for me this is not a must – but it does add something personal to a blog.
3. Nondescript Posting Titles – regular readers will know about my passion for post titles – enough said
4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go – I agree – it also helps with SEO to use make links more descriptive
5. Classic Hits are Buried – So true – highlight your best posts or they’ll go unseen after dropping from the front page
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation – has anyone ever used a calendar to navigate a blog or is it just me who avoids them?
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency – again something I’ve written quite a bit about. It’s not about high or low posting frequency – but regular posting. Find your rhythm and stick to it.
8. Mixing Topics – Stick to you niche
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss – so true. Once you hit publish you lose control over who will ever see what you write. Be careful.
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service – the quote of this article is ‘Letting somebody else own your name means that they own your destiny on the Internet.’ So true.

What mistakes do you see a lot of bloggers making?

I’ll add a brief one which is related to Jakob’s first one:

No Contact Details – A few weeks ago I was surfing through some blogs in an effort to build some relationships with some new bloggers and I was amazed – not actually I was stunned – but the number of bloggers that have no personal way of contacting them. Most of them had comments – but so many had no way to get an email to them.

The result was that I didn’t/couldn’t contact them and we both missed out on an opportunity to connect.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

  • ~Dawn

    There is so much more that I can be doing…. I sooo wish I was perfect, but then I wouldn’t learn as much as I do, especially from you Darren, thanks. Post saved for reference

  • The point size of text is a deal breaker for me. Too many sites opt for a type size that’s smaller than those found in newspapers, and no way to change them. I’ve dropped sites, and at least one media publication (The Book Standard) over this.

    Very good advice in this post.

  • I tend to renovate my site every 3-4 months. Keeps things fresh and interesting for me and for the readers. I’ll be instituting a few tips from the list at the end of this month when I do my latest reno.

    I’ve just started to realise the important of descriptive links (instead of ‘click here’) and if I may add one to the list – appropriately named photos. I’ve increased my Google Images referrals recently through having properly namesfor my jpg’s rather than DCSN0001 etc.

  • My apologies for the crappy english in that last comment. Off to get some caffiene now…..

  • Common mistake: Not having an easy-to-find RSS button for feeds. Without RSS, its impossible to keep up with blogs.

  • Bank

    This was an awesome post! I see many things I have started slipping up on in my blogs. Great tips.

  • Post Titles – as one who reads a 180+ blogs via a news reader I basically skim through headlines and many are poorly written, therefore I may miss a great post all because the headline didn’t stand-out.

  • I agree with most of these points and try to avoid the pitfalls. However, I think point number 8 (mixing topics) only applies when you HAVE a niche. If this were targeted only at pro or business bloggers, I would agree, but a lot of personal blogs are even more engaging because of their meandering, which serves to round out the personality of the blogger…in my opinion.

  • The title of the piece is ‘Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes’. Not web design mistakes. I wrote about this today as well here:

    But my take was the opposite of yours Darren. I found the premise to be poorly put together and flimsy.

  • Hm… Jacob has pointed out some good points but coincidentally my take on his article was much alike of what Jim’s posted on ReveNews, but with differences, and some additional disagreements here and there.

  • I have a problem with the blogs where it seems that the blogger is never home. People leave comments with questions and never get answes.

    I’m also frustrated by too much and too many–too much color, too many gimmicks and toys to distract me, too many type faces and fonts. Granted the pros already know better . . . usually.

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  • Jim and Hendry – I guess I was linking to it not because I think these are neccessarily useability issues (some of them are) but because I think they are a good selection of ways to consider for bloggers to improve their blogs.

    If we want to get technical about whether his article is about useability or not then perhaps we could argue some of his points – but I think he makes some pretty valid points as a starting point for analysing a blog. I guess it’s then up to individual bloggers to work out whether they are relevant to their particular blog.

    As I always argue – each blog is different and some of these will be more pertinent for some blogs than others.

  • I agree with Jakob that the title was misleading – should have been “Weblog User Friendliness…” There is a difference as user friendliness includes things like #1 and #2, whereas usability is about technical things like navigation and functional design.

    #5 is though interesting. Blogs suffer by their nature. Finding stuff on a blog is like searching Google – no worse.

    If I go to a category or search for something, I don’t want to see the first page of every post ever posted – I just want the titles and maybe the first sentence. Provided #3 is followed, then I should be able to quickly skim thru the titles for the one(s) I want.

    I run Word Press for and Nucleus for my QR series and haven’t found a plugin to do that yet.

    Also with blogs, if yours is a product one (like mine) then you have to create a million categories for all the different features (eg capacity – 128MB, 256MB, 512MB etc). Again, blogs aren’t structured for this type of data or usage.

    So I do think it is hard getting information back out of blogs but I don’t have an answer yet. Anyone else with ideas?

  • 6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation – has anyone ever used a calendar to navigate a blog or is it just me who avoids them?
    That was funny. I actually asked my wife’s 14 year-old niece about two weekends ago what she thought about my blog design and she said it was too cumbersome and I needed a calendar so people can see how often I post. They think differently than we do (the younger ones born with Digital TV, DSL, and Broadband) … It doesn’t mean I will ever have a calendar though .. .

  • Interesting post. I think we can all fall into making some of these errors from time to time.

  • I kept on getting requests for information outside of my niche, so I just created a ‘Miscellaneous’ category and wrote a quick post about why I created and what was going to go in it.

  • For users, it’s a royal pain to categorize posts and stray away from the calendar function. I undertand no one will ever use the calendar to research my blog, but the tools aren’t there to help us.

    I fail on the domain name and the category. Everything else, I’m working on.

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  • FMF

    I’m with you 100% on the no contact comment. This is the web, isn’t it? What’s so hard about posting a simple email address?

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  • The calendar to me doesn’t exactly fit its purpose. Sure, it’s to help tell the date posts are found. But you could display past entries even in archived dates if you wanted. So I really don’t see any good use for calendars anymore. Unless someone mods it and it becomes the bloggers calendar. LoL!

    Jakob definetely touched more sensible mistakes in this article. :)


  • I’m wondering about reading two articles from Jakob Nielsen with near the same title in the same time. It took me some time to realize that there were two topics. Your title was a better one and gave me the more attention. Thanks! :))

  • Funny, yesterday, I was at work and looked at someone’s blog during lunch and thought… “Man, I’d sure like to send them an email and ask a question about …” something which didn’t relate at all to any of their posts. And then I thought “Yeesh, they really SHOULD have their email or something on here!”. And then I looked at my own blogs and realized that I too, did not have a contact link on my site. So I sent myself an email which read “Add a Contact link to your blog, punk”. And this morning, I woke up and in my usual pre-work routine, read my email (thereby remembering that I am a punk and should add a contact link to my blog) and then took a look at ProBlogger (among other sites) and saw that Jakob also had called me a punk and told me to put a Contact link on my site. Jakob is obviously a member of the Thought Police and Not To Be Trusted. Thanks again for another good article!

  • TYPOS !!!!

    #9, Once you hit publish, you LOSE control.

    Next person to invent an annoying dancing paperclip to spell check blog posts might be a billionaire or the most hated man on the planet.


  • Darren —

    My biggest pet peeve is blogs that switch between business and personal. I strongly believe that business blogs should stay on business topics. If I’m reading along on a business topic and then in comes a personal topic, it’s liking throwing cold water on my face. Sends me packing every time.

  • Does anyone know a good WordPress plugin to display “classic” posts?

  • No Contact Details: Oops, guilty – fixed now. I tried to use that online gmail addy image maker, but it seems to be broken (so I just borrowed a blank image from the site and made it myself).

    But how much is too much when it comes to contact details? What if you give home and work landlines, mobiles, faxes, emails, postals, and every IM ID under the sun? I suppose it’s more an issue of how much screen real estate to give it.

    6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation: Interesting point HART makes. How many of us would probably be quite OK with a Calendar for navigation if we only started using it a bit to train ourselves?

    Alas it seems that good ‘ole Blogger doesn’t have an in-built Calendar control.

    10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service: Related to this is having your CMS or article database owned by someone else. If you host your blog on your own domain you have access to all the pages, however I wonder how long it would take Darren to build a new database of all his articles, even with the pages?

  • Dave.. what if you create a new category and add it to the classic posts itself? The category could be called “The Classics” or “My Favorites” or something suitable to your blog. I use random topics on two of my blogs (plugin) and (manual template script adjustments). Perhaps that is an alternative way? Or, can always do what Darren did in above sidebar – just write about it again and link the article that links it all in the sidebar?

    Denise .. ouch. I’m guilty. Although in my defense, my business is “ME” so, I have always thought it was okay to bring in my personal views on life and my hobbies and thinking – because I feel that it shows the outside world what I am made of and my views on life are reflected .. (are they not?) .. in the way I conduct my business. I’m not selling a book or giving tips – my clients are generally long term and deals with personal and confidential information (accounting and income tax). Yes – I have been posting weekly Meme entries on my business blog and some weeks there are no business posts at all, just memes. I posted there because my non-business blog is more like a family/wedding blog – not a “ME” blog .. But, I will move it now that I know it’s irritating to some. Thanks for heads up on that viewpoint.

  • Re: contact

    Some of us, like Zsa Zsa Gabor, just want to be left alone :-)

    Seriously. I run a tech blog (among others). I respond to comments and questions posted there, but I do not encourage email. I do have a page where you can find my email, but I very deliberately make it a little bit difficult because if I don’t I get dozens of requests for free help every day. As much as I’d love to be able to afford to give free assistance, I can’t, so I push toward posting the question at my blog and getting an answer there, where other people may benefit and other people may answer.

    I have several other blogs where I have no direct contact information at all. They aren’t tech blogs necessarily, but again I don’t want email – each of them has comment sections. If you really, really want to reach me by email, I think most intelligent people could figure out how – and if someone isn’t at least that savvy, well, it’s unlikely I want to talk to them anyway, right?

  • Darren,

    Couldn’t agree more with your comments. Have written my own analysis from the point of view that my own blog takes from the view of small and medium sized businesses.

    You have got to focus in on the readers that you are looking to attract and make sure that you adhere to the goals that you established when you set up your blog in the first place – these will often be to establish credibility, position yourself as an expert and give a personal face to a professional outfit.

    Love the blog and look forward to reading more.


  • By the way, I also disagree about the personal stuiff, at least to some extent.

    I agree that my readers are not interested in what I had for breakfast (pumpkin pancakes, scrabmbled eggs, turkey sausage, hash browns, oj, coffee – see, you don’t care, do you?), but when personal events and opinions fit into whatever I’m talkiing about, I think it adds personality and therefor interest. Agreed, there’s a line there you don’t want to cross, but being totally devoid of personality is not good either.

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  • Good writeup you have there on this topic. Sometimes I do realise I make some of the mistakes you mentioned, so by reading again your post, it keeps me right on my track.

  • hey, can someone go to my blog and find out what is wrong with it. i mean, i cant judge myself, can i?

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  • Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It has inspired me to change a few things with my blog – most notably the part about sticking to your niche. Fortunately, my site is extremely young and so this transition will not be too dramatic. I will definitely have to start up some more blogs to handle my varied interests.

  • Looks like I like I have about 50% of this list covered. Including the biggest one of having no way to be contacted less comments. I think that I have some work to do…

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  • Your post is on target. Keep it up.

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  • The one absolutely hate is hiding feed link. Believe it or not, some bloggers are putting RSS links on most interesting places, like we play hide-and-seek. E.g. footer, somewhere in the sidebar between ads and blogroll, in a corner of the site…. then they make it very small and without that nice orange square which is to be celebrated as one of rare things standardized all over the net.
    And then, after a couple of minutes searchin (no, I won’t notice other details of the page in that time) one may found that there is no link to feed but the one in firefox’ address bar.

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  • This post is pretty appropriate for me at this moment as I just migrated to wordpress blog. These tips or reminders are very true and I will use them to make sure I don’t commit these mistakes. Thanks for sharing.

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