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Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out

I wrote recently asking you all about what makes a blog stand out from the crowd, and some interesting comments came up. I think that some of these are worth discussing.

Looks Count

Looks count in everything. Don’t try to tell me that they don’t. If look don’t count, then the entertainment, fashion, clothing, hair, makeup, nails, spas, exercise clubs, and health products markets would collapse. In fact, they are a huge multi-billion dollar industry, so looks must count.

Looks matter, in everything. We like to look at pretty things. We like to look at things that attract and hold our attention without blasting away at our intellect.

Which makes web page design a bit of a challenge and not so simple as people would like to tell you it is.

First, a website must be readable. It must be “look-at-able” as a young friend explained to me recently. If the design interferes with the ability to look at it, people will move on.

Second, a website must be readable. No, I’m not being redundant. It must be able to be read. Not only is it easy on the eyes to look at, if words are its product, it must be easy to read. If images are the content product of the website, then they, too, must be framed in a way as to be “see-able”.

Squinting at tiny letters or odd fonts, with graphics behind the letters, or light font colors against light backgrounds, hot neon green letters against a black background, or any color combination without enough contrast makes the process of reading the content nearly impossible. Consider that at least 25% of the Internet audience is physically disabled in some manner, many of them visually impaired, and that a huge percentage of the Internet audience is…shall I say it…”older”…it’s important that the font size, color, and style be readable so people will want to read the words.

Third, it must be navigable. If you can’t get around, how would you know there is more to look at. While I am impressed with what was done in the creation of the WordPress “Default” Theme known as Kubrick, I don’t like the single post view of the original Theme’s structure. The sidebar is gone and the only navigation is found in the next and previous links. No categories, no Pages, nothing to inspire people to hang out and look around. I’ve helped many people add a sidebar back to their Kubrick Themes just to increase navigation. Unfortunately, a lot of WordPress Themes were designed based upon that Theme, taking advantage of the fabulous coding and structure under the smooth layout, as have I.

Navigation is part of the looks. People “look” for more information when they like what they have found. They usually want more. How many of you eat only two chips from the bag? Most of us can’t stop once we start. Good navigation combined with good content and looks compels people to “eat the whole bag”.

Last on this issue of good looking blogs and websites, I personally believe that the web page design should be reflective of the content. This is more personal preference, but it also matches the fashion sense most of us have. While we might walk out the door to work wearing hot pink and orange with a purple sweater, we tend to judge others by what they wear.

We all judge people by what they wear, especially when it conflicts with the situation and environment. You’d giggle if hiking a rough mountain terrain, you met a fellow hiker wearing an evening gown, wouldn’t you? Especially if it was a man. Or the fully clothed swimmer, complete with shoes and socks. The same holds true for web page designs.

The more flashy and garish the advertising displayed, the less inclined I am to take the content seriously. The more naked a web page is, unless the content is really good, the more old-fashioned and dated it appears to me. If there are cats or dogs chasing themselves across the screen chasing my mouse, I will never take the content seriously. Trust me. This includes birds and butterflies which recently assaulted me on one web page.

If you are blogging about dancing, I expect to see pictures and graphics representing dancing. If you are blogging about rock and roll music, grunge, punk, hip-hop, or whatever the latest music craze is, I expect your blog to be reflective of your passion – in color and design as well as presentation. If you are blogging about web page design, then without a doubt I expect a well-designed web page above and below the screen as proof you know what you are talking about.

I am not saying a blog or website has to be “pretty”. Pretty is too subjective. It must, however, be easy on the eyes, easy to read, easy to navigate, and reflect the content, and reflect the quality of the content.

So looks count, but they also must be appropriate to the situation. The more appropriate the design and looks, the more likely the viewer is to stay a while longer because there is more than looks to hold my attention. There is consistency in form as well as thought.

Content is King

Without a doubt, dress up a website to be as pretty and award-winning as possible, but without good content, as 59ideas recently commented:

Look is the king’s clothes.

Exactly. Without clothes, the content is walking around naked. Still, the content must rule because it is the clothing that makes the king a king, and the king is content.

Good content means good writing, spelling, and grammar. But that can all go to the wayside if the writing grabs your attention and gives you the information you want, or entertains you. Whatever the topic, it must hold your attention and make you want to come back for more.

Kristin of Thursday Rants wrote:

The blogs that stands out for you are blogs that interest you, just like when you suddenly hear a great song – to your taste of music – on the radio.

I’ve been traveling a lot recently, desperately scanning radio stations as the vehicle moved across thousands of miles. I have an auto search function that plays a few seconds of music before moving on to the next strong signal, stopping only when I push the button again. I would cringe as loud, unharmonic music would assault my ears for those few seconds, and then sigh with relaxation when something I enjoyed came through, and press the button to halt it there on that station.

So it goes with blog content. If the content being served up meets your interest at the moment, gives you the information you need and are seeking, challenges your thinking, inspires and motivates you, then you will find it, spend some time there, and possibly return. If it is really good, you will return over and over again to find out what is new, addicted to the material.

As long as a blog’s content gives you what you need, you will continue to be a fan. In time, your interests may change and you will move on to read another type of content, returning only for a while before moving on.

There are two theories in successful blog content. One is to stay highly focused upon a specialty or two, gaining an audience because they know “you” are the source for that information. The other theory is to write about anything and everything so anyone searching for anything and everything will find you, and they will be so impressed they will look around, check things out, and come back for more.

Which one do you think is really the most successful? Gaining an audience by reputation and expertise, or being the biggest garbage can along the Information Highway?

If you want to gain traffic, then work on gaining an audience by reputation and expertise. When you don’t feel good, you may go to a general practitioner doctor, right? But if you have a highly specialized form of cancer, you certainly aren’t going to stay with the GP. You want someone who knows what they are doing and talking about. You want someone who has the training, experience, and reputation.

The blogs I tend to follow have opinions as well as expertise, and I follow them because they are consistently talking about what I’m interested in, not a mishmash of everything under the sun.

What about you?

It’s About Traffic

I’ve heard over and over that a blog that stands out from the crowd is one that is popular and gets a lot of traffic. I only have two words to say about this: B.S.

Traffic is something that matters to the blog owner. It has nothing to do with the blog reader. I don’t visit blogs because they are at the top of some list. I don’t seek out the most popular and high traffic sites just because they are popular and high traffic. Do you?

Unless the blog has something of interest to say to me, unless I found it by searching through search engines, or as a referral from another site within the same industry or subject matter, I will not see it. It has to appeal to my interests at the moment, or to my work at the time. I don’t have time to be hanging out with the popular kids. I barely have enough time to keep up with my own work.

I don’t care if a blog has 5 visitors a day or 5,000. If it has the information I want, and it features enough related material to make me want to come back to find out what they are now saying on the same subject, then I will return. I will become a fan. Even if my visit bumps their average daily traffic to 6.

Yes, it is about getting known, about making sure your blog is “seen” by all the search engines and linked to and written about by other people pointing to your site. That is what helps you get found, but these things won’t make your blog stand out from the crowd. It will just make it “findable”.

Once I’ve found you, you better be readable and have good content to keep me hanging around and/or returning.

It’s About Convenience

One thing often overlooked is the old fashioned sales tool of “convenience” in blogs. Remember when “convenience” in a product was a selling point? The announcer would say “It’s easy to use”, “Even a child could do it”, “Trouble free”, “Few Repairs”, and “Makes your life easier”. Today’s blogs feature many conveniences that make life on the web easier. If your blog or website doesn’t have these conveniences, you are losing valuable traffic and audience members.

I love that most blogs today feature feeds. Talk about convenience! Without bothersome emails or newsletters to subscribe to, I can quickly keep up with the news from my favorite blogs through feeds. Oh, so convenient and easy.

I’ve been doing a lot of research on genealogy blogs and information and have been exceptionally frustrated with all the free websites offered by various monster genealogy website hosts, and genealogy websites in general. They lack feeds. I find fabulous information that I want to monitor, write about, and refer to, but I have to physically visit their site to find out what is new. It’s often hard to find the new stuff unless they’ve added a big flashing NEW!!! graphic next to whatever link goes to new information. Not very helpful, and certainly not very convenient.

To return to these sites, I will save their link in my bookmark/favorites list in my browser. Have you looked at my favorites list lately? Heck, have you looked at your own? If my mother saw my favorite bookmarks list, she’d give me that look from my teenage years and scream about how hard she works to put a nice roof over our heads and how I am ruining everything by making my room such a mess, or some martyred angst threat to guilt-trip me into cleaning my room. I’ve got folders and links all over the place, and not all have helpful names. It’s horrible to go looking for things in there, so I rarely open the door.

Feeds allow me to easily bookmark a site and quickly return to see if there is any new and interesting content. I don’t have to dig through layers of folders and mislabeled links. A couple clicks and I’m reading the site’s new content, then moving onto the next. Easy. Convenient. And really simple.

Feeds are not about looks. They are about content, because that is all the reader gets. Therefore, good content and consistent subject matter makes a blog stand out enough for me to even check if they have feeds, and then I can quickly add them to my feed reader.

Feeds, however, are about convenience, and that convenience keeps people returning. It also makes the blog stand out from the crowd of websites in general. Because they made it easy to return.

Comments are another wonderful convenience on many blogs today. Have an opinion, want to correct a fact, want to add to the conversation, then you can add to the content with your comment.

Among many of the conveniences of modern blogs are categories, the ability to categorize and group your content by topic. This increases navigation, encourages visitors to find more related content, and improves the use and convenience of your blog.

Pings and trackbacks are also a modern convenience. Pings let search engine and search directories know you’ve updated your blog, inviting them to visit. Trackback comments show you and your readers what others have written about what you have had to say. Trackbacks are critical to expanding the “web” of information and ideas on today’s web.

Blog publishing tools like are part of the convenience aspect for bloggers, making the process of publishing their content with ease, but WordPress blogs come built-in with a ton of great convenience features such as feeds, pings, trackbacks, SEO, comments, comment spam filters and fighters, and a wide variety of free WordPress Themes so choosing a good looking and appropriate web design is easy. Most WordPress Themes come with easy navigation and fairly easy to read features, ready for you to insert your quality content.

Your Outstanding Blog Checklist

So be honest and check your blog’s “outstanding blog” checklist.

  1. Is it readable?
  2. Is it easy to read?
  3. Is it easy to navigate, leading the reader to other content from every page?
  4. Does it offer content categories, helping direct readers to related subjects on your site or blog?
  5. Does the design match the content?
  6. Is the content consistent with a specific topic, theme, or subject?
  7. Does the content showcase you as an expert, hobbyist, or vague curiosity seeker?
  8. Is the content well written, spell and grammar checked, and encourage readers to read?
  9. Does your blog’s design and content give people a reason to return?
  10. How convenient is your site or blog to use?
  11. Does it offer feeds?
  12. Does it offer comments?
  13. Does it offer trackbacks?

So how does your blog do on the outstanding blog checklist?


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26 Comments

  1. Posted November 1, 2006 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    There is an aphorism I really like about looks that count (from Akin’s law of spacecraft design): “A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.”

    Sorry if you’ve heard that one a thousand times over.

  2. Posted November 1, 2006 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    ‘Kristen of KZKW’ is a dead-end (deleted WordPress account).

  3. Posted November 1, 2006 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks, mandarine, for keeping an eye on these things for me. ;-)

  4. Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I think the Kristen you’re talking about is now at thursdayrants.org

  5. Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Actually, wangenweb.com is probably a better link for her.

  6. Posted November 1, 2006 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I’ve moved the posted mentioned to Thursday Rants: http://thursdayrants.org/2006/05/24/blogs-are-like-music/ Sorry for creating dead links for you, Lorelle.

  7. Posted November 1, 2006 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Thanks for validating my personal viewpoint, but with actual legit points to back it up. I just knew looks counted because I’m an aesthetically-minded arty artist and bad design turns me off so thoroughly and immediately. But so does empty looks with no content, just a little less immediately. Great post Lorelle. Great blog.

  8. Posted November 1, 2006 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Really nice write-up. The only criteria I kinda question is #5 “Is the content consistent with a specific topic, theme, or subject?” I suppose it depends on what one is trying to accomplish with one’s blog, because I think there is room for the personality of the writer to be a key feature that CAN override whether or not the site has a specific topic.

    I have more than one feed in my news-reader from sites that I found while searching for sprockets but liked the writer so much that I also enjoyed their entries on doodads and whatsits.

    Of course, I think it depends on the interests of both the blogger and the reader. If the blogger’s aim is to be the best dern sprocket reporter in Michigan, that it certainly doesn’t make sense to include articles on doodads and whatsits.

    But if a person wants to share their ideas and can present them in useful and engaging ways, why be limited to a single topic?

    That is where categories are even more helpful. If I don’t care for doodads, but love a bloggers take on whatsits, I can easily find those posts.

  9. Posted November 1, 2006 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    And a comment on your actual post, Lorelle;

    To have an okay website/ blog will always be balancing the look and feel with the content. The look will for 98% of your visitors be the first impression, and it should tell something about what kind of blog you’re writing.

    And I have to say; if you should have a light font colour on a white background in your design, I will guess there’s nothing on your site worth reading ;-)

    On a personal preference I like to have different blogs for different topics, but I actually don’t mind reading blogs that are about everything. And I do think it’s a big difference between a personal blog and a professional one in that matter; you just don’t start ranting about your manager’s cat in a business blog.

  10. Posted November 1, 2006 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Good evening from Ireland!

    I don’t care if a blog has 5 visitors a day or 5,000. If it has the information I want, and it features enough related material to make me want to come back to find out what they are now saying on the same subject, then I will return. I will become a fan. Even if my visit bumps their average daily traffic to 6.

    Yes, it is about getting known, about making sure your blog is “seen” by all the search engines and linked to and written about by other people pointing to your site. That is what helps you get found, but these things won’t make your blog stand out from the crowd. It will just make it “findable”.

    Yes, these words speak loud and clear to me. This attitude I appreciate. I would of course very much like to be ‘found’ but more importantly I am concerned that my website or blog be worthy to be found.I am encouraged by the above words to work harder. My visitors when they do come will deserve to be given the best that I can offer.

    Thank you.

    All the very best.

  11. Posted November 1, 2006 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Kristin, thanks for pointing us to the right post link. And apology accepted for breaking my links…this time. ;-)

  12. Posted November 1, 2006 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I should tick off for all the checklist. At least I think I do.

    Though on the matter of traffic, it makes you wonder, if people visit it, why would they? That is more of an attraction factor rather than a staying factor…which then boils in to what’s interesting (though not necessarily good) about a blog. That attraction factor gives more reason for people to find your blog won’t it?

    Of course at the end of it, the question simply is why does anyone need that attention. I’ve been trying to ask myself that for years and well…I guess that’s that it boils down to something personal.

  13. Posted November 3, 2006 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    The Kubrick theme with default configuration has some interesting benefits from an SEO point of view. It is not ideal, but it is far easier to optimise and target your PR from each page.

    The same can be achieved with any theme, but not with a standard WordPress installation, and lots of specialist plugins.

  14. Posted November 5, 2006 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    This is an outstanding post. You have hit on all the major points that constantly stream through my mind when people ask me: So, what kind of traffic do you get?

    It is amazing how often the traffic question is the first question that I often get asked. At first I was a bit defensive, and also confused. Confused because I operate from the premise that there are enough people out there who want to read good content, and will want to look at good content. I am no longer confused or defensive and instead I let them know upfront that I am not in the traffic generation business, but in the content creation business. What that means is that I focus a lot on creating good, quality content and if people like the content, then they will bookmark and come back again.

    Now, if I was focussed on traffic generation then my content will take a backseat and consequently I would have a different strategy.

    Thanks for sharing your thougths.

    kamla

  15. Posted November 5, 2006 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, your absolutely right. I think in this day and age where the blogosphere is full the brim with some great content, but largely unimpressive stuff, a good design and layout will go a long way towards standing out from the crowd.

    For new bloggers, like me, trying to create their own niche and readership, it is important to not get disheartened too early on in the piece. As in normal life, I doubt that there is any get-successful-quick formula that can be bought or sold.

    Great blog Lorelle.

  16. Posted November 6, 2006 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I know I don’t have an A-list worldclass blog but my motivation for creating the blog was to help others. I seem to be able to attract the search engine spiders but only have a few readers and even fewer who return or subscribe. Spammers love my blog. I have given up on the idea that I could earn a decent income from blogging in a semi-niche topic with minimal effort. It takes real dedication and a bit of luck. My time is better spent working my other businesses which do produce income.

    I also find even the best blogs fail to hold my attention for very long. I may return to them occaisionally, but I am always seeking new blogs which match my interests. I’m not the typical blog junkie, rss subscriber, or blog commenter. I am more of a random researcher.

  17. Posted November 8, 2006 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Nice write up, some great points to consider. One thing that really irks me, is how many bloggers rush to ad tons of banners and adsense modules to their site, before they have the design or even subject matter dialed in! I think if people focused on their own content and design first, and only added ads once a large readership was established…they would have a much easier (and potentially more joyful) time growing their site.

  18. Posted November 29, 2006 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    I am completley new to this and was only able to construct this
    web/blog page using the type in boxes on netaspace. I have no
    understanding of web design other than this. What i want to
    do is have it picked up by google though – can i do this easily
    without getting into coding type issues?

  19. Posted November 30, 2006 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    I’m not familiar with netascape but from the look of it, it’s old, dated, and poorly designed and implemented. I don’t mean your site, but the whole service.

    If you are looking for SEO qualities, as described in Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization, what you have doesn’t even come close to qualifying.

    The site’s design is with tables, which is very bad even if you don’t understand what that means. Tables are for data not design. Trust me. The blog is separated from the front page, with very poor navigation.

    Without going into more detail, I recommend you try anything other than that service. You don’t have any posts on it that I could find anyway. Try WordPress.com free blogs for a much better experience, SEO and otherwise. And you won’t have to worry about getting into Google as it is done automatically.

    As for getting listed with Google, make sure you have content work linking to and listing. Content is the answer to all your questions, along with web standards compliance in a web page design.

  20. Posted January 23, 2007 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    ***Looks count in everything. Don’t try to tell me that they don’t. If look don’t count, then the entertainment, fashion, clothing, hair, makeup, nails, spas, exercise clubs, and health products markets would collapse. In fact, they are a huge multi-billion dollar industry, so looks must count.***
    I’m sorry…looks might count in those fields simply because people are vain and fixated on what the media tells them to look like. If the industries you mentioned collapsed, we might be the better for it.

    Yes, I agree that what a website looks like is important, AS FAR AS websites go. But the use of human appearance phobias as a metaphor was just too much for me to swallow. :>)

  21. Posted February 17, 2007 at 4:29 am | Permalink

    (FYI) I have found this link to help beginners like me add a sidebar to the default WordPress theme. It did the trick for me.

  22. Posted July 19, 2007 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    A well written blog services not the writer but the readers of the blog. This means providing services that help the readers make the bog their new home to come to…

  23. Posted October 12, 2007 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Its acctually and nowdays – content is a king. I say more – unical content is a king :)

  24. Posted September 26, 2008 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    .

    Lorelle,

    I ask you for permit a translation in portuguese or this post. I’d like to use it to bring more quality to brazilian blogguers, friends of mine.

    I do not use blogs to make money.

    .

  25. Posted September 26, 2008 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    @ joao cruzue:

    Thank you for the request, however, direct translation of my content is not permitted. If you would like to provide a link to the machine translation and my blog, that would be acceptable. Thank you for asking and for honoring my copyright and translation policy.

  26. Blondell Colesar
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Hi, i feel that i saw you visited my blog so i came to “go back the favor”.I’m attempting to find issues to improve my site!I suppose its good enough to use a few of your ideas!!


13 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Read the full post at Lorelle on WordPress and don’t forget to check your blog against the tips, tricks and list in the article, you might just realize you are missing something that will take you to that next level online. Tags: [...]

  2. [...] Lorelle on WordPress has a post up entitled Truth and Consequences of Blogs that Stand Out, in which she takes a look at outstanding blogs from a different perspective: what your visitor wants to see. [...]

  3. [...] Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out « Lorelle on WordPress (tags: Blog web design Blogging) [...]

  4. [...] Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out « Lorelle on WordPress (tags: blogs web20) [...]

  5. [...] Why? Because that little voice at the back of my head tells me that it isn’t important. Because people that know what blogs are all about will tell you that good blogs doesn’t necessarily need a large readership to be good. Because in the years and months that I have been blogging, it’s come to the point where it will never be about pleasing my readers as much as it is about giving myself some air of peace. [...]

  6. [...] What Makes Blogs Lift and Separate Themselves November 5th, 2006 at 9:39 pm by Tony Courtesy of the talented Lorelle, there are a few things that are worth noting about exceptional blogs(i.e. those that lift and separate themselves out of the pack): [...]

  7. [...] Buenísimo el artículo de Lorelle sobre las verdades y consecuencias de los blogs punteros o que sobresalen. Es un artículo cuya lectura recomiendo, aunque está en inglés. En él analiza las diferentes características que hacen que un blog se distinga del resto, que aspectos lo convierten en preferido por los lectores y, en definitiva, qué le hace sobresalir. Nos propone esta lista de comprobación: [...]

  8. [...] In light of my recent article on the Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out, I loved this tip: You don’t go to court in a T-shirt, likewise, pay attention to the look and feel of your blog. All of our activities shape impressions: the way we speak to people, the way we dress, even the way we eat. Some actions may invite interaction, others subtlety repel. Consider carefully the design of your blog… [...]

  9. [...] Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out (מתוך Lorelle on WordPress) – לורל היא האדם שיכול לכתוב הכי הרבה על תופעת הבלוגינג ובעיקר על וורדפרס, שראיתי עד היום ברשת. יש לה הרבה מאוד ידע (היא אחת מהמתעדות העיקריות בוויקי הרשמי של וורדפרס). בקטע הזה היא סוקרת את המכנים המשותפים של הבלוגים המצליחים ביותר כיום, שוברת כמה מיתוסים ומחדדת נקודות. בסוף, היא מציעה גם לבחון את נוחות וכמות פוטנציאל ה“פופולריות“ של הבלוג שלכם בעזרת 13 שאלות קצרות. [...]

  10. [...] Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out [...]

  11. [...] autora do blog Lorelle on WordPress publicou um post onde ela expõe Truths and Consequences of Blogs that Stand Out (Verdades e Consequências dos Blogs que se Destacam). Se você se entende com o inglês, vale a [...]

  12. [...] Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out, Lorelle on WordPress. http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/11/01/truths-and-consequences-of-blogs-that-stand-out/ [...]

  13. [...] autora do blog Lorelle on WordPress publicou um post onde ela expõe Truths and Consequences of Blogs that Stand Out (Verdades e Consequências dos Blogs que se Destacam). Se você se entende com o inglês, vale a [...]

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