Gone are the days of marquees, animated gifs and embedded midi files (thank God) but there are still things that people do that drive others crazy.
Since I am (still) working on my "redesign" for Binary Moon I thought I would look into what stops people from reading blogs. More specifically I was looking for reasons people would stop visiting a site, or worse, close it as soon as it loads.
These tips are ranked in my personal order of preference, but I'm sure there are others I've missed so please do let me know in the comments if there's anything I've missed.
- Snap.com previews. Snap.com offer a way to add "previews" to external websites you link to on your pages. By previews I mean tiny screenshots that pop up on mouse over. In my mind they offer no value to visitors whatsoever. All they do is slow down the page load, and get in the way of the content I actually want to read. There is a way to remove them but it relies on cookies in your browser, this seems cumbersome to me so I used the Adblock Firefox extension to block their entire domain. No Snap.com for me thank you very much. And thankfully, I'm not the only person who dislikes them - Lorelle, and many others have the same opinions.
- Advertising Excess More and more sites are relying on advertising for making money on their sites. Advertising itself isn't bad and when used in an appropriate way can work wonders, but forcing half a page of ads, which pushes your content below the fold, I think you have to ask yourself if you've gone a step too far. Darren Hoyt recently wrote a piece on excessive advertising at ABC Chicago
- Overlay/ Expandable Ads A cross between Snap.com and Advertising Excess, these ads tend not too appear on blogs as much as they do on larger commercial websites. They are essentially adverts that are designed to disrupt your browsing experience - they either appear on top of the site content, requiring a click to remove, or they expand when place your mouse over the ad. Both of these ad types get in the way of reading the site you are visiting and both ruin the experience for me. A healthy dose of AdBlock soon sorts them out.
- Inline ads This is the last of the ad related dislikes... I promise Inline ads are the double underlined text links you see in some blog articles. They are links that are not inserted by the article author and link popular words to external advertisers sites. Like snap.com links they often add popup information blocking the content on the page but more importantly they mislead people. If you don't know what the double underline means then there is a good chance you will click on the link because of the misunderstanding that the link is endorsed by the post author.
- Del.icio.us, Twitter etc in rss feed. I think Del.icio.us is a very nice app and regularly use it to save bookmarks, and a tasteful sidebar widget displaying your latest links is fine, even including them in your posts is fine. The issue is when there is no way for me to subscribe to a feed that does not feature them. I visit your site for your content, not links to other peoples. I have even gone so far as to email blog authors I like asking them to create a feed I can use that does not include these things.
- Bad Navigation Most blogs have a fairly obvious list of pages on their site but occasionally they miss things such as not linking the header to the homepage (which is surely a standard by now isn't it?). In one case I even saw a website that had no navigation on internal pages. I don't know if this was intentional or a css bug but it sure was frustrating.
- No archives Many blogs use templates freely downloaded from the web and these generally include an archives listing somewhere, so it's not a big problem for them, but I find it very annoying when websites don't have an easy to find archive system. This is something I feel is quite weak here, on Binary Moon, I have an archive page but I intend to add more ways for people to traverse older posts.
- Tiny/ low contrast text Small fonts and low contrast designs can look lovely. However more often they are simply a nightmare for people to use. It's not just people with vision impairments who have issues either. If a visitors monitor is calibrated differently to yours (which is quite likely) then there's a good chance they can't view the text either.
- Long lines of text are a readability nightmare. Have you ever read a line of text and then gone to the next line only to read the same thing again because you lost your place? I have... and it sucks. Fewer words per line makes things easier to read. Similarly spacing between lines should be nice and comfortable, so that the lines are easy to distinguish.
- No individual post information The big one here is the date. I like to know when things are written, for technical sites (giving tutorials etc) it's not that much of a problem, but often time sensitive content is written and it's very useful to know when. Other data that annoys me when it's missing is who wrote the post (most important on multi author blogs) and what categories the article was posted in - so I can find similar content.
To sum up the list - the thing that will drive me away from your site is blocking access to the content I want to read.
I'm confident I won't make any of the mistakes above in my design update, but is there anything else I should do to improve my site, and to stop people from leaving.