Do you have a favorite blog that you love to visit? What is it about a blog that makes you want come back? In most cases it is the content, the words on the page. I have many blogs that I like to visit on content alone. Steve Pavlina’s personal productivity site is a great example. Steve always has interesting posts.
But there are some blogs that have a unique look or design that are fun to visit. The creativity of the designer adds interest to the site. Whether it is pictures or graphics or even flash animations, the site is interesting to explore. An example of a designer’s site is Lifehut. The entire site is designed around the concept of a “hut,” with bamboo sheaves in the header graphic and a graphic representation of the hut in the background and in the icons. This is really a fun site and it has an additional feature of “voting” that adds additional interest. This site is on my daily list because the content is interesting, the graphics are fun, and I can participate by “voting” on each post.
Another style of blog is the portal, where links and content are king. One of my favorite “portal” sites is Rosa Say’s Talking Story. Her site is graphically rich with a Hawaiian theme, but the real interest builder is her many links and her Ho’ohana community. If you are interested in self improvement, this is a very compelling site. You can pick a topic of interest and find many persuasive articles written by Rosa but also links to other sites that may have additional information. Her site is large, filling a 1024 screen with information. I like a portal site because there are so many things to do and explore.
What else do we find on a blog that may enhance communication? Three things come quickly to mind; advertising, podcasts and comment areas. Advertising is a two edged sword. If it is done right I think it can really enhance a site. If they are not done well, they just come across as spam. To be effective, the ads need to be targeted to content and offer quality products and services. The most popular blog ads are from Google and Amazon.com
Google ads are designed to “read” a sites content and offer up “targeted” ads. This is a great idea and it works well… sometimes. Since the ad software “reads” what is on a page you may end up with unintended or even offensive ads for your content. Some of the ads offered up may just be spam in disguise. Some blogs really overdo the ad placement and become very irritating. A humorous example of Google gone bad was a recent article that I saw on vegetarianism with targeted ads by McDonalds and Burger King.
Google offers some tools which can really help with these problems. They now have a tool which allows you to select the text of your site that the ads are targeted to. They also allow you to block any ads by domain that don’t match your intended purpose. They also have a browser tool for Internet Explorer that will show you which ads will be placed on your page. With these three tools you can offer up a much more compelling selection of ads for your readers than the software would choose by itself.
Podcasts are a new phenomenon, which offer voice and music to a blog audience. I have heard some surprising “casts” by individual blog artists that have a remarkable sound quality. Scott Hodge hit the mark on his first try. I have also heard some professional sites offering distorted and generally low-quality productions. The great thing about podcasts is that you can “take it with you” in the car or in your personal MP3 player. Podcasts are especially effective for news sites, musicians and speakers. For me the key thing is “Quality.”
One of the most important features of a blog is the ability of the audience to respond by entering a “comment” on the site. Some sites make the process easy with a well structured comment form that requires only limited information. In most cases the comment is posted immediately. Others require “moderation” with the comment posted hours or days after it is entered. With the proliferation of “comment spam” many blog owners are having to implement tighter restrictions on entries. Plug-in software is available for most blog engines that will help with this task. The comment forms that I find offensive are the ones that require that I join their group or organization to post. I posted to a Blogger site the other day and it required that I setup a blog to be able to comment.
I have taken all of these things into consideration in the re-design of this blog Some things I hope to feature on the relaunch are.
1. Interesting Content with Multiple Authors: I have some writer friends that I hope to feature frequently on this site that have amazing stories to tell.
2. Well Designed Blog Template: A new 3 column template will feature many new areas of content for a much richer user experience yet still offer some “white space” to prevent visual overload. Variable CSS will offer the ability to customize the site to your preference.
3. Portal Experience: The new content areas will be much deeper with extensive links to additional information. If you can’t find what you are looking for here, the links will open up entire new vistas of knowledge.
4. High Quality Advertising: Content based advertising featuring great companies that offer products and services that will benefit the user community. I want advertising on this site to be a positive experience. Ad placement is of prime concern with ads being visible but non-obtrusive. I would love to hear feedback on your ad experiences.
5.Podcasting: As a Toastmaster I hear a lot of compelling speeches and educational programs. I hope to be able to bring some of these rich media experiences to you with Podcasts and Flashcasts (including visuals and video). With these “casts” you’ll be able to take the material with you.
6. Audience Participation: The greatest single strength of a blog or other website is its readership. I want to feature you, the readers of this blog, prominently not only with comments but posts as well.
I would love to hear your feedback on these topics. The relaunch is coming along well and I would really like to hear your opinions and ideas to help make this a fun and interesting blog destination.