This morning for some reason I’ve come upon many blogs that use a theme which is less than ergonomic. We’ve all seen them. They use nonstandard navigation, background images that are distracting in combination with text that is colored to blend with the background as well as text that is far too small to be comfortably readable. Often they lack the xanga top navigation toolbar and use other words in place of navigation.
Professionally I am a video and motion graphics guy who works at a web media company. I shoot and produce video for the internet, DVD and TV. My department is adjacent to the creative department filled with web designers and graphic artists. I also do a little of both as needed and on the side. As a result I’m qualifying myself as a professional in this area. So please take my advice to heart.
The purpose of using a public blog like xanga is to share your thoughts and possibly get feedback from others. If that’s not your purpose, you really don’t have a need for using a site like xanga. That said, you have to be happy with the look and feel of your own blog, since it is your own blog. But you should expect that the less ergonomic your blog is, likely the less people will want to visit it. Sure content is king but it can only help to make it more accessible. So here are some tips.
- Use point sizes(pt) or em(em) sizes for text rather than pixel sizes(px). Pixels sizes remain constant and do not scale. The others do. Aside from that, choose a size that is readable. 10pt or higher is perfectly fine. Anything smaller used for an entire blog entry will make it uncomfortable to read and you’ll likely get less people willing to read as a result. I don’t care if you’re anorexic, your blog text doesn’t have to be.
- Keep the standard xanga navigation bar at the top of the screen. Xanga has been nice enough to allow us to style this bar in different colors which you can do to match the rest of your color scheme. But you shouldn’t get rid of it completely. It’s incredibly helpful for other people and even yourself to use in navigating to and from your site.
- Do not use background images. While there are certain instances where background images can be used properly, most people don’t understand this. So it’s better if you just stay away from them. If you insist, then choose a repeatable pattern that is easy on the eyes or use an image that does not repeat but remains in a given location and does not disrupt the readability of the main text. Do no use photographs that repeat and under no circumstance should you ever use an animated gif. NEVER!
- I know it’s fun to “rename” your navigation links using expressive phrases and words like changing “photos” into “my life” or something like that. But you should stay away from this practice. It only confuses people. They may want to see your photos but if they have to spend a minute figuring out which link takes them there, they aren’t going to bother. If you insist on renaming them, then use words that are similar (i.e. photo = pix, images, photography, etc) .
- Give your text some contrast. Using dark red text on a black background may convey the idea that you are dark and goth, but if I have to highlight your text to comfortably read it, I’m not going to bother. Also note that certain operating systems, like MacOS for instance, do not change the color of the text when highlighted. So these people don’t have any alternative options for reading your blog entries.
The general rule of thumb is not to punish your readers. Don’t trap them, confuse them or make them strain their eyes to see what you have to say. Because if you do all of that they aren’t going to care what you have to say.