Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Check out her new blog Anywired if you’re interested in earning an income online.
Think of it like this: the art of making it as easy as possible for your blog’s visitors to do exactly what you want them to do.
That simple, super-effective tip on putting your feed icon high up in your sidebar is usability at work. So is putting social media buttons at the bottom of your posts. So is putting popular posts in your sidebar. In fact, some of the coolest, simplest things you can do to get more subscribers, links and loyal readers come from usability.
Setting aside an hour or two to re-arrange your layout with usability in mind will pay long-term dividends for your blog’s growth. Here are my top 5 tips to help you get started.
#1 — Be predictable
When we want to know what a site is about, the first thing we look for is an ‘About’ page.
When we want to contact the owner of a site, the first thing we look for is a ‘Contact’ page.
When we want to leave a comment, we usually look to the bottom of a post.
When we want to subscribe to a blog, we look for the subscribe button at the top of its sidebar.
These things are so common that they’ve become standards — things we expect. When we can’t find the standard, we look for the next most similar thing.
By adhering to these predictable standards you’re actually making it as easy as possible for your blog’s visitors to do exactly what you want them to do. Sometimes being predictable is not a bad thing!
#2 — Be obvious
Look down at your keyboard and you’ll probably be able to spot at least one key that you’ve never noticed before, either because you have no need for it or you don’t know what it does. It could be the most useful key ever, but our hesitation when confronted with the unknown has probably stopped you ever pressing it before. What if it deletes everything you just wrote?
We don’t like not knowing what the result of our actions will be, and so it goes with your blog. Non-obvious links and buttons will very rarely be clicked. In my experiments with private advertising, there can be as much as an 800% difference in click-through rates between ambiguous banners and ones which make it obvious where the reader will be taken when they click on it. Scour your blog and ask this question of every element: would a new visitor know what this does, or where it leads?
Photo by Davichi
#3 — Subtract the unimportant
By hiding important elements (your most popular posts, your feed icon, your comment button) amongst a dozen other unimportant things (widgets and recent comments) you’re making it harder for readers to do what is truly important to you.
#4 — Limit options
A category list with 10 categories is a lot more usable than a list with 50 categories. Too many options creates overload which leads to deferral: a visitor will not engage with that element at all. Your list of 5 most popular posts will get clicked more than your list of 20, and so on. Simplified options make it easier for the visitor to decide where they want to place their attention. Too much choice will actually hurt your blog’s usability.
#5 — Do the little things
A usable blog, aside from the above, is also made-up of many little touches that make your visitor’s browsing experience easier.
- Does your header image link back to your main page?
- Does your blog have an about page?
- Does your blog have a contact page?
- Do your headlines match with your content?
- Is it clear where your links will lead?
- Do you use frequent paragraphs in your posts?
- Do you have comment links at the bottom of your post?
- Do you use sub-headings?
- Are your posts less than 2/3 screen length wide?
- Are you making your best posts easily accessible?
- Are your links easy to pick out?
Points to review
- Predictability is a good thing for usability.
- Be creative with your posts, but obvious in your layout elements.
- Subtract obstacles to your most wanted actions.
- Simplify options to make your elements easier to use.
- Pay attention to little touches that your visitors will find useful.