Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Confession Tuesday

A bit late with today's post because yesterday I stepped on the scale and I'm still reeling. Going out for my walk after this. For now we'll not talk about weight, dieting and exercise. Instead let's talk about what we think makes a good blog and who some of your favorite bloggers are.

If you read here, you know I spend a lot of time blogging and reading blogs. There are key elements I look for in a blog and these elements contribute to my overall enjoyment I experience when I read them. I'm not going to address quality writing because without that there is little reason to visit. Let's talk about everything else. I'm drawn to blogs with:

1) Good aesthetics. Now some of you think how a blog looks makes little difference. Not for me. Colors, font size, overall layout affects how often and how much time I spend at a blog. Why? Very dark or very busy layouts cause eye strain and fatigue. The writing could be fantastic but if the colors hurt my eyes, I bail. Additionally, if there are too many bells and whistles, I feel overwhelmed and I bail. Light colors are easiest on the eyes, but not white backgrounds (the glare, light behind the screen, like dark backgrounds, leads to eye fatigue). White works if balanced with proportionate images that minimize glare. If a blog is very streamlined and has limited amount of text, a dark background can work because the writer is directing your attention to specific information and the writer doesn't expect you to hang out. The idea is to read the day's entry and move on. Single poetry postings and micro fiction posts work with dark backgrounds.

2) Layout. I look for multiple paths to same information. Why, because often a visitor is new or doesn't remember where desired information is. Multiple access points makes it easier for the reader to find what interests her. But be careful, too many options are also confusing. I like updates clearly visible, and while I like permanent reference links, I don't care for long lists. I prefer drop down menus for these. Long lists provide loads of information, but I think for many readers, these references become part of the background. Better to have the option to access a list when wanted; knowing where to look and scrolling only when needed. Easy loading: some blogs have beautiful, elaborate backgrounds and images. These often take forever to load. Be sure you're using the smallest file possible. Pretty isn't pretty if I'm waiting for it to load. I also prefer to have more content than visuals. I don't want a page full of images and two lines of text.

3) Content- regular features, variety and frequency. There are blogs I visit daily or based on their established schedules without fail. Now the scatterbrain I am, I can be all over the place. I've made a concerted effort to publish regular features on a consistent basis and to update my blog daily because the number of features and memes I participate dictate this kind of frequency. When I improved consistency, my readership improved, too.

Other blogs are focused on specific interest and very narrow in focus. For these, the narrower the focus, the more I'm looking for consistency in updating. I read a wide variety of blogs, and my expectations differ based on the kind of blog. For poetry and short story, I expect less updating and don't expect a variety of features. Book review blogs are different. Here, I've quickly learned, I want more than reviews. There are a gazillion blogs reviewing books so I need another draw, and assuming quality is there, I'm drawn to bloggers who participate in other activities or regularly write other book related articles.

4) Tone. Identity- Lastly, I like blogs that have a distinct tone or personality. There are so many blogs covering the same kind of material. For me, the bloggers I read most are writers who communicate with their readers, their personalities enhance my reading experience and there is something about the blogger I do not find elsewhere. I'm a social animal. I'm drawn to people even if we're connecting through technology. If I simply wanted to read a review, I could read a professional review. I'm interested in the individual. I'm drawn to their individual perspective. For a while I was unsure how much of me I should present here. Everyone is different. In the end, I decided to behave here like I would if we were having a gathering in my home or sitting in a coffeehouse.

I hope you enjoy coming here because I love having you here.

What about you? What do you look for in a blog? If you think about it, where do you spend most of your blog reading time?

25 comments:

Summer said...

Great post! You definitely have given me some things to think about. I'm still figuring out what I'm looking for in a blog and what I like for my own blog but a good layout and good content is key. Thinking about it, I do think intimacy is important, like a personal feeling coming from the blog through your computer screen. I also like enthusiasm.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Ack, consistency is hard. I know it's important but I'm interested in too many things. But it reflects, to a large extent, what you would be exposed to were you to be exposed to me in person!

(And my scale is broken too. Furthermore, someone keeps breaking in and shrinking my clothes. I hate that!!!)

susan said...

Hi Summer, and let me say, the pleasure was mine when we connected. Thanks for reading and commenting.

susan said...

J, you are funny! See on the trail. lol

vvb32 reads said...

i like this post. good points to keep in mind for bloggers. as a newbie to blog reading, what stands out for me are regular posts. i like to read at least two new posts a week from a blogger. oh yeah, and themes. there was a body image week theme last month that highlighted certain books with appropriate discussions. that was fun to read and be a part of.

susan said...

Hi V,
What regular features or themes do you cover or plan to cover on your blog? How often do you update your blog?

Shalonda said...

Hey Susan,

Love this post. I think sometimes people get wrapped up in their own ideas and totally forget what attracts people to blogs.

I do enjoy visiting your blog. You always have a fresh perspective and I like that. Rather than seeing the same ole, same ole, you provide unique ideas, and that is why your blog stands out to me!

tea said...

Thank you for the points to a good blog. I really love your blog. I bet it's because you know just what to do.

Annamari said...

this does remind me that I need to update the layout. I will try to answer and I'd like to let you know you were tagged in a meme as well...

Nymeth said...

I agree with you, especially on 4). Most of all, it's the person behind the blog that keeps me coming back. My favourite blogs are ones that feel genuine and welcoming, and where communication isn't just one-sided.

susan said...

Amen, Nymeth.

Rhapsody, oh my interests are all over the place, too, which is why I try to be consistent with some features/memes and variety comes from all the things I'm interested in. And if you met me in person, you'd find I'm every bit the hot mess I am here. lol

Carolee said...

This is a great post. I hear an incredible confidence in your voice (as I did with the post on the economy despite its difficult subject matter).

And for the record, even though we're not talking about it, I also hate the thing you mention. Looks like the word "scare" but rhymes with "pale." :)

Staci said...

This was a fantastic post and I heard your voice in my head!!! I too don't like overly busy blogs, music on them drives me crazy!!! I like variety but I also like knowing that on certain days I'm going to read this or that. I found myself agreeing with so much you had to say. For me it's a connection with the blogger and being able to get their personality through their writing...not their map skills!! LOL...I just had to add that! Because you stated that you behave here as if we're just sitting around your house and chatting! So if I was there I would have to poke fun, just one more time, about where I live in Michigan!!

susan said...

Staci, I would laugh with you about my map skills. That was a hoot, wasn't it?! lol

Carolee, we can have an informal support group. :-)

Doret said...

Pretty isn't pretty if I'm waiting for it to load. Great Line. Susan, I love how you were able to share what you like and don't like about blogs. I know what I like but it would probably take me forever and day, to put words to it, and even than it would not be complete. I also prefer a blog thats not too color busy. I also like it when I can get a feel for the blogger.

Annamari said...

I agree on all points, especially consistency that is my weakest point. I would like to be able to split the blog by topics - fiction and opinion essays/reviews on the other.
One other thing that makes me return to a blog are its links – one big opportunity beyond blogging is the ability to follow your interests from blog to blog , through the WWW

Renee Simms said...

Wonderful post and blog. I'm still figuring things out and feel extremely guilty if I don't post regularly. How do people deal with that? Do you schedule certain times to post? What if you aren't inspired to say anything?

Thinking Aloud said...

This confession came right on time. I was considering changing my wallpaper seasonally, a little change always does the body and mind good. I was also asking myself what kind of blogger am I am I the one that has a certain and distinct style or am I the one who posts a bit of this and a bit of that? I guess the answer is a bit of this and a bit of that. I love your new site style, but I don't have enough entries in any one area to do those cool links.

So I will stick to a bit of this and a bit of that and come to your site for some consistency and greater order.

oh, and I can't wait for summer break so that I can be in blog comment heaven. Due to the daily demands I can only comment on two or three per night and I want to read and interact much more than the time allows.

I have also taken to copying my comments (this one included) and posting them on my blog. Am I shameful, or is it that your comments act as great writing prompts?

Can't wait to hear what you have to say.

ThomG said...

I find that I need to read more blogs. But there are a lot out there that are hard to visit more than once (I hope that isn't the case for The Tension). But I know what you mean about connection.

Hope you're feeling better. Still awaiting a 3WW from you.

susan said...

Hey Thom, my head was killing. You all know something's wrong when I'm not on. :-) Will try to write.

Renee, I'm no poster child for consistency. I have a schedule now after starting my blogs in late 2007. Only in the last few months have I been fairly consistent (I'm still struggling with Color Online). For me, blogging has been a learning process. Two things have helped me: I found memes I really enjoy doing and these are posted at scheduled times so that provided a focus and a publishing schedule whether I am inspired or not.

T, like you I talk about a bit of this and a bit of that. That works for me. Pick a day or two where you're just musing and name it. I realized I didn't want to be focused on reviews, or poetry or prose only. To me, it isn't as much about frequency as it is about regularity. I knew on Mondays you were here for Little Lov'n Monday and Monday Memoirs on your blog. Without fail, I knew if no other day to check in on Mondays.

I can't be everything for everyone and my visiting habits keep the same in mind for others. I have my favorite unstructured places, review blogs, fiction, poetry and culture/politics.

Annamarie, like you, links matter. 80% if not more of my current links I found at blogs of those who I enjoy reading regularly. The others I found through my participation in weekly memes. If I like a bloggers' writing and format, I want to know who s/he is reading. And I big on supporting others' so I hang around folks who actively support others and one way to show support is to have links on your blog.

Thom, I hear you on how frequently I can visit a place. My blog roll here has 100 links. Color Online has 50+. Despite spending way too much time online I can't visit everybody all the time. I visit based partly on how frequently a blogger updates and I set aside time just to visit. Obviously, Monday is one of those days. I write and publish LLM and Sunday Salon on Saturday. I spend the majority of my online time on Sunday and Monday, reading and commenting.

susan said...

Tea, I had my shelf up before but I didn't think anyone paid any attention to it. On a recent visit to Doret's I realized I look at her shelf everytime I go. That's when I decided to add my shelf back. I do worry it takes too long to load and it's huge. I haven't figured out how to show only one row and I didn't want it on the side because that lengthens and makes the page unbalanced. At the bottom allows folks the option of continuing to scroll or not.

Nicola O. said...

Great post! and food for thought. My blog is coming up for an overhaul and you've definitely hit on one several of my wish-list items (I *know* my lists are too long!! ack!)

I do find that personality is the most important thing. Good writing, whether it's light and a little silly, or serious and issue-oriented, or anywhere in between, it needs to offer a unique perspective and a unique voice. I've seen some lovely blogs on topics that interest me, but if the writing is sloppy and full of misspellings and awkward sentence construction, I won't be back.

One thing that bugs me a little is that an awful lot of bloggers who write about romance feel the necessity to include lots of "beefcake" images.... now, that's all well and good, but it means I can't check your blog from work!

susan said...

Nicola, yes, there are some things I can't check at work, too.

Friends, my head has been hurting for two days. Sorry if I haven't answered an email or haven't been to your blog. My head still aches but it's manageable today.

dsnake1 said...

Hi!
this is a wonderful post. a must read for any blogger (newbie or otherwise). i agree with you on using small files, internet readers have short attention spans. :)

i try to update my blog regularly but lately i am lagging far behind, maybe the office work is taking too much of the energy.

i think my blog needs an overhaul too, it's long overdue. that's a lot of work, argggh!

susan said...

Hi d1snake, when I talked about small files, I was referring to compressed files that our blogs upload such as backgrounds, images, music. I hear you though. I think we read differently online. The same person who can read a 600 page novel may find it challenging to read more than 1000 words on a screen in one sitting.