Fly away, little blog entries, fly away!

The volatile nature of blog entries makes me cringe. I am someone who gets physically ill if he has to throw stuff out. “But it is still useful!”, I cry, while friends pry useless crap from my hands.

Because most bloggers live for the day, their archives (one wonders why they even have such things) are marvels of bad usability. And not just their archives. Seriously, I have seen web usability experts wander into blogs with a lamp on their helmet, and supplies worth two weeks of food and water, only never again to come out.

Still, the mere existence of blog archives (and the fact that some blogs allow for categorizing, which is only really handy if you want to look for older entries and limit your search) would seem to suggest that I am not the only one who has trouble to let go.

(Yes, I know the software behind the page that you are currently reading is crap too; there is little I can do about it do, as I am using a free blog hosting service.)

Update (7-1-2006): when I refer to “this blog”, I refer to my old web-log.nl blog. In the meantime I have moved to a self-hosted WordPress blog, which naturally has its own set of usability problems, different from web-log.nl’s.

3 responses to “Fly away, little blog entries, fly away!”

  1. Reinder says:

    OK, I’ll bite. What, specifically, are the usability problems with yer average blog, and how is not having any individual archive at all an improvement to having it in a form that’s hard to find?

    I’ve got a few pet peeves meself, mind: hard to find or nonexistent RSS feeds, nonexistent full-entry feeds (I need to create a summary/headline feed on Waffle, but it’s not nearly as urgent or annoying as a lack of a full-entry feed would be); monthly archives pushed to the bottom by bad CSS, and of course the common problem of indistinct link colors (which, dammit, I just noticed my own blog suffers from even though it uses code from my regular style sheet! I’ll fix that ASAP) – but that last one isn’t specific to blogs.

  2. Branko Collin says:

    OK, I’ll answer. The immediate frustration, the thing that prompted me to write this entry, was a comment form at the Corante Copyfight blog. It doesn’t have a preview, it uses tiny letters so that you won’t spot obvious typos (and if you use Ctrl+Plus to increase the font size, part of the text area will disappear), if you forget to fill out an obligatory field the blog software will tell you so, while presenting you with all fields emptied!, and of course it will not tell you which fields are obligatory (hint: not all are). Also, although you are allowed to use certain HTML tags, it’s up to you to find out which.

    The Waffle blog will let you fill out e-mail and HTML addresses, but seemingly won’t use them. Perhaps they are obligatory, perhaps not. Can I use HTML? I don’t know.

    This blog will let you preview your comment, but if you want to change something, you need to click a button to get the edit field back.

    And all blogs muck about with my default font size! What’s up with that? Doesn’t anybody trust that I will be able to set the font size to something I like?

    As to archives, again this blog is a sterling example of how to get it right (not!). I get to browse previous entries based on the date. That’s it. You can actually count the number of weeks that I have been blogging, as the archive pages take a week each. I could search the archives using Google, only to get insightful page links that are all called “Oknarb.web-log.nl “. If I go to an archive page, there are no links to the previous or the next batch of entries, neither as A nor as LINK elements.

    Some blogs call their permalinks “permalink”, which is great, because then you know you can link to it. Others thought it smarter to make the comments link or the date link the permalink, which confuses me.

    The worst thing, though, is that none of these things are rocket science. I wonder the writers of the software don’t stumble upon these problems themselves on a daily basis.

  3. Reinder says:

    “The Waffle blog will let you fill out e-mail and HTML addresses, but seemingly won’t use them. Perhaps they are obligatory, perhaps not. Can I use HTML? I don’t know.”

    Good one. I’ll see if I can change the templates. In fact, I think removing the field for the URL (which to the best of my knowledge isn’t obligatory) will attract less comment spam. OTOH, I like to know what people do on the web for my own nefarious purposes.

    “And all blogs muck about with my default font size! What’s up with that? Doesn’t anybody trust that I will be able to set the font size to something I like?”

    You, possibly. Most other people, no. Hell, I myself don’t know, from browser to browser and from machine to machine, what my font size is!
    I’ll tell you this, though: the only way I could leave the default font size the way it is is if I also kept my hands off the default font type. Arial and Verdana are unpractically big (visually) at the same nominal font size compared to the most common serif fonts. If this bothers you, find out if your browser supports font style overrides (which if you know your way around the preferences well enough to set the default font, should be easy to find out). In an ideal world, I’d keep my hands off (after all, it’s not as if I *like* doing web design) but it’s no ideal world (which is probably *why* I don’t like doing web design. All those tacky compromises).

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