I’ve been kicking around the idea of redesigning my homepage and blog, though I’m not sure I really have the free time to do it. To start, I thought I would to put down a few thoughts about applying usability principles when designing blogs.
When you starting thinking about usability it’s temping to jump right into lists of principles and rules of thumb. It’s a little silly applying Fitt’s Law when you haven’t even established what you want your site to accomplish in the first place. So what, generally, do you want your blog to do?
- Share thoughts and work with others
- Collect a body of work to represent myself (like a portfolio)
- Collect information for later discovery (by myself and others)
- Provide an outlet to continue practice writing
- Allow others to communicate with me and comment
If you’re creating or redesigning a blog for a company, the goal set may be very different. Below are some examples that don’t actually apply in my case.
- Communicate with customers
- Build long term relationships with customers
- Produce quality content to drive search traffic
- Generate revenue through advertising
Many projects don’t even get this far before the graphic designers and web developers are already making mock-ups, but we still have one more important step to do. We know why you’re building a blog, but why are users coming to it?
Everyone has tag clouds all over the web, but are they really useful? Altocumulus is an attempt to use tag clouds as a real navigational system in WordPress blogs.
Install the plugin and it will automatically put a cloud of related tags at the top of all your Category and Tag pages. Hopefully this will serve two purposes:
- Users who end up on a general category page can click through to a more specific (or more relevant) tag page, and
- It should give users a general idea of the topic of the posts on that archive page, increasing the information scent.
Next version I’ll add an options screen where you can change the number of tags, placement, etc.
Please drop me a note if you run into any bugs or are using it on your blog. Let me know if you have any ideas you’d like to see implemented, too – I am all about implementing and studying folksonomies. The more folks who are interested, the more likely I am to add features. Thanks.
Download the Plugin Here
If you’ve gone to any of my Category pages on this blog (my Academic papers, for example), you might have noticed I have a tag cloud with just the tags related to that category. After I figured out how to do it I packaged it into a WordPress Plugin, called Altocumulus.
This goes along with my research interests into folksonomies and information retrieval. I haven’t had the chance to study tag clouds empirically but my guess is that one giant tag cloud for an entire web site or blog might be more cool looking that useful for navigation. I think that making use of tag relationships a bit more might show the strength of folksonomies for navigation. So now, if you click to see my design pages, you can see the kinds of topics my designs cover.
For another example of this in action, take a look at Unsought Input, for example the Innovation page.
Go ahead and download version 0.1 now. It requires WordPress 2.3 or higher. This is my first WordPress plugin so I’m sure I’ll figure out ways to make it better over time. If you have any bugs, pointers, or suggestions please leave them in the comments below.