Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blog Day: Scroll Bar Layout

Before we start off, I just want to remind you that there's only one week left before the competition closes, so if you want The Story Book by David Baboulene, you better head over there fast.

Today is the second installment of Blog Day, my crash course on blogging. Last week, we dealt with the two rules: BE YOURSELF and THINK OF YOUR AUDIENCE.

Today, I'll be pointing out how this extends to something as seemingly trivial as the Scroll Bar.

Silly, you think? Not really. See your blog is pretty much your own personal web-page. A web-page to some aspect of your life, you might say. An aspect of your life that you very much want people to explore (Why else would you blog?). Not to mention that you really really want them to come back.

So... knowing that you want your audience to come back it becomes obvious that you want to make interaction with your blog as easy as possible. And... importantly, as FAST as possible.

Think about yourself now. When you head over to other blogs (I will discuss why this is imperative next week), how much time do you spend? An hour? Two hours? Will three hours push the borders of your capacity? No matter how long you have, you want to hit as many blogs as possible. Thus, speed is of the essence. You need to be able to open the web-page, click follow, read and comment in as little time as possible.

Back to your own blog. Let's say (because I tend to post longish blogs) that the cut-off point is ten minutes. Do you really want your reader to wait for five minutes before your blog actually loads? Do you really want your reader to spend another three minutes looking for a way to subscribe/follow?

DON'T tell me: "Go to Google Reader, click add subscriptions and copy/paste the address." Have you any idea what a pain in the arse that is when I have to do it TWENTY times in one day? By twenty-one, I stop following blogs without working subscription/follow widgets. In fact, I think I deserve a medal for following the ones I did. Point is: Do you want to be number twenty-one for a hundred or so people?

Other questions to consider:

Wouldn't you like for your reader to know what your blog (and you) are about? Once again, I have gotten people telling me that the reader should read previous blogs for an indication. Uhm... No. The reader has ten minutes and let's face it, no one cares that much about someone they don't know. You need a short introduction of some sort.

Wouldn't you like for your reader to know when you post? After all, you can't expect them to come back ever day to check, can you?

And finally, don't you think that it would be great for the reader to have easy access to older posts, should they have fifteen minutes instead of ten?

So now that we have this down, we can look at our approach to layout.

Firstly, I believe in KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. It can be incredibly annoying if you have a slow Internet connection and the blog loading times out rather than completes loading. It gets more so when I hit the same blog with a faster connection and discover that the reason why it didn't load was because there are a hundred thousand animations on the blog. So... if you want to add something, please think about why it is necessary. If it isn't saying something about the blog and doesn't suit the theme you're going for, leave it ALONE. Think about that ten minutes. I don't think all than many people spend their blog time feeding fish or stroking cats. But... if you feel that it MUST go on, revert to rule number one. BE YOURSELF. Just make sure that the animation isn't ruining the reader's experience.

That's my say on that, now I'm going to use my own scroll-bar and explain why everything is where it is. Overall, I should mention something. When I started blogging, I decided that my scroll-bar should be aimed at helping the reader in every way possible. Knowing this, I think most of what I'm going to say makes sense.

Above all, people are going to come to this blog to read about me and my experiences/opinions. So... I go to the top with my personal profile to introduce myself. Then people want to know what the blog is about. So the About This Blog section is next. Follow button is next, because who wants to have to look for it way at the bottom of the page? After that, I help readers out with my blogging schedule. After that, I plug the blog-fests that I joined, because I know some readers would love to join in too. Then I plug my open dates for GPF slots, so that people can pick a date and contact me. Note that I also have my e-mail address (used solely for blogging and writing). Next is Write-on-Con, because everyone should want to be there. It's going to be awesome. Then comes the posts most read in the past week, in the event that someone else finds those topics intriguing. Then the archive and labels, in case the above wasn't enough. Then the writing/book/agent blogs I follow. The most recent ten out of every single one I follow. You can see all of them too. Finally I have some websites that I visit for various writing related reasons.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

One more thing to mention, if you want multiple scroll-bars, I suggest you keep the important stuff on the right. That's where the eye falls first.

So... what are your pet-peeves and loves when it comes to scroll-bar lay-outs?


  1. I too get bugged when some blogs take ages to load, or I am unable to read the post because of the font colour. I prefer blogs that are easy on the eyes.

  2. I'm pretty new to blogging, but all that your saying is very true and I already had to pick up on it. Changing ones blog so that it has eye appeal is very smart and I for one look for the same things in others. Nice post! :)

  3. Good points. I should say I post MWF but I don't. I'll have to add that to my profile, thanks!

  4. Great post. I hate those ones that take forever to load. And some of them, for some strange reason, are a pain to close. I waste time trying to click them shut, which means I don't have enough time to visit other blogs. :P

  5. The way you phrase things is so funny! But yep, I agree wtih what you're trying to say here. Great advice.

    I fidn that by looking at the most popular blogs on the net you get a good idea of what do do. I try not to let my own posts go much longer than 200 words. If I put in more than one picture then I might write a bit more than that.

  6. End to the sidebar clutter! The right should be business on a blog. Follow widgets, archives etc not all the blog awards and cutesy pictures you found on the web. And if your side goes far longer than the post I have no idea when a post ends and usually just start skimming.

    It's great to plug people but give them their own page if it's longer than 15 (and even then, more than 15 is anyone really going to go to #45? No.)

    I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to blogs and save the annoying ones (that I enjoy the content) for reading in googlereader.

  7. Lovely post, I think they are actually called sidebars? I was a bit confused at first till you started explaining. I agree with KISS.

  8. I agree, Rachna, font color can be annoying if it clashes with the back-ground.

    Thanks Amy! I hope that I'm giving you something helpful. :-)

    Thanks Lydia. I'm glad if I said something that you could incorporate into your blog.

    Stina, I get that too. Especially if I'm on a slower connection. I tend to avoid those blogs in future, for no other reason but the fact that I have hundreds of posts to read every day (at least 500 per day) that I can spend time on instead of waiting for slow blogs weighed down by stuff that don't bring any meaning to it.

    Hehehe Duo I hope that I'm saying things funny in a good way. I tried to do 200 words every day. Didn't take. ;-) Now I just post as long as it takes for me to say my say. That's why I'll never preach on post length. Still, I am thinking about shortening my posts again. Ten minute cut-off is actually a big consideration for me now.

    Steph, that's so true, business on the right, fun stuff on the left (if REALLY Important to the writer.) If I have to plug too much stuff, I either put it on rotation or as you said on a new page. :-)

    Myne, thank very much for pointing out my mistake. I fixed it for as far as I could pick up the words. :-D

  9. I read most blogs on a reader, so that saves the load time. My biggest pet peeve? Music.

  10. My sidebar is on the right but I didn't realise it was the best place for it. It was just beginners luck I suppose. I'm always playing around with my side bar and I've recently tried to de-clutter it. I hate it when blogs take an age to load. I give up and navigate away.

    By the way, there's an award waiting for you on my blog :-)

  11. All makes sense. I made a few adjustments on the sidebar of my blog just a little while ago. I had the followers and stuff very near the bottom before I realized it should be at the top.

    Thanks for the post :)

  12. Very cool and nicely set out blog. How did you find the Labels widget? I haven't seen it in the generic section on Blogger and I don't know how to use unique ones. Any chance you could tell me how?

  13. Maria, I should have mentioned that too. I HATE music tastes being pushed down my throat. I usually open five blogs at the same day, so I always have to hunt the damn music players down.

    Rosalind, I tend to navigate away too. No-one's content is so good that I can't pick fifteen other blogs in the time that it takes the first one to load. Thanks for the award!

    TayLyee, the follow buttons are probably the most important things to place correctly. People are doing us a favor by following. We should never make it a chore for them.

    I sent you an e-mail about it. Did you come right?

  14. I'm so glad you mentioned the importance of the archive. I'm one of those people (one of? probably the only one) who likes to read all of someone's blog posts. You can see why not having an archive is a problem for me.

  15. Another point to consider when deciding on your layout is how well does it translate to booklets? I think blogs can sell in printed form and have seen a blog be the birthplace of many great works. It’s so nice if it prints right off the page and the layout keeps everything - images, and all - right where they fit on the blog.


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