Usability Tips for Your Blog
Blogging regularly is a significant accomplishment, but getting people to find and read it is the key to success. Time is precious, and with all the information and entertainment available on the internet these days, audience attention spans have never been shorter.
The design, structure, and content that makes up your blog need to be both engaging and clear to really stand out to both search engines and people. Fortunately, as search engines have become more sophisticated the same concepts you use to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) will also improve your general user experience (UX).
What does that mean? Generally speaking, writing SEO friendly content is not going to win you a Pulitzer Prize any time soon. But it can help your readers break down and digest the information you’re sharing with them. Similarly, writing posts that are easy to read makes a search engine’s job crawling your site much easier.
When you create a blog with a focus on UX, your main goal should be to focus on how efficiently it’s able to convey your message. Each part of your website should support and enhance that message.
Write to maximize readability
As you might guess, readability refers to the ease with which a person can read your text. In a general sense, this refers not only to the physical readability of letters on a screen or page, but also to the vocabulary and grammar used.
Sometimes even the physical fatigue caused by eye movements is taken into account. Usually when someone talks about readability they’re referring specifically to a piece of writing’s reading level, however.
Content that is clearly written and easy to read for a wide variety of people is said to be very readable. This usually accomplished by using plain language and short sentences.
Flesch-Kincaid reading grades
There are several methods to determine how easy or difficult a piece of writing is. The Flesch reading ease score and Flesch-Kincaid grade level are two commonly-used scores to indicate the ease with which a piece of writing can be read.
These tests use a mathematical formula to analyze the words and grammar of a piece of writing. The score they assign will show what level of education is needed to easily read your blog posts.
As you can well imagine, understanding how easy or difficult your blog posts are to read is critical information. These scores can help you ensure your blog posts aren’t frustratingly difficult or insultingly simple.
If you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin includes both scores so you can analyze your writing as you type it. Readability tests are also available online and in some word processors like Microsoft Word.
Pay attention to your headings
Part of writing readable content — especially for the web — is to break it up into easy-to-digest chunks. That means short sentences and short paragraphs.
It also means using plenty of headings to separate and classify the paragraphs that make up the meat of your post. Using headings within your article is also an important component of on-page SEO.
Search engines HTML tags like H1 and H2 to understand what a page or post is trying to convey. You should always include a title and two or three subheadings in each post.
Use graphic design to support content
It shouldn’t be surprising that the design of your website or blog page is directly tied to its UX. If your blog is hard to read because of its graphic design then visitors won’t stick around to read your posts, even if they are amazing. More often than not visitors will also leave annoyed.
The layout and graphic choices you make should ensure your blog’s posts are easily readable and artistic elements don’t get in the way of that. The size of text on the page should encourage readability along with the colors you use.
Don’t neglect meta data
Meta data refers to information included within a web page that doesn’t generally appear on the page. The two most important pieces of meta data that should be included on each page are the Meta Title and Meta Description.
While these two attributes won’t directly affect how your readers see a blog post, they will affect readers’ ability to find it. Search engines typically use both these attributes to display your website in their search rankings.
That means by carefully setting the title and description for each page, you can control how each appears in search results.
Be careful about your social sharing buttons
Social media seems to have basically taken over the Internet over the past decade. So it’s a good idea to make it easy for your readers to share your posts.
It’s also wise to be careful about where you place these buttons, however. Most of all, it’s important not to overdo it. Social sharing buttons that obscure your text and images will drive visitors away in annoyance.
Speed up your page loads
Having content that can be understood by everyone in your audience on a website with excellent UX is the foundation of a successful blog. However, unlike a printed book, magazine or catalog, your blog also depends on layers of technology underneath to make it possible.
If you’ve ever visited a site that’s taken longer than a second or two to load, then you can understand how important it is to have a site that’s optimized for performance.
Refine your images
Even if the focus of your blog is on the written word, images still play an important part of its overall experience. Including an image in your blog post is important to give your readers an illustration of the message you’re conveying. Search engines also prefer them.
But throwing up a raw stock image is probably not a good idea. Make sure to format each image to a width and height appropriate for the layout of your blog. Most importantly, ensure that each image has a file size that won’t cause the page to be slow when visitors load it in their browser.
Compress, cache and minify your files
Compression is a technology that allows servers to reduce the size of files before sending them to a web browser. All modern web browsers can decompress these files, and this results in faster page loading times.
Caching means that a static version of a dynamic web page is stored on your web server to make downloading it much faster, particularly during spikes in traffic. If you use WordPress, the WP Super Cache plugin works wonders and was created by the same people who make WordPress.
Don’t neglect mobile visitors
Finally, if you create a blog these days you need to take into account your mobile visitors. Websites and blogs designed to be viewed only on desktop and laptop computers can be difficult or even impossible to read on some smartphones or tablets.
Responsive web design is a set of principles that usability experts have come up with to allow web designers to create websites that work seamlessly on all types of devices. When you’re designing your blog, you should make sure to take this approach to ensure your blog looks good no matter where it’s viewed.
Aiming for clarity is the foundation for a blog’s success
The most important tip for formatting the pages of your blog is to always aim for clarity in both your writing and your design. Consider what a good blog experience means to you as a reader and then let that help guide the decisions you make.