I’ve been asked more than once what the difference is between a “web site” and a “blog”. My quick response is “nothing,” and if you ask at least one person, he’ll say I invented the blog way back with Moogman.com – although I can’t agree there.
So what’s a blog? A blog is what used to be called a “home page.” There was a day when everyone had a home page like they have blogs now. Companies like GeoCities and Yahoo offered free hosting space on their servers where you could make your own home page with HTML code and some images. I had one. I actually had several; it’s where I started my love for building software.
And like blogs today, home pages were really nothing more than a place where people wrote about what they liked, usually with pictures and some MIDI music files. I remember my first home page (called “The Cave”) proclaimed by fandom of Guns N Roses, Spider-man, Nintendo, and HR Giger. It was full of pictures I found and some I drew, it had wallpaper you can download for Windows, and you could get more versions of “Sweet Child O Mine” in MIDI than you could ever want.
The Achilles heel of home pages was the manual labor required to make changes. In order to add a picture or even some text, you needed to know HTML code and how to upload/download and all sorts of stuff. That didn’t stop nerds like me, but it was a big barrier for many, a barrier which blogs has torn down very effectively.
The only difference between blogs and home pages (or as I call them “web sites”) is accessibility. Anyone can go sign-up for a blog and start publishing their thoughts and their pictures for all to read, and it won’t look half bad to boot. Blogs are also more or less limited to text and images. If you want more fancy things and more parts working together, you need more software and then you site has more to offer than a simple story and blamo – a web site is born.
And of course when technology becomes reachable by the masses you get all sorts of crap thrown in with stuff you might actually care about – and this site is no exception.
Mr. Nielsen and his usability cronies has recently published an article on the Top 10 mistakes of blogs. As a regular reader of his work and as one that tries his hardest to practice good usability, I study what he has to say and try to learn from it. This time, however, I think he happens to miss the boat in some places.
You can read the complete article for yourself, as I’ll just be covering a few points with my own two cents added in.
Rule No. 2, No Author Photo
He says a photo “connects the virtual and physical worlds,” and I agree, but I don’t see justification in its need to be a design rule for blogs.
Look, blogs are personal. They’re just some person’s ramblings on their life and the world around them. Their picture makes little difference in the long run. He claims it shows you’re not hiding, but I claim that no having a picture is not hiding, it’s a) keeping some things private, and b) shows the picture has no bearing on the content. Your picture on a web site doesn’t stop or keep me from reading what you have to say.
Rule No. 3, Nondescript Posting Titles
This one is a longer rule that really talks about headlines of writings, but it also hits on the point that “authors rarely follow the guidelines for writing for the Web in terms of making content scannable.”
Yes, there are times when content should be short and brief. In e-mails and PowerPoints, certainly not on blogs. Again, blogs are personal and thus are by definition going to be more in-depth into one’s life than CNN news brief. Blogs are an outlet for the “little guy” to say what’s on his mind. Sometimes that can be said in three sentences, sometimes three pages – here you’ll normally find the latter.
More times than not, if I got to a blog and find some one-liner and link to someplace else, I’ll click Back and be gone. Blogs are about personality through writing. A blog relates to readers through detailed experiences, not photos, and not solely links to other blogs of friends.
Rule No. 7, Irregular Publishing Frequency
Anyone that comes to this site knows I don’t write on a regular schedule. Unfortunately, life doesn?t run on a regular schedule either. Actually, strike that, life does run on a rather regular schedule, which is why the only time I write something is when something has changed (or is about to) and it’s worthy enough of writing. Of course, this varies per person, as it should.
Rule No. 10, Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service
In short, you need to have your own .com, and I agree. As I’ve written before, having a web address that includes 20 slashes and hyphens is not easy to remember or type. Even though your blog is a personal window into your life, you obviously want people to read it otherwise you wouldn’t even bother. So for heaven’s sake make it easy to type and remember. Your own .com web address will cost you less for an entire year than a week’s worth of gas for your car.
Nielsen tries to provide an exception to his rules by saying, “Some weblogs are really just private diaries intended only for a handful of family members and close friends. Usability guidelines generally don’t apply to such sites, because the readers’ prior knowledge and motivation are incomparably greater than those of third-party users. When you want to reach new readers who aren’t your mother, however, usability becomes important.”
In some ways I agree, but I will always fall back on the fact that a blog is a personal journal. There’s no long or short way around it. People are complicated and don’t fit into scannable sentences and regular schedules.
If you’re trying to gain credibility or make money by publishing your thoughts on-line, you have a web site – not a blog.
Reaching new readers is easy. Inevitably, the people that are interested in what you have to say will find you, that’s the glory of the internet.