How "usable" is my "weblog"?

Jakob Nielsen has written a piece entitled “Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes” (via BoingBoing). (If this was Japan, he could sue me for using his headline!) In the article, Nielsen discusses (amazingly enough) ten mistakes bloggers make. Not just any bloggers, mind you, but bloggers who are trying to be professional or who want a large audience.

His suggestions are good, and I thought I’d take a little time and use them to evaluate my own journal. Here goes:

1. No Author Biographies

I have a biography…sort of…okay, not really. There’s information hidden away here, and then there’s my Blogger profile, but my best biography is here. It’s buried in the archives because the Blogger profile couldn’t hold all that text. I’m unhappy with it for other reasons; it should be easier to read, with headings and maybe even (gasp) bullet points. Maybe someday I’ll tidy it up and link to it from the main page.

2. No Author Photo

HA! I’ve got that one covered

…except I don’t have it covered directly. You have to go to smugmug to see pictures of me…and there’s no indication on the blog that there are pictures of me on the photo site.

Two strikes…

3. Nondescript Posting Titles

Oh, lord. Guilty, guilty, guilty. How many times, for example, have I entitled a post “Blah”?

Sometimes I do write descriptive titles…and sometimes, as with my previous post, I write titles that match in a story sense. (Should I use a descriptor, a la Magazine Man’s “random anecdote”?)

4. Links Don’t Say Where They Go

Okay, this is one of my own pet peeves…both because of the reasons Nielsen mentions, and also because links, especially news articles, expire. I was bad about not describing things adequately in the past, but I’m working on not doing that anymore.

5. Classic Hits are Buried

Oops. Yeah, I should have a section in the sidebar or somewhere (a la Magazine Man’s “The Ones Everyone Asks About”) highlighting some good posts.

6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation

Ha, I don’t even have a calendar.

But yeah, the point isn’t lost on me. I don’t have categories because I use Blogger, so people can only find posts through the chronological listing or through a search. (I use the search a lot.)

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency

I think I’m okay on this one…I typically post every day, and often several times a day. Lately is an exception. I’ve been a little out of it since the fire. I don’t have a standard place to write anymore. Back at the apartment, I left my computer on 24/7, so any time I was home I could walk in there and do any of my myriad Internet hobbies. Not so now. Even if I leave the laptop running (or in standby), it won’t necessarily be in the same place. I can’t, for example, use the ottoman like I’m doing now when the others are home, because the living room is typically Reid’s relaxing area, and the TV is usually on, which makes it difficult to concentrate. And I can’t use the patio furniture if it’s too cold out (it’s kinda chilly today) or if it’s raining. There’s always the bed, but I find that horribly uncomfortable, so…

At any rate, I think I post reliably enough under the circumstances. I think a greater issue would be whether or not I post anything worth reading.

8. Mixing Topics

I used to strongly believe that I should be able to post whatever I wanted here, regardless of content, regardless of whether or not it would be remotely interesting to anyone but me. I didn’t want to have separate blogs for separate purposes. I wanted to keep all of my stuff right here on

I’m starting to understand that that’s impossible–I will write things elsewhere, there’s just no getting around it–and that it’s not user friendly. Without categories, visitors here have no choice but to wade through my whines and my rants to get to the occasional interesting piece about Japan or life (or whatever).

I’m still mixing topics, but at least I know that it can be a bad idea.

9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss

…yeeeeeaaaaah. I’m more careful about this than I used to be. I used to say a lot more than I should have about work. And those posts are still there…

I’m an archivist, so I’m leaving all my posts up. I have mellowed in my old age, though, so if someone wants me to, say, remove their name from all posts that mention them, then I can do that. (Although if a lot of people want that done, maybe I will just come up with pseudonyms for people I write about. And I have to remind them that even if I change it now, if the post’s been up for years, there’s probably an archive of it with the original name stored somewhere.)

In any event, yes. I used to call watching what I said “self-censorship”, but now that I have half a brain I call it “not being an idiot”.

10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

Yay, having my own domain pays off once again!

So, there you have it. I’ve got plenty of stuff to work on, but I think I’m at least thinking about moving in the right direction.

Do those of you readers with blogs pass Nielsen’s tests? Do you agree with his assessments?

Oh hell, none of you are going to answer this unless I tag you. So I tag Mari, Derik, Goei, Em, Miklos, and (what the hell) Magazine Man. Answer on your own blog, or here in the comments :)

Edit 10/19 10:41pm: I would like to retroactively tag Brooke. :D