Why You Should Use A Sideblog

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The sideblog at Abduzeedo. A sideblog is a mini-blog that sits in your sidebar. The entries are only ever short snippets, and you can post them on anything you like.

They could be personal updates, like Sil does with Twitter, link recommendations like on Abduzeedo, or even blog updates.

They are very common on personal blogs but not so common on others. I’m considering adding one to Pro Blog Design though, and I can think of a few good reasons for a blog to have a sideblog.

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Warning: Your Blog Is Being Forgotten!

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Stand out and be remembered. This is the 3rd article in our attempt to answer the question of What Makes a Good Design?. We’ve already covered site goals and user goals, but those only take effect when the use is actually on your site. What about when they’re elsewhere? Or even offline?

A purpose-built, usable blog is great, but if it isn’t strikingly designed, it will be forgotten! If a visitor reads your iPod article today, what is it that will make them think of you the next time they’re looking for iPod info?

Be different. Be unique. Be memorable. And here’s how:

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Achieve User Goals Through Usable Design

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Yesterday, we talked about achieving your own goals through your blog’s design. Of course, you won’t achieve anything if you’re putting your visitors off. The key is to balance your goals with your reader’s goals.

What do they want from your blog?

There is more to it than simply reading the current page. A reader may want to do a whole host of things on your site. Most blogs are very similar though, so what a reader wants to do on one blog is usually the same thing they’d want to do on any other blog.

I would consider the following to be a bare bones version of the usual priority list for a blog reader. The bolded words are the actions, and beneath them are some of the questions that a reader might ask at that point. Your job is to make those questions as easy to answer as possible.

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Separating Trackbacks from Comments

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Footsteps in the sand. Trackbacks are the messages displayed in the comments list whenever another blog links back to one of your posts. Many blogs disable trackbacks, but not all.

If you use trackbacks on your blog, it is best if they are not mixed with the comments. The comments are a conversation between between real people. Having machine-generated links in the middle of that will only serve to disrupt the conversations.

The method described here will lift out all of the trackbacks, and then display them as a numbered list after the list of comments is finished. Once you have this done, customizing the trackbacks to appear however you want them to is simple.

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Full Posts vs. Partial Posts, on the Homepage

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Posts in Pieces
Mirando Así Arriba by Corazón Girl
One of the most immediately noticeable aspects of a blog is whether or not it publishes complete posts on its homepage, or partial posts. Are you going to have to load another page to read the first article in its entirety? Or is it already laid out in front of you?

Many blogs publish partials, and many publish excerpts. Which method is best?

In Favour of Full Posts

Some of the advantages of displaying the complete posts are:

  • There are no interruptions. If someone has read the first few paragraphs of your post, then they are involved with it. Giving a partial post breaks the reader’s flow. This can be particularly damaging if the post is dealing with a rather complex idea, where breaking the train of thought may end up with the reader being lost.
  • Short posts look good in full. If a post is 5 paragraphs long, and you usually show an excerpt that is 3 paragraphs long, is it really worth loading the second page for the sake of 2 paragraphs?

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New Window for a New Link?

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Freedom
Freedom Tunnel by Pro-Zak.
When we link out to another site, it can be hard not to consider the readers you may have just sent away. In an attempt to lessen the likelihood of losing the reader, many people force links to open in a new window, but is this really the best solution?

The Reasons For

  • Your page stays open. This is undoubtedly the main reason for it. The link is loaded in a new window. When the user has finished with it, and closes the window, they’ll find your page still sitting there.
  • Some links are intended to be used as references. For instance, if I were writing an article about nuclear power, I might reference my source like this: nuclear energy is a heavily debated topic (Eco Warrior)… The link will open in a new window/tab, allowing the user to check my reference, and then continue reading the article.

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Advertising vs. Readership. It’s One or the Other.

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The Money CommunityAdvertising and readership are the two things that most bloggers are trying to promote. The thing that isn’t always realised is that you can’t promote both advertising and readership. It is either advertising or readership.

Your blog’s layout contains a number of hotspots. Content in these hotspots, such as that above the fold, is looked at (And then acted upon) more often than content in other locations. It is important to realise that each hotspot can only contain one type of content; either adverts or readership promotion.

Promoting Readership

By choosing to build readership, you are actively choosing to put your adverts into locations where they will perform worse, for the benefit of your readers. In this way, you can more easily encourage readers to subscribe, or simply browse in non-commercial peace. In this way you are hoping to build up a good audience, discussion and contacts.

This approach is best recommended for blogs still in their infancy. You will only continue writing the blog if you feel people are actually reading, and benefiting from it. With small audience, your profits are going to be meagre no matter how well you place them, so why damage your blog’s growth potential?

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