Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WotW: Usability 101 - Get to know your readers

Welcome back to Usability 101: Making Your Blog More Reader-Friendly. If you missed last week's introductory class post, you can catch up on the reading here.

Last week we talked about the basics of usability for the average blog. Since blog usability is all about making your blog more reader-friendly, this week we'll focus on getting to know your readers.

First and foremost, you get to know your readers through comments, so you should make it as easy as possible for them to leave comments. Banish the word validation beast! (They always spell words that sound like some type of embarrassing disease, anyway, right?)

If you feel so inclined, you can ask your readers questions. Some blogs end each post with a relevant question. I once read a post by a blogger who likened those post-ending questions to ending a pleasant, neighborly conversation with a jarring personal question. While I don't believe that a What do you think about this question at the end of the post ruins any blogversation, I don't think it's necessary to include a question in every post. If you have a specific question for your readers (How does this backing look with this quilt? Has anyone ever painted laminate furniture?Any tips? {I'll be attempting this soon, hopefully. I'll keep you posted over at just Lu.} What do you (or would you) think of this change?), go ahead and ask.

We all need validation every now and then, but that's not why your readers come to your blog. Keep your requests for approval and information short and try not to have too many (especially if you are using a full-blown survey, like we talked about here a few weeks ago). And, since you're asking questions, do your best to respond to reader questions. You can also turn one-way comments into conversations by replying to comments (so long as your commenters have their profiles set up properly, like we talked about here).

And to complete the trifecta: use available web statistics. No matter what blogging (or other publishing) platform you use, you can quickly and easily set up some type of statistics report. Google Analytics is a popular choice (and there's a plugin available if you're a wordpress user), but did you blogger users know that you have a stats report built right into blogger-in-draft?

Blogger-in-draft is where all the newest blogger features are debuted to be tested before they are added to the standard blogger interface. I use blogger-in-draft all the time, but you can easily switch back and forth from standard blogger for regular publishing to in-draft for the Stats section (and all the other great features):
Bloggers Stats are easy to use and easy to understand. You can see when your readers are coming to your blog, what browsers they are using, which posts they are looking at most, where they are being referred from, and what countries they are from, just for starters. You can also break up these statistics and see them for right now (yup, at this exact moment), today, this week, this month, or all-time.

To use blogger stats, just use your blogger account to log in at http://draft.blogger.com.  Find the blog that you want to see the stats for and click the blue Stats link underneath the blog title.

While you're there, explore what other features are available in blogger-in-draft (or you can read about them on the official blog, http://bloggerindraft.blogspot.com). If you decide you want to always use blogger-in-draft, just click Make Blogger in Draft my default dashboard in the blue box at the top of the page (or uncheck the box to switch back).

Happy stats-ing! See you next week when we talk about how to make sure that what you see on your blog is the same as what your readers see.

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of one squirmy boy and the wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She is the proud author of this weekly Wednesdays on the Web (WotW) segment here on Housewife Eclectic and spends the other days of the week blogging about books, crafts, recipes, and whatever else comes up at just Lu.
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