As I learn more and more about Autism, through the community, educational information and my best instructor, my son… I’ve come to learn what will and won’t overwhelm him before he has the chance to notice it.
A funny thing has happened though, I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity in some things… most notably, Apple’s packaging practices. Not just the box they put their products in but their devices as well. Ipad and Iphone? A big apple logo and one button. The boxes they come in? A picture and a logo. Simple.
When I look at other products, from their rivals Microsoft to cereal boxes, I find so many pictures, colours and information thrown at me that I become overwhelmed myself.
I started thinking to myself, how can I relate this information to my blog?
I have tried a few different designs/themes across several blogs in the last several years, I’ve even had three different designs on this blog alone in the last year. Some were flashy, some were bright…. no matter how much they seemed great looking to me at first, in practice, I’d find that it just didn’t feel right.
I’d use each theme for a while, adding in some posts, playing with some options but it always just felt wrong. And I didn’t know what it was.
As I said, I’ve been learning. And what I’ve learned is that my blog didn’t feel right because it was overwhelming.
It was an Autism blog, that I kept trying to fill with more and more stuff. Animations, pictures, graphics.. fancy stuff!
The truth is, many of us have picked up the practices of our children. We seek out the places and situations that won’t overwhelm our children and in time, we begin to seek that out for ourselves. So when we get to a blog that has too much on it… we get overwhelmed.
A nice white site, some black (or almost black) text, a nice clean font, a few splashes of colour as opposed to tons of colour, some separation of information and spaces so they don’t become jumbled… these things make for a great reader experience. They don’t even have to read the first word yet to already feel a sense of ease when they take that first look.
Obviously you don’t want to cut back on information for the sake of making things simpler, but you can help avoid information overload.
When you first start a blog, everything you put on it is important. Categories, blog roll, page list, archives, tag cloud, profile information, and so much more. You fight with yourself trying to sort it all, putting the most important stuff at the top, then re-organizing it, adding more… and so on.
Eventually you end up with a blog that has twitter feeds, facebook badges, social bookmarks at the top and bottom of each post, advertisements, news feeds and other stuff all over the place that not only slows down the site, but your visitors have no idea what is what or where.
The result is that you’ve given them an encyclopedia of information and no index with which to find anything. They load a page, go into information overload and do their best to put blinders on. The only way to find what they’re looking for (your blog post) is to do their best to not look at everything else.
You have to realize that the only thing that’s important on your blog is your blog post. If they have trouble finding that, you’re in serious trouble. It should be clear, easy to read and without distractions.
More so than that, try to think of the rest of the items on your blog as tools to compliment your blog posts. Categories, page lists, archives, search box, tag clouds… these things help people to find and sort through your blog posts.
Everything else that you add is extra. That’s not to say that you can’t add them, but keep in mind their purpose. They’re extras. They shouldn’t be bright, flashy, in your face or anything else like that.
Those things will not keep a reader coming back. Your blog posts will.
Don’t go for the brightest, flashiest, most feature rich blog theme you can find and then load up on plugins… you’re only going to overload your reader and you’ll be lucky if they return for a second time… no matter how great the blog post is that attracted them in the first place.
If your blog is an Auism blog, it’s doubly important. Your readers are parents, short on time, eager to learn and share, possibly short on patience and if they’ve been at it a while, possibly easily overhwelmed.
- Don’t make it hard for us to read your blog.
- Remember that we are there to read your blog, not your twitter feed or news feed.
- Keep the packaging simple, don’t try to dazzle us.
- Keep the information where the information should be, in your blog posts.