Anna Gregoline | February 23, 2004
Sometimes I think I'm a web snob. I'm always internally criticizing sites with poor design, poor navigation, and poor content. Mostly it's the bad design that throws me - are people really still this clueless as to how to put together a web page?

The most basic is navigation. Sometimes it's impossible to figure out, and I've come across even company sites with links to other sections of the websites entitled with strange, unhelpful words.

The other thing I come across is readability. There are still so many sites with bad color combinations, and with too big or too small graphics.

Also, the unnecessaries! I STILL see MIDI music, special cursor download prompts, sites using 6 kinds of frames, and other inane items.

Am I just a snob, or are you with me in thinking these pages should be fewer and farther between than they are?

Kris Weberg | February 23, 2004
I'm with you -- honestly, if you don't know web design at all, stick to basic plain-tect-n-pictures HTML. It may not be fancy or gorgeous, but it'll cnvey what you need to convey clearly and won't embarras you as much as reaching too far....and failing.

Kris Weberg | February 23, 2004
I do especially hate frame-mania, though; unwieldy sizing and overuse of that element are like the kiss of death to navigation.

Anna Gregoline | February 23, 2004
Nothing makes me leave a site faster though than MIDI music. I mean, honestly. There is a craft supplies site that has cool things, but I just won't buy from them because of their annoying website. Which reminds me, I also see sites all the time with order forms - um, we can complete transactions online now, that means you get paid FASTER.

Scott Hardie | February 23, 2004
I don't come across such sites as often as you seem to do, Anna, but I do find them annoying. I can't believe that a site as popular as Snopes.com still has background music for each of its sub-sections. Poor navigation is also a killer: If I cannot find what I need on a site inside of twenty seconds, I leave it.

Matt taught me a great IE trick for blocking most of the crap you mentioned: Add a site to your "restricted sites" list in your security settings. No pop-up ads or pop-under ads, none of those animated ads that appear over the text, no music, no download confirmation windows coming up (goddamnit I don't want anything from the Gator Corporation!), no Java trickery like floating menus, and most of the banner ads disappear as well. The downside is that you can't use cookies, so you have to develop a habit for de-restricting the site to edit your account and then re-restricting it afterwards, as I have to do with IMDb.

Anna Gregoline | February 23, 2004
Sounds complicated. I surf a lot looking for craft items and unusual products to use for unconventional crafts (craft items not used for their traditional purposes), so I see a lot of rag tag sites. Luckily at work I'm not blasted with MIDIs, cause there's no sound here, but I still see amazingly stupid sites.

Scott Hardie | February 23, 2004
It's not complicated at all; it's really pretty simple. IMDb is the only site I have to de-restrict and re-restrict regularly; the rest go on the list once and stay there. It makes surfing the web so much more pleasant.

Anna Gregoline | February 23, 2004
I guess I'm just lazy then. Every time I mess with Internet settings too, something gets crazy and I get irritated.

Steve Dunn | February 24, 2004
I have no original thoughts to share, but I post only to join in the condemnation of web sites with music. Down with them!

OK - one minor thought... I like very simple design. Maybe it's unfair, but I consider elaborate web design a negative indicator of the content on the site. I admire the elegant austerity of, say, the Drudge Report.

But I really don't know what I'm talking about.

Scott Hardie | February 24, 2004
It's a good consideration, Steve. I've seen plenty of people put so much effort into designing and redesigning their sites ad infinitum, yet put up almost no content on there. There's nothing wrong with design for design's sake, but it's silly.

Boring sites, especially boring blogs, are an equal let-down for me, however. The ubiquity of Movable Type gives many blogs a cookie-cutter sameness to them. Granted, the good ones can redeem themselves by content alone, but I feel the same trepidation upon seeing a plain-vanilla design that you do upon seeing the opposite.

Steve Dunn | February 24, 2004
Everyone's got an opinion on blog design. You'd be amazed (or you might not) how many people get apoplectic upon encountering a blog with anything other than black text on white background. Column width is another issue - one I think people underappreciate. Too narrow and it's all scrolling all the time. Too wide and a substantial paragraph can be just a line or two. Just the right balance forces brevity (which I consider an essential component of good writing) while still giving an appearance of substance.

I don't think MT is nearly as bad as the Blogspot blogs, where 75% use one of the same five templates. Lots of blogs have exactly the same appearance. You want to avoid that, but then, there's only so much you can do. Certain elements are necessary for identification as a blog. We started out initially thinking we would forego the blogroll - the long list of links down the right side of the page. That aesthetic preference was unsustainable in practice, though, where you have to scratch backs and throw traffic if you want any reciprocation.

Steve Dunn | February 24, 2004
I still think the average MT blog is better laid out than the average corporate site. I pull out my hair when I encounter a site that makes it difficult to find the contact information, or doesn't allow you to buy the product directly. Crazy.

Scott Hardie | February 24, 2004
Do blogrolls really send traffic? I've clicked on maybe three or four titles, in moments of insatiable boredom, and I didn't find anything worth repeat visits. Either I'm uniquely hard to impress with an initial read, or the blogrolls are all about the links and not about the actual click-throughs. (It's probably in between.)

The blogs I do read (mainly yours, Anna's, Peter's, Paul's, and of course Matthew's) are because I like the authors so much. I couldn't care much less about the content. Is that fair?

I am planning to start my own blog soon. If I make no reference in it to the blogosphere, is it okay for me not to care whether any other bloggers read it?

Scott Hardie | February 24, 2004
Also, on the subject of web design: This site is forever open to suggestions. I design for myself first, so I don't know when something bugs my users. Keep speaking up if there are further improvements you would like.

Steve Dunn | February 24, 2004
Yes, people click through blogrolls. It's not the lion's share of the traffic, but it's enough not to be ignored. If you can get on the big ones, it can actually be a significant amount of traffic because lots of people use those as their homepages and navigate everywhere from there. So you might get the same visitor every day through the same blogroll.

There's also, as you noted, a lot of link reciprocation that goes on. This actually helps - you get on a few blogrolls, and other people add you to their blogrolls, and next thing you know you're climbing the ladder.

It is perfectly OK for you not to care if anyone reads your blog. There are no rules - many blogs are just set up for families or groups of friends to read. However, I think that if you pursue an explicit anti-blog agenda on your blog, you're likely to garner a large readership. There's an untapped market there. (Maybe I should do it?)

And hey - I didn't know there were so many bloggers here! I need to check out those sites, and I need a link to Anna's.

Anna Gregoline | February 24, 2004
Mine is www.voodootoaster.com. I'm making an effort to try and blog more often, in more of the spirit I started it with - not really needing an audience. Over the years, I got caught up in the reader responses, and needed them to feel like it was worthwhile. I'm trying to get back to just writing for writings sake. P.S. I hate the word "blog."

Steve Dunn | February 24, 2004
Hey - great photos over there! I went back through fall 2002 - how far back does it go?

I don't like the word blog either, nor any variations of it, but it is what it is. We're stuck with it.

Anna Gregoline | February 24, 2004
I started my webpage in the summer of 2001, after graduation, while I was at home unemployed and searching for a job. I needed something to do so I wouldn't go insane. It was also a great comfort to me during Sept. 11th, when all I had to do all day was sit at home alone while my parents were at work and watch television footage. I'm glad you like it, and hope you become a regular reader. Even if it's for my own artistic output, it's nice to have responses. =)

We might be stuck with the word "blog," but I don't have to use it.

Scott Hardie | February 24, 2004
Never been a fan of the word "blog" either. At first I disliked it because it was a trendy non-word, but now I just find it ugly. It's also kind of diminishing to call someone's writings a blog... It implies, to me anyway, that the comments were only written to serve the needs of the blog, that they don't have inherent value.

I don't plan to attack other blogs really, I just don't give a damn what other bloggers think of me (no offense). If I disobey the conventions of the genre, it will be because I don't care about them, not because I'm incompetent, and that's a potential misunderstanding that I hope to avoid.

Anna Gregoline | February 24, 2004
I didn't know there were implicit "conventions" of the genre. Just that it be personal writings. I hate the idea that blogs must be towards an audience. I thought the whole thing was born out of the idea of a journal.

I think they are very valuable on a personal level. Of my friends (and family!) who have writings on the web, I've learned things about the workings of their minds that I would not have gained in any other way. One more way the Internet has proved very valuable to me.

Erik Bates | February 25, 2004
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