nosuch.org

Mistakes were made

New York City meets Munich

Buried in the past

February 20th, 2003 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Not that it will rock anyone’s world, but I finally fixed an old gaff which made browsing the Nosuch archives less easy than I wanted it. The “Older Entries” link at the end of the page will correctly take you to the archive page containing the last post, and from there you can continue browsing back in time without any extra clicking and scrolling. Shame on me for not doing this sooner, especially since it was only a few lines of PHP to do.

In my stumbling around the blogosphere I am always surprised to find a mainstream blog that makes it difficult to dig into the archives. I can understand it, though, since as a blog writer, I tend to be focused on the “now”, the recent and the latest, and not the past. But for a first time visitor, the best parts of a blog are buried in the archives. I think two things a blog should have are a search function and a means to easily browse past entries. It’s easy to overlook the latter.

When I follow a link to an unfamiliar blog, read the post, and am curious to read more from the blog author, here’s all the ways this can be made more difficult.

  • The link I follow is to the singular post, out of context from any sort of chronology.

    Example blog: sippey.com or Beebo.org

    I can sort of understand this choice from an aesthetic and page-load standpoint, but a side effect is a visitor now has to explicitly seek out the archives, and frequently it’s not easy to go from the post being looked at to the previous post. On the Sippey example, the archive link is only at the top, and it’s broken. The Beebo example lacks any structured archives at all, and instead offers a powerful but complicated search mechanism. Hardly a substitute for a visitor looking to do casual browsing.

    Webloggers need to remember how visitors use their site. When they read a post, eyes are at the bottom of the post. You need to put some basic navigational choices there so it easy for people to keep reading.

  • A variation of the previous gripe is to provide no other archive other than daily archives, and then provide really tedious navigation interface.

    Example: Doc Searls, Fuzzy Blog

    This is a criticism I have of the default templates for Radio Userland blogs. The “calender” interface is very unfriendly for a visitor looking to browse the archive of a site. It makes the user click for each post, and when you get to the beginning of a month, you have to advance the calender with an extra click. There are some Radio Userland blogs that I’ve given up trying to browse the archives, because it’s too much work. I’ve seen some Movable Type blogs that require a click-per-entry, but at least the navigation links are simple, with a link to go forward and a link to go back.

  • The link I follow is to a post in a monthly archive, and when I read down to end of the page, I’m at a dead end.

    Example blog: This Modern World

    In fairness, this isn’t a showstopper, since it merely involves scrolling back up to the “archive” link at the top of page, but it is a nuisance. On the This Modern World blog, though, the archives are a bloody mess. Even just focusing on the Movable Type archives, browsing through the history involves clicking a link, reading, clicking back, clicking the next link… It’s awkward.

    It’s never good to make your visitors jump through too many hoops to browse.

  • Don’t provide links to an archive at all, so a visitor following a permalink has nowhere to go.

    Example: Chris Pirillo, Sylloge

    Either this is the result of some philosophical design choice about old entries fading away, or it’s a huge oversight. It doesn’t strike me as visitor friendly.

In the examples above, I am not throwing stones at the fine authors, but going with sites that I like which or which are familiar to me. Or I’m just enjoying a cheap pot shot at the big boys and girls who I am envious of. Take your pick.

The real shame is that there’s lots of great content on the sites I used for examples, but new visitors might never get to see most of it. New visitors to Nosuch, though, can now browse through the time-wasting pointless bullshit in the archives with no additional scrolling and a minimum of clicks. Ain’t it ironic?

Though I’m a usability wanna-be and lightweight, since I don’t provide my visitors with a way to sort the archive entries, and the search I have stinks in dealing with the archives. Other than that, it’s a fine glass house I have here.

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