25 April 2007

Do feeds make blog pages useless?

Around the time of this post, I saw an unusual rise in the number of visits to my home page. Now, being the home page, it usually gets the highest number of visits, but recently before I wrote that, number began to drop. When that post went up, it again rose significantly (more than a 200% increase to be exact) which surprised me. Further inspection revealed it as the work of a single link to the home page I had put there to show a demo of the TOC.

This little detail shows how many people actually visit the post ‘on the blog’, rather than read it in their feeds and let it go. The problem doesn’t lie with the blog, I’m sure. Just the convenience of having to see just the post content in a way you’ve become accustomed to, surely lies heavier than having to click over to a blog page to read the post. It’s understandable, but that does put a question mark on the result of the effort authors put into making their blogs look good and adding functionality, amongst other things.

There are many blogs out there which look absolutely amazing, have a reasonably high readership and viewership, and impressive subscriber counts. Then there are blogs which have great content, stunning subscriber counts, but look terrible and have moderate to low viewership. I believe TechCrunch might face this problemThis is absolute 100% speculation. If there are statistics that are against and which disprove what I think, please let me know., because its looks are nothing compared to its content, so people might prefer to stick to reading it in their feed readers rather than come to the page itself. This might also be the reason why TechCrunch posts’ number of comments are not even significant in comparison to the number of readers.

So, does it really make sense to sit and design your blog to perfection, only to be defeated by the one thing that you cannot afford to stop?

The point

The biggest reason I think people take time to work on the looks and functionality of their blogs is to attract more viewers and people to come, have a look, stay for a while, leave a comment or two, and then if they’re up to it, subscribe to the blog. A subscribers count is something that gives a much more accurate idea of how popular a blog actually is, and a high number usually impresses people more than the look. So how important really is the design of the blog?

Quite a bit I’ll say. The first impression of any page you visit is generally summed up in your brain within a 20th of a second of seeing itBBC news article, and that is a very small number. So, within that much time, you (very) obviously cannot gain anything of the content of the page. So the only logical deciding factor is the ‘look’! But we also know that looks don’t make a reader–base. It is the content which ultimately decides how many people keep coming back.

The verdict

Looks and functionality are important. Definitely. Without good looks and effective features, your pages have a handicap. And it probably won’t reach it’s full potential of readers. That’s why designers experiment so much with innovative ideas, and new layouts. Who knows what might clickThere was a brief period where the 3 column template was a rage, and everybody ran to get one. It’s on the outset I think, but I can still see a lot of blogs sticking to it.?

Very recently, Rick from FeedBurner wrote about the implications of partial–feeds on click–through’s to your blog. He said that it doesn’t make “any significant difference” to provide summaries. The number of page–views will remain the same. He speaks from factual statisticsFeedBurner handles more than 660,000 feeds! You can be sure he knows what he’s talking about., but I’d still like to know why that is the case. Why don’t people participate in discussions, or provide their views and outlooks on topics? Isn’t that why you subscribe to blogs in the first place? To get and give opinions?

As a blogger and designer, I’d like you to speak up and raise your points. Do you prefer a bad looking blog with good content to a good looking blog with decent content? Do looks even matter, or is it content all the way? I’m sure there’s a balance lying somewhere just out of sight…


Singpolyma said...

I go to blog pages (a) because I'm on the run away from my feed reader (b) to comment. Some kinds of feed readers only show headlines though, and they send more clickthroughs. Except on blogger hack blogs where I know a lot of the community, I don't bother to read comments. TC posts are great, but who wants to read that blather in the footer by people who are misinformed etc?

Not that I haven't found comments elsewhere useful, but finding the most relevant ones (read my lips : ratings and tags) would be nice.