The TGB Interview: Alex Bennett
Never Having to Say You’re Sorry About a Blog Post

Blog and Internet Annoyances

Crabby Old Lady can’t prove it and she doesn’t have the wherewithal for a scientific study, but there appears to be a dramatic uptick recently in the annoyances of using the internet. And what really gets her knickers in a twist about these irritations is that they could mostly be eliminated if people who run websites and blogs were less sloppy and/or more considerate of their readers.

The list today is by no means complete, just the ones Crabby has encountered most frequently in the past week or two.

  • How many times does Crabby have to repeat this: no light text on dark backgrounds. It is impossible for old people to read and Crabby has heard tell from young ‘uns that they don’t like it much either. Besides, the style is soooo 20th century.
  • A similar annoyance is capital letters missing at beginning of sentences. There is a reason they are standard: ease of reading. If it is inconvenient for you to push the Shift key, it is also inconvenient for Crabby to try to read. So she doesn’t.
  • Another similar irritation is lack of paragraphs. No one can read long chunks of text minus breaks without getting a headache. If what you have to say is important enough to spend the time writing it, you might want to make sure people can read it. It takes only two taps on the Enter key to start a new paragraph with a line break between them.
  • Crabby Old Lady subscribes to many email newsletters from newspapers, magazines, websites, political and other organizations, universities, retail websites and aggregators. In the past week alone, about half the links she clicked – many from big-name publications - were broken, leading nowhere or to 404 pages. What in god’s name, Crabby wonders, is the purpose of the newsletter if the senders don’t care if the links function?
  • An increase in the number of animated ad images on the sides of websites is driving Crabby to distraction and she doubts she is the only web user who makes a point to never click on them and to avoid buying products of advertisers who do this. No product is unique and there are always alternatives if Crabby is really interested.
  • All kinds of retail sites lose Crabby’s business by burying the price behind seven or eight or more clicks. Tell Crabby the price on the first page and you might get a sale. If it is beyond the third click, you won’t no matter what it is. Software vendors are big offenders in this area.
  • Non-dated pages render the information useless. Health and medical sites are particularly guilty, but many others don’t include dates, even some blogs. Unless Crabby knows how recent or old the story is, she has no way to evaluate the information or know if she needs to do further research.
  • These last two apply particularly to blogs, although some news and political sites are guilty too: pop-ups on mouseover with a large thumbnail of the linked page or, more frequently these days, a product link. The pop-ups always cover the precise words Crabby is reading and most blogs have so many of them that, when Crabby moves her mouse, another pops up, then another and another. Anyone who thinks this is reader-friendly was probably the most obnoxious kid in school.
  • And finally, widgets. There is nothing inherently wrong with widgets; some are modestly interesting. However, the kind of bloggers who use one widget, invariably use many. Perhaps what they don’t understand is that each widget is fed to their page by a different server. If one of those servers is down, the page won’t load for up to a minute or more. And the more widgets there are, the more likely this will happen. Multitudes of widgets on a page are a sure reader killer.
  • Crabby Old Lady gets a fair amount of email from bloggers asking how they can increase their readership. If you are among those or know someone who is, you might want to go through this checklist and see what improvements can be made. Crabby is not the only reader who just moves on when she encounters these annoyances.

    [At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Celia Jones gives us Part 1 of a colorful and detailed account of a trip to England in Derbyshire County: Something in the Water? Part 2 will be published tomorrow.]

Comments

I agree with you on most points. I'd add sites with music: any kind of music. If there is no obvious way to turn it off, I'll not check out that site. Even if I like the music, I don't want to be bothered adjusting the volume. Am I the only person who finds background music distracting when I'm trying to read something?

I'm with you all the way on these. My biggest pet peeve is non-dated pages and, along with that, info where it isn't clear who wrote it.

If I don't know WHO wrote something and WHEN -- fagetaboutit!

I can't find anything to disagree with. The animated images are particularly annoying!

Dear Crabby,

I agree with you on most of your peeves.The one I agree with most is your complaint about the structure of the article.

It is easy to capitalize new sentences, and hit the Enter key to start a new paragraph.

I find it very pretentious of writers to think they can write like eecummings and get away with it.

i thank god i dont have to read it and i choose not to read it hows that for a comment

Nancy: Tee-hee...

Tell it as it is, Sister. I particularly hate animated stuff--even if it is a "waving" American flag--on a web page and light-on-dark lettering. Thanks for publicizing these issues in a forum visited by hundreds. You've done a great service.

Yes, dear Crabby......I will go check my blogroll links. I agree. Links need to work. Online paragraphs need to be shorter also. Yes, the excuses that it makes for good graphic design, good drama, and everyone does it doesn't work.

Yes too, I hate those picture popups that block my reading and viewing enjoyment. Some of my favorite blogs use them. Since I don't want to drive them away from reading my blog, I will send them a link to this one. Maybe they will get the hint. Ya think?

I agree with your comments... as well as the comment regarding music. I have dial-up so the more "bells and whistles" a site has, sometimes it tries the patience waiting for it to load.

One issue I do have is consistent writing. Ronni - you are one of the best in writing daily, as well as letting your reader's know when you are away.

Recapping. Blogs are best when they are neat and reader-friendly. I prefer a photo/photos to give a blog some personality. Photo's loading from Flicker often do not fully load on a slow 'net connection, so as interesting as they may be on some blogs - less is better.

In closing, I love links. Links have often led me to some of the best blogs I read. A broken link disappoints.

Linda

I'm hearing you on all accounts. It really is just a matter of knowing your audience and not making their lives difficult.

I think that, because some bloggers are also technology-addicts, if there's a new visual gimmick that someone has invented, they want to include it on their sites. Hence, those thumbnails of linked pages, which really serve no helpful purpose at all. I think your post should go in every how-to for new bloggers.

I read blogs late at night and when music suddenly blasts through the quiet room I jump! I usually don't go back.

The flashing animated ads have been so bad that I have complained to various blogwriters who have them. Since laser eye surgery, I have a predisposition to migraines caused by flashing lights, pictures, etc. They are truly a health hazard!

Thanks for addressing all the issues you pointed out today. I will be giving out your link to some of the blogs' writers who are guilty of these things.

I agree with everything you say. My pet peeves are the blogs where the font size is not big enough. There are several blogs, written by "professionals" where the words are so small, I can't be bothered to take the time and effort to read them, although I'd like to know what they say.

I hear ya Ronni...loud and clear.
I have to agree with everything you've said...esp the music.
Even though I enjoy music...it grates my cheese when it comes on very loud at night when the grandkids are sleeping.
And light text on dark makes my eye's water so I don't visit too often.
I also like a break in text which is easier to read...and it also helps when a blog is broken into 2 or 3 columns...mush easier to read.

I subscribe to everything you said. My pet peeve is animated and flashy thingies! They look like the blog owner has just discovered the Internet and is experimenting with his new toys. I understand the feeling, but still, that would be OK once a year to say Happy New Year, but should be banned the rest of the time.

Thanks for a A very helpful, targeted inventory and assessment tool, thanks Ronni :) I find it difficult to convince younger colleagues, "Hey, enough already on the Flash and pop-ups." They continue to run amok among the latest emerging tech tools in spite of my piteous pleas.

Though I must confess, I am guilty of not keeping a tidy, usable blog. I suffer from widget creep, and don't post consistently. I do regularly check for broken links, only because it's a cog in our editing process at work.

There's always room for improvement. I really enjoy spending time building writing skills. It's invigorating to clear weeds and encourage new growth. I learn a lot about good writing from you, Ronni, again, thanks.

Small type gets me. I hate to have to adjust the type larger with my browser. Especially on blogs that target an older audience!

Well, music on a blog gets me too. I usually don't go back.

The biggest irritant for me is the 'sudden' talking heads. If I want to listen to a lecture or seminar, I'll chose my own. Now every single nitwit that can open its mouth wants to put audio on their blog and website. Please, some of us still know how to read full sentences!

Then there's the video. Some of these people have faces (and voices) only their nearest and dearest could love - but there they are, popping up saying nothing and looking as if they've just escaped from the insane asylum - drunk!

Too bad you're never given the option of: Do you want to see what I look like or Do you want to hear my whinney voice.

Rock on Crabby! You're in your groove.

In my day job, I work in an interactive ad agency as a usability professional. (It's often referred to as user interface, information architecture, or interaction design.) Everything you've mentioned above are no-no's; examples of poor design.

One does not need to be a crabby old lady/gentleman to know good design and to feel frustrated when encountering a poorly designed web site and/or e-mail message.

I encourage you to write via e-mail to the site's webmaster or to the firm's VP of marketing; and clearly state your problems with the site and how it makes it difficult for you to do business with that firm. You'll get a response more often than you think. And, if you don't get a reply, you've got some useful material for a blog post.

I agree - TOTALLY!

I'd like to add that I keep track of my favorite blogs through Bloglines. I waste enough time on the computer as it is and I find that Bloglines is a wonderful tool.

Some bloggers choose (perhaps unknowingly) to only share part of their blog posts in Bloglines, therefore thinking that the reader will have to click to their blog to read the rest of the post.

Not me! I usually unsubscribe from those blogs. I don't have the time to go check these blog posts out only to realize the rest of the text in the post did not interest me. If I can view an entire blog post through Bloglines and it interests/impacts me enough to want to comment, I will.

gosh i am guilty about using all lowercase letters...i just like it...though I suppose I can make the adjustment if it is intolerable to the reader. I admit liking it though.
The one that got my goat going the most is the "price hiders". Definitely a way for me to save money, which I suppose is a blessing in disguise except sometimes/often I really want to know. I am *old* enough to know better.
Also I like black background with white letters. I actually find it relaxing to the eyes.
I will ponder your thoughts though.
Thank you!

I completely agree with every point you've made. One other thing I find difficult to cope with is when a blogger posts a mosaic of 16-24 teeny-weeny pictures where the visitor is expected to click and link repeatedly to view the information. Far better, I think to have a number of posts spread over a few days with decently-sized photos.

I see your point on most of these. However, the paragraph one hits me in the belly. I click away and get no paragraph separation. I indent and get no indentation. Maybe it's only on blogger and only occasionally but it drives me as mad as it must the reader but I don't know html to change it. Sometimes it actually works.

There's a movement to radically change California government, by getting rid of career politicians and chopping their salaries in half. A group known as Citizens for California Reform wants to make the California legislature a part time time job, just like it was until 1966.

PART TIME MONEY

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