You go to the effort of writing a blog and then …

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It’s hard work, some find it harder than others, but there are plenty of people making an effort to write down and publish content they want to share. Why then do some of those people having gone to the effort of creating the content fall at the last hurdle when presenting it online?

I have recently been doing a lot of research (my own fault for not being able to remember very much at one time) and have been scraping the internet for help in various topics. This has lead me to a state of desperation in some cases.

Case 1.

The blog post titled “Exactly what you need to know about the topic you are looking for. Part I”

Oh wow, this sounds perfect, I’ve found a series of blogs on the topic I am looking at. This must mean that the writer is taking through the topic or through a process of sort that will without doubt help me understand my current challenge.

Except there is no part II, III or IV. They started the blog with great intentions and then failed to write any follow up posts. I only find this after trudging about their site using a terrible search facility or sketchy ‘categories’ links. Now I dont blame anyone for being too busy to come back and write the second post, we are all busy but how long would it take to re-visit the first post and simply remove the “Part I”? That way you re not misleading your audience and they wont resent the time spent on your site.

Case 2.

The blog that has some nice code examples and explanation of the topic you need but you’ve seen it before somewhere.

Yep, reading a blog and getting some useful info but feeling you’ve seen it before. Like I said my memeory is poor, perhaps I’ve visited the blog previously but … Then, some time later, hitting F1 in your development tool and getting to an MSDN* page that was outrageously used as the source for the blog is highly disappointing, not to mention skating very close to illegal. Everyone needs inspiration and the product guidance from Microsoft is as reliable as you can get (in most cases) but just copying their examples is helping noone, especially you. If you use their examples and learn something then reference the MSDN* content at the start of your blog and then move on, take your readers along to the next step in your learning so they can get more value from spending time reading your content.

* It might not be MSDN, other vendor specific help is available for various products, we are not even solely talking about Microsoft topics here.

Case 3.

Google says this is the best reference for your question but it is a blog you simply cant read.

Just take a quick look after you press Publish at the actual blog content and make sure the work you put in is going to be of use to the reader. The sections below show a common problem, code sections dont always follow CSS rules correctly. If you cant get it to work as text (which I prefer to use as the reader can copy/paste to their application) then fall back to a screen shot of the code, neatly wrapped and formatted in your environment. in the image below it is arguable that the most important information is at the right hand side of the line and therefore lost to the reader.

Code lines must wrap or they become useless.

Case 4.

The blogger who wants their site to stand out.

Please, just follow the conventions for your style, sure if you want to do something subtle to make your site a more pleasant experience go ahead. Use a (slightly) different font, or a nice, well developed CSS to deal with your needs. If your readers need sunglasses to make looking at your pages bearable then you wont find many coming back for a second visit. Colour schemes might have a wow factor but I still have no idea what the code in then image below says. There are plenty of guides online about how to make a site readable to your readers.

Unreadable or hazardous to health?

Let’s be clear here, I’m not pushing for everything to be 100% perfect, most blogs are done by writers for free and demanding perfection is unrealistic. What I am saying is that if you go to the effort of writing a blog, write the best blog you can. The odd typo or wonky layout of an image wont put off readers if they can get what they need easily. Making the mistakes above are, in my opinion, going to put people off coming back to your blog. Keep things simple and you wont go far wrong. You might look like every other blog in the world but the readers getting simple access to your content will thank you for it and keep coming back.

That’s all for the moment but if I come up with more I’ll write a follow up post, let me know what annoys you most about blogs and I’ll put something together. Oh, and if I do, I’ll come back here and change the title to ‘Part I’!!