Usability and Dangerous Thinking

When I set up Dangerous Thinking on MT earlier this year, I made a few tweaks to one of the standard themes. Basically, a few changes to the fonts.

Then I added blog rolls and other links to the main index template.

But it’s funny how I’m always finding myself in that ‘mailing pack’ mindset. What’s that? Well, a decade or so ago, when I freelanced around some of the bigger and better direct marketing agencies in London, I was taken into the world of mail packs and how people read them, progressing from envelope line to order form.

Somehow, Web site or blog usability seems intimately related to that kind of concept. A new medium (NOT media, oh ignoramuses), but almost the same question – how do we make it easy for people to get to where we want them to go? Or was it, where they want to go? Yes, that’s it. A new angle for a customer-focused age.

Are you still with me? There is a point, I assure you – and I’m getting to it now.

There are some ‘given’s about blogging. The whole enterprise is very date-centric. All the entries are timed and dated, and arranged neatly and chronologically – just like a diary.

But most blogs are so much more than a diary. And Dangerous Thinking covers all sorts of stuff – some time-related, others not time-related at all.

And I’ve been talking to some regular readers – some who like the marketing and copywriting stuff; others who just like to see what I’m gassing on about today; others who want to see all the photographs I’ve posted.

All these people are more interested in categories of posts and the latest stuff I’ve written, than the dates on which I posted them. Which got me thinking about how they could find what they’re interested in.

Until last weekend, the categories were somewhere off screen heading off towards where my blogroll is. So I moved the Categories links up to just below the search box. In a fit of further creativity, I removed the blogging jargon (‘out abstruse geeky terminology’) and replaced it with the more reader-friendly THINGS I WRITE ABOUT.

Then I sat back for a few days and felt rather smug.

But today it hit me. Why do I have the damned calendar right at the top? When was the last time you used the calendar to navigate a blog? I never do.

So there’s still some more work to do on the templates. THINGS I WRITE ABOUT is going up top – that way I don’t have to design the buttons I was planning to go across the the top of the blog, below the title and subhead – followed by the search box. Looking at my logs, I know people use that surprisingly often.

And then what? I’m not sure, but I’ll certainly be questioning the position of everything in the right hand column because I’ve realised that, certainly as far as Dangerous Thinking is concerned, dates aren’t king.

3 thoughts on “Usability and Dangerous Thinking”

  1. I’m with you on the media/medium argument.
    Having been a media man for over 25 years, and a stickler for the English language, it always irks me when people use the plural to indicate the singular.

    How many times have I heard a trendy young account man tell me that ‘the client wouldn’t understand the distinction’ or, ‘why are media people so f***ing anal?’

    I don’t care. Anal or not, newspapers are media … The Sun is a medium. (Actually it is below average, but that’s another story.)

    Have fun!

    Martin.

  2. Thank you Martin

    I looked at this post earlier and wondered if I’d been too over-the-top, but decided to leave it, as it’s a true reflection of my feelings (don’t start me on apostrophes!).

    I’ll go to sleep happy that someone else gets equally steamed up :-)

    David

  3. Hi David,

    I’m glad I read this post as I realise that I, too, have been using the calender all along (see: http://www.mediajunk.com/public/ )… more as a guide to show how often I update, rather than a navigation tool. But I guess no-one else is interested in how often I update (and lately, it hasn’t been nearly enough!).

    I think I’ll follow your lead by removing it, and moving my category-based listings up top. Which means more work. Sigh.

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