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Blogs = Information Overload?

Are blogs poorly designed? Is there too much on the screen, and does it confuse new visitors?

Yesterday, I met with four new volunteers. As part of a technical writing course at San Francisco State University, they'll be writing four documents for GalaxyGoo. One of the possible documents would be about blogging at GalaxyGoo, and maybe blogging in general. But it was clear, from the student's initial comments, that a standard blog is a bit much for a non-experienced blog consumer to digest all at once. She asked "where are you supposed to go? There's the articles and then all that other stuff" (paraphrased).

What seemed clear and easy for me to use, both on our blog and on the other blogs I read on a regular basis, isn't really all that clear. I'll be thinking about ways to make it more visually focused. My first thought is to use Flash to visually simplify navigating all of the links and info in the side panel. But then better written text for the headings would probably work as well.


(My EJB instructor is stuck on a user error, so I have time to comment ;)

I think that the blog entries themselves, calendar, categories, and main navigation links are all fairly clear and self evident, but when a blog has a lengthy sidebar (or two!) saturated with BlogRolls, Link lists, banners, logos, and such can be very confusing.

Joe Rinehart has modified the ever popular ColdFusion BlogCFC to use CSS to collapse the sidebar pods, letting to the user to expand and view more content as needed. See http://clearsoftware.net/client/index.cfm .

Also, I just recently realized that BlogCFC has the [more/] tag to automatically truncate an individual blog entry in the main view of all blog entries. That makes the front page much more manageable. I made a point this past weekend to go add more tags to all of my previous lengthy blog posts.

I've been through this before using my family as beta-testers. Check out my Flash MT frontend that attempts to condense a blog's core functionality down to a couple simple screens: http://www.mikenkim.com

Note: non computer-literate family members continue to be puzzled over blogs, which for me is perfect. If I can make it make sense to them, I've accomplished something :)