Blogging Tips: Usability, Angles, Research, and Engagement

Writer. Author. Blogging. Writing Tips. Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

I love blogging (and writing in general) and I find something liberating about frequently publishing posts, as I believe feeling productive and actually being productive work in tandem.

I also think I am a fairly practical person, and so I like practical problem-solving methods. I mean, I love delving into philosophy, but (especially when it comes to writing) I want exercises, ideas, and tangible concepts to get me moving on the right path.

For today’s post, I have assembled some blog-writing tips and ideas that I think will help you out in your blog-writing journey, so, enjoy!

Blog Tip 1:  Conduct Some Usability Tests

Before you publish your immaculately designed blog, consider performing a few usability tests to improve quality, interface, and user retention. Usability Testing is a fairly simple concept: it asks the designer (or blogger, in your case) to set up a series of one-on-one tests with multiple participants (strangers, preferably) over a small timeframe in order to watch as they interact with your website.  

Authors Don Norman and Steve Krug are big into this UX (user experience) idea and I recommend both of their books: The Design of Everyday Things and Rocket Surgery Made Easy.

You as the designer decide upon the questions or tasks, but really think about your blog: What is your goal? Where are things located? Is everything easy to find? Can users navigate your blog easily?

Some example questions while conducting a test include:

  • Where would you find the ‘contact’ information?
  • If you wanted to know where the author was, could you find he/she?
  • Where are the archives and can you tell me where the most recent post is?

You really want the subject to speak aloud while they work through your questions and you should probably record the conversation or take thorough notes so you have “saved data” when it comes time to examine the feedback you collected.

The tester typically reinforces the idea that the usability test is not actually a “test” per se, so there isn’t a wrong answer when it comes to any of the questions (this is true and your test subject should be comfortable so they respond in an honest, relaxed way).

Blog Tip 2: Find an Angle!

I actually don’t practice this tip that much on The Writing Post, but that’s fine by me because I enjoy this topic and find that writing about authors, their works, and their lives is a fun way to spend my time composing. If you are actively trying to gain a following and you are trying to have an extremely original blog—then you may want to try to find an angle for each of your blog posts.

If you’ve spent any time in journalism or wonder why some articles are more engaging than others, then you can probably say with some surety that the writer has a unique angle on the subject material.

After all, you have to fight hard to be at the head of the pack when it comes to publishing, and if you aren’t telling an original story, then your prospective audience may gloss over your work.

If you want to write about a famous musician, say, Jimi Hendrix, how are you going to write about him? Are you going to go the usual route and just report his history or discuss his guitar technique, or are you going to tell his story in a more original way? Like, approaching his life through the stories of others, or writing about the clothes he wore at historic concerts.

In going against this advice, keep in mind that people also like familiar topics, so if you feel compelled to write about Hendrix’s guitar style, then, why not? Aristotle argues that art is cathartic (meant to purify the spirit), so if you are enjoying the material and working on your craft—go for it!

Blog Tip 3: Do Some Research!

The one thing I don’t see a lot when it comes to blogs is evidence of people having done prior research before they start actively writing. Doing research takes no time and I actually find it to be pretty fun, because I get to see what other blogs are doing and how they handle mundane and complex information in different ways.

First, you might consider a broad research strategy where you go to the most popular websites right now and check them out. Ideally, you want to examine their page design first: find out where they keep information and find out what each page has in common and what each page has different (and why). Finally, find out how they engage with their customers. Is there a form to fill out? Is there an open dialogue? Do you think the way this company interacts with their customers is effective? Why?

And don’t just focus on those questions! Brainstorm questions you might have for a digital design specialist and see how they apply to the websites you are examining.

Second, bring your research strategy into the realm of the microcosm. In other words, find websites and blogs that inspired you or have similar information and topics. Are you a self-help blog? Find other self-help blogs! Are you a literature blog? Find other literature blogs!

Next, examine the design of each blog. What works well? What does not work well? What are they doing that you could be doing better? Again, dream up questions that will give you solid answers, which you can then use to build an effective and successful blog.

Blog Tip 4: Interact and Engage!

I will keep this one brief, but I think people forget to deliver on this particular part of blogging, and it’s certainly one that I need to spend more time on:

Interact and engage with other blogs and writers.

Writing is communal and so is blogging. While we may feel as though writing is a solitary function, academic research does not show that the best work comes from individuals sitting alone in dark rooms with bottles of whiskey and cigarettes. You may feel cool, but your writing and craft will suffer. In fact, research shows that engaging with others and discussing writing improves one’s craft immensely.

I mean, even the greatest authors of all time had writing circles, editors, publishers, beta readers, and so on. They wrote, they shared, and they created excellent work.

By engaging with other blogs and writers, you are sharing your work and you are earning something in return. That something includes important feedback from other writers (suffering criticism is a threshold we all have to cross), and confidence in your writing, which will help you write better because you spend less time second-guessing yourself. And, lastly, by interacting and engaging with other writers, you are seeing how other websites function (Blog Tip 1), you are seeing other story angles (Blog Tip 2), you are conducting research through interaction (Blog Tip 3), and you are having meaningful conversations with people who have similar interests (so you are building a writing community).