Thursday, June 9, 2011

ON BLOGGING ~ Just An Aside...

BlogAnon: Joy of Confession

Image by Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator

Welcome to our weekly BlogAnon meeting where we confess a particular blogging sin and turn to you for support, suggestions and that blogging bond so we know we're not all alone. Don't be shy. Read along and let us know if you identify with us this week.

Typically, this would be the week for a Blogging Tip, rather than another BlogAnon meeting. But it seems I have maxed out my blogging learning capacity for the moment and don't have anything new to share today on that end. I get lazy with learning sometimes, despite the teacher in me. But I never seem to tire of opinions - thus another BlogAnon post for you.

As I was catching up with my Google Reader recently, I was reminded of how awesome blogs can be. They all look so different - reflecting the blogger's personality. Exuding their individuality. Even those technically challenged bloggers find a way to personalize the basic templates. I consider myself one of those folks. Some people change their blog's look often. Some never make a tweak. Others do so when they get bored or have something new to say. How you express yourself on your blog is more than just the words you write within your posts. It is in the layout you select, the visual pattern you display, the header image, the background, the font, the color scheme and the widgets that populate your sidebar.

When I visit someone's blog for the first time, I start at the top of their sidebar and scroll my way all the way to the bottom. I read their About Me blurb, see what kind of blog stats they promote, discover if they hand out blog love via the blog roll, peruse the awards they've been given, check out any links to their popular posts, browse through their Currently Reading shelves, find out what causes they support and always, always always let my eyes skip right over any ads getting in my way of learning about this blogger. Then I go and read the posts on the home page.

Once I've visited a blog and made my way through their sidebar, I rarely pay attention to it again on my return visits. Why is that? I think maybe because I put my blog blinders on and want to focus on the thoughts, the posts, the heart of the blog. Everything else is just filler. Filler that says a lot about the blogger's personality, but it becomes a personality I already know and enjoy - I don't need that refresher anymore.

That's why I try to keep our sidebar clutter to a minimum. I only put up over there to your right the things that I really care most about. The things that I hope each reader at some point will review once to get the gist. I have read that the top right spot - where most folks put the About Me widget/gadget/plugin - is the one spot that the reader's eye is drawn to on a regular basis, whether they go looking there on purpose or not. This would then lead me to believe that the farther down on the sidebar something lives, the less likely anyone will ever see it or interact with it.

I personally feel that anything coinciding with the eye level of the bottom of your lead post would also probably draw some incidental attention. But trying to gauge that consistently is a challenge. Especially for rambling Bumbles like me. Maybe my longer posts give some attention to those items farther down on the sidebar. I think they get a bit lonely and neglected down there.

From my standpoint, filling up your sidebar can be fun and expressive. Just don't count on lots of interaction with it.


What kind of sidebar do you prefer, as a visitor to a blog? Does the sidebar you have match your preference when visiting others? What kinds of things do you expect to see on a sidebar and what things do you wish would be banished from them altogether?

13 comments:

Lynn said...

Well now I feel bad that my sidebar is relatively bare :o. It is a combination of being distractible myself, so I don't want my blog to register that "overload" feeling to others, and being a technophobe who is not very proficient at adding gadgets and doesn't care to learn. And I also would feel bad if I put my very favorite blogs on the side but had to leave other people off. I decided it was just easiest not to have all the stuff on the side. I must admit, though, I do love seeing other people's blog rolls and clicking over to visit -- especially when there's an enticing post title or picture to pique my interest. I love your blog, by the way. It is one that I always come back to.

Matty said...

I agree with you Molly, that the look of a blog reflects to some extent the personality of the owner.

When I first began blogging, I didn't have a clue. I took my cues on the style, look and content of my blog from what I saw on other blogs. Including the sidebar. At first, as you know, I had a lot a baseball related items because that's my personality. I even had a music player showing my favorite songs, although it did not play automatically. It took me months to realize that no one cares about your taste in music and that NO ONE is going to cick and listen to any of the songs. I also had a bookshelf showing my favorite reads. I had a baseball shaped clock, personal pictures, and other things.

After getting my feet on the ground, and realizing that most people don't pay attention to your sidebar, I whittled it down by eliminating most of those things.

As for what I think of the sidebars on other blogs, I do the same thing as you. When I first visit a blog I haven't seen before I look at everything on it. If I choose to follow, I no longer need to scan their sidebar anymore because I already am familiar with it. That's why I moved my baseball stuff down to the bottom of my sidebar. If you are new to my blog and scan it, you will see that I like baseball and the Phillies, but there is no need to keep it up top where I used to have it.

Beth F said...

I constantly try to declutter my sidebars and then fail (over and over again).

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree that after the first time, I rarely look at sidebars. I don't even look at my own anymore, and I guess I should to clean them up! :--) But when I do, I guess I prefer those that give me information I need: how to subscribe, how to contact the blogger, how to find older reviews, perhaps regularly scheduled memes, etc. I'm not big on seeing ads, but I understand that this helps some bloggers with postage and so on.

Gwen@ChewDigestBooks.com said...

I attempt to go for a clean and neat look, almost minimal. Like you, I tend to get blinders after reading someone for a while, but as far as first impressions go, clutter and a lack of cohesiveness to the things in the side bar are a turn off for me.

It depends on the niche somewhat though. Ads don't bother me at all, some of us choose to pay for hosting or just want to support our habits/buddy's businesses. I don't know what I am trying to describe anymore, I just know it when I see it:)

Margot said...

I'm glad you brought up this topic because I've decided I need to do something with my sidebars. I don't know what I'm going to do but I need to clean them up. I stare at my blog and it seems a mish-mash. Then again, maybe that tells you about me.

I don't think I have a preference in sidebars when visiting new blogs, except that I do like ones with lots of information. Not to much, but enough info to tell me the things this blogger likes to read and/or talk about. For instance, I visited a new-to-me blog with black background (hard for me to read the print) and lots of pictures of werewolves, erotica, etc., and I knew this wasn't a match for me. I don't mean that I only read blogs that match my taste, but I look for information that tells me we have some common interests.

Tami said...

The stuff in my sidebar is as much for my own convenience as anything - archives and labels mostly. Used to have an "about us" area, but moved it to a separate page. I am a big fan of the "uncluttered" look, but after reading other comments, I'm wondering if we need more information on what we read and what we blog about. Food for thought...

Tami said...

Forgot to mention, I read most blog posts in Google Reader, so I don't even see the sidebars.

Ron said...

Excellent topic Molly!

Personally, I enjoy reading a blog that is extremely mimimal in it's design. When I first started blogging I changed my template every other month. Now, my design is simple, basic and clean - with just an expressive theme header. My sidebar info has also decreased.

I think it's important for us to realize that people come to our blogs to read, so the posts should be the main focus. Too many bells and whistles (like widgets) distract from reading and slow down the pageload.

For me, less is more.

kaye said...

I agree with you--on everything. I do have a long side bar, but it is mostly for me. For some reason it makes me very happy to have those little tidbits of me hanging about. I don't really expect anyone to look at them. I did take my blog roll off because it is so long, but maybe I could put it on a page tab. I'll think about that one.

RonJoe 'Geezer' said...

I rarely if ever look at sidebar stuff. To me, it's mostly just a distraction from the current blog post.

Kaye said...

I do look at other bloggers' sidebars frequently. You never know what gems you'll find there BUT if it is a new to me blog and all I see are a gazillion ads, I'm out of there. Pronto!!! I do like to see what other people are reading and their challenge lists. Cluttered blogs turn me right off. Blogs with miniscule print lose me as fast as possible. Not everyone is young with 20/20 vision.

Great post, Molly!

stacybuckeye said...

It's been forever since I worked on my sidebar. I did take off the What flower are you link, but left on the What Classic Dame are you? and What Auten Heroine are you? because they are clicked on at least once a day, plus they do say a little something about me. But you're right. I always look when first discovering a blog, but don't look at it much otherwise. Unless I'm bored, which doesn't happen much here anymore :)