Accessibility to the Internet is virtually unlimited. Anyone, anywhere is able to create a blog and write what’s on their mind, regardless of authority, skill or credibility. So how do we sift out what is worth reading, and what offers the best experience in the blogosphere?
Like books, we often judge blogs by their “covers”. In that sense, a blog’s appearance is crucial in terms of gaining and maintaining the interest of readers. In some ways, a blog’s credibility is enhanced by its visual appeal. A good blog offers a lot visually. Visuals are twofold. In one respect, a good blog should be clean and simple in design and easy to navigate. In short, a good blog isn’t distracting from its core content. Alternatively, visuals also include multimedia components. Visual engagement is crucial; if something can be communicated with a picture or video, the visual route is typically better than words. Links to YouTube videos or pictures further enhances a blog and appeals to multiple senses.
In a digital age where everything is at our fingertips – literally – we want information as quickly as we can access it; when it comes to absorbing information, we have shorter attention spans and less patience. To cater to this obsession with information consumption, good blogs both get to the point and grab their reader’s attention. As such, a blog should be designed and shaped so that its content can be scanned. Especially because we often get our information from our small phone screens, it becomes even more important to create condensed paragraphs that get to the point. Caroll emphasizes the importance of readability and scanability: “The context and the purpose…should be made readily clear. This is especially true because many Web users are often hunting for a specific kind of information” (Caroll 31). Blogs that cater to scanability have headings, subheadings, hyperlinks, short paragraphs, lists and visuals. Because blogs are uniquely non-linear, linking becomes important when it comes to the organization and presentation of information.
What makes blogs so unique and so different from other kinds of writing – is their non-linear quality and the ability to interact with them. So many aspects of our everyday lives are intertwined in the Internet. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc. allow humans to feel connected with each other at all times; as individuals constantly online, we are interested in the lives of our peers, and expect our peers to be interested in ours. As a result, identification becomes a crucial component of what makes a good blog. When human interests are joined, people are able to identify with one another in turn. An individual voice on a blog may resonate strongly with a reader, forming a kind of connection between those two people. Caroll asserts that the “roles of sender and receiver are interchangeable, the distinctions between the two less meaningful” (Caroll 27). As such, a good blog allows for interaction between writers and readers, whether it be by commenting on blog posts to create a discussion, or allowing different people to contribute to the blog. It is important to capture the voice of the “everyday person”, in order to make the connection between readers. In my opinion, what makes Humans of New York such a great blog is its capacity to bring people together. Sharing human experiences through short interviews and photographs appeals to a large and diverse audience, and allows people to come together.
Buzzfeed is the only blog that I read and follow regularly; it is more of a super-blog, which has evolved to include a staff of writers. Buzzfeed takes all of these characteristics – visuals, identification, shareability, readability – and fits them together. Buzzfeed offers two different kinds of reading experiences: short, comprehensible articles on current events and pop culture, and lists of images and GIFs. In both formats, the blog offers information in short, readable, comprehensive ways. Buzzfeed’s use of lists of images allows for easy sharebility via Facebook and Twitter, and offers a connection between readers.