Shawn is Filament’s product designer and front-end dev unicorn – so naturally I asked him to share his wisdom here. He also eats a tremendous amount of Internet and daily breakfast burritos. So…now you know… ~Jason

If you’re reading this, we have something in common – an appreciation of a good experience. Dare I say an engaging one? [I’m already regretting this… ~J]

I work on the design of all things Filament – including Flare – which means I’ve seen and designed for a lot of blogs. One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of UX mistakes that occur at every scale, not just rookie blogs; major brands, established product companies and even marketing experts make these mistakes too.

This is my first release in a blog-focused UX and design series where I’ll aim to provide you ways to avoid the most common mistakes I see committed across blogs internet-wide. No budget? Can’t code? Can’t design a way out of a paper bag? There are tons of reasons why many of these mistakes get pushed live, but there’s always a better option out there and that’s why this series exists.

In this post

Mistake #1: Not keeping the salt by the pepper

I love a good analogy. Let’s start with one here. Bad Information Architecture (IA) on a blog is like a disorganized kitchen:. Perhaps there are single bowls in random cupboards. Need a serving spoon? It’s by the salt. A juicer? Well that’s next to the pepper, but the pepper is in the fridge. Wait – what?! Why is the pepper in the fridge? And why is there a juicer chilling (literally) in the fridge!?!? (Oh, I like puns too). [More regret ~J]

illustration of pepper next to a juicer in the fridge

So what does a Juicer in the fridge next to the pepper have to do with the layout of a blog? Well, bad IA dramatically disrupts the way people browse your content.

havensporks - a poorly designed fictitious blog

A poorly-designed IA makes it difficult for your readers to know where to begin, and even know where they’ll end up when they click on something.

Self-Assessment Quiz: Do you have content categories as the main nav of your blog? This is generally a bad idea. You wouldn’t believe how many blogs only feature just a single category at a time on their index page. I never know if I’m looking at all of their content. Some posts are found here, others there. Assuming one of your posts was compelling enough for me to stick around, make it easy for me to discover something else to dive into.

The Keymaker from the Matrix Reloaded

Unless you’re the Keymaker, it shouldn’t be difficult to find all your content listed in one place. There shouldn’t be just one special door on your blog that unlocks the view of all your content.

Make sure visitors can always see all your content listed somewhere and make it easy to find. Leading them is all well and good and a very important part of your strategy, but this should be done at an inside-the-post level (think related post suggestions).

Let’s use the house metaphor again to summarize:

IA organization table

Categories and tags are not interchangeable and play a key role in how people discover content on your blog. If you do this right, and let your URLs also take on this structure, they’re an impactful method for better SEO too. Just remember this: tags can span multiple categories, but categories are sovereign.

If your site is primarily a blog, with nothing much attached to it, you may have links at the top of your blog that go to specific categories. If you only have 2-3 categories, this may be fine. But where can we see all your posts, so we (the reader) can decide what to browse?

Tip 2: Social Sharing buttons are like salt

If a little is good, a lot isn’t always better. I know what you’re thinking. What’s with this guy and salt and pepper? Remember what I said about analogies?

social buttons too damn high

Moment of Truth: Have you ever been reading a solid post on your favorite topic, thought to share it and then didn’t because there wasn’t a social button within 100 pixels of your mouse pointer? No, me neither… Furthermore, they’re just plain distracting. If you wrote a blog post, chances are your goal is for people to read it. Growing an audience is massively important, but shares are secondary to your fellow humans actually consuming your content.

Social media buttons and bars are designed loudly and use their noticeable brand colors on purpose. They serve more than just the purpose of a quick and easy share, they’re also mini-billboards for those networks. Find one you like, and use it. If you have one in your header, one that fades in as you scroll, one ever-present in your sidebar, at the top and bottom of your post and the footer, you’re puttin’ too much salt on your food.

social buttons everywhere

The strawberry on top is consistency. Make all your share buttons look and feel similar. If they all look different, they add clutter that can appear to do different things. Keep in mind the goals of your blog. Get people to read, then perhaps shares and subscribe. Your design should follow that priority as well.

What’s up next?

We’ve identified that the number one goal is getting your audience to consume your content. For our next release, we’ll address readability and other important UX topics to create a more engaging blog experience.

Have questions or requests you’d like me to address? Email me (shawn [at] filament [dot] io), or let me know in the comments.