What’s Wrong With Blogs — Rant 1

I like blogging … that’s no secret.  I like WordPress too … it’s the most popular blogging software by far and it does the job for literally millions of bloggers.  But strangely enough for a sophisticated piece of software that is designed to accomodate boogs that may emcopass thousands and thusands of posts/articles/pags and literally no end to different subjects, WordPress in it’s default format and most all the WordPress "themes" or skins that i have found seem to be designed for somehting a kindergarten class would be capable of producing.  Strong words?  Well, maybe they are but I ask just one question … Where’s The Freakin’ Naviagtion?

Outlook_exNavigation you say?  yes, the visible means of moving around the blog/website that allows users to read what they want to read with as few mouse of key presses as possible.  I’m not looking for miracles here, all I’m asking for is a simple, effective way to have at least the same table of contents and indexing function I can get if I go to the store and buy a cheap "Doing Something For Dummies" book.

I really, really hate to use Microsoft as a good example, and especially Microsoft Outlook, the email program so many of us love to hate … but just look at the screen capture from my currently open email folders.

Notice they look like folders … because that has been proven since the days of the Xerox PARCS research days that people visualize files easily by subject and can easily navigate around a "virtual file cabinet" with a mouse … opening and closing folders as they go, dragging and dropping files as they need to rearrange themambo_exm, etc. 

Notice that I, the user of the software can make and delete the folders at will … i don’t have to store my mail messages in pre-built folders that Bill gates decided would be good for me.  I can put everything in one folder if I wish … ordering it by name, date rceived, size, etc.  or I can build any practical number of suibfoklders hierarchically, at will … it’s my data and y softeware, so why shouldn’t the sapplication work my way.   Many people don’t care to but I can even put messages in more thna one folder.

By default Outlook has a folder called "For Follow Up".  every mesage that I have set a flag to review or answer and then put into a subjec oriented folder also shows up in my "Follow Up" folder until I … well … follow up.  Ever think of being able to go to a site like ProBlogger for example and being able to know what posts you have already read .. or to mark ones you really need to go back and review?  When you "read" a post on a dynamic blog/CMS like WordPress you are not reading some page out there in cybersapace … you are making a query to the database that drives the site and the WordPress software on the site "builds" the page on demand.  There’s no reason you can’t organize the posts in multiple weays .. each link to a post is just that, a coded database command that takes up only a few bits, no matter how many ways you want to organize/access them.

Take a look at the orange screen clip I just snapped at the Open Source CMS site … a site built on another great Open source platform called Mambo.  See the resmblence to Microsofts application of the age-old folder tradition?  Expand, colapse, control the menu … actually be able to use the content the way it is mnost effective for each user.

So. again, where is the navigation in WordPress blogs?  There are thousands of energetic programmers out there devoting themselves to "yet another plugin" to manage linking to deliecious or some other vaguely defined "social bookmarking" site.  Is there anyone out there who actaully reads blogs  rather than spend their day trying to get "Diggs"?

And just before I switch the "Rant" switch off … evr notice how many blogs don’t even have links at the top and bottom of the page to go to the next and last page you were just reading?  Efen scrolling through the posts one by one is often impossible to do … the majority of WordPress blogs are like a book with the pages stuck together … all that valuable content and so few ways to find it.

Note to those who have found better ways … feel free toset me striaght, I’ll be happy to publicise, link to and otherwise promote solutions … this post is written out of frustration, not anger.

Comments

  1. I’d have to go along with you there. Blog software and CMS software are obviously differentiated by the fact that a blog is primarily aimed at a chronological presentation of the content and so navigation is indeed neglected.

    There are a few ways to get people digging deeper in your site – tags to group posts thematically, “top ten most popular posts” lists, featured post lists, but at the end of the day it is hard to see a way to allow a user to navigate a WP site as easily as other content-based sites.

    If you are getting to the point where navigation is a problem, perhaps your site/blog has evolved from being a “mere” blog and it is time to consider a different kind of CMS platform..?

  2. It isn’t so much how the size of the blog has grown .. although the bigger they are the harder it is … but my whole point is I can’t see why it seems to be impossible to find someone who can code decent navigation into a blog instead of “social bookmarking triva”. You know quite often I’ve seen something on a certain blog, anted to write about it a few days later and had to do a “brute force” full text search to find it.

    Pages are often ignored, noy 1 template in 100 can proerly deal with nested pages, categories sseldom collapse and expand seemlesly, and certainly one could easily devise something as simple as a flag to mark what you want to read in the future … if I buy a dead tree book or magazine I can do something stunningly complex and effective like folding over the corner of a page to find it again … or putting a yellow post it tab on a page I know I’ll need again … with supposedly technically superior bogs software, I have to search every word? Mind boggling … it’s a matter of designers focusing on fluff rather than function … or so I opine.

  3. OBTW, it almost sounded as if you had a specific platform recommendation in mind ….

  4. Hallo…

    I believe wordpress is the blogging platform of choice due to ease of function rather than number of features. Most tech savvy people would say Drupal is the best but offer no explanation why it is so.

    So off I went to look at Drupal for a month. It indeed is the best but it does require some web development skills to make it really work. Since we?e focused on developing content rather than tweaking our CMS, we decided to stick with wordpress for our blog.

    Well, at least until they make Drupal user friendly, which probably will be a long time in coming since based on the discussions in their forum, making it accessible to technically-handicapped persons is not among the top priorities at the moment. :D

  5. I have looked at Drupal too … my findings pretty much mirror yours. From a database and programming view Drupal would probably get a higher grade from a professor in a database structures class … but that’s not what most of us are about.

    I really should focus my rnat better … WordPress doesn’t need any different underlying structure, all it needs is a better way to naviagte/find what it currently stores … and theme designers need to focus more on different. more useful ways to find data for users rather than “wowee” graphics.

    I found acouple plug-ins since this was posted that may be of use … I’ll be posting more.

    i really think a gangbuster idea for aplug-in developer is to run with my “mark for later reading idea … or pehaps the guys at Google should add that as afunction to Google reader … the way it works now is once you scrollpast a post … it’s gone … how great it would be to read a ‘feed” and make a tick mark on the articles you want to see later. Anyway, back to reality.

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