Everyone and their grandma has a blog nowadays, and this is creating a lot of noise which is becoming harder and harder to sift through in order to find the signals. A blog is a useful tool for creating and finding your voice, and in essence to discover yourself. It’s also useful if you want to build a brand, a reputation, or a network of people who respect you. I am afraid though of contributing more to this deluge of static.
It’s the reason I don’t post memes, selfies, or the like. What I appreciate and admire is content with substance and imbued meaning. These are the content producers that are few and hard to come by. What is prevalent instead are those posting trivial, distracting garbage. What I want is for people to delve into stuff that matters, as they say for bloggers, content is king.
Of course producing such content is easier said than done, and am reserving a separate post to go into what that could entail. There are many ways for sharing and creating content, I personally think a blog that is hosted on your own domain is the best way to go. To share a well thought out and thought provoking piece through social media or some corporate platform —is really a form of digital sharecropping. However this adds additional overhead, i.e. complexity, onto the content producer which can muddle your signal so to speak.
This is understandable, initial setup is comprised of many steps: picking and registering a domain name, picking a platform or content management system and many other technical pitfalls. Often, in the end the blogger will forget the most important part, expectations from their potential audience. This includes things outside the content —content alone is not king. The web is ninety-percent typography yet it is so easily and more often than not overlooked completely.
Your content should be fluid: readable, clear and pursuasive. This is largely skill based and can develop over time. The other things are design related and are thus more in a bloggers immediate control. It boils down to vertical rhythm, making it easy as possible for your reader to digest your content:
These are things you can educate yourself about and fine tune through your stylesheets. The best source on the web I could find is Matthew Butterick’s Practical Typography. I personally enjoy a good read when it follows basic laws of good typography, and when it’s not couched in clutter. Ads, sidebars, cloud tags, category links, and extraneous links like sitemaps all tug on my attention and distract from the content.
I have taken these things to heart with my own blog, which means no ads, widgets, sidebars or extraneous links. I instead put some thought into the font-size, the text contrast, line length, and line height. I tried to keep things simple for both the reader and myself and am pretty happy with the setup. It also helps that I don’t believe in making money off a blog. I will never direct readers to buy my ebook, subscribe to an email list, or sign up for events. I think those kind of tactics are gross, it should be about ideas rather than finance.
Yes, you deserve to be compensated but isn’t writing and getting your voice out there enough of a compensation? Aren’t you in it for the writing, making some kind of mark, or pursuading others? Those kind of intrinsic rewards should be enough. Instead we have a billion and one websites that look awful, try to manipulate you for financial gain and more often than not take way too long to load because of all the tracking and analytics software.
Shouldn’t we try harder? Shouldn’t we expect better? Content, and the presentation of the content should take all importance.