Let’s Discuss: What blog features do you actually use?

blog-features

Yesterday, I posted this question to Twitter:

I’m curious, have you ever actually used an archive list to find a post on someone’s blog? Do you find them useful?

The general consensus was, as expected, that people turn to search first and use archive lists infrequently, if at all. Yet they are pretty standard for blog design.

Which, of course, begs the question: what “standard” blog features do you actually use, and which are just a waste of space?

I think there’s a very fine line between features that help and ones that just distract from what’s important. The argument could really be made for or against almost anything! Take related posts, for example. On the one hand, there have definitely been times I’ve stayed on a site longer than I would have because a related post caught my eye, then another one, then another. But on the other hand, most people use an automatic install, so related posts appear before share buttons and the comments section, and readers move on to another post before they have a chance to comment on or share the original post. That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing — it just depends on your goals.

So, tell me: what blog features do you actually use? What features do you miss when the blogger has chosen not to make them available? What features could you do without? Do any flat out annoy you?

31 Comments

  1. Samantha wrote:

    I think the #1 thing I use is the category function when I land on a new site and I’m interested in reading more. I love when blogs have their top categories easy to find in their blog sidebar. If you blog about blogging, tutorials, design, I’ll click on those category buttons every time I land on a site for the first time.

    I also like when a blog has something like “top 5” posts, I’ll hone in on those which then leads me to discovering more.

    Posted 2.17.14
  2. I know that my Mom has told me numerous times that she won’t read a blog unless they have an e-mail subscribe option, because she’ll simply forget about them if they don’t come to her inbox. There might be others out there who feel the same way (obviously she could use a reader but she doesn’t want to for some reason). I definitely use the social media buttons and find it really frustrating when those aren’t easily accessible. I use the navigation bars a lot, and I’ll click on categories sometimes.

    Posted 2.17.14
    • Ashley wrote:

      I’m exactly the same. The way I follow blogs is by subscribing via email. And I DO NOT mean a newsletter, I mean a subscription service that emails me each new post.

      If that option doesn’t exist, there’s simply no way for me to follow, so I won’t be back.

      Posted 3.6.15
  3. Kayla wrote:

    Getting rid of the archive list was one of the first pieces of advice I ever got. I will occasionally click on other’s archive lists but not very often. I LOVE the categories buttons.. they are super helpful when visiting someone’s site for the first time! : )

    Posted 2.17.14
  4. Erin wrote:

    I always advise getting rid of the archive list–who uses it? It makes so much more sense for people to find things via categories or search!
    I definitely like the search option on all websites/blogs, as well as several subscribe options (reader, email). I like related posts, or featured posts, but it depends on the site.

    Posted 2.17.14
  5. Emma wrote:

    I personally like seeing archive lists because when I’m checking a blog out for the first time, I like to go back to their first posts to see what they used to talk about, how their content has improved, and what their story is. I do think that there are other ways to do this, but looking through chronologically organized posts helps with that. I definitely like seeing categories. If the blog doesn’t have more than one category that I would be interested in then I might not come back! It’s a good way of getting a sense of what they write about.

    Posted 2.17.14
    • Marianne wrote:

      I agree with Emma. When I find a new blog, sometimes I like to see how long they’ve been blogging for and how they’ve changed since then. Gives me a sense of the person behind the words a little.

      And categories are definitely a must. Otherwise how do I know what the heck you’re blogging about?

      Another must for me is the about blurb and author photo. And the about blurb should link to a more informative about page.

      Posted 2.17.14
      • Kim wrote:

        Phew! Good to know this. My first post ever was a long, long time ago when I was still in college. So much has changed since then and I should probably revise that post! It is absolutely nothing like the rest of my blog now.

        Posted 2.19.14
  6. Allyssa wrote:

    Categories! I absolutely hate it when a site doesn’t have categories listed somewhere. Search is another big one. I also like related and/or popular posts. They get me all the time.

    Posted 2.17.14
  7. Bethany wrote:

    Two things that I love seeing on sidebars-
    I love seeing the list of categories they blog about. I don’t often use this, as I generally don’t search like that but it’s great for when I visit that blog for the first time as it helps me to know if they consistently write on topics I enjoy!
    I also really like to when they share links to blogs they read as I often click through and find another blog I love! And it’s just cool to see what kinds of things they’re interested in.
    But yeah, archives? I never use them and they generally take up WAY too much room on a sidebar. Get rid of it!

    Posted 2.17.14
  8. Kory wrote:

    This is a great and interesting point, Lisa. I typically use the categories feature on most blogs, and like others hardly use the archives. I like pretty simple sidebars, so I tend to keep the sidebars I design fairly simple!

    Posted 2.17.14
  9. Fran wrote:

    Top categories are a much on a blog, but I also like having the archives. I do on occasion use them (believe it or not!) and it’s really annoying when there are not available. I know I’m in the minority but I like having them haha

    Posted 2.17.14
  10. Miranda wrote:

    Such a great question! Until about 6 months ago, I had the archives in my sidebar but it was suggested to me at a blogging workshop to get rid of it and stick with categories. I feel like categories or listing recent reader faves helps me direct new or casual readers to my better or best content.

    When I’m on other blogs, the #1 thing I look for is easy-to-find social media icons so I can follow that person in the places that are a best fit for me. And, much like everyone else, I find categories incredibly useful as well.

    Posted 2.18.14
  11. Jovana wrote:

    I do use Archives. They give me sense of how long the blogger’s blogging and make their old posts easily accessible. No matter if they’re cringe worthy, it allows me, as someone already said before me, to see how much that person improved since starting. That’s a good thing to look at, especially for new bloggers as it gives them proof that the blogger they admire also had awkward first posts.

    Categories get me every time though, especially if they’re on topic I’m (highly) interested in. Then there are high chances that I’ll go trough all posts listed there. (as I did for your first three categories: business, blogging & design)

    Also there’s nothing more annoying than when social media buttons, bloglovin’ especially, is so hard to find that you just either go ahead and leave the site without following or you have to google for information.

    Posted 2.18.14
  12. Caroline wrote:

    Great question! I use archives on occasion but agree with most people above that categories are my favorite – I like that I can easily sift through posts and see what types of posts the blogger writes about. I use search allll the time and get really frustrated when a blog doesn’t have one.

    Posted 2.18.14
  13. Kim wrote:

    I usually look at the about page after reading through a few posts, if I get that far. I want to know the blogger’s deal & what they’re about. Then I check out their social media and stalk them. But—keep in mind— I’m a online marketer and I am constantly on the lookout for bloggers to work with and dig up a lot of dirt on each one before approaching them. I use blogs in a different way than most people.

    Posted 2.19.14
  14. Chrystina wrote:

    I use tags and categories to browse through people’s posts. I use their search bars, and I use google.

    Posted 2.19.14
  15. Krystle wrote:

    I’m curious, what do you ladies thing about having a shortened post with a “read more” button vs. showing the whole post?

    Posted 2.23.14
    • I answered you on Twitter but wanted to share here for readers as well. I prefer “read more” buttons because I think it’s easier to find what I’m looking for that way. I don’t want to scroll through a long post I’m not interested in to get to the one I do want to read. With excerpts, I can easily find the post titles and click through to read from there. But excerpts are definitely annoying in RSS feeds!

      Sharing the link to Krystle’s discussion on Twitter in case anyone else is interested! https://twitter.com/paperfort/status/437960069737480192

      Posted 2.24.14
  16. Nnenna wrote:

    I must admit, it drives me a little bit crazy whenever a blog/website does not have a search bar! I also don’t love having to click through to “read more,” but I’ll do it anyway if it’s a blog I love. Categories are very helpful as well as having social media icons easily accessible in the header or sidebar.

    Posted 3.4.14
  17. Ettible wrote:

    I used the archive all of the time! To remind myself when I started my blog whenever anyone asks. Totally useful!

    Also, OMG, your new head is amazing. AMAZING.

    Posted 3.5.14
  18. I give an applaud to the category function, but Erika Eagle’s way of setting up her categories was awesome. She is my good friend and we help each other on projects, but her blog set up, I am just in love with it!

    http://erikaeagle.com

    Posted 3.7.14
    • Erika wrote:

      I was wondering why I was getting referrals from this post!

      As for the original topic, I love when people make categories easy to find – it gives me a quick way to see what topics they cover, and if it’s stuff that I’m interested in.
      However, I do use the archives ALL OF THE TIME. Especially if I find a “Part One” post that doesn’t lead directly to part two!

      Posted 5.14.14
  19. Sarah C wrote:

    I don’t like archive lists and never use them. I like category lists that are simple OR a picture category list. Whatever jumps out and catches my eye. Too many tiny words turn me off. 🙂

    Posted 3.24.14
  20. Rachel wrote:

    I love the archives option!
    I adore processes, and with the archives button I feel like I’m able to see how another has developed their blog, connect with what they were creating from when they started to now. It makes me feel a little more confident with myself and what I’m creating if I can wander through their own journey and parallel it to my own. See that, in fact, not everything was always perfect.

    In saying that, I get annoyed if they don’t have a search button also. It depends on what I’ve come to their blog for. At first, it may be to search content. If I like their content, I want to know more about their journey.

    Posted 4.5.14
  21. Margo wrote:

    I always find myself clicking on related posts- I honestly never even notice that archives are there. I want to read a specific post and not search through an entire category to find something I might like. I just took the archives off of my sidebar today, and I am going to implement some related posts at my footers.

    Posted 4.22.14
  22. Caroline wrote:

    I just have to say, you have such a wonderful site and I am loving all your blog tips! I had a brief blogging hiatus and am just getting back into the swing of things, posting again and sprucing up my site, and your tips have been so useful and inspirational! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted 5.1.14
  23. Ashley wrote:

    For me, search is actually the useless item and I like archive lists. Here’s why I think that:

    Search is for finding something specific. That means you know what you’re looking for and you want to find it. Fair enough, that does have its uses. (But even if there’s no search there, I can always do a Google search on your site to find what I’m looking for..)

    But I like archive lists for perusing. That means I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I want to see what’s available. I like collapsible archive lists that I can expand to see all the post titles in one place. Then I can skim them and get a super quick indicator of whether or not I want to read more posts on the blog.

    I do like related posts sections. Sometimes those actually do encourage me to keep looking around the blog.

    Posted 3.6.15
  24. Amanda wrote:

    It’s interesting to me what you said about archives. I had actually never heard it suggested to remove the archives. I was surprised by how many people said they don’t use it… I use the archives ALL the time and am frustrated when someone doesn’t have the longer option. What is useless to me are archives by the month. That’s impossible to search! Interesting post and comments 🙂

    Posted 4.17.15
    • Archives by month are pretty useless! I always try to use the expandable ones where you can actually see the post titles, if I do use archives in client projects.

      Posted 5.5.15

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