Writing that survey was fun. It was so interesting to determine what I most wanted to know about other people’s experiences with blogs. It was also interesting, as people commented on the survey, to realize that both my questions and answers were so limited by my own experience that I didn’t even include possible responses that other people needed to describe their experience. The whole exercise was really eye opening.
I was prompted to write that survey because of an exchange with Mel on a post she put up recently. At the end of the post she asked the this question: Which matters more to you? Visitors or page views?
In my response I mentioned that page views could be less of a representation of people participating meaningfully with a post and more the product of people needing to go back after clicking a link. I personally look more at how many visitors come to my blog, not page views. (Interestingly, I generally get about half as many visitors as page views, so people are either leaving my blog open and it’s refreshing, or they are coming back to check something later? I’m not really sure what’s happening there, but I’d love to know.)
Mel responded to my comment, saying that she has links open in the same window because she herself doesn’t like when links opened in a new tab or window and does’t want to do that to other people. This got me wondering how other people felt about it. I have links open in a new tab, but if most people don’t like that, I’d gladly change it. After all, it doesn’t really affect me where tabs open on my blog, I’m not the one clicking on them. So if most readers prefer them to open in the same window, I’d do that.
It’s understandable that assertions like the one I just made, and even my survey in general, bring up questions about propriety and blogs, and what we owe our readers. I think most of us would argue that our blogs are our own spaces and we don’t owe our readers anything. So why, if I wouldn’t survey people about how to decorate my home, would I use the responses about how people like to consume blogs to change anything about my space?
As I mentioned at the intro to my survey, my main motivation for putting it up was curiosity. I read a lot of blogs and since I interact with so many on any given day, the little things start to feel bigger. I think the fact that I consume most of my blogs on my phone makes those little things bigger still. Captcha isn’t so annoying on my computer, but on my phone it makes me want to tear my hair out. I know that for me, there are some blogs I don’t comment on and the main reason is Captcha and I have always wondered if others feel the same way. I thought a survey might make that a little more clear (though I recognize that 69 respondents does not a representative sample make).
A lot of the questions on my survey ended up being about bigger blogs, the ones that use certain strategies to drive up page views (I’m assuming that is the main purpose of the teaser paragraph in the RSS feed, to make readers open the page to finish the post), or that have to take extra precautions like using Captcha because their spam situation is unmanageable otherwise. I know that some bloggers have ads on their sites, or use (or hope to use) their stats and metrics to make a name for themselves as writers, and they set up their blogs so that page views are maximized. As a very small time blogger, these are just not issues that I have to worry about. They only affect me in that I’m exposed to them when I’m in other people’s spaces.
And I suppose some of what I’m curious about is how those little strategies affect the overall experience on a blog. When we’re taking steps to drive up page views, or when an outside entity is managing our ads, what does that do to the way people experience our space? I have started to associate some blogs with the banner ads, or other kids of ads, that I frequently see there. Those ads absolutely affect the way I feel about a blog and how I interact with it. I wonder if other people have similar experiences, and if the people who have ads on their site realize that it can absolutely affect the way a person feels about their space. (I’m not saying it affects the way all people feel in a space, but I’m also assuming I’m not the only one who is affected.)
I’m also not quite sure how ads on blogs fit into the metaphor of a blog being like our “home” on the Internet–a place all our own. If my home page is my living room, and I’m inviting people there to spend a minute or two, are margin and banner ads little billboards that I have hanging on the walls? (This makes me wonder if some day we’ll be selling space in our homes for people to advertise constantly, maybe in exchange for wireless Internet or media access of some kind?)
It’s true that my blog is my own personal space, but at the same time, I am writing on my blog because I want people to read it. My blog is basically a giant invitation for people to come to my “home” and hang out for a while. It’s true I would never change the look or feel of my house to please people who don’t even live there, but I do try to make it look nice and inviting and I do try to provide food and refreshments that I think people would enjoy when they come over. (And I will admit that I make decoration choices with the hopes that others will appreciate them.) Some aspects of my blog are the parts of my house I wouldn’t change, but other details are like the refreshments: if I can provide what people want, I’ll try to do that.
Many of you probably noticed that I didn’t write a question about whether light writing on a dark background (ahem) hurt your eyes. I didn’t include that because I had a feeling the answer would overwhelmingly be Yes! Please for the love of all things holy change your background! and I wasn’t ready to change my theme. But then Belle made the suggestion, and others have too, so I thought long and hard about it and for the first time in years and years, I started scrolling through WordPress.com’s free themes. I found one I liked well enough, and made it into something that feels like home. I realized that the most important thing for me on my blog is having a customizable header, but that the rest of the aesthetic wasn’t that important to me. Enough people had mentioned that the white on black strained their eyes, so I finally decided to change it.
Do I expect other people to change their blogs because their readers want them to? Absolutely not. But I didn’t mind doing it. I want people to read what I have to say, and I’m not going to put up barricades that prevent that from happening, at least not when I can help it.
My blog is small. No one wants to advertise with me. I have no reason to maximize page views. While I would love to have more exposure, I’m thankful that my little corner of the Internet can remain completely my own–I don’t have to make choices based on anything other than my own preferences, without worrying about stats or metrics or spam bot attacks. I want my Internet home to be inviting. I may not change what I say, or how I say it, to appease others, but I will make it as aesthetically inviting as I can. I hope, with this change, I’ve done that.
Do you consider your blog like your home? Are any of the choices you make about your blog fueled by anything other than your own personal preferences? Do you feel like ads change the “feel” of a blog? Are you glad I got rid of the white on black color scheme 😉 ?