Blog Platform Respect

Do blog platforms affect the first impressions of our blooks?

Blooks come in many shapes and sizes. They are presented in different fonts, with different site designs, and on different blogging platforms. There are as different and as unconnected to each other as one novel is connected to another – there may be some inter textual references, but most of the time they are unique standalone works, beautiful and solitary in birth.

778488_stone_judge.jpg

Above all they are websites. Like all websites, blooks are subjected to a 3 second window of opportunity where the user gets his first impressions, and then either moves on, or stays.

Here’s a simple question: have you ever judged a website in 3 seconds? A first impression that shaped what you thought of the site forever?

Yes, you have. If not consciously, then you did so unconsciously. You aren’t likely to read anything from a website with a shocking pink background. And if you do, you’d be cursing the designer every moment you’re there.

Let’s take it a step further:

Does the blog platform on which the blog was published affects your judgment of the overall quality of the blog? No? Yes? For a little while?

Interesting, isn’t it?

I’ve been about the blogosphere for quite awhile, and there are a few things about it that perplex me. This is one of them: why are Blogger blogs less respected than WordPress and Movable Type ones? It is an unexplained bias, and I find even myself judging the blog by what platform it is on. Blogger? Cheap. WordPress? Ahh! Some decency. Movable Type? Professional. Custom platform? Wow!

It might possibly be just me, but run a search for the keywords ‘I hate Blogger‘ and compare that to ‘I hate WordPress‘. The results for the former are in the hundreds; whereas legitimate thrashings of WordPress are confined to the first 6 results (as of today, that is).

There are a few reasons, I’m sure. The Internet community at large loves open sourced products, and will happily bless WordPress and defend it despite its faults. WordPress is the Apple of the Internet’s eye. Blogger is cheap, free, not as flexible or powerful, plus it is home to over a million blogs – most of them personal journals. Before Google took action Blogger was also littered with hundreds of splogs (spam blogs – you know, the ones filled with links to viagra sites … ).

Blogger may also be less respected in the eyes of the Internet community because so few ‘professional‘, ‘A-list‘ blogs are on Blogger. Boing Boing is run on Movable Type; Techcrunch on WordPress. Thus there is a subconscious connection between these platforms and quality, however unsubstantiated that may be. It helps, you see, that you can easily tell MT and WordPress from Blogger blogs – the layout elements and the presentation styles are quite different. Blogger blogs can be tweaked to look like MT and WordPress blogs, but few do so.
Design? Illustration
So what’s my point? My point is that beware thou of these preconceptions as you pick your blogging platform. It’s quite a moot point, really, since serious bloggers eventually move off Blogger (Typepad, for some reason, is still respected) and onto other more ‘respectable’ blog platforms. But I’m mentioning this bias here because a lot of us blookers use Blogger blogs to drive publish our work on. Readers, in that 3 second first impression, construct in their minds a distorted picture of the quality of your blog just by the platform. Mask it with a theme, and for God’s sake don’t leave it on Minima.

I believe the quality of the blog will eventually seep through and overcome whatever distorted view Internet users have, but this is the jungle Internet. And sometimes, in 3 seconds, the animals readers are not so kind.

Nothing groundbreaking here, just a small observation. And an interesting one at that. Is it only me, or do other people subconsciously gauge the quality of a blog by its platform? Over to you.

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Category: Blog Platforms · Writing Web Fiction
  • http://windvein.blogspot.com windvein

    Warning: Big, Long Comment ahead.

    Let me first say, I’m not hopping mad, but I want to debate this article very badly and hope nothing I say offends or angers anyone. We all have our opinions, I just wish to share mine and discuss. And I feel like I may have been a part of the inspiration for this article, but probably not.

    I have a blogger blog. Actually, I have 2 blogger blogs. My blooking one is new. I don’t expect it to rocket off from the get go or rocket off ever. My other blog does very well. Maybe not ‘great’, but I’m pleased by the 150 people who subscibe to it on bloglines. I get about 40 hits a day, usually more when I’m updating regularly. I would be very pleased if my blook does that well or half of that.

    And they are both in Minima. What do you have against Minima? I’ve tweaked them to try and make them as easily readable as possible. That is my main goal. I haven’t put anything fancy up on my blook because I haven’t come up with anything fancy yet, but still I like the basic design. I think it’s readable.

    The biggest problem I’ve noticed with a lot of blooks is the font is too damn small. I’m having to adjust my browser settings or squint to read. This seems like a much bigger problem than platform choosing. I do make snap judgments on blogs, like you say a hot pink background with green text is not going to keep my attention. If I get a lot of javascript errors, I’m going to click away fast. But it isn’t the web address that will make me move away or pause. I don’t get why people would be judgey of web addresses.

    And how do you know people aren’t using the blogger platform? I direct you to this article. If people have their own domain name, you can’t tell if they are using blogger. Also a person can upload their own template. Many people use blogger’s templates because they don’t have the skill to design their own. Should only people with design savvy have blogs? Or only people who pay other people with design savy have blogs? Let people have blogs, even if they are straight “out of the box” blogs. It’s elitism that hurts the internet more than anything else. I think.

    Speaking of elitism, you don’t mention livejournal. Which is another popular blog platform. Nor do you mention myspace, which the last time I checked, has the most blogs. Are these below consideration? Livejournal is the fanfic platform of choice. Why? Because the community is there. I know fanfic is frowned upon by ‘serious’ writers, but it is still writing, and we have to accept that fanfic is being read a lot more than blooks. Why? I mean seriously, that’s a question we should consider. And myspace is the place young people are going. In twenty years, Myspace could rule the internet because all those kids on it now, will be grown-up. We need to consider myspace because it is HUGE and offers the blog option to everyone with an account and many of them use it. It may be the first exposure a lot of young users have to blogs. That seems important to me. How do we leverage it?

    And these first impressions you mention, how are people getting to a blog? They have to find it before getting an impression of it. Are they typing the address in? How did they get the address? How did they find out about the blog? Most likely, it was recommended to them by someone they trust/like and so they’ll click and look and reserve judgment.

    And did you notice, a lot of the top results for “I hate blogger”, are on blogspot blogs? I’ve even mentioned once a dislike for Blogger. People will always complain. Blogger has a lot of users so they’re going to get quite a few complaints.

    And PostSecret is a very popular blog (still) with a blogspot address.

    Sorry, if I sound accusatory. Like I said at the beginning, I really just want to discuss this because there is a lot to discuss. And if you can expand on why Minima is bad, I’d appreciate it.

  • http://windvein.blogspot.com windvein

    Well, shoot my link didn’t work. This is the addy:
    http://help.blogger.com/bin/answer.py?answer=55373&topic=8911

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Thank you for your comment, windvein. The long ones are the best, and the maturity to accept differences of opinion are a given here. :)

    Let me begin by saying your blog was in no way the inspiration for this post – it was merely an observation of mine that I thought would be prudent to point out. Also – to some degree – I was annoyed with the people who dislike Blogger.

    Now that sounds a little weird, considering my above article (which can easily be interpreted in various ways) but hear me out.

    I’ve been blogging on the Blogger platform for 4 years now. All my friends have their personal journals on Blogger, and I cannot for the life of me imagine having a personal blog on any platform other than Blogger. Call it brand loyalty, but I’m just stubborn like that.

    When I started Novelr I didn’t use Blogger. There was this perception that ‘professional’ blogs (whatever that means) had to be on a self installed platform. A preconception, one that I shared. I now have a faint idea why, some of which I’ve already covered in my post.

    Alright, to address the issues you raised in your comment. One: I’ve nothing against Minima, other than the fact that it’s overused. Boring. Bland. Doesn’t make your blog stand out from the rest, and makes it harder to get readers to read. But in this case we’re talking about design, not platforms, cause I have the same feelings for Kubrick (WordPress’s default theme).

    But Minima taught me how to code for Blogger, so I’m indebted to it. It’s beautiful on the inside – clean and well structured. At the very least, tweak it enough to make it stand out. Put a background image, give the sidebars and the width a little jiggle. It helps when it no longer looks like the norm.

    Now, it’s strange, but I just know when a blog is powered by Blogger. It’s something to do with the design, and, no, I don’t judge blogs by their web addresses at all (like you, I don’t get people who do). My snap judgments come from their looks. Sometimes I come across blogs who are Blogger based but don’t look like it, and sometimes I come over WP and MT blogs which look like Blogger blogs.

    I go wow at the first, and I chuckle at the second.

    Should only people who have design savvy own a blog? Absolutely not. But design goes a long way in helping a blog gain a readership, since the main function of a good design is to give words due emphasis, and to create an atmosphere suitable to the blog (or blook – the story, in this case, if its fiction).

    Many of my friends have ‘out-of-the-box’ blogs. I read them because they’re my friends. But a little design savvy makes me go wow, and for some reason my respect for the blog goes up. A very subconscious thing, mind.

    I didn’t know there was an active Livejournal fanfic community, so thank you for pointing it out. And myspace … well, I’m not familiar with that ethos, just as I’m not familiar with the Hobix and Expression Engine and Drupal ethos. So I’m just sticking to what I know and can comment about. Myspace is an eyeopener though – I haven’t considered it at all when writing this article. Thanks again.

    The first impressions I’m talking about are the ones people form when they see it. I’ve mentioned a 3 second window of evaluation … subconscious, for the most part. And your point about Blogger having a lot of users so there’ll be more complaints doesn’t hold water to me … I think it’s rather the preconceptions they have about the platform that counts.

    Another thing about these preconceptions: it is shaped by the blogs themselves. Blogger has had a lot of splogs and personal blogs, so people don’t generally regard Blogger blogs as authorities. Typepad has a good selection of business and thought blogs (think Seth Godin and Kathy Sierra. WordPress and Movable Type are without a doubt highly populated by high quality, high profile blogs.

    The keyword here is generally. I can think of quite a few blogs who have made it big even with ‘out-of-the-box’ templates, but that’s mostly due to the quality of the content (The Satioralist, Postsecret), or the personality behind it (a celebrity, for instance).

    And … yeah. I hope people will benefit from this discussion – it’d be good to know as much as possible before choosing a blog platform for blooking.

  • http://wisb.blogspot.com/ SMD

    I was considering switching over to WordPress lately and then I realized that you have to pay to open up the CSS to do any editing on your own and the templates that came with it just didn’t do it for me. So I couldn’t put my own template up, I couldn’t edit a pre-existing one, or do much of the stuff that I like about blogger that I can do there for free. When I look at it, I got more features with blogger without having to pay anything than WordPress could offer. I might not get some features that are standard in WP, but the great thing about Blogger is most anything can be hacked. So you can do a lot of things that are in WP on Blogger, but for free.
    Plus, every time I use WP the stupid server crashes or something. I just have so many issues trying to post (I post a column for another blog, so yeah). Never had that issue with Blogger. I think Blogger is in need of a lot of work, but we’ll see how things change in the next few years.

  • http://windvein.blogspot.com Windvein

    Eli, thanks for responding, and I again apologize if my language seemed too strident.

    I think part of the problem with Blogger is that it is free and easy to set up. If anyone can have a blog, then a lot of blogs are going to be created without any thought and any attempt to update. I can’t tell if a blog is on Blogger unless blogspot is in the address or they have the powered by blogger button or something. So I can’t comment on how having a blogger blog impacts the 3 second rule, and since I stick mainly to blogger blogs, I don’t see a lot of criticism of the platform. I’m kind of in the dark on that.

    Livejournal has an even worse preconceived perception than Blogger. The joke is you have to be a 13yo girl or want to be one to have a Livejournal account. Why? I’m not totally sure. I have not done an indepth study of the platform. I just know what I’ve read in several places.

    Your comment on Minima, that it is easy to adjust, is why I use it. I’d played with the other designs and just didn’t feel like I could as well as with Minima, but I don’t see Minima used a lot. Most of the blogger blogs I come across use Scribe, Dots, or Rounders, but that is in no way an exhaustive blog survey, just a personal observation.

    I’m really enjoying this. Hope I’m not being a pain.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    SMD: Blogger does have its limits. The WordPress you’re talking about is WordPress.com, as opposed to WordPress.org, where you download the software and install it on your own server (you’d have to buy a hosting package, though). I agree with you that Blogger can do many things (though not all) and it’s free. But WordPress is … unlimited in functionality.

    In exchange you have to learn PHP to customize it. Which is hard, to non-coding people (like me).

    WP crashing? Now that’s something I haven’t heard of. Is the WP blog you use installed on a server? Or is it the WP.com one?

    Windvein: You’re not, don’t worry. I agree with you that the ease to set up a Blogger blog must surely contribute to the preconceptions … but I wonder. Is it easy to set up a Livejournal blog? I’ve never tried … and I’ve had no experience with the platform.

    The great thing about Minima is that it can be made to look unMinima very easily. Take advantage of that, ASAP!

    :)

  • http://wisb.blogspot.com/ SMD

    Yeah I’m thinking of .com. Obviously the .org package is better than Blogger, but blogger is free and offers free hosting, whereas the .org package doesn’t. Plus, I don’t want to have to learn PHP :S. It’s too complicated for me. CSS or XML is hard enough for me. But wordpress.com obviously has limitations for its free side of things.
    The blog I was using was a .com one. I’ve just had lots of posting errors and such and it wasn’t worth switching for for me.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    I’ve never had a problem with the .com site before (though plenty with the standalone installed one – though that’s partly my fault for not being a PHP whiz).

    There’s nothing wrong with Blogger, as long as you put enough work into making it stand out. Otherwise readers probably won’t give a chance. (though if the first post on the page is good …)

  • http://kildosphere.com/ Shaun Thomas

    See, my programming background pretty much forced me to roll my own system. But does it really matter, once you customize the everloving heck out of your templates? Eventually, can a reader even tell what the source system is anymore?

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    No, they can’t. But as long as you leave the templates as is these preconceptions come into play. And it’s pretty hard to Unbloggerify a Blogger blog – so my hat’s off to the CSS whizzes who actually do.

  • http://chenpn.com pelf

    I want to write a comment very enthusiastically but I was intimidated by the long and thoughtful comments *points up* LOL.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share why I think Blogger blogs aren’t as respected compared to WordPress blogs: Quality.

    There are many times more Blogger splogs compared to WordPress splogs. In fact, start a WordPress splog and you can expect it to be banned within a week. WordPress is very serious in this matter.

    But of course we do not include hosted Blogger blogs and hosted WordPress blogs into this equation, because when you host your own blog, you can do practically anything with it.

  • http://windvein.blogspot.com Windvein

    Pelf, I have to heartily agree that splogs are hurting Blogger. I don’t click next blog anymore on the blogger NavBar because of the splogs, especially the p0rn ones. In fact, I removed the NavBar from my blogs. I worry the reason blogger doesn’t fix the problem is because all those splogs have adsense and they make money off the splogs.

  • http://wisb.blogspot.com/ SMD

    I agree. One of the big problems with Blogger is there isn’t any easy way to report spam blogs. You can flag a blog, but really, that doesn’t do anything. And Blogger doesn’t get rid of all the crap blogs so it becomes hard to really navigate the Blogger system to find interesting blogs. This becomes a huge problem for me because I really want more readership and I do have some very good posts, but I think there is an obvious stigma with Blogger that will be hard to surpass. I’ve gone as far as even changing the look of my template entirely. Maybe it will have an affect in the next few months.

  • Idetrorce

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce