Your Content is Important. You Are Not.
Author’s Note! This article has been imported from my previous website. I wanted to preserve all of the old content as many people have found some value in it. There may be some broken links and or formating issues. If something isn’t right, please let me know and I’ll do my best to make an update.
And by the same token, I too am not important! If you have been here before, you may notice a few stylistic changes to this site, allow me to explain.
I’ve been reading a ton of blog posts lately; fleshing out my knowledge of design patterns, Java, figuring out how to setup Eclipse, and sponging up info about computer architecture. I’ve also spent your standard amount of time distracting myself with the hot links of my Reddit feed. This is not important, nor is it a new practice, but perhaps the volume has increased.
Seeing so many articles and websites during this adventure has helped me formulate a hit list of 3 crimes which most websites commit. This is stuff that really grinds my gears! This article is both an act of personal catharsis, an effort to educate fellow bloggers and improve the web. Here we go.
One: Stop Distracting Readers with Your Self Promotion.
Readers care about the content they are reading, or finding an answer to a problem they have, and nothing else.
- They don’t care about other articles you recently wrote.
- They don’t care about your exciting newsletter, or your book, or your face.
- They certainly don’t care about your latest tweet (which is just an Untapped check-in).
- And they don’t really care who you are.iko
The proof is in the pudding. Let’s look at my own stats. Recent figures gathered through MixPanel show that out of 4,000 people who read about halfway through my posts, less than 1% clicked on one of my recently written articles, and essentially zero people clicked on my Twitter handle.
Readers only care about your content. Did you solve a problem they have? Have you enlightened them to some nuance of a current event? Did you teach them something?
Well, click. You’re gone, and never will you be thought of again until they are Googling for something and your content offers a response.
No one thinks: “Oh gee, I have a question about topic X, I’ll see if my favorite blog has an article about that.” No silly, they type the question into Google and pick the first article with an author picture, Wikipedia or Stack Overflow link.
Obviously, there are exceptions, but people will find you and your other content if they like what they read. Requiring that little extra effort will help separate the wheat from the chaff.
Taking My Own Medicine
As part of composing this article, I thought it would only be fitting to modify my site to conform with these principles. As such, I’ve removed the “recent articles” section from the side bar. If you really want to see what else I have written (thank you), then check out the archive.
Two: If You Have Ads on Your Website, You Are Part of the Problem.
Perhaps I’d be singing a different tune if I wasn’t making, like, NO money from the ads I had on this website, but don’t get me wrong, I’d still feel like a dirty whore about it. I tried the ads as an experiment, to see what the margins would be like; to see if I could stand myself. I couldn’t and, ironically, I block all ads in my browser, so I feel guilty and hypocritical about the whole thing. Why would I subject my precious readers to the same pointless shit?
It is simply sinister and appalling to drive traffic to your site with some catchy blog title with the hopes they will “convert” and click on some random ad. You’re simply using psychology to cheat; deriving value not from your content, but from your position as a shill for hire. The presence of ads makes me question the whole purpose and value proposition of the site or product.
Gosh, the number of absurd Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and similarly vile, pointless trash with titles like “10 Things You Can Use to Clean Your Ears” I have seen popping up on Facebook recently makes me so sad about the state of society and intellectual discourse. Look at this insanity:
The psychology works. Hell, I’d click that link. What, in the world, are people cleaning their ears with? Yet, it is empty and there is no real value there. Such sites turn us into piles of mindless flesh, constantly regurgitating the feed to the benefit of the advertisers. Be strong and don’t be a part of it.
Taking My Own Medicine
As you can see, there are no longer ads on this site. I’m sorry about it. If you remember clicking on one of them, and contact me, I’ll send you some Bitcoin or personally research alternatives to the product on which you clicked. So there.
Three: Remember That Screens Are Wider Than a Roll of Toilet Paper.
And with all the excrement cluttering up my screen, I’ll need that roll to clean it up. How many blogs have you visited that have a 2/3 or ½ column of text, with a bunch of ads and click-bait links to one side, notes scattered about, and that whole mess centered in a 900px center column?
Here is an example that is not uncommon; you will note that I placed green boxes around content readers care about, and red boxes around content no one cares about:
What is this nonsense? It looks like more than half of the screen is dedicated to garbage that will distract a reader. I have 20/15 vision and yet on my 15" Air, I still zoom in and expand the article to fill the screen so that I may read it in peace. And to make the graphic above, I had to zoom out two times because at the top of the page there was no words of the article visible.
Your number one concern should be about delivering high quality content in an easy-to-consume format to the end user.
Medium does a fantastic job of this; Zen Habits is similarly quite clean, and Leo (the author) writes often about his web design decisions. Finally, the Readability browser extension lets you reload the article with all of this cruft removed. Look, 100% stuff readers care about:
I find it very enjoyable to happen upon an article that does not require me to reload the page, zoom in, or click close on a “Sign up now!” box. Your readers will too. Your homework: Expand your articles to fill the screen and use clean, legible, larger type.
Taking My Own Medicine
Having killed the ads and the various side bars, I had all this new, clean room to expand into. I kicked up the font size and changed it to something that felt more pleasing to read: Merriweather for the article text and Helvetica Neue for the rest. I hope it has made even this rant more enjoyable to consume.
If you have a website, please, I’m begging you, make the Internet a place of beauty and quality, and not the equivalent of a bunch of hooker fliers and pizza delivery coupons tacked on to news bites. If you consume content, install ad block, use Readability or similar, and support sites that are doing it right.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest; what do you think of the changes?