Jul 262011

You’ve probably heard of usability. Back in the day, when the web was wild(er) and free(r), usability proponents like Jakob Nielsen encouraged site owners to stop doing things like displaying yellow text on black backgrounds, shun the Blink and Marquee tags, and focus on helping users do what they wanted to do on websites.

These days, usability is crucial to the success not just of blogs, but of online businesses—much of the information we read about reducing friction and improving sales pages, for example, is based on usability principles. So are the layouts of popular blog themes, online image albums and video players, and so on.

But we can go further than this, to look at the usability of our content. Content usability isn’t often talked about, but as content creators, bloggers should get their heads around this idea.

What is content usability?

Content usability focuses on making the information we publish as usable a possible to the users our blogs target.

content usability

Copyright Yuri Arcurs – Fotolia.com

An example: if your blog targets people with dyslexia or other reading and comprehension difficulties, you’ll tailor your content to their needs. That might mean tweaking your layout, avoiding certain color combinations, changing your default fonts, altering your writing style, and so on.

Another example: if you run a blog that’s focused on promoting special offers (like a deal-aggregation blog, for example), you’ll want to make sure that every aspect of your content is targeted to readers achieving the goal of taking up those deals. Maybe you’ll make the deal links stand out through color choice. Perhaps you’ll also provide the details of each deal in a sidebar so that users don’t need to scroll through your content to find the links. Perhaps you’ll pull out the key aspects of each deal into a “vital stats” list that appears at the top of every post, for the same reason.

As you can see, the notion of content usability is closely tied to your audience and your blog’s purpose. That said, there are some general usability principles that you should consider in formulating your content.

Principles of content usability

Aside from the most basic ideas of content usability—accurate spelling, good structure, and so on—there are a few content usability principles that bloggers often ignore.

Use consistent formatting

Darren’s provided some detailed formatting advice for bloggers, and formatting is a big deal for

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