Self Promotion

On: September 23, 2007
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About Raoul Siepers
BA Media Studies - Universiteit Utrecht Student MA New Media - Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Website
http://www.raoulsiepers.nl/blog    

Brand equals Interface? According to the Information Architects Japan design agency, brands are not mere reflections of their graphical attributes (Logo’s, color schemes, etcetera). A corporate identity or product is just as much defined by its interface. This means design should not be a purely graphical discipline, but also focus on usability values. This is especially apparent on the Internet, where an unstoppable surge of information has been cast in an equally chaotic set of design guidelines. The challenge of interface is relevant to all web developers looking to maximize their presence on the web. In short, creating a strong brand.

Branding blogs

Blogs, whether they represent an individual or a corporation, may also be judged as a brand. Their primary goal is attracting an audience. No readers, no blog. This awareness urges the developer to consider ways of building an appropriate and recognizable identity. As has been argued, in this effort the blog’s interface counts just as much as its contents or the fancy graphics. To shed some light on this hypothesis, let us briefly consider two completely different blogs, based upon two completely different blog tools.

As one can see, it is not really fair two compare these two side by side. At least not when it comes to eye candy and levels of customization. However, their particularities do demonstrate the way identities/brands are formed. Interface – the mediator between content and the user – being our primary focus, the analysis will take into account the next aspects.

Usability and accessibility of static, interactive, and networking content

Hyves

The blog section of a Hyves profile has to compete with a myriad of social networking features. When we consider accessibility one can only conclude that the blog has lost the fight. Positioned in the bottom right corner of the overview screen, the user has to make an effort to reach the blog section. An other option would be to select the blog tab in the top menu. However, the prominent placing of pictures, messages, and profile details means considerable possibilities of distraction.

As soon as one accesses the blog a rather straightforward layout fills the screen. Entries are ordered vertically and chronologically. Nothing surprising here: The interesting stuff comes next. Opening up the comments link discloses the option of paying “respect” to the entry in question. Apparently this is quite an important option, since it precedes the common comments. Giving other Hyves members the possibility to show their attitude to the content reveals the blog’s roots in a social networking environment. Other distinct signs of the social aspect are the potential restrictiveness of the reader group and the use of the blog as access point to the writers profile. This last characteristic shows the power of social networking. The blog section acts in two ways. One, in deepening a persons identity. And second, in directing users interested in a certain subject to the individual, his friends, friends of friends and so on.

A Flyover Blog

This highly personalized (in a literal sense) blog contrasts with the straightforward, but social affirming characteristic of the Hyves blogging environment. Centerpiece is the huge header image containing title, illustrative photo and brief description of the blog. The next element in sight is a portrait of the blog owner. Often hidden on the about page, this designer has placed the writer’s exposition on a more prominent site. The blog is not all about ego though. To the left and right of the blog entries is an expansive collection of links to other blogs of interest. Still, layout is definitely biased towards presenting the personality of the owner, and less to social interaction. The tiny comments links for example do not invite the reader to pursue further action. Having to scroll down half a screens size to the main content might be called a tell-tale sign in that respect as well.

Conclusion

Although both share the centeredness of the individual, Hyves does by nature connect the one individual to the other. The Flyover Blog on the other hand acts as a solitary promotion tool of the self, thereby losing touch with the social network of individuals on the Internet. To conclude, branding ones identity in the blog format can be done through different tactics, each having distinct advantages over the other. It would thus be interesting to research the way blogs play a part in a social networking environment. Are they unilateral expressions, or do they invite social interaction?

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