An analysis and proposal for Scienceblog.com

On: September 24, 2007
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About Bram Nijhof
Bram Nijhof is a master student of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. He has a bachelor degree in Art & Technology and a bachelor degree in Media & Culture with an expertise in New Media.

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Scienceblog.com is a blog with scientific articles. I analyse this blog on usability aspects using Jakob Nielsen’s articles Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes and Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design. According to Nielsen these are the principles to reach new readers and respect existing reader’s time constraints.

Weblog Usability

1) Author biographies: According to Nielsen users want to know who is the author of the article. On this blog the articles from the reader blogs contains a picture and their name is also visible. It’s also possible to see all articles per author. However, it’s not possible to see a profile with a short biography of the author. Credibility is an important aspect of science. So, that’s why the background and experience in the field is interesting. The good thing is that there are links to authors personal blogs, but profiles on the scienceblog.com domain should be useful.

On the site there are stories and blog entries. I didn’t find out who the author(s) of the stories are. Under the articles there is a link to sources like universities. The stories look more publications than blog entries and I think they use stories from other sources. However, they don’t link to the original articles. Also I should recommend an ‘about’ page on their site, because then users know better what the site is about. It can be a short description of what the site is about.

2) Author Photo: as said above the reader blogs have photo’s of the authors. According to Nielsen this is good for credibility and it also connects the virtual with the physical world. It is also better for recognition. On scienceblog.com the photo’s can be bigger.

3) Titles: The titles of the articles are like publications or scientific newsheaders. It’s important for search engines and RSS feeds to have interesting titles. Otherwise, the users don’t click on it.

4) Linking to older articles: on this blog it is possible to see articles per category. However, when a new article is published it would be interesting to see related articles. Then you have the ability to see more background and context.

5) Categories: The site is using categories to order their site. The logo’s are well chosen, but my recommendation is to list the categories with the logo’s in the left bar. Now the categories are placed under ‘topics’. Articles are tagged in one or two categories. It is better than tagging in almost all categories. They they could make use of a tag cloud. The ‘top stories’ and ‘new comments’ are a good way to see what’s going on.

6) Publishing frequency: there are a lot of posts everyday, so the site is up-to-date.

7) User interest: I think most of the readers are readers with a scientific interest. However, there is a wide range of subjects and categories. That’s why it is important to accentuate these categories.

Web Design

1) Search engine: The site is making use of Googles search engine. An engine more integrated in the site looks better.

2) The text: for better reading it is good to make use of subheads and highlighted keywords. The paragraphs are short and that’s well-organized.

3) Design: Jakob Nielsen warns for banner blindness. Under the title of each article there is a Google banner. It looks like if the article contains of spam. Jou have to scroll down to reach the article’s content. Moreover, I think those commercial banners are not beneficial for their credibility. I propose to replace the banner with a photo related to the article.
The interface of the site looks like a standard template of the blogsoftware. Maybe they can make it more customized to accentuate more the characteristics of their blog.

Some bloggers have posted their comments for improvement of the Science blog.

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