5 things every web site can learn from blogs
Blogs are here to stay. However, I don't believe every web site needs to have a blog to benefit from the way blogs have changed the Internet. Here are five things blogs have taught us that we can use to improve all web sites:
Many web pages have some kind of "News" or "What's New" section. Most of them never seem to change. Blogs essentially took this section and made it the centre of the entire web site. Things are always changing and events are happening. The best part of the web is how up-to-date it can be. If something important is happening, and there is nothing about it on your web site, your visitors won't trust your web site as a source of information.
Let visitors subscribe
Blogs didn't invent subscriptions, but they've certainly proven they work. Long outdated are the phrases "Bookmark this site", "Under Construction" and "Check back soon". Every web site is changing and being updated. Visitors don't have the time to check back. You need to offer a way for them to subscribe. RSS feeds are certainly the new standard for subscriptions, though E-mail updates are still relevant for those who don't use RSS.
Speak with a human voice
Blogs aren't written in buzzword-filled meaningless marketing speak. They're written in the same language people use to talk to each other. The kind of language that people actually want to read. By changing the language of web sites, you not only make your web site more friendly, you make it easier to understand. If you really have something worth saying, be direct and clear about it. If not, why would you bother writing anything at all?
Blogs don't hide the people behind the web site. In fact, that may be their strongest attraction. The Internet is changing the voice of companies whether they embrace it or not. For example, Robert Scoble's blog has become the voice of Microsoft. His blog is honest, admitting where Microsoft fails, where it needs to improve, and what its true motives are. It's time for the people behind web sites to come out and tell their stories.
Let visitors discuss
People need a chance to respond and add to things they read on the Internet. Most blogs give visitors a chance to discuss in comments and trackbacks. Where comments and trackbacks aren't appropriate, wikis and forums fill in the void. If your web site doesn't give a chance for visitors to contribute and share feedback (whether it's positive or negative), they will do this on their own blogs. Offering a place for the visitors of your site to come together and share feedback builds community, trust, and lets your site evolve in response to what people want.