Is Blog Theme Usability the root of all evil?

How much does a blog’s usability come from the theme you choose? Or how much of your blog’s usability is affected by the blog platform you use? Or the fact that your blog platform only offers certain themes makes the choice of theme, and the usability which comes with that, part of the blogging tool?

Gabe Young (Free Blog Help) “I’m a web award judge and have been working with UX (user experience) for over a decade. I can tell you that most WP users entrust usability to the theme they choose. While most theme creators do a decent job incorporating this into their design, since most are not well-versed in user experience, many of their customizations and configurations break very basic rules. Not only are many WP sites not user-friendly but there are huge readability issues. Every niche has a specific audience but many bloggers can’t even identify who their demographic is. As a result, IMO, a good number of blogs start off with a somewhat usable site and actually degrades over time with blogger tinkering.”

So, how much of the usability comes from the theme, which dictates the look and feel, structure, layout and information architecture within a blog?

Could the Blogging Platforms give more guidance on this and rate/ score themes by usability to give guidance to bloggers?

With all the usability testing WordPress.com do on their own platform, could they also offer usability testing on themes as part of their service?

And how much beyond the theme does a blogging platform affect the end user-experience and usability? How much built-in help and suggestions could they offer? How much do their features, such as their dashboard, and what widgets they offer, contribute to a blog’s usability?

Should usability themes be provided to theme designers, and should these be used to judge themes which are accepted and offered to users?

Do you know about any usability scoring, rating or ranking of themes which is available anywhere?

Do you feel that blogging tools which offer more themes therefore offer potentially greater scope for blog usability and blogging tools which offer restricted themes need to be much more particular about considering the usability of those themes?

I am inclined to think that if blogging tools are offering themes they owe it to their users to ensure those themes meet basic usability criteria and standards, it’s all part of the service, and provide usability standards to theme creators. I would welcome usability scoring/ ranking/ rating by blogging platforms on any themes they offer so at least bloggers are made aware that some themes offer greater usability than others. And at the point of choosing a theme bloggers’ attention are drawn to usability standards, and gives them ideas on how to improve the usability of their own blog with whichever theme they pick.

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One Response to Is Blog Theme Usability the root of all evil?

  1. wilddogsandenglishmen says:

    Email from Gabe Young from http://freebloghelp.com/:

    “So, how much of the usability comes from the theme, which dictates the look and feel, structure, layout and information architecture within a blog?

    This is a great point since many themes are created by designers and developers, not user experience experts. Although the theme provides the foundation of a blog, almost all themes can be fine-tuned to accommodate most usability best practices. Worst case, any theme can at least be improved upon.

    Could the Blogging Platforms give more guidance on this and rate/ score themes by usability to give guidance to bloggers?

    It’s possible but I also believe in giving everyone a blank sheet of paper. There are some exceptions to general usability practices and I would hate for those sites that break from norm be penalized if they’re designed perfectly for their niche audience. So I would vote for platforms not scoring themes. I’m all for third party ratings though.

    With all the usability testing WordPress.com do on their own platform, could they also offer usability testing on themes as part of their service?

    No one using wordpress.com would ever pay for usability. They’re not even paying for their own domain, hosting or theme.

    And how much beyond the theme does a blogging platform affect the end user-experience and usability? How much built-in help and suggestions could they offer? How much do their features, such as their dashboard, and what widgets they offer, contribute to a blog’s usability?

    The sheer number of third party plugins makes it nearly impossible to govern how each of them impact blogs. Add that with how they interact with each other and each theme and the combinations are endless.

    Should usability themes be provided to theme designers, and should these be used to judge themes which are accepted and offered to users?

    Just like design can greatly improve a site’s stickiness, so can usability. The latter is a big part of my scoring when I judge websites (something I’ve done for the Web Marketing Association for over a decade). However, blogs are different story. Judging a theme is unfair since it can be greatly modified on the front-end.

    Do you know about any usability scoring, rating or ranking of themes which is available anywhere?

    Only unofficial articles, most of which are biased since they promote affiliate themes.

    Do you feel that blogging tools which offer more themes therefore offer potentially greater scope for blog usability and blogging tools which offer restricted themes need to be much more particular about considering the usability of those themes?

    The beautiful thing about platforms like WP is that the themes (and plugins) are essentially created by ‘the people’. As a result, you’ll get some really amazing themes, some really bad ones, and a bunch in the middle somewhere. I like the bell curve and it forces serious bloggers to learn more about usability. I almost fear the word “restricted”.”

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