Reviewing A Foreign Blog
This post is in response to the question: In what ways does the blog you find align with or violate Redish’s advice for writing for the web?
I looked at this blog: http://www.shanghaitechwriter.com/ , because the author is a technical writer working in Shanghai China. The blog is fairly extensive, so it should be easy to analyze, using Redish’s book. I will be basing my analysis on Ginny Redish’s book, Letting Go of the Words.
Content: It is clear the author is a technical writer working for Google in Shanghai China. The author clearly identifies topics, and conversations are presented in short paragraphs. Options are available to expand conversations to read more, if the topic is of interest. As Redish suggests, “let the visitors “grab and go”, and this writer does just that. The site has tags for improved search engine optimization, as well as excellent internal searching.
Purposes, Personas, Conversations: After looking around the blog, the purpose is clear. This is an excellent blog for anyone interested in technical writing, working in Shanghai, working for Google, being an expatriate, China, English as a second language, and technology. The persona is clear: anyone who is interested in technical writing, Google, China or technology would find something of interest in this blog. It is friendly, inviting and welcoming to the reader. I’m glad I stumbled upon it.
Designing for Easy Use: I’ll admit it, this blog is very easy to use. Background, color and text – The background of the blog is white, with black text in the main body, and red text in the sidebar menus. This definitely aligns with Redish’s first recommendation to keep contrast high and the background clear. The only criticism I have about the blog is the Lumber Liquidators banner ad at the top, and the AdChoices ad in the top right corner. They are an unnecessary distraction, but at least the Lumber Liquidators ad can be muted by clicking the X.
Just to make sure the blog was legible on different platforms, I looked at it on a 21” screen and then on a netbook. There was no significant different in ability to read the text, which was a pleasant surprise. Even with bifocals, I was able to read various entries in the blog. I really like the way the blog entries are spaced. It is easy to see where one ends and the next one begins. There is a good use of white space in the blog, which makes it easy to move around. The author also does not require a lot of scrolling down the page to find blog entries. Instead, she has multiple pages of blog entries, and also has topic links.
Home Page: The home page of this blog doesn’t follow Redish’s principle of having few words, but I do believe it is content rich. It is easy to identify exactly what is the purpose of this blog. The author does set the site’s tone and personality, and she clearly lets the reader know what the site is all about. The menus on the right side provide all of the answers as to the whats and whys of the site.
Pathway Pages: If I thought the home page was easy, the pathway pages are great. This blog is is clearly mapped out. Each topic is clearly identified. The links get people to where they want to go easily and directly. There are short descriptions that are accurate. While there may be some jargon, it is clear and applicable to the site.
Navigation and links: The navigation is clear, and the About Me helps clarify the author’s intent. So, this blog confirms Redish’s tenant about being clear and concise. The navigation and links are plentiful. The blog is divided into Popular Posts, Recent Posts, Category and Tag Cloud. Things are separated and related information is grouped together. There is a real easy sense of flow to the information presented. None of the pages are overly long, nor is there any problem loading any of the information or pages. I didn’t look at every page, but I did not find any PDF files. There was a lot of helpful information, including a link to a 7 part article about a technical communication career path.
The Archives page is interesting. Archived blog entries can be searched by category, by date or by tags. In addition, the same menu widgets are available in the right column as on the home page. Contact Me provides a nice form to enter contact information, including a message box, to contact the author. Again, the same menu widgets are in the right column, along with and advertisement at the top of the column.
Writing Meaningful Links: The links are all clearly written. I have a good idea exactly what to expect, when I click on a link. The entries always relate to the text in the link. The author makes extensive use of noun links, which isn’t a problem in this case.
Titles and headings: The blog title is very descriptive. Headings for each blog entry lead the reader directly into the topic of the blog posting. The author alternates between using noun headings and statements. I didn’t see any question headings and no huge use of verb phrases either. But, the statements were appropriate for the text.
Tuning up Your Sentences: The author uses I in here postings, which is consistent with Redish’s recommendation to talk to the site visitor using a consistent voice. Her posts aren’t terribly long. She writes in a clear and simple fashion, that is free of unnecessary technical jargon. I wouldn’t say that the author uses short sentences or fragments, but neither would be particularly appropriate for this purpose. She give extra information where needed, and formats information appropriately.
Lists and Tables: I didn’t see any lists and tables on the blog, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. I didn’t look at every page on the blog.
Using Illustrations Effectively: Here again, I didn’t see any illustrations on the blog. She does have photos and videos. The links to each are clearly labeled, so there is no surprise when clicking on a picture or video link.