Offline Usability: Voting Made Difficult

Category: Usability -

voting usability x markMalaysia is gearing up for General Election soon. Yesterday mainstream newspaper NST had an article about how people in Malaysia cannot even mark the voting ballots properly. It read:

AROUND the world, a simple X is all it takes to mark the spot on a ballot paper. But just leave it to Malaysians to get a little more creative when stating their choice of candidate…

…According to Election Commission figures, there were 134,058 spoilt votes cast for state assembly seats and 165,018 for parliamentary seats in 2004.

While it may sound so simple to just mark [X] beside the desired candidate, little they know that this is actually quite confusing for people, especially the elderly.

[X] is used for Deleting not Selecting

First of all, people never use [X] for selecting something. X is used for deleting, rejecting or making something void. In everyday life, people either tick or circle the preferred choice.

I am sure this problem happens in every country, it’s just more prevalent in one country than another. Sure, Governments can teach its people how to mark [X] correctly during elections and decrease the number of spoiled votes. But the better, more sustainable solution would be to introduce a system that is usable and intuitive to all people. Because when the system is flawed, you have to constantly teach the people how to use it. That means more expenses for the Government. But if the system is replaced with a functional one, the cost would decrease and there would be less errors and less headache during each election. Maybe using “tick” would help!? Or having separate “Yes” and “No” ballot boxes, where you could throw the deserved candidates? I am sure there will be dozens of other better alternatives if one was to brainstorm.

80/20 Rule, and How it Applies to Blogging

Category: Blogging -

You all have heard about the “80/20 Rule” right? Which states that, for many events, 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes.

Example: 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients. Or 80% of the total profits come from the efforts of 20% of your employees in the firm. Or the majority of the earth’s species are located in 17 countries, out of total 240+ countries..

While it’s a general rule, it does apply successfully to many circumstances. We can also apply it to blogging.80/20 rule So, for example, according to 80/20 rule, we can say that 80% of the traffic comes from the 20% regular readers (see pie chart to the left).

We can also say that 80% of your blogging income comes from 20% of your advertisers (these are regular advertisers too, keyword is “regular”).

Finally, many of you can agree on this, that 80% of the comments on your blog are done by the 20% (regular) readers.

Thus, once you have clearly grasped the 80/20 rule and its affects on your blog, you will be able to work more efficiently. Because now you can concentrate on that “20%” more. That means paying more attention to your regular readers and worrying less about those accidental visitors, even if they make up 80% of your total unique visitors (per day/month/year). Because at the end of the day, this 20% are the one who is delivering you 80% of the total traffic your blog gets.

Similarly, you can strengthen your partnership with your 20% advertisers that bring you 80% of the total income that your blog generates.

Conclusion

I think in this “time-scarce” era, this rule is a golden rule that many of us can benefit from. It can make us more efficient, and our efforts more effective. Because by identifying our “important 20%”, we won’t be wasting our energies on things that bring no result.

However, here we should note that, we should not totally ignore the other 80% – we just have to allocate our time and energy according to its importance.

Have you been applying 80/20 rule to your life? How about to your blog?

WordPress: Increase your SERP using Post Slug feature

Category: Blogging, SEO -

Do you use post slug feature in WordPress? If yes, then great! If not, then you should really start using it. Post Slug feature is located among one of those boxes at the right side: Categories, Post Status, Discussion… etc.

SEO Advtantage of Using Post Slug

When you use it, you greatly improve your blog’s SEO. In WordPress, if you enable permalinks and if you use Post Title in the URL structure, then you know that the post title becomes part of the URL for each individual post page.

Below is a screenshot of Permalink’s preferences in WordPress:

enabling permalinks

As you can see, I have set Date (Year/Month/Date) followed by Post Title for the URL structure.

full details »

WP Plugin: Make your blog’s search strings SEO friendly

Category: Blogging, SEO, Usability -

wp plugin nice searchNice Search is a WP plugin that makes your blog search “SEO friendly”.

It’s in quotes because normally search results won’t get indexed by search engines, because they are dynamic. Unless of course you store them as a static page in a specific folder in your blog.

But the plugin is still very useful, it makes your search strings “nicer” as the name of the plugin says. As you can see from the screenshot, it turns the normal wordpress search string into /search/keyword format, which is a lot more readable.

Plugin page: http://txfx.net/code/wordpress/nice-search/

Write Pillar Articles, but don’t overdo it (please)!

Category: Blogging -

sample pillar articleDon’t you just hate those posts that have too many unnecessary and not important bullet points inside? Writing pillar articles is one thing, but overdoing it is totally opposite.

Writing pillar articles in its true sense will bring you more traffic (Diggs, Stumbles, Reddits, linkbacks), more readers (your blog will be bookmarked more, RSS count will increase) and more advertisers (you will earn more), but overdoing it will have the totally opposite effect. When you overdo it, it sends a message to your readers that you are incompetent and don’t know what you are talking. But before we proceed…

What is Pillar Article?

Pillar articles are complete articles, that start with proper introduction and end with proper conclusion. Body part of the article will contain points, arguments, or sub topics. Usually they are bulleted, numbered, or simply put under separate sub-headings.

It is this part (body) that gets abused. Some bloggers just want to make their article longer, and thus enter all sorts of bullet points, even if the points are insignificant. It’s not the length of the article that counts, it’s the substance, the ingredients of your article that is important. Therefore, do not bother if your article falls short of its intended or desired length. Your article is complete before you add those additional points.

full details »

CSS Tip: Increasing readability of your blog in one easy step

Category: Blogging, Tips, Usability -

One line of CSS code can do so much to improve your blog’s readability. It’s a simple thing to do, yet I see many blogs are not making use of it. It’s the line-height: code in CSS. It defines the space between the lines. Screenshots below show two different pages; one without line-height code and another with line-height set to 20pixels.

As you can see, it’s so much easier to read the second page.

css line height

css line height 20px

Just add: line-height: XXpx; to your main theme in style.css file

Whitespace around images

Another thing that is usually neglected is, not using whitespace around the images (i.e padding). It’s a simple thing to do too. I have blogged about it here, this post teaches you how to specify margins for your images, so that the text around the image won’t stick to the border of the image.

While these things are fairly simple things to implement in blogs (which many of us do not bother to do it), but the result that they produce is: better blog readability and professional looking blog.