For me, the concept of flow is vitally important in many areas of life.
By flow, I mean getting immersed in an experience to a degree where you shut out pretty much everything else, and your focus is only on that one activity.
As well as beautiful escape, I would also say it feels like a way to distort time almost too, every moment is somehow extended and enjoyed to the full, whilst at the same time the overall session flies past.
The obvious example where this happens in my life (and I expect yours) is in making photographs.
That experience of hunting for compositions, then raising the camera to frame exactly what we want within the four edges of our screen or viewfinder – nothing more and nothing less – before releasing the shutter, can be meditative, cathartic and euphoric all at once.
The flow comes not just in each framing and capture, but in the overall photowalk that a series of these connected moments together form, like precious jewels strung in succession on a beautiful necklace.
I have a similar, yet different experience riding a bicycle. Here the flow tends to be more low key, but more steady, the rhythm of my pedal stroke and the steady sensation of the wind on my face providing a kind of immersion.
With both of the above, when the flow is right (or perhaps when it’s both deep and smooth enough at once), the effect can seem almost like a magical spell is being cast.
A third area where I like to try to find this flow is with the written word. When I write for 35hunter, I seek to provide the same kind of immersion and flow for you the reader.
Sometimes I get too technical, or overly wordy, but hopefully more often than not I write well enough that you are fully engaged whilst reading, rather than skimming through half absent-mindedly like you might a TV guide or holiday brochure.
A large part of this is about the words I use and how fluidly they read.
But from my experience of reading other blogs, the look and layout of the blog itself also plays a very significant part in providing an experience that’s enjoyed without interruption.
Like many things, it’s sometimes easier to say what you don’t like, rather than what you do.
So here are some of the features of other blogs that I personally find really disrupt my immersion and flow in reading them, and why I’ve tried to avoid them – or at least minimise them – with 35hunter.
White text on a dark background.
Whilst this can initially give quite an atmospheric look, it quickly hurts my eyes and makes reading longer posts uncomfortable. Plus when I look away I still see the words dancing about in front of me for half a minute. It doesn’t encourage me to spend long on the blog. I prefer very pale backgrounds with black or dark grey text that are more gentle on the eyes.
Text that’s too small, or in a font that’s difficult to read.
With the range of easy to read fonts available these days, there’s really no excuse for making your readers struggle in this way. It helps to take a look at how your blog appears on different devices too as many people (perhaps the majority) will be viewing via a tablet or phone.
The main text column is pushed to one side.
On an iPad or phone this isn’t such an issue as you can resize and move the screen so it’s central. But you still have to resize and drag it. And since personally I do still spend the majority of my time on the larger screen of a MacBook or ChromeBook, I just like to have the text I’m reading central.
I know some blogs have say, the main text column on the left, then a narrow side bar on the right for extras. This looks ok at the top of the page, but once you scroll down past the content in the sidebar, you’re left with a block of text on the left and an obvious blank column on the right. It just doesn’t look right (to me) and this visual imbalance is distracting to that overall flow.
Multiple sidebar distractions.
Talking of sidebars, I greatly dislike blogs where there is so much in the sidebar(s) that again it distracts you from the main text and images of each post. Do you really want me to click through to your social media account on someone else’s server and governed by someone else’s rules, or stay and enjoy my experience right here on your own personal blog?
Even if I try to ignore these sidebars, if they have too much in them they still just take my focus off the main text. Plus as mentioned above, many blogs are two column, and once you scroll down past the stuff in the sidebar the main text is shifted to one side, not central.
Oh, where to start? My view is if you have a personal blog, there shouldn’t be any adverts. Why are you helping someone else sell stuff, at the expense (which is vast in my view) of spoiling that immersion and flow experience of visitors reading your blog?
I don’t mind if people have a link for their own book, prints, and so on, that’s different. It’s just the generic “targeted” ads, that are often laughably poorly aimed, so they degrade (for me) the overall quality and feel of the blog.
Imagine going to your favourite restaurant which you enjoy for its atmosphere and decor as much as the food, then you glance around and see a huge poster one one wall saying “learn this one trick to reduce belly fat for good”, then notice the opposite wall with another proclaiming “play this for just one minute and see why everyone’s addicted!” The flow is broken, possible forever.
Typos, poor spelling and grammar.
Of course no-one is perfect and I have on numerous occasions gone back over a post I’ve already published and found the odd typo or missing word. But when you read, say, a 500 word blog post and it has 5-10 errors, it just comes across as sloppy. It’s worse if you’re trying to speak with authority about a topic.
If you’re not focused and attentive enough to not miss an error every paragraph, then how do we know that you’re any more focused and attentive about the subject you’re writing about?
If you know your English isn’t amazing, then try using a spelling and grammar checker and/or have a friend proof read your posts. I know this sounds incredibly picky, but we’re talking here about the kind of features that disrupt flow and break that spell, and for me, unfortunately, this is a significant one.
Sharing every photo from every shoot.
This is more specific to photography blogs of course, and alas it seems to be getting more common. I don’t understand why some blogs have a post about, say a photowalk to a new place, or to test a new camera, and then proceed to share all 24/36/50+ images from that shoot, regardless of the quality.
What does it show, except that the camera can make this many pictures, and that you have very little restraint in your editing.
By sharing perhaps just the best three or four, we are far more likely to appreciate the photographs, your skills as a photographer (and editor!), the place you visited, and the equipment you used. Dumping the whole lot dilutes all of this.
These days our lives or so invaded with incessant demands for our attention.
So finding blogs and websites that still offer a place of respite and escape, quirky corners of the internet where we can immerse and lose ourselves for a few minutes – or a few hours – are becoming all the more rare, and all the more precious.
I try to make 35hunter one of these places, by avoiding the flow breakers I’ve outlined above as much as possible. I hope that’s how you find it to be.
What qualities make a blog or website valuable to you as somewhere you can lose yourself? What features break that flow, that spell for you?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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