Ask me to name three things that cause me most stress and anxiety in day to day life, and I’ll reply noise, mess and rushing.
Having young children, there are often occasions where all three collide head on and challenge my patience to – and well beyond – its breaking point.
So when I retreat to the pleasure of online reading, I like to escape those terrible triplets (noise, mess and rushing, not members of my family) and relax into pages that feel like quiet, immersive, retreats.
To avoid rushing, I try to only read when I have enough time for a particular article.
If it’s one of Seth’s daily posts that usually means about three minutes reading, followed by three hours quiet unravelling and digesting in a corner of my mind.
For longer blog posts this might mean setting aside 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. I wait until I have the time, rather than dipping in and out whilst trying to do three other things at the same time.
When you’re talking about online reading, the other two – noise and mess – are much the same thing.
Both of them turn me off hugely on websites and blogs.
I’m far more drawn to writers who blog quietly, and create the kind of retreat I mentioned before.
Blogs that feel like a treehouse in the woods, or a shack on a remote mountain, rather than a frantically busy store in the heart of New York or Tokyo.
Blogging quietly has very little to do with the author’s written “voice” in fact, but far more about how they visually present their words.
To blog quietly, I humbly suggest you need the following elements –
A legible, large enough typeface that is easy to read and doesn’t distract from the actual words.
An overall neutral colour scheme that doesn’t cause the reader to squint or strain or reach for their sunglasses.
Simple, logical navigation, like just being able to click on the title of a post on the main page to then go to the page for the full post, and clicking on the top header/title of the blog to go back to the main/home page.
As simple a design as possible. Take a look at 95% of novels published in the last century, and take note of the page layout. There’s a reason they’re designed like this, and why that design is so simple and free of distractions in the margins.
The main text in one column down the centre. Not so narrow it makes the space either side distracting by its vastness, and not so wide that reading each line takes a minute and a half and makes the overall reading experience seem intimidating and too much effort.
A static page, as in nothing flashing, spinning, popping up, under, over or out.
All your own words (and pictures), presented exactly how you’ve chosen to show them, not someone else’s words, pictures, logos, and advertisements dumped jarringly in the middle of your otherwise thoughtfully crafted little corner of the internet.
Perhaps you can think of some other ways we can blog quietly? Can you recommend some blogs you read yourself that do this effectively?
I’d love to hear from you 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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31 thoughts on “How To Blog Quietly”
I don’t know if I blog quietly, exactly — I think I even trigger people sometimes. But I do tend to blog as if talking to myself and three of my kindest, most patient friends in my living room. In my own followings, I avoid anything that feels overly trendy or, as you say, loud or flashy. Instagram tends to freak me out for just this reason, as does anything that might remotely be associated with the word “influencer,” as I haven’t discerned a connection between that sort of thing and content that feels warm, authentic, or truly intimate.
This is a thought-provoking topic, and I admit I share the preference, but I’m not sure I practice it. 🙂
Jennifer, many thanks for your thoughts, I would suggest your blog is an excellent example of one you can just hunker down with and enjoy, without distraction or irritation. It looks as close to a book on the page as you can probably get with a blog, which in my eyes is a great optimisation of the design and format. We’ve been reading books that look like this for hundreds of years, it works!
Like you, I put any extra links, like top posts, archives etc at the bottom, so it doesn’t get in the way of reading the main post(s). I’m not sure why so many blogs have these in a side column, so 1. They distract from reading the main post initially, 2. They offset the main text so it’s not centralised and easier to read, and 3. When you have read the main post the sidebar stuff has all scrolled up out of sight anyway, so you have to go back up again if you want to look at it. Don’t really get this logic!
Is this on a phone or laptop or both? (And I’m glad to hear my blog works well like that; it looks fine to me on the laptop but not sure on mobile devices!)
I’m currently viewing on my work PC, but it’s fine on a laptop, iPad and phone too. One thing on my phone (Android), the pictures don’t centralise, so with your recent squirrel post with portrait orientated images, they’re pushed over to the left side. This is probably something you can do when you insert the photo though. I just make mine all centre justified.
Oh hang on, I’ve just looked at that same post on my work PC and the images are small and pushed to the left too! Though we have an old version of Internet Explorer and I’m always getting prompts to use a different browser, it might be that.
It would be good to have larger images and centralised – I don’t know if this is possible for you to do? I use the 1024px of an image from my Flickr which seems to fill the central column well, even on my fairly large widescreen work monitors.
The overall look and the centralised text, the background and text colours and so on are all great for optimising reading though.
Good tips! I usually left justify around text, but it defaults to no orientation. I’ll give that a try when posting single images.
Oh yeh, I don’t bother with justifying around text, because inevitably on some device/browser/app combo it ends up all messed up and nothing like you want! Keep it simple so there’s less to go wrong!
A very interesting view Dan a I do agree with it. I’m not a fan of messy blogs or webpages either – it’s like visual white noise, far too distracting. I struggle to read on line at the best of times without having to hunt through sidebars and adverts.
The other thing I don’t like is when people have the full blog post displayed on their home page – I don’t just mean the latest one (which is fine) but ALL of them. So if you want to scroll down and explore their previous pages it takes ages, and generally I give up.
I’ve tried to make mine blog as simple as I could, although I only did that by choosing a basic theme from WP’s selection. It still niggles me slightly. I need to remove my profile from the footer and get rid of the adverts – which I shall do soon by upgrading.
Great advice as always, and I love that cloudscape!
Hi Stuart, many thanks for your thoughts. Oh and thanks re the cloud photo, one of my favourites.
I know what you mean about having full posts on the front page. I think especially for newcomers to the blog it means it’s harder to get a taste of the subjects and titles without lots of scrolling up and down.
I wonder if people do this for search engine reasons, so there are more words relevant to their topic(s) on the main page? I don’t know if you have a front page with 10 whole posts shown for example and each one mentions say “film photography” multiple times, then that page overall gets extra weighting for that search phrase?
There’s also the problem with page loading times, and whilst many of us can appreciate broadband speeds and beyond, I know from previous conversations here about uploading photos, that some are on much slower networks. So a long home page will take much longer to load for some people.
I’ve gone with the in between option of hopefully having enough of a taster of each post for people to decide if they want to click through to read it all, which also allows a quick scroll down of the titles and intros to the five most recent posts on one page.
To be honest though I wonder if many people just go with the default for the theme they’ve chosen and don’t realise these things can be changed?
Oh I think it’s the latter – They pick a theme they like and run with it. the default I had displayed the whole post but it looked stupid. Like you I like to have everything as simple and uncluttered as possible.
I guess I forget sometimes that I’ve been online a while, and my first site in around 2004 I coded with a friend from scratch in HTML. We taught ourselves as we went, basically by looking at HTML code on sites we liked and copying it!
So WordPress blogs today are very straightforward compared with having to fiddle about with HTML tags, uploading files via FTP and so on.
I might do a future post about how to start a blog in WordPress, just the very basics to get someone up and running.
Or I might just stick to the photography posts!
And yes I love minimalist looks. When the WP editor was more clunky a few years back I used an app called Omm Writer to write all of my blog posts. About as minimal as it gets, absolutely beautiful to type in.
But then WP continue to streamline and it’s much closer to Omm Writer now (I wonder if it was an influence?) that it’s easy and pleasant enough to write directly in WP.
I always write directly into WP. partly because I don’t have any writing software on my PC at home,, but mainly as it’s a nice to work on I can write bits of the same post off different machines.
I do absolutely the same Stuart, sometimes I catch up with some writing in a break at work, sometimes at home with my MacBook, sometimes with my wife’s Chromebook. And sometimes I’ll just jot down an idea as a draft post on my phone. It’s very handy to have it all compatible and all saved in one place.
Yep – That’s exactly what I do.
I enjoyed this one Dan. I try to blog quietly and I think I do for the most part. My main problem if you want to call it a problem is whether or not I post frequently enough. I just don’t seem to get around to it often enough. But it doesn’t seem to bother me too much either. 🤣
Lisa thanks for your input. I do think to build an audience you need to post pretty regularly. How often this is depends on your aims, the time you want to dedicate to writing posts and responding to replies, and how much you have to say.
I think any blog of interest will gain some followers, but to ramp it up I think posting more often is a good approach.
That said, there’s a blog I read that’s probably the best written of any I follow, really wonderful writing. They only post perhaps once a month, if that sometimes, but it’s always worth waiting for. So quality is definitely a priority over quantity, or in other words don’t just churn out posts you think are a bit mediocre, just for the sake of posting something.
So experiment and see what works for you!
Thanks Dan, a lot to consider. ☮️
Of course you’ve also got to consider how important raw numbers are to you. Personally I’d rather have 10 followers who regularly engaged, than 1000 that followed but only read every third post and never commented. The quality over quantity rule applies to your readership too, in my view. 😀
True, I’ve been thinking the same. That’s why I’m not too worked up over it. Come what may. 😉
“Perhaps you can think of some other ways we can blog quietly?”
The web-log is a piebald class of public writing in a volume of smoke. Variegated. Some are seriatim or rumpled diaries, the daily times writ small; some progress or field notes; one at least a fully realized biographical novel deserving of the name.
Then there is an open collaborative cahier, a guest book. Bring your own pencil, consider, jot. Follow-on rejoinder gets wide and rich.
In it, monologists clear throats: readers read, go off, think, come back in risen to the feet; are lead away to look in at respondents, then think anew.
The posts are a moving warp shuttled by a weft of comment. This layout is perfect for that weave.
Thanks William. Also for another venture into a dictionary to understand your comments fully, you have a remarkable vocabulary.
Yes I think mine is more like the open guest book, inviting visits to add their quirks and colours to the ever growing volumes…
A slightly-irrelevant aside: I look in at 35hunter frequently, often several times a day, not to comment, but to read the comments others are leaving.
Those never fail to stimulate, even inspire; I (mostly) refrain from responding to them because commenting-upon-comments would be to dross the site up a bit and ‘dilute’ the thread flow, but nonetheless receive great value.
Cheers (and with apologies for the verbiage).
Not irrelevant at all, and I’m honoured to have you visit so often William.
Please feel free to respond to anyone else’s comments you feel moved to. I completely agree that the comments add a huge amount to anything I may post as a starting point.
Exactly what’s happening here.
The concept of quiet blogging resonates with me. My research into older bloggers found that we favor blogging over Facebook, instagram etc partly for this reason: the environment is calm. I also appreciate your comments on design and legibility. I care about this too, but had given up trying to impart any principles even to those who ask for advice. Luckily free templates and conventions improve year by year. All I can say is test, test, test: don’t rely on your personal taste in web design:)
Rachel, thanks for your thoughts.
What do you mean by testing? Testing to find what your readers like best? How would you measure this, aside from just asking outright?
Simple usability testing. Ask someone to read your blog on their own device, watch them do it, see what they click and what they miss, and ask them what they like. (Don’t explain or put thoughts into their heads.) Repeat with up to 5 people for trustworthy feedback on how readable and usable your site is for humans, and how it looks on other devices. Helps a lot! Cheers.
Thanks Rachel, this is very helpful.
Now the dilemma I have is that hardly anyone in my “offline” world knows I even have a blog, let alone reads it and can test it!
That’s a dilemma all right!
Well put. I read only quiet blogs also. I don’t know if my blog is quiet, but it’s my goal as my driving hidden force, simple -direct-uncluttered.
I think simple, direct and uncluttered is a great mantra for any website where you’d like people to come, enjoy and stay.