The Criteria Series: Interactivity/
Welcome to the third article in the ten-part Canadian Weblog Awards Criteria Series. The Canadian Weblog Awards, as a juried competition, have specific criteria set by which to judge the nominations, and this series aims to cover each criterion with an eye to learning how to create and maintain quality weblogs. This third article covers interactivity.
What do we mean when we look at interactivity? Anything on your weblog that interacts with your readers falls into this category, whether it be audio, video, your comments section, or the availability of author contact information. Interactivity is important when it comes to developing a relationship with your audience, and it is important that, whatever interactivity your weblog does possess, it is effective and functional.
Before we get into effectiveness and functionality, though, let's take a look at the importance of having interactive elements in your weblog. Some would argue that they are not necessary in a weblog and that whether the author(s) wants to communicate directly with their audience or not is up to the author(s). I would agree with that, because there is no one right way to do things, but I would argue that interactive elements build a better weblog 100% of the time.
To be clear, this point in the Canadian Weblog Awards criteria exists because we view at least a minimal level of reader interactivity as important to the quality of a weblog. A complete absence of interactive elements is disengaging. A reader cannot comment on material without comments or contact the author without an email address, and in this age of social media, it only comes off as unfriendly to remove these interactive elements altogether.
Now, on to effectiveness and functionality...
I feel like this one is so obvious that it barely needs discussing, especially since we covered functionality in the last installment of the Criteria Series, but broken commenting systems and audio and video players and whatnot litter weblogs across the internet, and it's crazy-making. Just this morning, I came across two weblogs whose comments "submit" buttons were non-functional. I was invited to listen to a particular audio file while reading a post yesterday, but it wouldn't play. Broken interactive elements are akin to inviting someone in only to push them back out again.
How do you remedy this? Regularly go through your main weblog page and use each of its elements. Do your widgets in the sidebar (for example: Twitter, reader polls, etc.) do what they are supposed to do? If not, install the proper, functioning code, or remove them. Does the video you've installed play? If not, install the proper, functioning code, or remove it. Do your comments work? If not, install the proper, functioning code, or remove them.
It is easy to let these things go, because you rarely use all of your weblog's elements the way a reader would, so it is good to take some time every once in a while to test drive your site from the position of your audience. You might be surprised how you're presenting yourself to your readers.
Remember that your weblog speaks for you in a place where you cannot physically represent yourself, and that it speaks best for you when it not only has interactive elements to facilitate communication with your audience but also has interactive parts that function well for the readers they are speaking to.