Writing on Writing

Get to the point: the unreadability of recipe blogs

Imagine…it’s 4:30 p.m. You don’t know what to make for dinner. A recipe for garlic wings on Pinterest catches your eye. Let’s just check the ingredients… And then it happens – what you thought was a recipe for chicken wings is a story about the first time the blogger ever had them at Grandma Sue’s, how she makes them every Sunday for her husband’s friends when they watch the Chiefs play, and that the recipe is always a hit because little Madison doesn’t like spicy foods. You now know her grandmother’s name, her husband’s favorite football team, and her kid’s spice tolerance. You scroll to the bottom of the page, past 36 clickable photos for OTHER recipes, looking for the ingredients. It’s too late…you’re mad. You’ll order take-out.

I don’t mind a short anecdote to introduce a post, but when I came for wings (or cauliflower tabouli), and I got your family history… that’s unreadable. Furthermore, unreadability is when I am forced to scroll past 100 things meant to pull my attention to another recipe, blog post, or engagement.

The allure of making money off a blog is too attainable for most people to worry about style. Trash begets trash and each person who clicks a photo on Pinterest, thinks “hey – I could do that!” and sets up a blog based on other poorly designed blogs is just adding to the noise. Most semi-professional blogs are going to border on unreadable with too many opportunities for clutter and self-indulgence. But there are a few things a blogger can do to help keep my attention:

  • Clear labeling of content – I’m here for the recipes, don’t make me shuffle through your other types of posts.
  • “Jump to…” buttons – It’s ok if you want to have ten scrolls worth of info and photos, just let me skip it!
  • High-quality photos – But not too many. I certainly do want to see what my delicious meal will look like, but I only need to see your bowl of lasagna soup so many times.
  • If you’re going to offer additional information, make it relevant to the topic like a wine pairing.

This blog does a nice job following these suggestions. The posts are easy to navigate, and the information included pertains directly to cooking the meal, not to what the author did last weekend.

While it is important to put your personality into your work, it is most important to deliver what your reader has come for. If the product is hidden beneath other offers vying for the reader’s attention, they will become frustrated and give up. Maybe that doesn’t matter to some bloggers. They got the click; they get the reward. But the long game is creating a space where your reader feels welcome and calm and wants to go back to see what else you have to offer. Readability will promise future engagement which equals sustained income.

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