Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Evaluating the ICT-KM blog

ICT-KM and the life cycle of blogs

I have always been convinced there are four steps – or call them challenges – in the life cycle of a blog:

1. the “WHY” moment: getting convinced a blog will contribute to “get your message out”, to create discussions around your project, engage with your audience,…
2. the “HOW” moment: how to set up a blog, the choices of self-hosting or using an existing blogplatform, the choice of blog software,..
3. the “WHAT” moment: getting the hang of writing good blog content, realizing that writing blogposts is different from a mere one way publications on a corporate website.
4. the “AND NEXT?” moment: After a while, you do need to take the time and see if you are on the right track. This is the point in a blog’s life cycle where you take a step back to evaluate what you have achieved with the blog so far: Take stock, and see how to take the blog to the next level. For a healthy blog, this step is recursive and needs to be repeated over time. It is the ideal opportunity to also relook at the “WHY” “HOW” and “WHAT”.

In the past years, the ICT-KM team has been taking the lead on social media for the CGIAR. They have duly passed these steps. Already last year, the team took a bold “AND NEXT” step by merging the old ICT-KM blog and website into one new blog.

The result of this merge was an appealing revamped blog, clearly appreciated by their audience, and passing good reviews.

We are now one year after this blog overhaul, and it was time to repeat the “AND NEXT?”: “What can we change to take our blog once again to the next level?

Evaluating a blog

The ICT-KM team took the bold step to ask an outsider –me in this case– to work with them on the “AND NEXT” step. We agreed to take an interactive, pragmatic and heuristic approach to evaluate their blog and to define the areas that needed to improve. During the exercise we documented the evaluation process itself so it could be re-used by any blogger, or blogging team doing a similar exercise.

We came up with eight distinguished areas to consider during a blog evaluation (each link points to a more in depth article on my blog):

  1. Ask questions: You can not evaluate someone’s blog, or even your own blog, without asking some fundamental questions to understand “the environment of the blog”: What is the purpose of the blog? What is the intended audience? What is the core content of the blog? What is the dynamic and what is the static content? How is the blog updated – by a single blogger or by a team, and will this change in the future?…
  2. Check the numbers: Using basic statistics, we can analyze the traffic patterns on the blog to check who is actually visiting our blog. What is the key content people are interested in? Is there a trend over time on these figures?
  3. First impression: First impressions are lasting impressions. While falling in love, and when visiting a blog… How does a first time visitor see the blog? Is this the impression we want the visitors to have?
  4. The blog’s real estate: A blog has limited space to present a mass of information. How is this space used? Are all the relevant parts visible?
  5. Usability: How easy is it for a user to “use” the blog: to navigate, to find key content, related content to a post, …?
  6. Speed: “I have a neeeeed for speeeed” said Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”. True for any blog! Is the blog optimized to download as fast as possible? How does one analyse the download speed, and identify potential bottlenecks?
  7. Search engine optimization (SEO): Can search engines identify what your blog is all about? Do users find your blog on search engines? What can we optimize to ensure search engines crawlers properly index our key content?
  8. Graphical presentation: While the French say “Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas” (“You can’t really argue about preferences in tastes and colours”), there are still some basic checks to be done, to ensure visitors appreciate the “look” of your blog

Evaluating the ICT-KM blog

I had the privilege of going through the ICT-KM blog evaluation. The end result was a report specifying, for each of the eight evaluation areas:

  • What are the analysis tools used for the evaluation?
  • What is good?
  • What can be improved?
  • How can it be improved?

We sat together as a team to go over the evaluation, to explain some of the tools and illustrate some of the observations and recommendations. But it was also an excellent opportunity for me, as “the evaluator” (oh gosh, what a word), to learn more about their blog, their intent, their set-up, and to fine-tune some of the recommendations.

As an end product of the evaluation, we agreed on a list of things to change on the ICT-KM blog, so we could take it up to the next level. The changes are being implemented right now, so watch this space!