So you’ve decided to start a development blog.
Maybe it’s a blog just to tell everyone what you actually do all day, because “everyone” at this point is “friends and family who are concerned I might be sleeping behind a coffee shop ripping off wifi instead of getting a real job”. Maybe it’s a blog to chronicle the game or app building process so that you can look back one day from the turret in your castle and remember what it’s like for the little people.
Either way, the odds are pretty good that your development blog is boring.
We did some formal research into the odds of your development blog standing out against the other 245,321 launching this month, and the results aren’t good.
Okay, that’s not entirely true; the research wasn’t formal. The results are worrisome, though, so we thought we’d stop for a minute and equip you with some straightforward advice about how to show up to the blogging party draped in a leopard mink and wearing gator shoes, so to speak.
The One Thing Everyone Seems To Forget
There’s one dirty little secret that nobody seems to tell you when it comes to writing a development blog.
Since we’re not really big on secrets, we’ll tell you right now:
Development blogs adhere to the same rules as any other type of blog. They’re not unique little snowflakes.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that geeks just want the facts. Humans respond to stories, emotion, and context, which is what you can take advantage of to make your development blog stand out.
32 Ways To Make Your Development Blog Stand Out
You can use the following suggestions to produce an interesting blog, but we’ve certainly only scratched the surface of what’s possible. If you have anything to add let us know!
- Say what you mean. It sounds simple, but it’s not. A lot of the fat in development blogs could be cut by just focusing on this one thing.
- Read what you’ve written out loud. Preferably in front of someone else. You’ll know immediately if it’s interesting.
- Clear writing doesn’t have to be boring. Use unique metaphors and enlist the help of hyperbole. Hyperbole’s your friend when it’s used right.
- Use images liberally. People love images, and a picture’s worth a thousand words, which if you’re counting means this entire post could have just been one image (or something).
- Share your learning as you’re learning. Too often people think they’ll go back and share something they’ve learned “when they have time”. Share it now, while it’s fresh. You won’t go back and share later.
- Share your problems. Answers are great, but problems are usually more interesting. What are you struggling with? Tell your community… they might surprise you with the answer.
- Become a champion of your peers. Use your blog to show your colleagues love, promote other projects, and introduce readers to great things. It’s not all about you.
- “Finding your voice” is a function of one thing: writing a lot. Writing a lot means you get better at writing, eventually developing a unique and authentic voice which will resonate with a large(r) audience.
- Write what you want to say. Then do it again. Then re-read it, make a few edits, and send it out into the world.
- Place a few guest posts around the web. It’s a great way to change it up for your readers and gain new readers along the way.
- Don’t write what you think other people want you to say. Ever.
- Set draft deadlines two days before you plan to publish. Review the post 24 hours before publishing it. Letting a post marinate for a day let’s the good stuff sneak in.
- Publish in the morning. As early as possible.
- Take your blog seriously and dedicate real effort to it. It’s likely the most powerful free marketing tool you have.
- Include your email somewhere on the blog. Sometimes people want to email you with praise, interview requests or free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff?
- Find the story and tell it. Everything, including technical breakthroughs and techniques, is best presented as a story. Imagine your blog readers sitting around a campfire if that helps.
- Unless you have some reason otherwise, just use WordPress or Tumblr.
- Post at least twice a month. If you post less nobody will remember you.
- Try to publish consistently. Erratic posting leads to less commitment from your readers. Train people to expect an update from you, even if it’s short.
- Make lists. People like lists because they’re specific promises, easy to scan, and great for bookmarking.
- Build up a “Hero“. Are you championing a particular language or development style? A team culture? An approach to design? Be clear about what you stand for.
- Attack a “Villain“. People love villains, so pick yours and paint a target. What are you tearing down or disrupting? What’s wrong with the world that needs fixing? What trend are you fighting?
- Don’t worry about the design of your blog. Having a beautiful, boring blog is the blog equivalent of being house poor. Spend you time and attention on producing great content.
- Let your characters shine. Nearly every game involves characters and many consumer apps involve mascots. Use your blog to share their story, background, and perspective.
- Credit your sources and inspirations. Ethical “via” links will help your readers follow your specific thought process and trail of attention.
- Be personal. Tell your audience who you are, why you are who you are, and how you got here. People want to know who’s behind the products they use, so let them hear from the horse’s mouth.
- Use the least words possible at all times. If you can cut a word and the meaning remains, cut it.
- Always include a call to action at the end of your posts. Ask for a pre-purchase, download, email subscription, or simply request feedback. Articulate what someone should do when they’re done reading your post.
- Don’t be afraid that something’s been said before. It has. Say it anyway, in your own words, in the most honest way possible.
- Never apologize for not blogging. Ever.
- Share your blog openly and often. In fact, share it with us in the comments of this post.
Lots of inspiration for this list comes from previous efforts to help others blog well. For more reading on the subject I recommend Tony Pierce’s How To Blog, Merlin Mann’s What Makes A Good Blog?, and Debbie Hemley’s 26 Tips For Writing Great Blog Posts.
Share Great Blogs With Us
We’re always looking for great development blogs to read and share with our audience. If you have a favorite or write one yourself, drop the link as a comment below!