When I switched to my new theme last week, one of the primary complaints was that I displayed only the titles and no summary on the front page. I thought it was a feature but apparently, it is a bug because it doesn’t make my blog look ‘blog-like’. I debated the point with Aditya and Srikanth on Twitter but I try to lay out my arguments in more detail in this post.
First, the titles-only looks lends the blog that minimalist look that I was aspiring for. Introducing summaries even if they are only 50 words per post, those are 250 words more than I wish to be on the front page while they add precious little. If people are not going to click after reading the title, I don’t see why they should after reading the first fifty words of a post especially if they do not directly add or extend to the post’s clickability. Also, I think just displaying your post title gives you a stronger incentive to relay as much information as possible in as few words as possible to the reader. It imposes discipline on a verbose writer like me.
This aspect was also argued by Tyme White at 9rules as a reason why they do not feature summaries on their pages. Chugs and I had also discussed this while redesigning DesiPundit but going for the minimalist look wasn’t on top of my agenda for DesiPundit. Some may argue that WordPress offers an excerpt feature that you can use to specify the summary you want your posts to display; something like an tagline or synopsis in magazine articles. But that imposes an additional burden while publishing something quick. Also, some of my posts are shorter than the summary might be and just features a link so in those cases, it is redundant. I wouldn’t mind writing a summary for longer posts but not unless I’m convinced it is worth it. This helps for search engine listings because you are competing with other blogs offering similar content/advice and you want to make sure people click on your blog link.
Some say that new readers might be turned off by excluding summaries but chances are that any new reader is more likely to arrive on a single post page either through a search referral from Google or via another blog/website referral. I use the ‘What Would Seth Godin Do’ plugin to welcome and nudge them toward my archives pages for more content.
Another suggestion was to offer a collapsible roll-down feature to hide the summaries beneath each post, much like the (+) does on the Movie Reviews page. Now that would be definitely worth exploring because it would still allow me to keep my front page minimalist and yet offer the opportunity for readers to check out the summary before clicking through to the whole post. But unfortunately, coding this in is beyond my technical abilities; I tried looking through the Movies plugin code but it was overwhelming. If anyone of you knows how to, I would be glad if you could help out.
Finally, if you are reading this via a feed reader or via email, this post and its arguments are moot. In fact, for my regular readers I do prefer if you read me via a feed reader. Nothing like a feed reader to keep it clean and minimalist, right? All focus on the content and none on the bells and whistles. I know you’ll click through and comment if you’ve anything important to add to the discussion.