Bloggers Widgetitis is an insidious disease. In the early stages of infection, the victim feels mild euphoria with few adverse effects. Later, as the disease enters it's virulent phase, they become overwhelmed with insatiable cravings for bright, shiny objects, and exhibit self-destructive behavior in an attempt to satisfy them.

In the late stages, their blogs are transformed into unsightly wastelands that repel new visitors, and even lose many dedicated subscribers.

Fortunately, there is help. Here are the 12 steps to curing your blog:

1. We admitted that were were powerless over widgets -- that our blogs had become unsightly.

The first step is to recognize that Bloggers Widgetitis is a disease, and that you have it. Symptoms include:

  • difficulty finding the content of your posts in all the clutter
  • sidebars that are more than twice as long as your posts
  • widgets that aren't working anymore, but are still on your blog
  • widgets that duplicate each others' functions
  • widgets that, despite how interesting or cool they are to you, don't match the theme of your blog or are worthless to your readers
  • pages that load slower than the line at the post office

2. We came to believe that our control panels could restore our blogs to sanity.

If you get a mild sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look at the clutter on your blog, don't worry. It's fixable.

3. We made a decision to turn off any widgets we understood to be unnecessary.

You may love each and every widget on your site for one reason or another. But if you're ever going to be cured, you have to commit to exorcising every one that hurts your blog more than it helps.

4. We made a searching and fearless inventory of our blogs' widgets.

List all the widgets on your site, and note the purpose of each, how important that purpose is, whether it fits in with the purpose of your blog, and whether it's fulfilling its purpose.

5. We admitted to ourselves exactly which widgets were wrong for our blogs.

Once you've got the list and assessed each one, decide which your blog would be better off without. Remember that even if a widget has value, there may be more value in getting rid of it.

6. We were entirely ready to have our control panels remove all these defects from our blogs.

Load up you're blog's control panel, and screw up your courage, because it's time to cut, cut, cut!

7. We humbly removed the widgets that were hurting our blogs.

Turn 'em off and allow the beauty of your blog to re-emerge.

8. We looked at the list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

All those people who are subscribed to your blog's feed or the mailing list you announce new posts to, all the people who've clicked through to your blog from the search engines and other websites -- they've been suffering with you.

9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

You've been through a difficult process. Now you have a chance to enjoy the reward. If you think your subscribers would receive it well, why not write a post about how you've cleaned all the excess widgets off your blog. You may even word it as an apology -- people love a good apology! You may get a bunch of comments thanking or congratulating you for doing what's right for your readers.

10. We continued to take widget inventories and promptly removed any that were wrong for our blogs.

A one-time exorcism of bad widgets is all fine and good. But if you didn't catch them all in the first sweep, if you let more bad widgets creep in, or if you add good widgets without removing any that are no longer up to snuff, you can end up right back where you started.

11. We sought through study and contemplation to improve our understanding of web design aesthetics, seeking knowledge of what's good for our readers and the ability to implement it.

Your idea of what makes a blog attractive and useful, and your ability to work with your blog's design isn't fixed -- you're not born with it or without it, without the ability to learn.

I'm reminded of my own experience living in Japan, learning to write Chinese characters. When I look at my early handwriting, the characters are hideous. At the time, of course, I had no idea how bad they looked. In fact, I'd imagine I was proud of having learned where all the different strokes went.

My characters look much better now,. But even so, I'm sure that if I practiced more, I'd be able to look back at them someday and realize that they're still hideous.

At this point, you may love how your blog looks. But with more experience, you'll recognize subtle (or glaring) flaws in your design, and learn ways to make it better.

12. Having had an aesthetic awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other afflicted bloggers, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How about a tweet about this post or a link to it from your "making amends" post? And when you come across a blog that suffers from Bloggers Widgetitis, shoot the owner a link to this page.

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