7 Ways HTML Lists are Dating Your Blog (they are 25 years old)

We explore 7 problems facing the modern day hand-crafted HTML list. The biggest problem is it’s not changed since 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee invented HTML. List authoring and list life-cycle management have been overlooked.

We believe lists are so important they deserve to be a datatype of their own. We see lists as being on a par with Slides and Videos.

We use lists a lots, especially in blog posts. We call these “list posts” or Listicles (a term popularized by Buzzfeed).

A lot has happened since 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee conceived the idea of HTML and introduced us to the idea of “LI” “UL” and “OL”  tags.

Since 1989 our approach to content has become more social & aggregated.

Curation has become a critical driver of social content.

Bookmarking has move from the desktop to internet services (it too has become social).

Content reuse & embedding has taken off (via content repositories). 

Lots of web content has moved to central repositories. Slideshare, YouTube and Soundcloud are three great examples of Content Repositories.

The recombine-ability of objects, content, people and places have become the norm – an expectation of the modern web visitor along with commenting and voting.

Last week we drilled deep into the psychology of lists – why do lists work. Knowing why lists work will help writers create more compelling content.

This week we explore 7 reasons (via an embedded Listly list) to explain why your current lists are hurting your overall content’s performance.


Act like a List

Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Act like a List


  • HTML Lists don’t have any list-like features.
  • HTML tags like "li" & "p" define a post’s layout, but don’t add social interaction or intelligence.
  • Humans will manually tag lists inconsistently. -
  • Loading images is both time consuming & error prone.


  • Listly acts like a list.
  • Lists can be sorted, paginated, searched & filtered, just like a list!
  • Items on the list can be shared with their own unique URL (adding context).
  • Listly Lists have many powerful feature & uses. Images are a breeze.

Relevance/ Aging

Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Relevance/ Aging


  • It’s normal to need to add new content to keep a list post current/useful.
  • This does not happen as the focus is on new content.
  • Your hard earned search rankings decay as people bounce as your lists are no longer current
  • We call this list rot


  • Don't make it your problem, but rather reader responsibility.
  • If a list provides value, people will contribute to extend & maintain the list. People love to be help.
  • Involve people emotionally to build community, so your content become more valuable over time.


Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Reusable


  • Today, lists live inside posts on your blog as dumb HTML/text.
  • If your lists are hard to re-use ( any they are), people may copy without crediting.
  • Make it easy & people will reuse (like slides).


  • Listly is designed to to deliver lists (as objects) to many sites & services across the web.
  • Think Slideshare for a lists.
  • Lists can be embedded on many blogs across the web.

Let go of Perfect

Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Let go of Perfect


  • We often try too hard to be perfect, complete & exhaustive.
  • Leaving gaps & flaws entices people to participate.
  • It’s actually less work and builds participation. You can seed more content & develop the list that create engagement.


  • A list that’s partially complete, but shows promise, is intriguing.
  • Humans love to fill in gaps, complete series & finish sentences.
  • Listly lets you create content in a fun, social & collaborative way.

Mobile /Responsive

Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Mobile /Responsive


  • Text lists in blog posts are not responsive (by design).
  • There’s no smarts to respond uniquely to mobiles, desktop & tablets.
  • Content & layout are bound together, which is very limiting (& not Google proofed).


  • Listly lists adapt intelligently to the width they are given. ( ie responsive objects).
  • Each list can have multiple layout. Layout is a view time decision.
  • Listly can respond as search engines needs, keeping all your lists compliant/optimized.

Socially Inclusive

Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Socially Inclusive


  • People expect to be able to interact with web content.
  • With lists that means voting & adding suggestions.
  • Static HTML lists on blogs don’t support this capability.


  • Listly lets people contribute.
  • Additions can be moderated, so you get help but remain in control.
  • Additions are linked to the contributor’s social profiles.
  • List become living communities of people who care about given topics.

Precious Pixels

Aug 18, 2014
7 ways your html lists are making your blog act in unexpected ways | Precious Pixels


  • Long lists become hard for users to navigate & for bloggers to manage.
  • They also require skill to edit.
  • Failure to tag the list correctly can impact your search engine rankings.
  • Reordering risks breaking a post.


  • Listly is designed to use space responsibly.
  • Layouts, pagination & filtering make your lists much more useful to the reader.
  • Editing is simple & possible from anywhere by anyone without touching the post.

We explore how you are failing to meet the expectations of the modern web visitor and how perhaps we’re trying to hard and not being willing to invite our audience to help.

One of the biggest reasons is your lists don’t act like list.

Below I embed the same list as a Slideshare.

NIck Kellet (130 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.