You should always be wondering how your blog can function better and be more user-friendly. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook important aspects simply because you’ve been looking at it for too long, or because it’s fine for you.
What’s the best way to understand how your blog is used? Ask your readers. I did, and here’s what I found out.
My blog header should be clickable, returning you to the blog homepage. This is a standard function of blogs that people are familiar with. Even though there’s a ‘home’ text link just above the logo, it’s still important to have the logo linking. Thanks Chris.
Hanging punctuation needs fixing in the blog header quote by Mao Tse-Tung. You might wonder why this is due a mention, but as a graphic designer, proper use of the English language and text layout is a huge part of my job. Nice pick-up Richard.
The coding can be tweaked slightly to improve web validation. Lorissa knows what she’s talking about and gave me some useful tips. Regarding validation, some people think, “My site looks right and works fine. Isn’t that enough?” The answer is a simple no. Here’s some further info on why your website should validate (something I’ve been guilty of not knowing enough about).
People should be able to search the blog quickly and easily. At present the search box is in the blog footer. Moving the function ‘above the fold’ and to the top of the page was mentioned a few times in your comments. Thanks to Tolumi for mentioning it first, and for your other suggestions (some of which are also listed).
Add a contact form or contact details to the blog site rather than directing people to my portfolio contact form. I had thought about this before so thanks for bringing it up again. Letting your readers contact you as simply as possible is up there with the most important points of any website. I shouldn’t be making you click one more time than is necessary.
Integrate my collection of resources with the blog template. When you access my resources it opens in a new window / tab, and there’s no link back to the blog. I can see how this could be needlessly confusing. First off, it helps your search rankings if as many pages as possible are accessible from eachother. It’s also inconsistent with the branding of either my portfolio section of the site or my blog.
No logo / mark should be more obvious than my personal logo. This is something I didn’t take into consideration when making use of a ‘big and beautiful’ RSS icon. What draws your eye immediately when you first see my blog? It’s clearly the orange RSS icon (not including each post image), when my logo should really be the most apparent. What RSS are you? Thanks for bringing this one up Marc. You gave a great critique. Marc thought I should make the ‘subsribe’ text link at the top of the page orange, rather than displaying the standard RSS icon. Something I’ll check out.
Add more colour (or color if you prefer). At present what I like to do is begin each blog post with a large, usually colourful image, so it contrasts nicely with the greyscale look of the blog template. I might test out some form of colour variation in the header and footer to give the blog a little more life.
Make use of a related posts plugin to increase blog-wide visiting. Thanks for the tip Jen. Can anyone recommend a good plugin for this task? I often find that when I search for a plugin there are quite a few variations and it’s hard to tell which is best without testing them all (which I don’t have a lot of time for).
More posts about my design process and personal thoughts / questions about design. I’m guilty of regurgitating information found on other blogs or sites. Sometimes this can work to good effect. Take my Flags of contemplation post for instance. Over the past three weeks this single post has consistently brought in a flood of new visitors, thanks to it being repeatedly ‘stumbled’ (see www.stumbleupon.com for more info on ‘stumbling’ through the web – I love it!). Successful bloggers write unique content, so I’ll aim to spend more time researching posts.
Once again, thank you to everyone who took time to respond to ‘Do you ask for criticism?‘. It’s going to be a while before I can implement all these changes so bear with me. I mentioned in the criticism post that the most useful comments would win a personal review of the author’s blog or website (a small token of appreciation). And the winner is…
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll spend some time writing my own thoughts about Marc’s blog and making what I hope are some useful suggestions for improvement.
By way of thanks to all the others who left comments, and to my regular readers, I’ll happily offer up a future review of your site / blog. Just let me know by leaving a comment or sending a message. I appreciated each and every suggestion.