Make your new readers feel at home

welcome

When you’ve been publishing blog posts for a while, it can be easy to forget that many visitors to your website are arriving for the first time. They mightn’t be familiar with your site navigation, and how to make the most of the time spent on your blog. So it’s a good idea to offer signposts once in a while, to aid deeper navigation.

It’s also a good idea to feature your best articles. I recommend creating a new page for this if you have more than 100 posts. If you don’t feel you have enough content for a separate feature, you could always add a popular articles section (as I do in my right-hand sidebar).

Update:
My blog layout has since changed, and you’ll no longer see this section.

When welcoming new readers, you may also wish to provide some basic info about your blog, and here are a few sample questions you could answer (courtesy of Darren at Problogger).

  • Why did you start your blog?
    The story of how, when and why you started the blog can help readers connect with you.
  • How is it designed to be used?
    An increasing number of people understand what a blog is and how it operates, but some readers may not, particularly non-tech savvy audiences. Explain concepts like comments and any features you’ve installed that might take a little describing.
  • How can users connect / subscribe?
    Explain how to use RSS or how to subscribe via email. It’s amazing how many people don’t understand this.
  • How can readers get more involved?
    If you have forums or a community area to get readers more involved, highlight them.
  • Where should readers start?
    Point new readers to some starting points to read.

Here are my own answers to the above questions:

  • Why did you start your blog?
    I initially started to complement my graphic design portfolio. My first blog post was published back in October 2006, so my ‘blogging age’ is around 18 months. Now my blog acts as both a marketing tool, and a great way to connect with like-minded people.
  • How is it designed to be used?
    Primarily as a means for potential clients to browse my past logo designs, and to provide me with information about their design project requirements. It’s also designed as means to document graphic design news and inspiration, with particular emphasis on logo design (which I enjoy more than other creative disciplines). I’m especially pleased when something I’ve published prompts people to communicate through the comment section at the foot of each blog post. It might seem like a small thing, but that interaction has more than kept me writing for 18 months.
  • How can users connect / subscribe?
    I update my website once or twice per week. Sometimes more. To save you checking for new content, you can subscribe for free to receive updates as soon as they’re published. There are two ways to do this; via RSS (which over 4,000 people already do), or by email (currently more than 400 people receive updates in their inboxes). If you’re unsure what RSS is, here’s a nifty video to describe the benefits.
  • How can readers get more involved?
    It’s been an idea of mine to include a graphic design forum alongside my website, but I’m unsure if it’d work. What do you think of the idea? It’d be somewhere you can upload your own designs to receive feedback from the community. Of course there are already plenty of excellent logo design forums and resources where you can do similarly, which is why there’s a doubt.
  • Where should readers start?
    If you’re new here, why not have a look at my featured articles, or those popular articles shown in my sidebar? Alternatively, view my portfolio, and click on each design for an insight into the process.

Do you have any tips for making new readers feel at home?

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26 comments

  1. Since I’m working on the redesign of my blog, I’m looking for the best way to change how people navigate through the information.
    I think the most important thing, is to make it easy for new visitors to find information and make them feel comfortable with reading.

    The archives page is a great part too of presenting easy and well structures access to articles.

    Thank you for the “about” tips :) I’ll try to build a better version of the one I have currently!

  2. Some good advice, David.
    It is all too easy to forget these things. I see my site every day, so it’s easy to overlook potential barriers to usability. It’s made me rethink my own site—especially when it comes to “where to start” for new readers. Thanks for the timely reminder.

  3. Excellent David. Some things I really need to think about here. Great idea to point new readers to what you consider to be your best, most useful content. I use the Popularity plugin for my sidebar, but that might not always be the best choice.

  4. Ahmed,

    I’m looking forward to seeing how you change your current site layout. I hope it all goes well.

    Johno,

    I know exactly what you mean. Seeing your own site everyday can blind you to how first-time visitors navigate, so it’s always worthwhile giving it some extra thought now and again.

    Randa,

    The popularity plugin was once in use here on my own blog, but not for too long. It’s like you say, sometimes those articles with the most comments or visits aren’t the ones you want to highlight to potential clients. My own ‘popular articles’ section is hand-picked, which is why there’s a bit of a focus on logo design.

  5. Great list of things todo (for my website). At the moment I’m using a plugin called Comment Relish, this is a email message to those who comment for the first time at the blog, I thank them for commenting and encourage to subscribe to the rss feed.

    When having 100 or more posts at a blog it will become difficult to find old (great) posts, I think the related plugin posts are overlooked by many people. I also don’t think archive or sitemap is helping, need to look for a new way to attract the visitors through the old posts.

    I think the start posts to introduce new visitors to the website are good. I believe there is a plugin called what seth godin would do, this displays a text based on a cookie, might try that out.

    Thanks and good luck with your website.

  6. I think creating a great forum is VERY hard to pull off.

    You would have a good chance as you have a decent amount of readers who regularly post comments. However, it’s one thing users replying to your posts but it’s quite another expecting them to generate enough of their own to keep a healthy forum going. There is nothing worse for a forum than being empty. There are also big issues with moderation.

    I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, I think good forums are great and until the last year or so it’s where I spent the majority of my time online. I just think it’s really hard to get the right sort of community to make it work.

    I wish you luck if you do go for it though and I’m sure I would be a regular ;)

  7. Sander,

    I’ve experienced the Comment Relish plugin quite a few times. The idea behind it is great, but I found myself growing tired of the obvious auto-replies. I think they’d be more effective on those who are unfamiliar with blogs, but how many of them actually leave a comment?

    I see many people use it, but I’ve chosen not to install the ‘what would Seth Godin do?’ plugin. I clear my cookies fairly regularly, and therefore receive the same ‘first-time visitor’ message everytime I arrive on sites I regularly read. If you try it, I’m curious to know how it works out.

    Shaun,

    I really appreciate your thoughts on creating a forum. You mention a lot of what puts me off. I also use them less today than I did a year ago, with more of my online communication taking place through blogs.

  8. Such basic items, but so forgotten … even by myself. Why is it that we elevate past simplicity so often? Your post led me to write about this today and get started on a few additions to my blog. Thanks David.

  9. That is a great idea, I sort of did that on my main .com area but I have 5 blogs within that navigation, so they might get where they want to go, might not. I try to give them the choice by starting them off on my “about” page, but sometimes that just gives them a entry and exit place, so I end up using a link to a specific blog (which I did here).

    Great idea, and a good way to make your readers feel more at home.

  10. Good Idea David.

  11. That’s a great list of ideas David.

    My ‘about’ has gotten WAY too full of cacca so it’s time to do a serious rewrite. I was just talking with a writer / friend this week to get ideas. I see it too much so I do need new eyes.

    One more for the list (my list anyway) – To make them feel welcomed back, make sure your comments sign up remembers their information. For some reason, mine at DWB doesn’t so it’s off to research I go …

    (another one for my personal list – erase the descriptor ‘wankers’ from my online vocab ;-)

  12. My ‘about’ does not exist, so I think any would be an improvement on this.

    When I look back however, my reasons for starting a blog are foggy at best. I think in the very beginning it was because we had clients asking how to use it, so I thought the best way to help would be to do it myself and learn that way!

  13. Thanks David for the useful information.

    It seems you are always good at giving great tips and advices personally and on your blog as well :)

    Wish you all the best.

  14. Aaron,

    Good of you to mention me, and you’re very welcome for the prompt.

    Scott, Niyaz,

    Glad you think it’s a good idea, and Scott, I like your use of drop-downs in the nav. Brian Gardner‘s an excellent theme designer.

    Cat,

    I wonder if I should re-name my about page. At present it’s used as a ‘hire me’ prompt. As for narrowing down your online descriptive terms, I smiled when I read your recent usage.

    Karl,

    I applaud your idea. Good business sense.

    Sherif,

    It’s a pleasure to help out.

  15. Just forgot to add that i liked the plugin that shows the last post of readers who leave comments on your blog. actually it’s a very handy way of communication between visitors. I think it adds another great powerful feature to comments area.

  16. David,

    I believe it was more about helping myself to help the clients! Having said that – quite a few now have blogs on many different topics, so I think it was worth it.

    As I have said before, anything that helps our clients use our services better is a worthwhile use of time to us. There are companies that don’t offer support or charge for it, whereas we see it as an integral part of the service :)

  17. Great post. Just to reiterate a key point here, you HAVE TO HIGHLIGHT your best posts in some way/shape/form. They are the one’s that get readers interested and turn into repeat visitors. Google Analytics can be very helpful here.

  18. Sherif,

    The CommentLuv plugin is one of my favs. I can’t quite style the script as much as I should be able to with the new update, but it’s still very useful.

    Karl,

    Support should absolutely be part of the service. Good call.

    Ryan,

    Google Analytics is fantastic. Too in-depth to check often, but for detailed reports into web stats I know of no better. I mention SlimStat above. This plugin helps me get a quick snapshot of incoming traffic, which I tend to keep an eye on more than much of what Google Analytics offers.

  19. Interesting post, great read of the day I might say. Keep up the good work!

    You have really turned this blog into a work of art David. Now I’m a new visitor here, but I’ve seen your name almost everywhere :P

    -Mike

  20. Hello Mike,

    Thanks for the compliment. You must be keeping on top of things if you happen to see my name around the net. That’s great to know.

  21. Thank you for this article, it was only recently that I realised what a large community of artists is out there blogging about the industry and what we do.

    I had often wondered about providing too much content… ie too many topics. I mix personal rants with an art blog and graphics resource. At some point I may have to create a separate blog to avoid overwhelming visitors.

    david

  22. David,

    you’re not alone. My blog covers web design, IT, food & drink, humorous pieces, sailing…. so I think I am at least as guilty of this as you! I still haven’t decided what I want to do with the blog, so it chugs along with a reasonable number of viewers, so I’m happy with it as it is at present.

  23. David,

    There are some excellent design / art blogs out there, absolutely. As for your idea of a separate blog, I went through a similar thought process before launching Logo Design Love. I think it helps to put across my favoured speciality.

    Karl,

    That’s quite the spectrum of topics you offer. If it works for you, that’s the main thing. Hope it continues in that vain.

  24. Thanks for the tips David. I just started my blog to get more traffic to my site. I wasn’t sure what to post that would help my visitors. You had some good information.

  25. firebubble - logo design UK

    I agree with the point about forgetting that visitors are arriving for the first time. I think your blog though David is an excellent example of how you can provide a simple yet effective navigation system for visitors as when I first visited this website a few months back I had no idea just how big this site was as everything seemed easy to find with only a few clicks. You have done very well to organise so many pages in a way that is simple for visitors to comprehend.

  26. Don’t mention it, Joann, bubble.

    Thanks for commenting.

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