Your changes to my graphic design blog

website critique

Every now and again I like to ask what you think about my blog. You’re taking the time out of your day to visit, read and interact, and it’s important for me to ask for your feedback.

Back in March, Dawud gave a detailed critique of my blog, and hopefully I’ve improved my site since then. What do you reckon, Dawud?

A recent article here asked, What does your website say about you? The conversation that followed was enlightening, and I made a few tweaks to my site afterwards.

Then last weekend I had a refreshing chat on Skype with Liz of Successful Blog. We got talking about blog design and I asked what her very first impressions of my site were.

I was very appreciative of Liz’s feedback and found myself agreeing with everything she suggested. It just goes to show how important it can be to have another set of eyes looking at your blog (it also helps that Liz has a very successful blog of her own). You become so familiar with it that you can miss the most obvious of errors.

My search box was previously beneath my photo (which left the reader wondering if the photo was actually me). Liz suggested I move the ‘graphic design’ section from the top of my middle column to below my photo, and to also add more white space between the three columns of content. There was also quite a large gap below my main headings, so I narrowed this to pull each section together more.

Another great suggestion was to swap the two links in my ‘graphic design’ section, having ‘hire me’ appear first and ‘view my portfolio’ second. That’s one of those ones you wonder why you didn’t think of first. Liz also thought I could highlight the ‘hire me’ link with a button, perhaps similar to the ‘pay now’ button on PayPal. That’s something I’ll experiment with. Again, thanks very much for your time Liz.

John, with his graphic design, art, typography and architecture blog, suggested changing the cloud header to something more graphic design related. I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit. The header quote previously showed a line by the late Chairman Mao, and more than one person mentioned his terrible legacy, so I’ve removed it, and am also wondering what (if anything) I should add in its place.

Have your say

The last time I asked for critique I was amazed by the quality of tips, and now is the time where you come in once more.

Is there something you see that you think I can improve upon, either about the design / layout of my blog, or the content / writing style? There are some great designers amongst you, so any opinions are very welcomed.

Why do you visit my blog? I think this is an important question because it allows me to provide more of what you like.

If you ask your own readers for feedback on your blog / website, I’ll gladly be the first to offer my thoughts.

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31 Comments

  1. Liz, your ideas were all great so it was my pleasure. Thanks again for chatting and I’ll get in touch soon with article ideas.

    Harvey, glad to have you reading, and thanks for the feedback. I’ll see what I can do.

  2. Wow! David! I feels so roomy and easy to get around! Thank you for your kind words. Thank you for putting up my ideas. I so enjoyed talking to you. I can’t wait for your article for Successful Blog. You are a star!

  3. I’m only new here but I think I’ll hang around for a bit longer. One small thing I’d look at changing is the pic of yourself on the right hand side – seems to be a few too many JPG artifacts for my liking. Seeing as it’s in pride of place on the blog, I would look at upping the quality a couple of notches.
    Keep up the good work :)

  4. I’ve only just discovered you mate. I like it, is about all I can say so far. Great content, esp. about the logos. Doesn’t help much, but shows you’re doing good at least, eh?

  5. More a case of ‘don’t do':

    I too like the roomy feel to this site. I’m on a 15″ crt moniter, but the site is still clean and uncluttered, which is impressive.

    Similarly, the menu system on the rhs is pretty good too though perhaps you’d like to think about limiting the number of catagories by sub-catagorising a bit more.

    Other than that I can’t really help, you have a good site. So don’t mess too much with it.

  6. Hi David,

    I really like your blog overall. I am not sure if you are asking for design or content comments or both?

    The articles I enjoy most of yours are the ones where you give us an insight to the way you work and little tips like the wordpress login page you did yesterday. The posts I am less keen on are the ones about Alexa and Page rank etc but that’s just me and I can see why you do it :)

    I like the design of your blog overall – the only thing I am not so keen on is the position of your logo – I just feel like it should sit on the left to balance off the quote on the right or visa versa.

    As your design is a promotional tool for your design work maybe you could pull out the section with your photo and hire me etc so it looks different from the rest of your navigation (some sort of panel/background colour would draw the eye to it)

  7. Nice tweaks so far David. I’m with John- you need an image at the top that has much more visual impact. Being a graphic designer, it seems you want someone’s first thought when they arrive here is “wow, cool!!” My suggestion would be to remove the three blue lines at the top above each section of content. They seem rather uneccessary to me and there are already so many horizontal lines on the page because of the style of the sidebars.
    I agree with Harvey that the picture could be much sharper, and I’m wondering why you don’t use the picture that you use in your avatar? That’s the most “classy” picture of you that I’ve seen.

  8. Hi David – what a coincidence, I’m currently drafting a very similar article.

    In terms of your layout and design, I feel quite at home here and don’t think much needs changing. However, as a designer it might be pretty cool to design your own theme from the bottom up, rather than modding someone else’s.

    I agree with everyone that your photo at the top looks pretty rough, but disagree with people who want to change the clouds and sky banner. This is part of your brand – you can’t change that can you? If you do, I think you’d need to look at your logo too. I’d stick with the ‘fresh airey’ brand though if I were you.

    In terms of content I think the majority of what you write is real good stuff. I’ve noticed recently more articles on ‘blogging’ which is an easy thing for every blogger to write about, and something all bloggers have an interest in (naturally). However, I read this because it is a graphic design blog and it’s design and creativity related articles that I’m most interested in.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Nils,

    I hope there’s something in my content that keeps you around a while.

    Adam,

    I’ve wondered if there are too many categories. One change I mean to make to the categories is to show article headings only, rather than full posts, when you click on a section. Does anyone know how to do that?

    Tara,

    The question I asked was for both the design and content. I thought if I asked about both then I might get an answer on at least one. ;)

    You make a good point about the position of my logo, and I’ve thought about placing my content in the centre with a sidebar on the left and right, then having my logo on the left. Something to work at. I like your idea of emphasising the graphic design / photo section.

    Randa,

    I’ve previously tried removing the three horizontal lines at the top of the page, although it wasn’t so easy to differentiate the three columns. Perhaps now I’ve increased the white-space between them it’ll be better.

    As Aaron mentions, the cloud header does tie in with my surname. Maybe I can still incorporate a skyline into a landscape image.

    My photograph was chosen because I have a smile in it, whereas the avatar I use looks a lot more serious. I like to keep my articles light-hearted so I wonder if the straight-faced photo would change impressions. I do agree that it’s a more professional shot though.

    Aaron,

    Looking forward to your own article. I’m making it a point of designing my own, honest! :)

    I agree that I have been writing more about blogging these days. Perhaps I see it as a distraction to the client work I do when not updating my site, but I’ve taken your point on board (especially as Tara has said the same – and others previously).

    J Phill,

    Thanks for taking the time out to comment.

    Many thanks to everyone.

  10. I can’t say that anything needs changing. I really like the setup of your blog. Though I understand what others have said about a more graphical header, but seeing as though the image currently there is very fitting, I don’t think it’s exactly needed (a new header image that is).

    Keep up the good work!

  11. I can help you with the mod to your categories if you like? Drop me an email.

  12. David, I like your site overall. It’s easy to navigate and makes sense from a reader perspective. Only suggestion I can make is to migrate to a completely custom WordPress theme so you stand out from the crowd more. I’ve wanted to do this to my site but have been more focused on posting consistency. Eventually I’ll make some significant theme changes but not now.

  13. Hafiz, the offer is appreciated. I got in touch with Aaron. Great suggestion by the way. The thought had crossed my mind a few times about the navigation order. I’ve changed it.

  14. Hi David,

    I was about to offer help on the Category thing as well, but I guess Aaron above beat me to it. One thing though, you might want to consider including excerpts of the post instead of just the post title.

    Also, in my opinion the top menu might need to be arranged according to your priority, from left to right. If it were up to me, the “Hire Me” and “Portfolio” link would be next to the Home link, while the “Advertise Here” link gets pushed to the very right.

    The reason would be that, well, you’d prefer people to hire you rather than simply advertise in your site, since you’re a designer. That’s solely my opinion though.

    In regards of contents, I enjoy what you’ve written. Keep up the quality stuff!

  15. Hi David, to be honest I think its just great the way it is. Its clean well laid out, nice on the eye, not at all distracting or busy…

    But hey, what use is that kind of comment huh? So, if I were going to be at all picky then I’d perhaps look at finding a way of filling some of that blank white space to the right of these comments. Seems a little odd to have a chunk of content in the footer and nothing to my right.

    Ok, so I know lots of blogs do this as well, but..I dunno, perhaps its a nature abhors a vacuum thing :D

    Perhaps a little if(conditional) could put something in there to fill the void. If number of comments > 8 then output a flickr horizonatal bar or something like that.

    In terms of why i read you, well, basically you write good content and get my old brain ticking over. Anyone who can do that holds my attention.

    Cheers

  16. Your site is clean, user friendly and easy to navigate. What more do you need?? The only thing I can think of is to add a next and a previous link so we can get to those posts (this is especially helpful if you start writing series posts). And I like the clouds and the blue you’ve chosen. Don’t change them!

    Re: Randa’s comments, I don’t mind the blue lines, but they need to be thicker, and I agree with her vote for the picture. I love your avatar one! You look like you have a hint of a smile in that one. Maybe it’s different at larger sizes?

    I visit and read your blog for the community. I like dialogging with other designers, and I think it’s the most awesome thing that many of my blogging friends live outside the US!

    The types of articles that I like most are ones where you present us with a design and we discuss it. Specifically I remember the graffiti castle and the Olympic logo. I like posts that make me think. The ones where you ask “What makes a good ____ design?” are great, too. Usually lots of discussion there! Oh, and I like being introduced to new things I never would have otherwise found, gallery sites, tools, tips (like the WP login). I’m not sure how you would know whether or not I know about something already, but you’ve done a good job at it so far!

  17. I only have one small nit to pick. Like Harvey said, you sometimes over-optimize your images.

    And I believe you mentioned building up your own theme at one point. I’m sure that would be cool. If you need tips on that I recommend wpdesigner.

    Content? No complaints. Only a suggestion. You’re such a plugin hound, can we see a post on your favorite plugins? Or to be different, maybe plugins you’ve tried and don’t recommend.

  18. David, well I really can’t say anything bad about the design of your site, especially the theme. (LOL!) Best theme I’ve ever seen! In all honesty, you know I’ve said before that your site is by far one of the best renditions of my Vertigo theme.

    Having said that, the first thing that comes to mind as far as constructive criticism goes is the decision to “advertise” on your site. Being that you are an individual brand, as I am, I’m not sure how others perceive that you are soliciting advertising spots on your blog.

    I freely admit that I tried Text Link Ads, a few affiliate banners and even have AdSense running on my current site. (more so for a fun experiment.) I’ve always held myself back (even with a Google PR of 6) from advertising because I’m afraid my visitors will think negatively upon myself.

    I’m pretty much brainstorming about this as I write, and I’m not condoning you in any way, rather asking you if you think it’s worth it. Not that I think this, but others might perceive this as selling out.

    Sell yourself, and your services, not ads that in the grand scheme of things might not generate all that much. In my case, I am probably going to decide to have a cleaner looking blog, and suck up the $12/month of Adsense I could generate by having them on my site.

    All in all, love the design.

    And I must say that I really like Liz’s theme as well. Striking similarities in the comments section, don’t ya think? ;)

  19. I agree with what brian says seeing that this blog is also a means for you to sell your designing ability, especially if you are into web graphics. But this is debatable. I would just keep with your text ads and for the time being.

    Personally I have turned off ads on my personal sites as well.

    Also with your sidebars you might like to put a “hr” below each sidebar heading. Right now the contrasts is not the best.

    btw have you turn “do follow” off cos I have not been receiving ping backs from all my comments left?

  20. Rob,

    Good point about the white space to the right. I’ve thought about doing away entirely with the footer, as it doesn’t actually fulfil a purpose. Glad I can hold your attention for a while!

    Lauren,

    That next / previous link at the foot of each article is a great idea. I should add that too. I took a quick look for the avatar photo though I’m sure I don’t have it in a decent size (I took it myself with a dodgey web cam). Perhaps it’s salvageable. Thanks for letting me know which articles you prefer. Much appreciated.

    Ian,

    Good of you to point me in the direction of wpdesigner. I’ve visited that site a couple of times but to be honest probably would’ve overlooked it (too many bookmarks). How do you know I like my plugins? ;)

    Brian,

    You pick up on a good point RE advertising. I wonder who else thinks I might be selling out? It all comes down to my own goals for this blog, which is to sell myself as a graphic designer. Ultimately I think that requires two things: My own theme and no advertising.

    For now I’ll leave it as is until I can get the time to code a theme I’m happy with (if my logo design is anything to go by then I’m in for a long journey).

    About Liz’s comment section, yep, I thought that might’ve had something to do with you?

    DT,

    My comments are DoFollow. I don’t receive notification through the admin or Technorati about my comments on other DoFollow sites. Should I?

    Are you suggesting I add a blue keyline below the sidebar headings? I’m not sure I understand.

    Thanks to you and everyone else for taking the time again. You’re all stars.

  21. I look forward to seeing a David Airey public theme! ;) RE: Liz’s theme, would have been nice if Sean left my link in her footer, as the basis of her design was taking from my theme, and modified by him. Oh well.

  22. I agree about the clouds, the header image could be changed; but to what, I can’t help you. There are dozens of stock photo websites out there, but being a graphic designer it may be more suitable to put something together yourself. Think of it as a box to showcase your design skills in, without distracting from the main content.

    Given that eyes tend to skim websites in an ‘2’ fashion, I would personally float the top links to the left if you’ll keep the David Airey logo and quote to the right. Readers will then find it more natural to scan left to the links, right to the logo, then left to the main content. Its all about that ease of reading :)

    Overall, it IS an excellent design. Lots of white space and easy on the eyes.

  23. Since you made all those tweaks, there’s hardly anything wrong with it. I still don’t like the clouds, but perhaps that’s subjective.

    I agree about your portrait photo–it looks like a very low-res’/over-optimised jpg.

    Sad to see the Mao quote go. I’m aware of his “legacy”, but it wouldn’t stop me; a good quote is a good quote regardless of its source. Anyway, that is, I guess, a personal choice.

    I really like how you’ve moved some of the side-bar content into the footer–very neat (I think I’ll be following your lead on that one).

    I can’t see any other problems. It’s looking clean, easily navigable, and professions; a great job, I think.

    Any reason for dropping the “Top Commentators” and “Blog Roll”?

  24. hi!

    Yes its strange, but at one stage I was receiving all comment link backs in my technorati and admin page. I believe technorati has just killed the dofollow movement. Their systems must have detected it and turned it off.

    Sorry for the poor comment its was a quick one and I had to run off. Yes I was suggesting to put your blue horizontal line under your headings of your sidebar.

    Anyways I do think “do follow” no longer works. Perhaps we should check with the rest of the do follow movement?

  25. @DT – Technorati never has indexed links in the comments when it spiders articled. I’m not sure why it doesn’t – probably because it reads the RSS feed and not the full page?

    David used to mention all the previous posts’ commenters in each article which, because it was in the actual article, Technorati did index. Perhaps this is what you’ve seen?

  26. Like the breeziness and refreshing feel of your blog. Only like to see a new photo of you. You came across as a people-person – very warm and friendly – through your posts and the conversation at the comment section. Your photo therefore come across as a little too serious and severe. Your posts, and your portfolio already clearly demonstrated your capabilities and professionalism, so I believe you can afford to put forward a photo that’s more relaxed and friendly, yet still come across as a real pro.

    You are doing fine … really fine.

  27. Frankly, I like the overall look and feel of your site. It’s refreshing and “airy”. What I suggest is that you place the personal photography somewhere in the right menu bars. I didn’t even notice that you have something like this till today. Maybe create some screenshots of your work and display them in a similar manner or instead of personal photography?

  28. Damien,

    I’d thought about floating the nav links to the left. I’ll give it a shot, thanks.

    John,

    Thanks again for your opinion. Regarding the footer, I’m actually contemplating removing it, and its contents, entirely. Do you think the footer adds any real value? I want to clean the pages up as much as possible.

    As for the ‘Top Commentators’, I’ve never made use of that plugin, through choice, and a blogroll is something I’m thinking about as a static page.

    DT,

    No problem at all for your quick comment. It was appreciated. Aaron has already answered your question (thanks Aaron).

    Vivienne,

    Do you really think my photo is serious? I thought it was a casual one. Regardless, I’ll at least be improving the quality, and possibly changing it too.

    Thanks for your thoughts and kind compliments.

    Hi Mig,

    You’re another who seems to have been reading my mind. I was thinking of showcasing some personal projects in the sidebar, but I’ll have to think about it some more so as not to clutter the white space.

    Good of you to drop in.

  29. Here are our suggestions:

    On line 151 in style.css:
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    Hope this helps,
    id designs

  30. id designs,

    Thanks for taking a look at my code. I know that most of the errors are caused by something to do with the lists, yet I’m not experienced enough to put my finger on it.

    Interesting to know how long my site takes to load on dial-up. At present every one of my clients uses broadband, and I don’t see that changing much.

    Great of you to take a look for me, and I’ll reply to your email now.

  31. priya

    I just stumbled upon this site. It has been a very entertaining and engaging place to wander and get lost in over my lunch break.
    Nice work.

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