Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Guess where I am?

Well, physically I'm in Utah at my grandma's for the holiday. Yay! I haven't had Thanksgiving here in more than a decade.

But online, I'm over at Mindy McGinnis's blog, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, doing a guest interview. Isn't that the coolest? Head on over and check out my querying story.

And have a great Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Blog Critique: Praise, Prayers and Observations

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at, go here.

We're diving in today because as soon as I finish I get to watch the latest Walking Dead. So head on over to Jessy Ferguson's Praise, Prayers and Observations and we'll talk below.

Jessy, first of all, thank you for the blog love! I appreciate the shout out.

I'm really impressed with your blog structure. It's very functional. Overall, there's not much we recommend. Of course, we're never without a few opinions.
  • We appreciate your simple neutral header in contrast with your very busy background. This is a good design choice.
  • However, we would like to see a few more colors pulled in from your background into your blog. Right now, you're using one color really - that rust red that turns more orange when hovered over. We'd like to see your date stamp and perhaps your links in different colors. On your latest post, you used blue for some of your links. You usually don't, and we say you should always be consistent, but that blue does add a nice color. You could use that blue all the time and pull another color in from your background as well.
  • Your template may not allow it, but I'd love it if your sidebar could be a shade different than your post area. Especially if your post area is lighter, it draws the eye to the most critical information.
  • If you added Link Within, I think people could get lost in your blog for hours. I recommend the addition. 
  • Make sure all your links open into new windows. You don't want to lose people when they click on a link.
  • You have great depth, I'm referring to your other pages. I enjoyed reading each of them. I'd only suggest adding a way for people to contact you to one of your pages, and also a Home button so people can easily get back home when they've clicked elsewhere.
  • Move your followers up under your Hearts, Hearths, & Holidays. I'm glad the link to purchase your book has place of pride, but after that, the follower button should be next so new followers can easily sign up.
  • Some of your sidebar could be cleaned up. Your A to Z Challenge badge could be put under achievements, for example. The more you have in your sidebar, the less people look at it. Put what you want seen up top, clean up as much as you can.
  • Some of your books deserve some explanation and links, if possible. I'm guessing that you have a piece in Chicken Soup for Chocolate Lovers and the Daily Devotions, but I don't know this for sure. If people can still purchase them, have them linkable to other places. If they aren't sold any longer, you may want to put those under your achievements instead of in your sidebar.
Overall, like I said above, I think your blog functions well. You're a great writer and I'm glad you've come back to it. Great work and good luck with your future endeavors! (I love the premise of A Bad Guy Forever - hope it works out!)

What other advice do you have for Jessy?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Blog Critique: Becky Povich Writer

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at, go here.

How are you all doing post Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy? I live in Denver, far from the disaster, but I'm sad to hear about all the crap that friends and family have had to go through. I'm thinking of you all.

Okay, enough chit-chat. Let's get to our critique. Rush over to Becky Povich and meet below.
Becky, I love your header. It makes me smile. Coffee in general makes me smile, but even if they're only drinking hot chocolate, it still makes me smile.

We do recommend changing the wording on your header. Your name - the most important part of your entire header - is hard to read. If you put "Becky Povich" to the right with your subtitles (writer- humorist - bliss follwer) smaller underneath.

You have beautiful quotes. But as beautiful as they are, we need to see your profile up top. Give it the top spot on your sidebar. This blog is about you! Let us be able to find you easily.

Under your profile, put your follower button. You want your followers to be able to subscribe with ease.

Under your followers, put your publications. Those are mighty important.

You have lots of great colors in your header. We'd like to see you pull some of those colors into your blog to give yourself a nice color palette. Like that red would be a great color for your post titles. And that yellow couch color would be nice as your date stamp. If you're afraid of color, just pick one to use throughout your blog. You'll be surprised how much it uplifts your look.

I'm glad you have the Link Within widget, but I'd reinstall it and choose 5 stories instead of 3. It will look more balanced.

Another thing that needs to be moved up on your sidebar is your labels. People do use those to find past posts. But, first, it needs to be seriously cleaned up. I would go through and remove anything you only have one and maybe even two of. Right now, it's pretty difficult to make use of it.

We'd like to see your sidebar better separated from your posts. Can you put a color behind it? Make it a light neutral color. Just something to show some contrast.

The link to your newly created website is broken. When you fix it, I recommend your links open in a new window. That keeps people on your site even when they click to go elsewhere.

There are some things you could clean up from your sidebar, but it doesn't look too crowded to me. I wouldn't mind if you widened your post area a bit. I think most people have bigger screens than that.

Other than those few little things, I am enchanted with your blog. You have delightful posts and I enjoy visiting. Good job and thanks for being a victim.

Any other suggestions you have for Becky?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blog Critique: Change the Topic

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Quick, go to Changethetopic.com. Stay awhile because it's a pretty awesome read. Like them on Facebook too if you want entertainment in your daily feed, because, Change The Topic is pretty dang entertaining. And then meet below for a critique.

Let's just get this out of the way: I love The Real Birdman and his entourage and would read Change the Topic every day just because. Funny, crass, original, and actually there's some social responsibility too even though The Birdman would like readers to think otherwise. This is one of those blogs that wins with personality. Personality blogs can fail everywhere else and still be awesome.

I'm not saying that Change the Topic fails everywhere else. I just want to be perfectly clear that anything I say by way of suggestion is a bit of take or leave it. Because, Birdman, you got it going on already.

But if you'd like to hear what I'd suggest, just for kicks, read on.

  • I like your header, but I wish it was wider. Right now there's more focus on the Royal Flush book. This would be totally fine if Royal Flush was your book, but it looks like it's not. 
  • If you do want to keep promoting Royal Flush, and by all means do, just make sure it doesn't get top billing on your blog. Also, I'd have that open in another window so that people don't get away from your blog when they go to look at it.
  • We'd like to see more color. Though your blog is really clean, it's really monotone. Adding some variety in your colors will really make you stand out. Three or four total colors would be awesome. Like, you could keep the red for your blog titles, then add a coordinating color for your authorship and date stamp and another color for your Read More. Your sidebar titles could be a different color. 
  • Another way to add some color to your blog would be to put a background color on your sidebar. This would also help separate it from your posts. Right now it sort of runs together.
  • Your navigation bar to your other pages is just a bit buried. It took me a few minutes to find your About page. 
  • Okay, I love your Cerebral Cortex picture, but having it repeat on all your posts bugs me because of it's size. It also makes me feel like I'm seeing a post I've already seen and I almost skipped some. I don't know the answer. Maybe shrink it down and put it in your sidebar. Or put it below your header. Something so the same photo doesn't show up when people are reading your posts in Google Reader.
  • I think you could lose the word "here" in your "Sweet Jesus!" line. I hate how it wraps to the next line and it still makes sense without the word. Actually, I'd suggest cleaning as many of those links as you can so that they don't wrap. You could use a "&" instead of "and" in the "it's super easy and fun". 
  • The blogroll next to your tags is muddy. I'd prefer to see them in their own column.
All right, that's all I got. If I missed anything it was because I was enjoying reading your posts too much. Hope this critique was helpful.

Anything else you'd like to add, readers?

Monday, October 22, 2012

In this series I give constructive feedback about the look and function of an author blog from a marketing perspective. As always, I rely on help from graphic designers Tom Barnes (my hubby) and Joe LaRue. To review the blog elements we look at or to submit your own blog for critique, go here.

Later, I have to tell you about my fabulous last week when I got to celebrate my CP and good friend Gennifer Albin's debut of Crewel with her in Kansas City. What a blast! And I feel a contest might have to accompany that post.

But now, it's critique time. Head on over to Stephen Tremp's website. And meet below to discuss. Cool? 

There's much I admire about your blog, Stephen. Particularly I admire that, according to what you've told me, you have gone through several looks trying to find the right one. I appreciate your courage to experiment.

I also like the clean separation of your sidebars from the main area. It's easy to read and pretty organized. Most importantly I want to give you kudos for having easy to find links to your books. RIGHT ON! (I'd like it even more if your links opened into new windows so that people didn't have to leave your site to purchase.)

But there are also several things we'd like to see you change:

  • We'd love to see your blog have a title not a "Welcome to". In other words, make it simply: Author Stephen Tremp's Website.
  • Your title also uses a color and font that is not used anywhere else in your blog. Make it uniform.
  • The picture choice is also unclear. You write sci-fi, but I don't feel like your writing or blog posts exhibit enough sci-fi to warrant the picture. If you still want your blog to say sci-fi, add more to make it clearer.
  • I'd like your blog header to line up with your navigation bar. Right now the header extends past it. Also have your sidebars line up under the navigation bar.
  • I'd like to see your post section widened. I do have a big screen but there's an awful lot of dead space. 
  • I don't like the gray bar that extends all the way across your top. I think that's part of the template. This template is one of my least favorite because of its restrictions like that. Play around with it some more and you may be able to make it work.
  • That blue that you use as your main title color confuses me because that's the traditional color for links. So I want those to be clickable, and they aren't. We recommend changing that color.
  • While you're at it, pick a more distinct palette. Right now it's sort of blue and red and white and pink and gray. It's a little dull. Instead pick maybe the blue or the red as your main color and build around that. Use www.colorschemedesigner.com if you need help.
  • I'd like to see your Followers higher on your blog so that it's easy for people to follow.
  • I'd also like to see your Welcome to my Website box with your pic with Dean Koontz go to a story about the event. Or else changed all together. Right now it feels like it's going to link somewhere and it doesn't.
  • Since your post section is so small, five posts makes the page go on forever. You could limit to three. Especially when you have your blog archive at the bottom too.
  • I'd like to see you use the Link Within widget. I think people would enjoy clicking through your past posts with it. 
Okay, Stephen, I think I'm finished with you. Did you survive? Thanks for your willingness for the torture.

Anyone else have any tips for Stephen?

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