Friday, November 25, 2011

Blog Critique: Shah Wharton

Blog Critique: 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.So remember that blog critique I was supposed to do Wednesday? Well, here it is!

And we're going about this critique in a different way, if you don't mind. Even if you do mind, I guess you don't really get a say...

Take a look at Shah Wharton's blog at  and we'll meet below.

Rather than give a full list of things I like and/or would do differently, I'm going to concentrate on just three elements. Ready, Shah? Let's go:

1. The blog header:  It's beautiful. It really is. I love the colors and fonts. But it's way too big. We shouldn't have to scroll down to see your profile or your first posts. Also, we can't tell what's more important - the picture or the quote. I would pick one and lose the other.

2. Organization: Shah, your blog is going to allow us to have a much needed conversation about organization. In general it is best to MINIMIZE,MINIMIZE, MINIMIZE. It makes blogs easier to read, follow, enjoy, etc. I'm all for simple, clean, uncluttered blogs.

That being said, I get that you are a collector and that's the spirit of you. Which means you've got to spend extra time working on organizing and cleaning your blog. First, make a list of the top five or so elements on your blog. For sure your blog posts and profile should be on your list. They could be, for example:

  • header picture
  • profile
  • blog posts
  • follow button
  • popular posts
Whatever your list is, they should be prominent. That means immediately we should see them. If this list were your list, you'd already have some work to do. I can't see your profile without scrolling down, I can't find the follow button or popular posts very easily, and I have to look for your posts!  You should then cut out anything that prevents us from seeing those things (such as your announcement, the header quote, etc.).

Now that doesn't mean you can just throw everything at the bottom of your blog (you told me you do this, so I know you already are aware of this). The next step is to list the next five to ten elements that you really, really want to keep. Twelve elements tops. Maybe your list looks like this:
  • subscribe box
  • search box
  • archives
  • social media connections (just one with all of them, not a ton for each one)
  • followers (only one follower box, not several)
  • poll question
  • cool blogs
  • Linky links
These should go be on your sidebar in a clean, easy to find style. All the rest of your elements need to go. Cut them out entirely. Delete them. If you absolutely can't bear to part with them, create a page that's just for your stuff. Call it something like My Stuff or Random or whatever. Put the extra elements there. 

I know that people who read your blog on Google Reader will not be affected by all of this, but the reader's who do physically visit your blog will be much more happy to stay on your blog and read more. 

3. Advertising: We've never talked about it here, but I'd be interested in knowing what people's thoughts are on blogs that have paid ads. My gut is that unless you want to be a professional blogger, you should do without. It confuses your readers. Is this blog for us or for you? Is this blog about your writing or is it about what Google wants us to buy? I don't want to knock a source of income if it is important to you to have it, but these are important things to consider.

Just because it seems I've been really critical about Shah's blog, I must say there are several things I am very happy to see:
  • soothing colors
  • blog depth (pages)
  • linky links
  • search box
  • she has her contact info
  • she has polls (polls are an awesome way to interact with readers)
  • she has some great post content
  • she's really involved in the writing community
Trim the fat and your blog will be ready to go. Keep up the good work, Shah, and thanks for being here (and for dealing with my change of schedule)!!

What do you think about ads, dear readers? And about Shah's blog in general? Please share! 


Shah Wharton said...

Hi - I have of course made amendments as per your advise already, and just made a few more ! Always changing. The recommendations I got for this blog whoever are more useful the future Author Website/blog I'm planning - it will be sparse and professional only. Nothing added but the books, buy links and links to my guest spots/tour stops etc. When I began blogging a year ago, I knew nothing of code or social networking or anything at all. I wasn't even on FB! My mom had been on it years before I started :D So I've come a long way I think. The adverts (Kindle and Indie Book Rooster) are there as they are relevant to the blog and what I cover. I know a lot of Indie Authors and Kindle fans. I love my Kindle - Its there primarily because its Christmas. I may remove it next yr. I did remove the books one. Cant' say I've ever looked at the revenue I may have earned - though I doubt its anything at all. Rooster is knew but has bought me some. I just think its a great service, which I may require myself at some point.

Anyway, many thanks for the report and tips and thorough nature of both. :D You RULE! XX

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Her heading isn't as bad as some I've seen, but it could be she's changed it . It bugs me when I have to scroll down to get past a massive sized heading.

The thing I agree most with is the part about advertising. I. Hate. It when bloggers include it. It makes I think the only reason they are blogging to for the extra income. They don't care about the real reason most people blog. Shah only has one ad widget, with was distracting because it moves. Some bloggers fill the margins with ad widgets and it's just plain annoying. I don't bother reading the blog when that happens.

Great feedback as always, Laura

Stacy S. Jensen said...

Shah thanks for letting your blog be critiqued. It always helps to see what Laura has to say. I like the different fonts on the tabs at the top, but the two links below the Kindle ad - "The Archives" and "Subscribe Free" are difficult to read. And when I click them, it takes me to a Photobucket page. I thought the "Subscribe here" might be a duplicate of the "email." Nice critique Laura.

AlexJCavanaugh said...

Sorry, I'm not much for advertising and never intend to do it on my own blog, no matter how many requests I receive. A lot of my blogger buddies do it, but I'd feel really cheap if I did it. That's not what my blog is all about.

LauraBarnes said...

It looks better already! Sounds like you've come a long way in your blogging. And I know you've come a long way in your personal life. You are inspirational. Thanks again for participating. You are a beautiful person!

LauraBarnes said...

It is true that her header isn't as bad as some - I know those that you are talking about! I should clarify that I mean her illustration plus the quote really acts as a header together. And that's what is too big because I have to scroll so far to get to her beautiful face.

Thanks for the feedback about advertising. I know it can be a sticky subject so I'm glad for the comment.


LauraBarnes said...

I agree with that font comment. Thanks for adding that!


LauraBarnes said...

I would feel cheap too. It makes your blog about something else. Thanks for the comment :)

Wendy Ewurum said...

I just added some adverts to mine but considering the feedback here I think I have to relook at the quantity. I actually made the effort to explain in a gadget that i had monetized my blog to support my book review activities. I am not working at the moment and am in a new country, i spend a lot of time on buying books and promoting writers and so I did not see when I should not keep doing what I love and still be able to try to make it self sustaining. I once though i would feel cheap but I truly don't. Its either i do something about creating additional income or stop blogging. the second is not an option I don't know, this is quite a quagmire.

Wendy Ewurum said...

Laura one more thing please, a question this time: what is more important. having the popular post gadget or all your posts in a categories cloud with the most active posts being the most prominent. I can only have one as I'm trying to MINIMISE

LauraBarnes said...

Thanks for the question, Wendy. Hmm, I agree that you don't need both - good job deciding that. As to which is most important, I think it depends on your blog. If your most popular posts seem to represent the heart of your blog, I would go with that gadget. Otherwise I would use the cloud. Is that helpful?


LauraBarnes said...

Oh, that is a quagmire. I think your gadget to explain is a great step and your ads are displayed very tastefully. You've gotta do what you've gotta do. That's always the way I make my final decisions. Only you can truly know what's best for your blog.

Wendy Ewurum said...

Yes it helps Lura and I'll stick with the cloud. I think its more objective. Some reviews get more comments than others and I would not like my readers to think I was prejudiced as the most commented on would obviously remain on the popular list.

LauraBarnes said...

That's great reasoning and a wise decision, I think. :)

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