Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Blog Critique: Don't Forget the Samovar

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.

Don't Forget the Samovar. That's really the name of Kristen I-think-she-wants-to-remain-anonymous's blog. I went through her archives and read her first blog post just so I could get some insight to her blog title. Go ahead and check out her blog and read her first blog post because we will talk about it below.

Alright, Kristen, I have things I love about your blog and thing's I think you could improve upon. But first, let's not ignore the elephant in the room: your blog title. I've said in the past, your title should include your name. It's how you get people to remember you and find you easily. With your title, I don't remember you, I remember samovars. 

But here's the thing: if you're blog isn't about you making a name for yourself in the writing world, if it isn't about you trying to get an agent or published or about selling books, then you can name your blog whatever makes you happy. And I sense this title makes you happy. So if you haven't decided already, then that's what you need to do before considering any of the changes I suggest below because these suggestions are for the purpose of platform building blogs. 

Now that that's out of the way, here's some other things to consider:
  • I love the cool blue background color of your blog. It's easy to look at and calming.
  • The designers and I don't, however, like the way your sidebar hangs off the white background. I don't mind the posts hanging over the white - that almost looks cool - but the title and the sidebar look awkward.
  • The blue color of your text on top of the blue background in your posts is hard to read. Joe suggests you stick with the light blue color you sometimes use (and I agree).
  • Move your profile up top on your sidebar. You should be the first thing we see followed by your followers.
  • I love that you have your labels at the bottom of the blog. It keeps your blog from looking cluttered and it looks very natural.
  • Use more pics. A follower reading on a Google Reader won't see your blog design, but they will see your pictures.
  • Pictures should feel your blog post - don't leave negative space around them. Set them on a large setting. If they still don't fill the space, set your pics next to your words.
Overall, I really enjoy your blog. I like your spirit and your writing style. I really identified with your post about the kids having too many days off from school. Boy, is that not the truth! I think the only real issue with your blog is that I don't know what you intend it to be. Decide if you are blogging for your own enjoyment - a perfectly valid choice - or if you are blogging to market yourself. Make this one decision and the rest should really fall into place.

I'd love to hear what you all think about Kristen's fun title. Any other suggestions for this awesome blogger?


Julie Hedlund said...

I have to say I'm not sure what the title means. I'm sure it's some major literary reference that everyone else gets - lol! I also found the blue background behind the posts made it difficult to read the text. Kristen has a fun voice in her posts though, so a brighter background would bring that out more.

Janet Johnson said...

I think you make some great points Laura. I, too, went back and read that first post and I think you said it well. The title clearly makes Kristen happy, so it all comes down to the purpose of the blog. Best of luck Kristen!

Sueroebuck said...

Spot on, as always Laura. The colors on the blog are delightful but I agree about the dark blue lettering making it difficult to read. Nice to meet you Kristen!

AlexJCavanaugh said...

You're right about the dark gray background for the post. Although I've seen someone use a dark red before and it was almost impossible to read!

Brooke R. Busse said...

I don't know how I feel about the sidebar suggestion. When it hangs off, it makes the whole of her blog centered over the white which is nice.

Angela Brown said...

I have to admit, even if the blog I visit isn't as market savvy in its set up, it's the title that I will remember. If it doesn't include either the aspiring author's name or something about it having to do with writing, that makes it more difficult for me to want to visit again. So title is very important.

Kristen Wixted said...

Excellent, helpful comments everyone! I used to have my name on the top but when I redesigned the colors I lost it somehow. I will definitely use the light blue color for the posts--I was wondering about that.
For now, the blog is not promoting anything. It's connecting with other writers that's my goal, and making sure all the posts are well-written and have my voice. I do think I need to mention my last name, though!
Thanks so much!

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