Monday, February 27, 2012

Blog Critique: On the Write Track

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.

How does Monday come about so quickly? Not that I'm complaining. Mondays are like my Fridays with my work schedule. Tuesday's my day off!!

But I'm sure there are a few of you with traditional work schedules that may be complaining a bit. Let's see if we can brighten the mood with a blog critique, shall we?  Then scoot on over to Donna Martin's On the Write Track and we can get on with it.

Ooo, Donna's a martial arts girl. (My oldest daughter just got her high red belt this last Saturday. Can we say proud?) She's also got a baby blog. She's only been at it since December 6th. 

Great job for a newbie, Donna. You've got a lot of posts under your (black) belt for such a short time period.  That's awesome.  Now, this isn't the first time I've been to your blog. But trying to look at it with fresh eyes, I immediately see things I love and things I maybe don't love so much. Let's discuss:
  • Love your title.
  • This isn't the first time I've said it and probably not the last: I think that specific pictures in the background should relate to what your blog is about. What do mountains have to do with your blog? If you don't have an answer other than "I like mountains" I would suggest changing it.
  • I like the definite differentiation between your posts and sidebars.
  • I'm not a fan of two column sidebars unless you really need all the space. Alex Cavenaugh has a lot of really relevant info on both columns so I don't mind his. (By the way, Alex's new book comes out Tuesday!) But I can see that yours could easily be consolidated. Also, your blog is just really dark with both sidebars. Specifically I would:
    • Lose your welcome message.  It's not necessary. You could consolidate relevant info from it in your profile.
    • Fish are cool, but are unnecessary (and unrelated to your blog).
    • Your blog awards could be consolidated and even moved to a page of their own.
    • Your blog archive could be moved to the other sidebar.
  • I love that your profile is in a prominent position!
  • I'm not sure that I would put your black belt info as your leading line, though. Not that I think its not important, but I want your first sentence to tell me about your blogging or writing. This is where you can consolidate your welcome info with your profile.
  • I also love that you have your email available.
  • I like that you use pictures in your posts. It really attracts.
  • But you could lessen the amount of pics without losing anything. It will also make it easier to read on a mobile phone.
  • It also wouldn't hurt to trim your posts a little. (I know, this coming from someone who has long posts.) But short is best for holding followers. 
  • Actually, if you lost a sidebar and some pics from each of your posts, the length would probably seem a lot shorter.
  • Personally, I'd only keep five posts on a page. I don't know why. It looks cleaner.
  • I like your colors. Blue and orange are good contrasting colors. I would prefer a less bold font though. It can be hard to look at such a strong font for long.
  • I love that you post consistently. And if you love doing it every day, then keep it up. But, just FYI, it can be difficult for many followers to get to your blog that often so just realize that some of your posts might go unread.
Hmm. I think that's all. Great job at your baby blog! You've grown quickly. Good luck and keep up the good work!

Do you all have any advice for Donna?


Joanna Marple said...

Nothing to add, just here to say Donna is doing an amazing job on a newbie blog, and your tips can only help sharpen the whole caboodle. Great advice.

Jaylen Watkins said...

Good blog. Thanks for making this so interesting.

Beth Stilborn said...

I have been following Donna's blog since its inception, and so appreciate her encouraging posts. That said, I do have trouble with the darkness of the blog, and the fact that the post in the middle seems overwhelmed by the darkness on both sides. Also, the comments are written in grey on a white background, and I find them very difficult to read. I love the content of the blog posts, and make it over there most days to read them. I read a lot of blogs daily, and try to make my own writing a priority, so it's difficult to keep up completely.

May I just say that I love the fish, and feed them every time I visit Donna's blog? Does everything in life have to be serious and to the point?

AlexJCavanaugh said...

I definitely think the sidebars need to be lighter so it's easier to read the content.
And since you don't like two sidebars, I am SO relieved you don't mind mine! Can you imagine if I tried to cram all of that into one sidebar? It would scroll all the way to Tibet...

tkd2lady said...

Thank you, Laura, for your insight and I will try to incorporate as many "tweaks" as I can. Like Beth mentioned, the comments come out grey and I have tried many times to change that but can never seem to get it...may one of your readers who uses Blogger can help me with that?

Thanks again,


Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I'm a fan of Donna's blog. I like her upbeat posts. The only thing I have any trouble with is the color of the font/background of the comments - I find them hard to read - but that's probably just me :) And, like you said, every day posts are hard to keep up with. I usually try to read them all, but don't always comment. Great job Donna and Laura!

Laura Barnes said...

Touche. Of course we should have some fun. Just not at the expense of precious side bar space, IMO. She can just move the fish to a less lucrative position. If she eliminated one sidebar, the darkness issue would be greatly reduced, i think. Great point about the comments! I totally neglected that but its so true.

Laura Barnes said...

Isn't she? She's a great example of dedication.

Laura Barnes said...

LOL, scrolling would not do at all! You are such an involved blogger - and an already published writer - so your "stuff" is just uber relevant. You do good with two.

Donna's would look lighter with just having one sidebar removed, imo. She should try it out and see.

Laura Barnes said...

Those are both comments I should have mentioned. Good catch. Yes, her upbeat posts are wonderful. And the comments should be changed. (I even made a comment on her blog just so I could know that and then didn't say anything!)

Renee LaTulippe said...

Hi! I'm just chiming in to say "What she said." I think your critique is spot on and will help Donna make her content shine as much as it should. :)

Sarah Pearson said...

I don't know if this will help but there's another blog I follow that has the grey comments issue. I find highlighting the comment gives white text on a blue background. Not a fix, but much easier to read :-)

Julie Hedlund said...

Such great comments! I always learn a lot reading these posts, especially about blogs I know - like Donna's. Great job Donna. (and Laura of course!) :-)

Brooke R. Busse said...

Donna, I noticed that all your sidebar text (ie. your profile info and the words in the credits at the bottom) is grey as well. Perhaps changing the code for those colors would help you.

Carol Riggs said...

Good review! Yes, I agree that 2 columns always look cleaner on a blog--although the way Donna has it set up with the posts clearly framed in white, it does really help. I'm SO glad that even though the side columns have white on a dark background (harder to read), the posts themselves are black on white. :)

I also agree that posting daily is exhausting for the readers as well as potentially for the blogger.

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Renee!

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks for the tip, Sarah!

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks for coming by, Julie! I'm glad the info is useful :)

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks for the idea, Brooke. I tried to duplicate Donna's stuff with a practice blog and I can't get my comments to go gray like hers. Mine change when I change the text color. Odd, isn't it?

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks for the comment, Carol. I agree - the white behind the posts helps SO MUCH. Donna says she'll be tweaking this weekend. Be sure to stop by and see what she does.

Laura Stephenson said...

I had a comment on the new look for Donna's blog (post critique). I like that the top banner is a map, but having the solid color borders as you scroll down the page is somewhat unattractive.

Also, a big hello to another aspiring author named Laura! I have a new blog, in which I'm trying to critique reader-submitted writing. You're welcome to come over and check it out!

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