Before we jump into today's critique I'd like to remind you all about my 300 Follower $15 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway. I'm taking entries through Thursday so be sure to enter.
Now, back to business. While last week we looked at a baby blog, Charity Bradford's blog is just the opposite. The challenges for newbie bloggers are somewhat different than more experienced bloggers. When Charity contacted me, she mentioned that she thought her blog was a little crowded. It makes sense. When you've been blogging for awhile, you accumulate stuff. Why don't you go take a look and we can discuss it more below?
Okay, Charity, let's get right into it. I don't think you have a crowding problem (though, I have a feeling you moved some things since you told me about that issue). I do see a few other issues that might make you think you have a crowding problem:
- You have no differentiation between middle and side bar. This is huge for me. It makes it hard to see where your posts end and where your side text begins. I would differ the background in both areas. Joe suggested a gradient for your sidebar like you have at your header. That would look really spiffy. Here's the problem though - I played around with your template on my practice blog (yes, I have a practice blog, does that make me a nerd?) and you can't differ the background on the sidebar from your posts. So you have three choices - mess with the CSS and override the code so you can make them different, leave it alone, or change templates. There are other templates that will give you the option of changing that sidebar. You could still put the same picture behind them. I suggest messing around sometime and seeing what you can come up with.
- Another thing about that sidebar - I would like to see it be narrower. It has too much prominence in your blog. Your posts should get the top billing.
- You have a lot of purple in your blog. Joe wants to see some more contrasting color. Try to add orange or yellow or green in your links or headers.
- Joe also would like to see you use a font in your header with a curly apostrophe instead of a straight one. Straight apostrophes drive him crazy. That's a Joe thing, I'm sure, but it's interesting to know, isn't it?
- My own personal cringe is the split sidebar without filling the area evenly. Down where your labels are, you have your sidebar split in two columns, but you really are only using one side. That would look so much nicer if you clean that up.
- I would move the story progress bars lower or to another page. You have room to move them lower, so that might be the way to go. I know they are important to you, but there are other items in your sidebar that are more important to your readers than your story progress bars, like...
- Your "my other blogs" box. Move that higher. That's important.
- You have a heckuva lot of labels to choose from. I am a firm believer in keeping your labels tight and to a minimum. If you have a ton of them with only one post related to them, they just become overwhelming to your readers.
- What's the "things i need to remember" box? There's nothing under that heading
- We caught you: The bottom of your blog is kinda like under your bed, isn't it? I mean, you just threw stuff down there that you didn't have a place for. I suggest organizing it and making it spiffy. Some people go down there. I did!
- You have a lot of posts on one page (10). This isn't really horrible, but you don't have sidebar content to run all along that far, and it starts to look uneven. Plus you have that stuff at the bottom of your blog. I'd limit your posts to 5 per page. But that's just me.
- I recommend having all of your links into another window. Particularly those links that actually take readers to another site. This can be confusing for a lot of us. Opening into another window keeps your blog open so we don't get lost.
I made a lot of suggestions, Charity, which makes it appear as though I didn't like your blog. This is entirely not true. I really like your blog a lot! You have great things going for you. Here's just a few of my favorite:
- You have your name in your blog header.
- You use pictures.
- You have your profile near the top with your picture. (When you aren't in the middle of a blogfest, move your profile up to top billing. :)
- You have depth (pages).
- You have an About Me page.
- You have a Contact Me page
- You're involved - you participate in a lot of different things on the web (blogfests, etc.). And you respond to your comments in a timely manner.
- You have connections to your writing! I kid you not: a woman in my Write at Home Mom's (WrAHM) group just got an email from an agent who read about her manuscript on her blog. She requested the query. I'm not joking. This is not the first time I've heard of this happening. Be prepared, folks! Charity is!
Okay, this has turned into a really long post. I think you are doing an excellent job, Charity. You have lots of followers and comments to prove it. Keep up the great work. I'm honored to have gotten to give you some of my suggestions. I hope they are helpful!
Any other feedback for Charity? (And don't forget to enter my 300 follower giveaway.)
Update: For those who asked, here is how you open links in a new window - When you insert a link, this box pops up. Click the box that says "Open link in a new window" at the bottom of the box. See it? That will now become your default option.