We have a published author for today's critique. I love this because your site is a whole different ball game when you have product that you're selling. But, man, we have a lot to cover today so go check out Nicole MacDonald's Damsel in a Dirty Dress and meet below.
The first thing I have to get out there, Nicole, is that I really enjoy reading your blog. You are a completely enjoyable read. The problem is that I spent a good deal of time on your site before I could figure that out. There's a lot going on and, admittedly, I was overwhelmed when I arrived. That's not where you want your readers - or, when you are selling a book, your buyers - to be when they visit your site. So let's see what you could do to change that.
- The first thing a reader sees of your blog is the above screenshot. Notice, I don't even see any content without scrolling. Rule of thumb for everyone: Make sure your header info does not take an entire screenshot. We'll talk more about ways to fix this as you go on.
- On the screenshot, notice we don't see your name anywhere. I love your website title, but you need to add your name. Even if you had "Nicole MacDonald is a" above "Damsel in a Dirty Dress." Your name is crucially important. We need to know we are at the right place.
- I love the Amazon widget. BUT here's 2 things I don't love about yours:
- You have books other than yours in your widget. Confusing! I'd just keep your books in this widget.
- Your widget is preventing me from seeing the rest of your site. It makes me feel like I'm on a book-seller's site or a MySpace page. I'd move it to run vertically on one of your sidebars.
- The white of your navigation and sidebar links, and later the background of your posts, is too garish. Use a really light blue for the background of your posts. For your navigation, I'd use that awesome yellow you have lower on the left sidebar. It's a great palette, really. But you need to use that yellow more to punch it up.
- The navigation links are confusing and they shouldn't take two lines. I don't even know who you are yet so menu items such as "Characters in the trilogy" mean nothing to me. Here's what I suggest for menu items (as long as they all fit in one line)
- About Me
- My Books - include "Characters in the trilogy" on this page
- Tips for Authors - Put both the e-book formatting and the indie advice here
- How to Download
- Contact Me
And now we can finally scroll down.
- When you are selling books, I want to see two things near the top of your blog: Your profile and your books. I should see both of these without scrolling down so this is when a double sidebar is effective. I would put your profile at the top of one side and books for sell on the other. This would be a good place for the vertical Amazon widget with only your books. Go ahead and keep that whole left sidebar for your products.
- I'd always put your newest book at the top of your book list. Otherwise, people returning to your site might stop looking when they see your first book listed. You want them to say, "Yes! The new book is available!"
- Your main post section is too narrow. Another rule of thumb: Your sidebar space added together should never be wider than your main post section. You have a fair amount of space not being used on the sides so I would just widen your main area and keep your sidebars at their current width.
- Your profile is a fun read. But it's buried and it's too long. Move it to the top. Then, I'd trim it here and put the long version on your "About Me" page.
- Trimming will give you room to put your followers up higher instead of buried at the bottom. Followers are not as important now as when you don't have a book to sell yet. You always want people to do something when they visit your site - something the blog owner can track. For unpubb'd bloggers, you want people to follow and/or comment. For pubb'd authors, you want people to buy your books. Everyone, keep these two things in mind and it will help you build your site. Make sure you always ask yourself, does my site make it as easy as possible for people to do what I want them to do? If there's other stuff getting in the way of that goal, it needs to go.
- In the spirit of not being totally un-fun - I don't mind the fish at the bottom of your blog. Just keep them down at the bottom where they don't take up prime real estate.
I think I'm done. Nicole, you have a jewel of a blog. Unbury it, polish it up a bit and this site is going to shine.
FYI: Here are a couple of published author blogs that I think do a (pretty) good job of organizing their material:
Readerly people - do you have any thoughts for Nicole?