Monday, May 7, 2012

Blog Critique: On the Way to Somewhere

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.

It's Monday! And that means another blog critique. Our victim is Rena J. Traxel from On the Way to Somewhere. You know the drill: go take a look, come back and we'll discuss.

Rena, I'm glad to have you here. You had to wait a long time for this critique, I know. But it looks like you already follow a bunch of my usual advice:
  • Your name is in your header
  • Your profile is up top and center
  • You have depth to your blog (pages)
  • Your page isn't cluttered with awards (you have them on a separate page - nice!)
  • You have an About page - which is fabulously done, by the way
  • I love your Guests page - having guests is a great way to add to your blog's content and popularity
  • I love your Links page - I adore The Other Side of the Story. It's an excellent resource.
  • Your blog content is superb
  • Your content is easy to read
  • You use pictures in your posts
  • You tell us when you'll be around
  • We can easily follow you on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.
  • You have a search box
So, in summary so far, your blog performs pretty well in the area of function. This is incredibly important and I admire you very much for managing to do this so well.  Where your blog is a lacking, however, is in the area of design. There are also a few functional things you could improve on. Here are some points you may want to consider:
  • The writing on your header, particularly your name, is difficult to read. This should be the most prominent part of your blog and with as clean as the rest of your blog is, it's disappointing.
  • Your blog has almost no color to it. White can be too glaring after awhile. We recommend that you put some color in your sidebar and your background. A textured background would be even better - it makes your lighter areas really pop. Then, pick a color scheme of two or three colors - colors that you choose on purpose, not just the default blue link color, and use them wisely. Put one color for your background, perhaps, another color for your Titles, and the third color for all other links. Mess around with It is a great help.
  • Your profile should repeat your name.
  • Your followers button is pretty low on your sidebar. I'd put it up closer to your profile.
  • Your copyright info would be better placed near the bottom.
  • Your search box should be higher on the page.
  • The "Connect" info you have at the bottom of your blog would actually be better placed on your About page. It would be easier to find. At the bottom of your page, most people will only find it by accident.
Mainly, I would say you need to get some color in your blog. All the white is really difficult to look at and it doesn't make your blog stand out. But overall, I believe it performs really well. Good job, Rena!

Any advice you readers have for Rena?


Southpaw said...

I'd love to know more about the picture in the header. It's looks so cool.

The only thing I would add is at the bottom where you have the "grab my badge" button is to have another size available, either square or vertical. It would fit better into people's sidebars.

Laura Barnes said...

That's an excellent suggestion!

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks so much Laura. I plan to move the connect info to my about page. I do want to do something fun at the bottom of the blog even though not very many people to see it. Do you have any suggestions?

Laura Barnes said...

Some people like the feed the fish or poke the penguin apps. Is that the kind of thing you're looking for?

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks. I will do that. There is a guy that I know who owns a scrap yard. He built a castle out of bits of scrap metal. He has the castle sitting right in front of his scrap yard. So I snapped a photo and messed with the colour. If you want to see the original photo of the castle you can see it on my pinterest board. Since I write fantasy, I thought this castle went with what I write.

Renee LaTulippe said...

I agree with everything Laura said except the colors. I'm kind of a minimalist, though. I like the clean white with just one accent color -- too much, and I get confused.

Also, I would keep ALL of your sidebar connect info grouped together. Right now, you've got Twitter, FB, Pinterest, interrupted by copyright info and your archives, then Google, Networked Blogs, subscribe buttons, and email subscribe. That's a lot of stuff! Do you need them all? I'd get those subscribe/email buttons right up top.

Does Blogger allow you make your profile pic clickable to your About page? I always want to click on the pics to learn more.

The biggest thing is the header, as Laura mentioned. The photo is lovely, but perhaps a graphic designer could "roll up" the bottom or fold down the top (or both) to give you clean space in which to write your title and name, etc.

That's my two cents for what it's worth! :)

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Renee! I think you'd be surprised how minimal her blog would look with a few simple pics. Such as this one: There's a color in the background, of course, then a another shade of it shadowing the boxes, and then a nice punch color for her titles. But, if you still aren't convinced, I still like ya. :)

Catherine Johnson said...

Great tips Laura! I love Rena's blog.

Pamela_courtney said...

Lots of great advice here. I've got lots to do on my blog. So glad I stopped by. Rena, I think your blog is great! You've only a few tweaks! Much success to you.

Rena J. Traxel said...

No. I just wanted to add something to the bottom. I might just leave it as is and add connect info on the about page so that it's easy to find.

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks Renee. The link to my about page is a wonderful idea. I will see what I can do about the photo.

Beth Stilborn said...

I'm a follower of Rena's blog, but I admit I never scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page before. That information is too hidden! Most people will never see the poem that's there, which is a shame. Gathering all the connect info into a tabbed page is a great idea. Also, I'm a big fan of just having a portion of a post on the main page and then a "read more" to click for the rest of the article. I don't know if that's possible on Blogger? It certainly cuts down on the amount to scroll through on the main page.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I love Rena's blog, and she's done all the hard parts so well! Although I might not have come up with it on my own, I wouldn't argue that a touch of color might help, and that the text in the header is a little hard to read - I think you might be right about that.

Brooke R. Busse said...

Laura, I have a question for you. You mentioned changing the color of your Titles. I assumed you meant blog post titles. I can't quite figure out how to do that besides changing the link color.

Laura Barnes said...

I did mean the post titles. Some templates don't allow you to alter it. You might have one like that.

Lauren said...

I agree about adding more color (somehow the green, brown, and yellow feels a little seasonal - reminds me of autumn) but I love how clean the design is.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I agree with you about the header and the text. I love how clean it all looks, it's awesome :)

Theenchantedwriter said...

Wow.. thank you for posting this!


Renee LaTulippe said...

Nah, I still prefer Rena's! But I still like you too! :)

Rena J. Traxel said...


Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks. I'm working on adding colour.

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks. I'm working on it.

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks Beth! I just added that poem, but I think it's one of those hidden treasures that I want to leave at the bottom for those who might come across it. I don't think blogger allows a portion of the post or I would do it. I also like it when there is a portion or teaser of a post.

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks Pam.

Rena J. Traxel said...

Thanks. I love your blog.

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