Sunday, September 23, 2012

Blog Critique: Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire

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.

I have to give a big sigh before jumping into today's critique. My life has been a whirlwind, as you probably know by now. My other sigh comes from the pressure of critiquing a blog of someone who's a writer friend. You know, you don't want to say anything harsh. I'm glad to be done with it. So go check out Mindy McGinnis's Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire and see if I had any need to panic.

I already admitted that Mindy is a writer friend. But even before she was a friend, I loved her blog. I mean, it's called Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. How can that not be amazing? Her sense of humor is, well, brilliant. And a little crass sometimes. I like that. She has a recurring feature called "Submission Hell, It's True" aka "S.H.I.T." Yes, she's that kinda girl. If you need to see more of the awesomeness that is Mindy, check out this v-log. It's my absolute favorite of hers:

My point of all that prelude is that when you enjoy a blog like I enjoy Mindy's, it's sometimes tricky to sit back and look at it in a critical way. But I did, and overall, Mindy has captured a very concise picture of who she is and what she delivers. You sense her style and flavor immediately.

Though there was very little by way of suggestions, I did find a few things that she could tweak.

So Mindy. Welcome to the spotlight. Let's dive in:
  • You have the best author pictures ever. Hands down.
  • You have a great color palette. I know it's important to you to have a look and brand, and I see that in your choices. That being said, our graphic designers feel the yellow you use in your query critiques is, well, I'll paraphrase and say "hard on the eyes". They understand the need to differentiate your additions from the original query, but suggest the color you use for your blog titles is a better choice.
  • Speaking of your blog titles, they're great. Can you use that color for the titles on your other pages (i.e., Contact, etc.)? That will make it more uniform.
  • You have a bit of a dilemma in your footers of your posts. I'm not sure how much Blogger will let you change in your template, but the blue/gray is not readable. Could you lighten the color of the background here to make that color stand out? It's a great color - I just can't see it.
  • All right, here's the biggie: your sidebar overwhelms me. It always has. Maybe it's because it's a frequent reminder of how completely busy/involved/insane you are. Also, it's a lot to take in. Here's specifically what strikes me about it:
    • You use the two column technique, but your sidebar runs out way before your posts. Either trim how many posts you have on your page (I say have no more than 5 anyway) or make your sidebar one column. 
    • Having the two columns makes your label cloud look HUGE. Too huge for me to feel like I would use it often. I'd go through your labels every so often and remove all the ones that you only have 1 of unless they're uber important. That just cleans it up. It's supposed to be an easy to use tool. Just sayin'.
    • Actually, if you lose the number's in parentheses on your label cloud, it will help clean it up.
    • There's a crap load of stuff going on visually. I like that you use pics, but it's tricky to navigate quickly with the eye. Maybe if you went to smaller FB and Twitter pics that would help. Mostly I think I'm saying I'd prefer you to have one column. Yeah, that's what I'm saying.
    • Another option - you could get rid of your Book Pregnant and Thirteeners icons, etc. because you already have a page for them. It's not quite the same, but it's an option.
  • I'd love to see your post background a lighter shade to differentiate it more from your sidebar. This might not be possible in this template. And it might really screw up your colors. You do have the bar between the sidebar and the posts, but again, it just gives us a lot to look at and a new reader has a hard time figuring out where to go first.
  • You'll have a picture of your cover on the sidebar when it's revealed, right? And a link to purchase as soon as you can pre-order?
  • I love that you have depth (pages) on your blog. I wouldn't mind seeing an About page though. I'd love to read your bio. It would be awesome, I just know it.
  • One last thing, we want to know the black cat story. Can you tell us? Maybe on your About page. :)
I'm done. And I survived. Actually, it wasn't that bad. I liked looking at Mindy's blog with a different eye.

But I might still be too close to it. Did I miss anything? It's the readers' turn to weigh in.


Jamie Gibbs said...

I'm with you on the double sidebar - trimming it down to a single bar will widen the body of the text and clean things up a little.

Susanne Drazic said...

The blog sounds really interesting, but I wasn't able to stay at the site very long. The colors were bothering my eyes. So sorry!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

One column would definitely take it to the bottom.
Her site is colorful and bright!

Southpaw said...

I love your background. I'm a big Toulouse Lautrec fan. What might be cool - if you could do it is to enlarge the image and break it up so just the cat was on the left and the rest on the right. Oh and then make the background fixed.

I do like the colors but they hurt my eyes too. For me the link color would be better as the main text color

Southpaw said...

Oh and I love the author's photo too!

Beth Stilborn said...

It looks like a great blog, and the bit I read sounds really interesting... I found the discrepancy between the gold in the header and the yellow of the cat background to be a bit difficult for the eyes, and altogether it was very busy, with cat after cat after cat and all the writing and columns -- it looks like a great blog, but the color combos, the yellow type, the many things calling "Look at Me" would keep me from returning. Sorry!

Callie Leuck said...

I like this one a lot. The colors are great. I'm ambivalent about the sidebars. With the double bars, it fits nicely under her large author picture. But then yes there is a lot of dead space at the bottom.
The one thing that really strikes me is the repeating image in the background. Usually I expect that to be someone's book cover. I'm frankly confused as to why the cat. There's clearly come kind of black cat theme going on, but I don't understand what it is. Is there a story behind it? It doesn't seem connected to her book. I love the yellow color of the background of that image, and definitely think she should keep that color at least, but I'd like my hand held a little with the black cat thing.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback! There used to be an explanation of the cat within my "About" but that got lost in the shuffle over to the new Blogger layout, and I forgot to put it back in! It'll definitely get a tab explanation in the future. I'm planning a blog re-launch to go hand in hand with my site reveal so I wanted to have Laura do a crit here so that I could find out what was working and not working - thanks everyone for the comments!

Shallee McArthur said...

Love the site, and as always, Laura, you give great feedback! I learn so much from you. :)

Beth Stilborn said...

Back to ask a question about the cat pic -- what about copyright on such things?

Laura Barnes said...

I would guess (and maybe guess incorrectly) that that poster is far enough out to have the copyright expired. It's a poster from the late 1800s. But that is something important to be aware of.

Laura Barnes said...

I knew you had good taste. :)

Laura Barnes said...

It's interesting how many people said this. No need to apologize. We need to know your opinions. :)

Laura Barnes said...

Yeah, I'd really like to see one column. Thanks for the input, Alex.

Laura Barnes said...

She has the best pics!

Laura Barnes said...

This is really helpful, Southpaw. Thanks for your feedback!

Laura Barnes said...

Beth, thanks for the helpful feedback. Your honesty really helped Mindy evaluate her blog.

Laura Barnes said...

I agree, Callie, about the cat and I believe her blog update will explain that. And yes, you have a good point about how the pic fits over the double sidebar. I concede. :)

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks for being a victim, Mindy. You're very gracious about it. :)

Laura Barnes said...

Thanks, Shallee!

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