I am super excited to do today's critique for two reasons: 1) I love the A to Z Blogging Challenge and am thrilled to contribute in return for all the team does for everyone else. 2) I have been informed that the A to Z blog is getting revamped! That means (I hope) that they are up for addressing issues that may involve big commitments to change. Without any further introduction, go check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge site and let's discuss below.
Though the A to Z site has never particularly bothered me, when I look at it with a purposefully critical eye and with the help of graphic designers, Tom and Joe, I see a lot of areas for improvement. The good thing is that these tips should be helpful for anyone starting or revamping a blog. Let's get started, shall we?
- Unify your header style. Whatever you choose for next year's logo could have the potential to change your entire blog look. And that's fine if you are changing it from year to year - maybe you'll want to do that. If not, then it's important to create a header that will last from year to year and tie into your color scheme (more about that in a moment). Either way, make whatever is in your header uniform in style. Right now, your awesome logo for 2012 goes well with the font, but then you have an equally awesome looking design thing-a-ma-bob that doesn't go with your logo. The logo is more urban in look while the design thingy is more classic. This type of coordination isn't necessarily a skill of everyone - some people will not notice or be bothered by the difference in style - so ask around if you are unsure when mixing styles/logos/pics. Whatever you decide for your header, make sure it doesn't take up too much of your page. Along with the navigation bar (more later) we don't get to any posts without scrolling. Your header and navigation should end well before the fold (above the point where you have to scroll to go lower).
- Clearly define your color scheme. We love the bold orange and green, but that's about all you got and you don't carry it further than your header. Whether you use those colors or pick new ones, choose at least three distinct colors and use them in your header and also in your posts. Change your title links to be a color within your scheme. Make your time stamp another. Put your links in your scheme as well. For help on getting exact colors to coordinate, visit www.colorschemedesigner.com
- Make solid font usage decisions. Using a variety of fonts may seem like it adds personality to your blog, but it actually makes it feel chaotic and messy. It can be tricky to unify when you have several people writing posts, but luckily the clear formatting button in blogger can clear out all the formatting (imagine that!) and you'll be left with your default font. Now, you don't have to only use one font in your blog, but don't use too many (2 or 3 at most) and use them for distinct purposes. One font for your blog titles, perhaps, another for your main posts, and maybe a third for something like introductions such as the recurring one I have for my blog critiques (I use the same font but italicize).
- Declutter. Get your navigation to one line - two at the very most. You will need to shorten your menu items, but that's fine. People don't expect sentences for links. In a minute, I'll give you suggestions of what you could abbreviate to, but first, you could also consolidate. You could put all your Sign Ups on one page, for example, and just call that menu "Sign-ups". Or not if you're worried people will mix them up. Be very thoughtful and experiment with your menu so that it looks even across the line. The blanks at the end of the lines right now are not clean.
- What are we?
- Video Rules
- Video Sign Up
- Badges & Banners
- Reflections Sign up
- A bit of my usual comments:
- Differentiate your sidebar from your posts with a different color or at least a line.
- Order your sidebar items so the important stuff is at top. I suggest your top items be:
- Followers list
- Subscribe Buttons
- Blog Archive
- A to Z Navigation Buttons
- Eliminate duplicate content. You don't need badges in your sidebar when you have a menu item leading readers to badges, for example. Get rid of anything you don't need in your sidebar to give your blog a clean look.
- Advertisements are always a turn off. If you feel you really need/want the money, just realize you may potentially be turning away followers.
Any other suggestions for the A to Z team?