Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blog Critique: Relentless Karla

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'm late doing this blog critique. I asked Karla to move from Monday to Tuesday because of the holiday, and here I am late on Tuesday as well! It's been a busy Memorial Day weekend for me, that's all I can say. 

But here we are now, back to business. Check out Relentless Karla and we'll meet below. 

Today, many of the same things I usually talk about apply (move your follower button up on the sidebar, put your subscribe buttons up there as well, lose the advertising). But instead of really getting into all of those issues - you can read past critiques and my FAMP series for more info on the basics - we're just going to talk about a few that are really specific to Karla.

First of all, Karla, you're absolutely beautiful. I love the pics of you. Stunning. But here's the problem, all the pics at the top of the blog make me feel this will be a fashion or travel site. It would be different if the pics featured things you were trying to sell. But I don't think they do. Also, they are big at the top of your blog so it's hard to see that there is anything else to your site. I hate to say this, but the pictures that rotate really need to go from your header so we can see your content. They'd actually be very nice at the bottom of your site. The movement will attract people to them.

That being said, you need to clean up the bottom of your page. You've stuck a bunch of stuff down there like you're cramming things under your bed. The subscribe to buttons need to come up near the top of your sidebar. Really decide what is important on your sidebar and the bottom and only keep the essential.

Most importantly, Karla, your blog seems to be suffering from a bit of personality confusion. You write your thoughts in your blog, have an online store of beautiful items you sell, and you feature advertising. I'm not sure where to focus because I don't know where your focus is. You've taken a bunch of time off from blogging too, so that makes it even trickier to figure out. What is it you want readers to do when they visit your blog? Buy things? Read your posts? Whichever you decide, that will change how you build your blog. 

If you choose to primarily be a blog, tell us in your profile and get your content up front and center.

If you want to sell your things, you need to put pics upfront of those items and your profile and your posts need to direct people to your online store. Having other advertising really detracts from your own sales, by the way.
Okay, readers, what advice do you have for beautiful Karla? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Blog Critique: Here's What I Think About That

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.

Oh, my dear little readers, let's just jump right in today. My lead in's are always boring, anyway. So pop on over to Kimberly Montgomery's blog and we'll talk below.

Kimberly! That exclamation point is because I love pink, and you got pink so we're automatically friends. That being said, I have some things I'd like to discuss.

First: yes, my laptop screen is on the smaller side, but it isn't that small. Yet, your blog is wider than my screen. I detest that. I don't want to scroll sideways. I want a complete shot of what's up the minute I land on your site. It's okay to scroll down to read posts, but scrolling sideways - not fan friendly.

I love that you use color, but the colors don't all go together very well. I'd use the pink and gray as a base and find some other highlight colors at www.colorschemedesigner.com.

I think you should include your full name in your profile. I don't think you're trying to keep your last name hidden since it's in your blog title, right? So then tell us your whole name. Then move your followers button to below your profile. Make it easy for people to follow you.

Now I'm struggling to go on with my critique, but I keep stumbling on one very crucial question: what is the purpose of your blog? Here's the reason why this is such an issue - if you are just blogging your thoughts on everything as your header suggests, then I would say you that except for those few things, you're all set.

But if you have other goals, then I'd have some further suggestions. Are you writing to be published? Are you photographing in hopes of getting some work? Are you hoping to monetize your site? Or are you just enjoying blogging?

My guess, from your posts (which I adore, by the way) is that you are blogging for fun. Go for it! I love it. I think you have great enthusiasm and you put a lot of time and love into your writing and pics. I'd say you could sharpen those few items I mentioned above. If you have other plans, let me know and I'll address that in the comments.

Thanks for being a victim, Kimberly! I have enjoyed getting to know you and your blog.

Anyone else have any thoughts for Kim? You've all been reading awhile - you ought to know what to say. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

From Contract to Launch: Check-in with Kimberly Miller

You may or may not remember during the A to Z Challenge when I introduced my crit partner, Kimberly Miller, author of the soon-to-be-released Triangles. In that post, I told you we would be following Kim as she grew her marketing in preparation for her book launch.

Well, here we are with a check-in. Right now, Spencer Hill and Kim are mostly working on edits, but Kim isn't neglecting her image building. She and some friends in her critique group have started a joint blog. A joint blog is a great idea for a busy writer. It can be an easier burden than trying to blog alone, and can get you more exposure. I talked more about joint ventures last month too, by the way.

Anyhoo, Kimmy's introduction on her blog went live today! Check it out.

Check back through the next few months as we more closely follow Kim and her marketing pathway. I can't say what it is yet, but there's something in the works that's gonna be awesome! So stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blog Critique: Alexandra Elizabeth

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.

This post is a day late because when I went to critique Alexandra's blog, I realized she was no longer posting. I emailed her and discovered she has a new blog address. So, now that I can get you there, go check out Alexandra Elizabeth. Then meet below.

I know. It's lovely. There's not much to say.  It's clean, well organized, beautiful colors, beautiful fonts, great depth, easy to follow links, front and center profile - seriously, well done.

I do have some suggestions, Alexandra, but they are really minor. Still, here they are:
  • Joe, our graphic designer, suggests that the site would be easier on the eyes if the header background color extended down to the posts. Personally, I think I like that it's a different color, but I do think the sidebar should be differentiated in color from the posts.
  • Joe also suggests that you keep the width of the sidebar at the top the same all the way down past the menu bar.
  • The line that separates the sidebar from the posts should be thicker and continue down the page.
  • Some of the pictures you use in your posts are on the small side. Don't be afraid to go big. Sometimes you don't use pics at all, but I think it's best when you do.
  • I think your partners logos should have space between them. Right now they're all bunched together and it's hard to distinguish one from another.
  • Repeat your name in your profile. Otherwise I might assume Alexandra is your daughter.
  • I really want a search box. I use them ALL THE TIME on blogs. Just a suggestion...
  • Sometimes you don't have spaces between paragraphs. Like on your About page. These bother me. Try to consistently separate them - it makes it easier for readers.
  • Your About page mentions "Mommy Glow" - wasn't that the name of your old blog location? Are you losing that title now? If so, revise your About page. (I realize you just moved and you're probably still cleaning up, but just thought I'd mention it.)
Alright, that's all I got. Beautiful blog. It seems you've already gotten some good exposure - featured in Jet magazine? Nice. Has that impacted your traffic? Just curious. Good job! Keep it up!

Lovely blog readers, do you have any other suggestions for Alexandra? 

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 www.colorschemedesigner.com. 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?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blog Critique: Mithril Wisdom

A to Z is over and it's time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming. That means blog critiques!

First of all, I have to say I'm sorry to Jamie Gibbs, the author of today's blog Mithril Wisdom, because I put him off for this critique, like, a million times. Finally, I'm getting back in the routine of things. Thanks for your patience, Jamie!

So let's not keep Jamie waiting. Get over there and come on back to discuss.

Okay, disclaimer. I actually already followed Jamie's blog, but I usually read from Google Reader. That isn't usually an issue, except that I am going to talk about some things on Jamie's blog that may only be temporary for the A to Z Challenge. Just keep that in mind as we go forward.

I really like Jamie's blog. It is clean and easy to read. His header banner is tight and original. The background has a great texture. His profile is up high and easy to find. He has a contact and about me page. He has depth (more than one page). You can easily subscribe to follow him. His tag cloud is brief and precise.

Man, it looks like Jamie's a guy who follows my advice! This leaves me little to say.

Notice I said "little" to say, not "nothing" to say. I always have something to say. So, Jamie, here it is:

  • I usually want to see your name in your header. It is easy to find, but I'd love your subtitle to be Jamie Gibb's Fantasy Reviews. Unless, perhaps, you are eventually moving to have more than you review? I can see that you might be setting up for that.
  • While I am a big advocate of telling your readers what's going on, I'm not too fond of the paragraph at the top of the blog. I don't really have an alternative except to put it in the sidebar. At the top, it is easily seen, but it makes it cluttered. I might even prefer it if it was just one paragraph all together instead of broken up into three paragraphs. That's minor complaint. Especially since the paragraph is a temporary one.
  • Here's my bigger issue, one that again may not be relevant. The colors of your blog, while belonging to a nice coordinating scheme, do not coordinate with your logo. Do you use this logo all the time or just during the A to Z Challenge? Those should be your color scheme. That tan, brown, gray and blue. Right now, everything you have in your blog that accidentally has that color blue stands out. You need to use that blue on purpose to bring out blog elements you want to highlight. 
  • One more thing to be aware of: I'm a middle-of-the-road fantasy fan. I like some, but I'm not an expert. So I had to Google "mithril". Does it make sense to have a definition of "mithril" somewhere on your blog? Or are we good with people maybe not knowing?
Yes, overall, Jamie's blog gets an A.The most important thing about blogging, as I always say, is how you interact with readers and other bloggers. Jamie is a very attentive blogger and comments on other blogs (well, mine anyway) very regularly. I love conversations with him and always enjoy the content on his blog - even though I'm not that good of commenting in return. For this, Jamie deserves an A++. 

Do you have any tips or comments for Jamie?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...