Each week, I dissect a blog from top to bottom in three areas: design, navigation/functionality and content. The reason? To help the featured blogger meet her blog goals and become even MORE awesome. The goal of a blog critique is to help all of us learn and grow. One suggestion for a particular blog may very well get us all thinking about how we can improve what we do.Here we go!
Blog: Pacifier in My Pocket
UPDATE: Caitlin had her baby yesterday… a week early! How exciting is this? So Caitlin– CONGRATS! All of this will be here whenever you’re ready for it! Enjoy that sweet baby!
Pacifier In My Pocket is a parenting and photography blog. Caitlin says that she uses her blog to share parenting stories, offer/get advice and highlight my photography journey. Her blog is two years old now and while it has evolved in its design and her writing, it is still almost entirely pieced together without any professional help. She thinks she has reached a cross roads where she should look at getting a professional design, but is unsure about investing that much money.
Caitlin said she has had some great opportunities to work with companies and brands. She’d like to continue to expand on this when it’s right for her blog and also try to drive more traffic to her photography business. And while her numbers are consistent, she hasn’t expanded her readership as much as she would have liked.
Header & Menu
- I love the bold color that greets a visitor when they first come to your blog!
- Your tagline helps explain what your blog is about, which is a great way to let new visitors know what to expect.
- The biggest issue I see here is the size of your website. It seems to be sized incorrectly and when I visited it on a few different browsers, I always got a horizontal scroll bar that made me scroll to the right so I could see the rest of your header. In the picture above, I actually decreased the size so I could get it in one screen shot. There’s not as much space on the left side of your blog so maybe it’s just aligned wrong as it seems off center. I’m not a website designer but I do know there are standards for sizing websites. This post on website size may help.
- I like that you have pictures in your header since you write a lot about photography but I’d almost suggest making the one of you be one of the shots on top. Your face is kinda getting hidden and, after all, it’s your blog and you’re the voice people are hearing when they read your posts. Actually, if you moved the first and third pictures to the back and then moved you and K to the front, it would be perfect because I like that you’re in the second position. I just would love to see more focus on you as the blogger.
- One critical piece you’re missing is a menu bar. All of your navigation is on the right column, which only gives someone one place to find information. Years ago side navigation and top navigation fought for which was superior and top nav won hands down. That’s not to say you don’t need those on your sidebar– you absolutely do! But it’s a must to create a menu bar as well because as web users, it’s what we expect.
- I adore your About Me. It’s cute, fits your design and has a picture of you. Nice!
- With your header being on the larger side, the only thing in your sidebar that shows up above the fold is the advertisement at the top. If your contract allows it to be below the fold, I’d move it to under your social media buttons and picture of you. If it doesn’t, consider adding a section heading above your social media buttons. While that pushes them down a tad further, the stack of ad/SM buttons/About Me graphic seems to need some visual break so the social media buttons don’t seem so squeezed between the ad and About Me graphic.
- Again with the stacking, your About Me graphic, Photography business button and navigation all run together without any visual break between them. Your photog business button gets sort of lost in there. Consider using section headings here as well. Also, make your Photography button open in a new window so people aren’t leaving your blog.
- While I like the boldness of all your navigational buttons, I’d love to see them more focused on pictures since that’s a main focus of your blog. Once you add in a top navigation, this can be whittled down to fewer strips (ex. About, Contact and PR & Disclosure probably don’t need to be listed again in your sidebar once it’s up at the top). Consider changing these strips to photos instead of color blocks with the titles overlaid on top. It’ll also help showcase your great photography!
- I like how you’ve matched your blog post titles with your header with the customized font. It looks nice and is a great size!
- I know it’s a small thing but there’s something nice about seeing a byline at the top. It helps reinforce a connection with YOU Caitlin so consider adding it!
- Your blog post images are nice and big which help draw in the reader. Nice job!
- Woohoo for having LinkWithin. It helps increase pageviews by showing relevant posts.
- It’s great that you have a Facebook widget since people can more easily like your page. One thing to point out though is that it’s wider than your sidebar. If you go to your HTML code, look for the width and change it to fit your sidebar.
- Your Follow Me on Twitter button seems to be broken so may want to check that image or widget.
- I like that you have a Category drop-down but it’s time to pare down those categories. I counted about 35 of them, which is too many for people to sift through or to get a feel for what you write about. Consider condensing them and even adding subcategories to simplify things. I typically recommend no more than 10-15 categories tops. It will also help with SEO (Google thinks your blog is more relevant in a topic if you have 30 posts in a category vs 5 posts in 6 different categories).
- I’d love to see more sharing buttons at the bottom of your posts. Right now I see just Facebook and Pinterest and I see Twitter only when I click to an actual post but not from your home page. But they are a bit small and spread out so consider using a plugin to make it more cohesive. I use Digg Digg and it lets me put my most relevant buttons in one clean row.
- Can I just say that you take beautiful pictures? And that you have a writing style to match? Your posts are very casual and friendly, like chatting with a friend.
- I love your most recent post about doing your own maternity shots. The pictures are great and I love the banner you made! If you wanted to go in this direction, consider doing some photography-realted how-to posts. For example, a simple how-to post on creating a banner like you did would be a great way to bring in traffic while still keeping to your passions. Or a post on how to take your own maternity shots. Those types of posts are GREAT for Pinterest as well, which is currently bringing websites more traffic than Google +, YouTube and LinkedIn COMBINED.
- A couple of things to consider in your posts to give them a bit more punch in regards to titles and endings. I’ll use the Project 365 post as an example. It’s a great post that talks about your experience with Project 365 and a WONDERFUL thumbnail version of all the images you took. Talk about eye candy! To make a post like this even stronger, work on stronger titles. Project 365 is sort of generic and doesn’t give a reader much incentive to click. However, something like “What I Learned from Project 365” not only fits with what you wrote, it’s more intriguing. Also, consider encouraging readers to converse with you at the end of your posts. You showed SO MANY awesome pictures in one view. Maybe something like “Whew that was a lot of pictures! See any favorites in there?” It encourages dialogue with your readers.
- One of the goals that you mention is continuing to get more opportunities to work with companies or brands. One thing I’d revamp to help with that is your PR & Disclosure page. It’s really just a disclosure page because it doesn’t sell YOU. You’re awesome so you need to convince PR people to contact you for opps. Think about it from their perspective– what would they want to know about you that would help them market their brand? And be sure to add a call to action to get them to contact you.
- You also mention a goal is to draw more people to your photography business. Since your blog is a separate site and is read not just by local people, it can be hard to drive business. However, if you want to drive business to it, it’s important to let readers know where you’re located! Above your photography business button, be sure to mention that you’re in the Baltimore area. I’d also be sure to mention this on your About page too. And when you create that menu bar ( ), add a tab about your business and call it “Baltimore Photographer” or something similar.
You also mentioned wondering if you should have your site professionally designed on not. It’s definitely a personal choice but you may want to consider hiring someone to fix some the sizing issue. Otherwise, I think you’ve done a pretty good job doing it by yourself!
So, guys, did you learn anything? Was it helpful? Let me know in the comments below. If you have an extra moment, head over to Pacifier in My Pocket and give Caitlin some comment love.
Pssst… Did you hear about Content Brew? It’s my new online course (and no you don’t have to be online at a certain time). Read all the details about this pretty nifty content planning course and RSVP for the Twitter chat tomorrow to have a shot at winning a spot in class!