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: The Will to See
In her blog, Sarah chronicles her experiences of raising children with vision and GI issues (specifically ocular albinism), becoming a mompreneur, learning to write a book and applying technology to both personal and professional life.
Sarah’s main goal is to generate income from her blog. She’s in the process of writing a book about her oldest son’s GI issues when he was a baby. Her vision is for the blog and the book to become two pieces of “The Will to See” brand. She’d also like to add a community to the site for families with ocular albinism and is planning to use BlogFrog.
Sarah’s struggles are around generating site traffic and making changes to the site within the current design.
Design & Navigation:
Header & Menu
- The green and purple is a nice color combination! And while I like the green tabs that come down from your menu, I keep getting drawn to the “telescope version” of your blog name that’s in the sidebar. To me, that’s a more polished look than the telescope in the header. I think it’s awesome! The problem is that you have two areas “above the fold” where a blog name is used but different telescopes and fonts. My thought is that you need to pick one or the other and not have a repeat of your blog name on the sidebar. This will help simplify the top of your blog.
- In both the description you gave me about your blog and actually on your blog, you mention vision and GI issues are a focus of your blog but your tagline is more generic (and it’s at the bottom of your homepage). While I know it’s not ALL you write about, consider creating a tagline that’s more in line to the topics that make your blog unique and then integrate the tagline into the design. I think this is especially important since you’re hoping to sell an ebook about the GI issues.
- For your menu, the design is fine although the font size is a tad large. I’d also try not to get too creative with some of the names as it doesn’t give the reader a good sense of what the tab is about. For example, most people (readers, bloggers or even companies) would look for some version of About (About Me, Who am I?, etc) instead of “Discover.” And when I mouse over that, your name doesn’t even come up in the list so it took me a second to realize that I had to just click the word “Discover” and not one of the drop down choices to find your About page. As another example, I REALLY like “Glimpse” for eyes and “Gulp” for stomach but in a menu, it’s probably best to stick with more descriptive titles. However, consider creating buttons in your sidebar that link to those pages and use the more clever names. Example, within the button could be an illustration of an eye with the word Glimpse beside it and then underneath it say Eye Diagrams and Genetics.
- Consider moving your sidebar to the right side for both SEO purposes and visual purposes. Since we read left to right, you typically want your main content on the left. From an SEO standpoint, search engines spiders crawl content left to right so you want your posts to get crawled first.
- In looking at the sidebar that you see when you click into a blog post, I see that they have more than what’s on the homepage, which is good since it isn’t too overcrowded! I like that your SM buttons are at the top so they’re easy to find too.
- One thing you may want to consider is having an About Me blurb on your sidebar with a picture of you too. It helps new readers make a connection with you and makes a site feel more personal.
- Hooray for having the Facebook like widget. It makes it easy to like your page since people don’t even have to leave your site!
- While it’s great that you have a categories cloud on your sidebar, consider having a popular post section too. There are a few PP plugins that make this easy for you. New readers sometimes want to see your best stuff so make it easy for them to find!
- For the Clever Girls and SITS Girls buttons, I’d add a heading above it to describe how you’re involved. Something as simple as “I’m a part of…” or “Communities I Love.”
- Let’s start with your homepage first then I’ll talk about your blog posts.
- I’m not entirely sure the intent of having a separate home page versus just having your blog posts on the home page. When I look at your home page as a whole, I’m honestly not sure where to go. There’s a Blog tab in your header, a Recent Blog posts part and a Featured section. As a reader, I’d wonder: Do I click on the Recent Blog posts part? Are the messages in Featured actual blog posts or announcements? Without a clear direction, people will just get confused and move along. My thought is that your blog should be your home page. If you want to feature a couple of blog posts, then have that too but make your most recent blog post most prominent. This will also save readers a click– the fewer clicks you can make someone do, the better.
- Having said that, I really like the simplicity of how your blog post formatting looks when you get into the blog. The headline is a good size, the date button provides a nice visual and the font size is good. One thing I’d add is a byline that at least includes your name in it. It looks good visually and also helps build that association between your blog and your name.
- Consider adding previous post/next post navigation on your individual blog posts to make it easier for readers to find more posts without having to go back to the home page.
- Finally, it’s a must to have social sharing buttons within a blog post (Facebook, Twitter, etc). The only place I see them is when you click on “Blog” but not on your permalinks (i.e. direct links to a post rather than to your overall blog). The key is to make things easy on your readers so clicking a “like” button for Facebook is MUCH easier than copying your URL, going to their FB page and pasting it. I use the Digg Digg plugin but there are many to chose from.
- I like your most recent post about getting kids to eat their veggies. It’s full of practical tips and you broke things out nicely with subheadings. My biggest piece of advice though for this post? It needs an image! Either a picture of your kids eating veggies or even just veggies themselves. Visual interest is such a big part of content and drawing people in to actually read the post. Try to have visuals in nearly every one of your posts. You can even use a program like Picmonkey to create Pinterest-friendly graphics. A picture of some veggies with your blog title on it would be this post enticing to pin!
- While it’s easy to write posts about what you did on vacation by just recapping everything consider trying to pull out an interesting story or hook to grab the reader. For example, on your Spring Break at the Beach post, the title is sort of generic BUT you mention in the first paragraph that it wasn’t what someone typically thinks of when they think of the beach since you guys were in a cooler area and were camping. Or an interesting part of your vacation was the helicopter story. Consider weaving some less typical aspects of your vacation into your title and first paragraph to interest the reader from the get go.
- When it comes to generating site traffic, it can definitely be tough to get momentum going. However, Kludgy Mom wrote a GREAT piece a while back on growing your blog so I think this post in particular will help: Top 12 Networking Tips for Growing Bloggers.
- I think that it’s great that you want to create a community for those families with ocular albinism! Two pieces of advice with this:
- First, I kind of mentioned this earlier regarding your tagline but to be a resource and a community ocular albinism, it’s important to make it a more integral part of your content. While it’s awesome that it’s in your About pages of your family and that you have a separate page for it, people coming to your site for supportive community will also like to see more posts on this condition. The last time I saw it mentioned was about a month ago, unless I missed something. However, this doesn’t mean that it has to be a post ONLY about that. It can be interwoven into the stories or events in your life. For example, you mention that this condition affects depth perception- so how was the beach experience different because of this? Or was it? While you don’t have to talk about it for every post, I think weaving it in to some posts will help build a stronger community base.
- Second thing about building that BlogFrog community is to be patient with the time it takes to build a community. While I don’t have direct experience, it takes a lot of interaction, promotion and the like to start becoming a place people come to in order to interact with you and the community. Plan out questions to ask to jumpstart conversations and interact as much as possible. You may even want to Google “community management” or “forum community building” for some more ideas that are outside the scope of what I know about this!
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 The Will to See and give Sarah some comment love.