Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blog Critique by Ali Cross

 And what better time to do some redecorating?

The amazing Ali Cross, author of Become, is also the tekkie person for a writing group I belong to. She offered to do some blog critiques, and I jumped at the chance.Over the last year, as I've read blogs all over the place and attended classes at conferences, I've picked up a few things, but I knew I could do much better.

Here's what she had to say (with my comments in blue):

What worked:
  • loaded fast
  • pretty, bright and cheery
  • nice layout
  • good content
  • comment form pops up and doesn't use captcha - good [At a writing conference I took a class by the awesome Elana Johnson. She said that since checking people's blogs can be time consuming, we need to make this as easy on our visitors as possible. I haven't had problems getting spammed since I took off that protection. Blogger's spam filter does a wonderful job--sometimes too good. The longer it takes to comment the fewer blogs you'll have time to visit.
  • nice friendly picture of you :)
What could be improved:
  • could use a header, incorporating both your blog name and your name [I've been working with one of my artist sons on this, and he's drawn a preliminary header, but it's not "there" yet, and I'm not sure it would fit the template I was considering at the time.]
  • tab titles are obscure and don't immediately tell me what I might find there
  • could consolidate like information together, instead of having it spread out. Use your sidebars wisely, by keeping "general" info in one column and "follow/about me" information on the other:
    • site visitor map isn't important and, if you choose to keep it (I wouldn't), you could move it to the bottom of one of your sidebars [I moved this to the bottom right away. I love my little map]
    • don't need to title the blogfest, let the button do the talking for you
    • the EVERNEATH and CATCHING FIRE buttons should move to the left sidebar
    • nuke pageviews (they are really only interesting to you, same with the visitor map)
    • I'm personally not a fan of the "share it" widget you have. I'd much prefer info on how to follow YOU, not your content. [Oooo . . . good observation here. Something I never considered.] However, this is personal opinion only. If you want to keep it, move it up to beneath your iWrite badge, so all your social networking items are grouped together. So maybe you'd have ABOUT ME --> FOLLOWERS --> NETWORKED BLOGS --> iWRITE --> SHARE IT --> TWITTER WIDGET
    • reduce the number of updates on your Twitter widget [I also did this right away]
    • you need to add an easy way for readers to follow you in all your places (FB/Twitter/g+ buttons, etc buttons
    • you could personalize your comment form with a message from you to your followers
  • If you're going to have this page, make it the last one [I added this page because I've received so many kind awards that it was too much to keep on the main page]
  • either link each award to the post in which you acknowledged the receipt of the award, or (preferably), add a caption with the giver's name, linked to their blog
Writing Associations:
  • this info would be more interesting in context with YOU [True]
  • add it to an About Me page & don't forget to include your iWrite badge [Duh!]
Are You Talking to Me?:
  • add these as a widget in your sidebar as mentioned above - then you could nuke this page
An Alternate Reality:
  • should be on your About Me page with a description of what it is. That way people can choose if they want to click it or not.
I'm hoping Ali's critique may give you something to think about in regards to your own blog. I have a feeling I may be tweaking things here and there.

She also talked about the issue of branding. But that's a topic for another day . . .


  1. Great critique and definitely lots of things to think about. I want to redo my entire blog sometime this year. I did a temp redo just because I needed something fresh. :)

    Happy New Year!

  2. Great critque, lots of helpful little tidbits there.

  3. I love your stunning new back-ground. Those are some great tips, most of which I follow. :-)

  4. And I like the new look!
    I've never had word verification and only get spammed maybe a couple times a year.

  5. I'm not sure the look will stay. It's kind of like trying on clothing you're thinking of buying. You have to try it on and see how it feels.

    At least now I know how to make a personalized banner.

  6. I like the new header with your beautiful photo. :)

    Some good tips. I do hate the captcha/ word verification, but over the holidays I was getting spammed like crazy. Four on one post!! So I turned it on while I was on my blogging break.

    Happy New Year!

  7. I've considered turning off the ability to post as Anonymous. That's where all my spam comes from--but the filter has always caught those. I get the email notification, but they don't end up on the blog.

  8. Interesting. I may be the only one out there who doesn't like the popup comment box. I like it in the post.

    As an aside, I see from your Twitter feed that you liked the new Sherlock Holmes. I don't Twitter so I say here that I just saw it and thought it was absolutely fantastic. Much better than the first and I adored the first. :)

  9. Interesting critique. Makes me think about redoing my own blog. Have a wonderful new year!

  10. This is fabulous Donna and I love the new blog design :) Very cute! Ahh - there is so much to take in... now to try and apply it to my own blog. Very helpful!

  11. Love the design. The colours are fab.

  12. Great information and critique. Happy New Year, Donna!

  13. Love the new look, especially the header. I never had any idea there was so much to consider.(That would be obvious by my blog.)

    You know me. Old fashioned mash and go kind of gal. I am in awe.

    Would love to hear about 'branding'.

  14. Great tips, but I've always loved your blog design. It's obvious that you've given it a lot of thought and work hard at it.

  15. Cool stuff here! I love your look. I've always been a bit of a loser about figuring out what to put in my sidebars, so I'm off to go look at my blog again. :D

  16. That dog is all like What are you looking at?!?!?!

  17. It looks great, Donna! Thanks for sharing the tips! :)

  18. Thanks for sharing Donna. After reading this, I'm going to take another look at mine, make a few minor adjustments.


  19. What an awesome critique! your blog looks great!

  20. And . . . I've already tweaked it a little. lol

  21. Hey! Great job Donna! I'm glad your readers found some of the tips helpful. I LOVE your new header! K, here's something else for ya ... You might want to consider widening your post area a bit. Your sidebars are a good size, but you could increase your post area by 200 px I think. Easy to do in the Template Designer!

    So proud of you!


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