Each week, I’ll 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 point of a critique is to learn and grow, even if our blogger doesn’t take all of the suggestions. The good parts of the blog are jumbled in with the suggestions below. Here we go!
Blog: Before the Baby Wakes
Header & Menu
- The background design you use is pretty and colorful. It adds a nice pop without being too overwhelming.
- The blue and yellow pattern doesn’t seem to really match the femininity of the background design. Or maybe I should say the background doesn’t match your header. Either way, they seem mismatched both in colors and style.
- While I like your “tagline,” it ends up making your blog header take up a lot of space. I have a relatively small computer screen, but you can see that your header and leaderboard ad take up the entire browser window when I first come to your site. You may want to consider putting it to the right of the blog name to save a little space.
- Speaking of your blog name, one thing that caught my attention was that you consider yourself more of a lifestyle blogger than a mommy blogger but your blog name has a “mommy blogger”-like name, I’m not necessarily recommending you change your blog name, especially because, in a sense, that “lifestyle” happens before the baby wakes. I think you’ll just need to reinforce the “lifestyle” part through your tagline and elsewhere.
- Your menu bar has a cute touch with the flowers sticking out on the sides. I like that the mouseover highlights what you’re about to click on. If you can, add a little more space between the menu items. Since most of them are two words (and they are all lowercase- which I like by the way), it slows the readability of them a bit.
- You lose a lot of valuable space at the top of that right sidebar because of the video ad above your first post. I’d love to see a picture of you there with a short paragraph about you and your blog. It helps ground the reader so they know what to expect from your blog right away.
- I’d get rid of the archives. It takes up A LOT of space which could be used for other things. Plus you have a search box so most people will use that or click on your tags.
- You could also consider replacing the archives with a drop-down category box. There’s a good default one on the Widgets section of WordPress.
- You have a lot of ads. Too many can get in the way of people missing your important stuff, like how to follow you. Are you making money on them? Consider taking down the ones that aren’t making you any money and focus on those that are.
- I like that you have customized “titles” for things like Links, Readers, etc. Helps to add some branding throughout the site.
- Your social media buttons are cute! I’d move them up above the email box and feedburner stats so they’re as close to the top as possible. Instead of calling that section “readers” you could instead use some sort of call to action like “find me,” “where I’m at,” etc.
- Smart of you to have the view comments button at the top AND bottom of a post. Gives readers a couple of chances to click through and see the comments (or comment themselves).
- The main column area seems a little narrow. Could just be me but you may try adjusting the space between the sidebars and the background image as well as the space between the sidebars and the main columns.
- The video ad takes a lot of prominence on your main column and pushes a lot of white space onto your sidebars. All of that area is prime “real estate” so you may consider removing that ad or moving it elsewhere.
- I love blog titles in lowercase letters. It ties in with the header and other places you do all lowercase. I would bump up the font size though and make each blog title stand out more!
- Consider getting a favicon created (the little icon beside the URL) that ties into your blog design. It adds a little extra branding and is especially nice because it shows up in RSS readers.
- Your blog badge is totally cute!
- Your feed is burned. Yay! I also see that users can subscribe via email. It’s good to give readers some choices because some prefer one over the other.
- On some of your pages (like the about us), you’ve done a great job linking to other posts of yours. It helps increase pageviews and get readers finding more great posts to get addicted to your site! The part that’s confusing is that some of the links are Linkworth ads, not links to your stories. Plus having so many text links in your stories makes it a little distracting (especially in cases where you talk about your son Phoenix and it links to ads about the city). If you aren’t super tied to Linkworth, I’d drop it or at least eliminate it in places you have other links.
- You have CommentLuv, which is a super awesome way to give a little something back to your readers!
- Under your posts, you have a part underlined that says “Leave a comment for a chance to have your blog featured.” I’d drop the underline as underlining in the webby world typically means it’s a link.
- Speaking of, there are five lines there above the View Comments. Consider moving your copyright message and mention about Phoenix’s photos to one of your sidebars.
- Commenting was a little confusing at first. It says “View comments” but when I clicked it took me to the top of your page again and I had to scroll down to see the comments. Maybe there’s a way for it to not do that?
- Maybe instead of saying “view comments” you could say “leave a comment”? It’s a subtle difference but the latter one is more of a call to action for your reader.
- I see you use Lijit search. That’s a great search plug-in!
- I really love your posts. They are thoughtful without being super long, sassy and fun to read. Your letter to your son was hilarious, especially this part: “The boogers that are in my nose are there for a reason. Leave them alone. If I want them out I’ll do it myself.”
- You definitely have a style to your writing. You use short sentences, short paragraphs and sometimes a few words per line. The formatting helps draw the reader’s down through your post. My very first Momcomm post was about how formatting can make or break a post. You’ve really nailed it!
- Your posts are full of candor, snark, sarcasm and heartfelt honesty. I really loved your post Teen Mom Castoff. You graduated at 15! Dang, girl. But seriously, this post gives readers a really big glimpse into your past and I think chunks of it could be used either for your About page (which is good by the way) or a little paragraph about you on a sidebar.
- You blog about all sorts of topics, which is great! I imagine readers like that about your blog. Even though you blog about different topics, it always sounds like YOU and that’s SO important to branding your blog. Really, I don’t have much to say about your blog posts because they are all so interesting and thoughtful, even the snarky ones.
- As for some of your other pages, I noticed some of your menu tabs like “Bloggerazzi” haven’t been updated in over a year. I’d remove them (or revive it) or trying incorporating those topics in your blog posts.
- If you end up removing some sections of your menu, consider adding one for PR and Advertising (if that’s a direction you want to take). I notice you mention it in your Contact Us page but it gets a little lost in the switch from telling readers to contact you to talking to brands. You can even us a plug-in like Contact Form 7 to make it easy for brands (or readers) to contact you.
Overall, you’re a great writer and know how to tell a story. Cutting down on some of the advertising will clean up your blog and really let your writing shine! You’re such an interesting person and I think that really shows through your writing.
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 Before the Baby Wakes and give Alex some comment love.
Hey y’all: These critiques have been more popular than I ever could have imagined! Since I have nearly a year’s worth of ladies in the queue for blog critiques, I’m closing the critique request for now. Don’t worry- it’ll open back up later this year!