“Humid today,” James commented as he eased himself down on the granite steps of the building.
“Yup.” Harry leaned back to rest on his elbows, stretching out his legs. He gazed out in lazy contentedness at the mist that lingered around the area. “Foggy too. Hey, give me one of those,” he held out a hand for one of the beer cans from the cooler.
“Impatient, are we?” James grinned and opened the cooler, fishing out a cold one from the ice. “This is all I could find.” He made a face at the pale grey can with the red writing as he handed it to Harry.
“DC Lite?” Harry looked skeptical. “Never heard of it.” He cracked it open and sucked up the foaming suds that rose through the opening.
“Neither have I.” James opened his own can, dancing back a step when the foam spilled over to splatter the steps.
Two minutes later and both boys were relaxing the day away.
Today’s hit is for Prin’s Links, blog of an undergrad social student and mother of one. Here’s what the site looked like when we drove by:
We instantly recognized the design template. It’s a template that has been around for a long time and many others have used it for their blog. It would be a better idea to change that and bring a more professional look to your blog, considering that its focus is on being an educational resource.
“So who’s Prin?” James always seemed to know everyone, and Harry was curious about this new name that had cropped up.
“Haven’t got a clue.” James took a swig of his beer and wiped his mouth. “Not even sure what she does. Noticed she has a thing for links, and she wanted me to hang with her for a while, but I wasn’t sure why I should.”
“Ah, the old, ‘What’s in it for me,’ right?” Harry nodded. James mentioned that theory so often that it had become a second-nature thought each time he hit up a site.
Being clear and relevant to reflect what your blog offers is very important online. You have a split second to attract people – you can’t afford anyone thinking, “Huh? So what?”
“Check out the sign,” Harry hitched his chin at the long list of instructions and how-tos that hung right at the entry to the building. “That made me laugh. Like I didn’t know how to walk around this place, you know? Gimme another beer, would you?”
“I know.” The cooler opened, the two empties went in and James passed more beer out. “I could barely read it, too. Hard on the eyes.”
The banner isn’t a banner at all. It’s some form of instructional how-to-use-this-site, which gives nothing of value to readers and clutters up the look. Too much text in the banner just makes it hard to read. The text is also a blocky chunk and very boring.
The thin white border around the banner gets lost in the pale cloudy background, too, and because of that lack of proper division, the RSS button and the title of the first post appear to be part of the banner. Make that RSS button larger and more visible as well.
“Wonder why it’s so foggy today.” James turned, craning his neck to look up at the fuzzy building.
“Mist is usually a cold/hot meeting up thing, isn’t it? You guys have weird weather,” he added, settling back to drink more beer.
Harry crooked an eyebrow at him. “At least we don’t have snow.”
Snow is what’s going on at this site, though. The look is fuzzy and faded, lacking the weight and depth of authority. The image of the building has an old, worn impression. Students are generally of younger generations and would most likely be attracted to a site that didn’t look so grandfatherly.
If the site is going to have a governmental-style look or replicate the feeling of an established school, give it a secure, solid feel. Take Washington, DC, for example. There’s a sense of largeness and importance, marble and bronze… this design comes off as DC Lite. Good for a beer; not for a blog.
“You sure we’re allowed to sit here?” Harry gazed at some student climbing the steps to go work on research inside the building.
“Public place.” A strong fist crushed the beer can. James tossed the ball of metal at the open cooler and grinned when it landed right in. “Besides. I don’t see a drinking area cordoned off for us. Heh. Bet you the old fogeys inside are staring out the windows at us with that pinched look going on.”
We suggest you separate your page properly with a better layout and design that helps show where the banner ends and where the good stuff begins. The font is serif, which looks a little dated and also isn’t the easiest to read on a computer screen. It’s of a good size, though.
Clean all that text in the banner up, give the banner a good, solid image of establishment and make one great tagline to tell people what this site is about and what they’ll get out of it. Also, center the page. On larger screens, the right hand side appears as too much space and adds to the empty, lost feeling.
By the way, the content in the banner says to click the links in the sidebar, but when we glance that way, all we see are banner ads. That means people have to scroll down the page to navigate your site and get what they want. Not good, that.
“Here.” James passed a small photo over to Harry. “S’her.”
Harry blinked for a minute, trying to focus. “Who’s that, Sailor Moon?”
“This is Prin?” He looked back up at the misty building then back at the cartoon photo. “Huh.”
“She likes blues,” James sounded pleased about that. “Not sure what that has to do with this place, but it’s neat.”
The title Blues Pages in the sidebar is something that should be changed. Blue pages are governmental listings, and that’s what we both expected to see. But when we clicked through, we landed on a site about blues music. Ditch that from the sidebar and add the link to your Blues Pages in your About Me page.
Oh, yeah. And get rid of the cartoon avatar. It just doesn’t fit with the look of the site.
“Whassis about?” Harry peered at the long list of ingredients on the can of DC Lite. He tried to focus, but there were just too many words on there and no matter how he squinted, he found his attention wandering every time.
The long list of links in the sidebar is just a bad idea. It’s hard to search through and find what we might want, and it bores people. Their eyes will start to glaze over before they’ve even read one-quarter of that list. You’re making people work too hard to find their resources.
“Dunno.” James was staring at his beer can too. “S’a lot of big words… Makes me sleepy.” The whole building was making him feel sleepy. “Why can’t they make a beer that has just one ingredient, y’know?”
Harry blinked. “Like… uh… beer?”
“Yeah!” He tried to pat Harry’s back but his hand missed and he settled for a friendly swipe. “Beer, that’s it. I like beer. A lot. Here,” he pulled out two more cold ones. “Drink. S’good for you.”
What isn’t good is that long list of links. It would be a better idea to have individual pages that focus on categorizing the information you have. You could add a cler navigation bar to help visitors find exactly what they need.
The Toolkits section and Free PDF section could go on their own pages. These are relevant and valuable to the focus of your site, so make it easy for people to find them.
The Laughter category in the sidebar really has no business on this page. The idea is to gather people looking for valuable links to resources on social education. They shouldn’t be looking for Comedy Central on this site.
Most of the blogs in the Blogroll could go, too, unless they’re relevant to Social Studies. If you want to have a “favorite blogs” section, put that in the About Us or keep it down to five or seven links at the most, and put this way at the bottom of your sidebar.
“Ooooh.” Jamie’s eyes went wide. “You see this?” He poked a finger at the credentials on the paper. “She’s a member of this Healthcare Blogger. Code of Ethics and all.” He nodded. “Mmhm. Why’d she put that down here where we can’t see it?”
“Dunno.” Harry frowned at the page, trying to read through his double-vision and spinning head.
“Should have that right at the top. Gives credibility.”
“S’right.” The agreement was confident and James nodded. “Credibility’s what it’s all about. I gotta go for a leak.” He pushed himself up and managed to stand, swaying on his feet. “Where’s the bathroom?”
“Uhh…” Harry’s blank stare scanned the area. “I dunno. Go ask her,” he pointed at a booth, far in the distance.
“You kidding me?” James could barely walk five feet, let alone travel that far to ask for help.
Your search bar is at the bottommost corner of the page. It’s completely useless. No one will scroll down that far to the bottom of your page to type in a search term. This makes no sense at all. Get the search feature up towards the top so that visitors can use it.
“Not kidding. Oh, wait, here,” Harry leaned and pulled a pamphlet out from his pocket. “Here’s a map. You go past here… n’ there… n’ past there… n’ this place… what is this place? N’ this one… ”
James was looking with an incredulous look. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“All that?” James pointed. “Nuh-uh. Forget it.”
There is so much clutter in the sidebar that we gave up analyzing each widget for value – and if we gave up, what will your readers do? They have far less patience than we do. Some widgets that really add no value are the MyBlogLog widget, the Prinpronisse section, the Me/Neighborhood widget, (what is that?), Soul Soo, the video widget…
As a user, we have no idea what these are, and they add no purpose or value to your site. All the garbage at the bottom of the blog is useless as well – do people really scroll down *that* far to see this stuff? No. Ditch it.
Remember that you cannot be an online portal to everything, especially with Blogger’s limitations. Cut the clutter down. Focus your site. There’s just way too much going on at this blog and a lot of it is completely unnecessary.
“Dude.” Lying on the steps seemed like a brilliant idea. Problem was, now that he’d sprawled out on the granite, James couldn’t get back up. “Gimme your hand.”
Harry flopped his hand out and it landed amidst a pile of empty beer cans that clattered on the stone steps. “Can’t. Too drunk. Too heavy. Hey, you bring the gun?”
“I brought beer,” James lifted his head. His head spun crazily, promising a wicked hangover for morning. “There any more?”
The cooler held a few inches of melted ice and nothing else. “Nope.” Thank god. “Hey. Do me a favor?” Harry fixed bleary, unfocused eyes on James.
“No more DC Lite, okay?”
Want more? You got it. Check out the lineup of upcoming hit jobs:
August 10 – Abundance Blog
August 17 – Your Writing Cure
August 24 – Yes to Me
August 31 – LitGuides
September 7 – Miramar Mike 2.0
September 14 – Green Plan(t)
September 21 – Fawnskin Flyer
September 28 – Forty Plus Two
October 5 – The Enhance Life
October 12 – Creative Texture Tools
October 19 – Ulla Hennig’s Weblog
October 26 – Simplistic Thoughts
November 2 – Positioning Strategy
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Come on. You know you wanna.