Drive-by-Shooting Sundays: Writer Dad


The faint sound was followed by Jamie’s grin as his hand twisted the door handle open. “Bingo,” he uttered, stepping into the residential home of a fellow writer. The writer was out, the home was silent and the streets outside were bare.

A perfect hit. In, out, and no one to scream for the police.

“This is nice.” Harry stood in the office, looking at the old-fashioned typewriter that sat waiting on the desk. “You don’t see stuff like this anymore. You think he actually uses it to write?”

“Nah. He couldn’t get the speed he needs. I think it’s just for show.” James didn’t linger near the typewriter; it reminded him far too much of the stiff office from last week’s hit. “Here’s where the real work is coming from.” He’d found the computer and keyboard, tucked away nicely.

“Do we know this guy?” Harry pointed to the page in the typewriter. “WriterDad. I’ve heard of him.”

“Yeah. Snuck into town a couple of months ago. Now he’s a big name.” James thought of the Glock he was packing. “I’ve been watching him for a while. Always keep your eye on the little guy,” he mused thoughtfully.

Today’s hit is for Writer Dad, the blog of Sean Platt. Here’s what the site looked like when we drove by:

“Check it out. Thesis.” James tapped the stack of papers beside the computer. “Seems like everyone’s writing their thesis these days… but this is good,” he added, skimming through the first few pages. “Different, pleasant. I like.”

We do like. The site is nicely laid out and doesn’t scream Thesis the minute we land, which we feel is important, considering how many people are using it out-of-the-box these days. Good work on that.

On James’ monitor, the banner looks fine and is nicely centered. On Harry’s larger monitor, though, the banner doesn’t stretch fully to the right-hand border. It’s a problem we’ve seen before, and that needs to be fixed up so that the look is smooth.

“You know…” James was eyeing the typewriter. “This is huge. Really huge. How much do you think it weighs?” He decided to find out and hefted the machine. “Jeez.” It weighed a ton. “You’d think he could’ve found a smaller one? It’s taking up the whole room.”

That’s what the banner is doing on the site. The image is great, and it looks really nice, but it’s huge, heavy and grounding the site so firmly that the navigation gets completely lost and eaten up. The eye hits the site, grabs that banner, and that’s it. It doesn’t follow a path up to the navigation.

If the navigation stood out a bit more, then that eye path issue wouldn’t be such a problem. Ditch the serif font in the navigation, because that’s just not working, increase the font size so that the title tags aren’t so subtle and define the borders of tabs clearly so that people can see there are places to go. Make it stand out.

“Aww… isn’t this cute?” Harry touched the little message about hearting bloggers, but the sarcasm wasn’t lost on James.

“Sweet. You getting sentimental on me?”

“Not a chance,” Harry grinned. Then he shrugged. “Actually, when I took a first look, I thought it read, ‘Bloggers I hate’.”

Hm. Yes. You may want to change that title for something a little… better. Less cutesy. But on a positive note, you’ve made great use of a link page, giving each blogger some space and a personal note. We like that.

“What’s a weebook?” James squinted at the label on the drawer. “We had Weebles when I was a kid… Those were great. Remember them?” Waxing nostalgic, he sang the commercial jingle. “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

Then he wandered off, losing interest.

That lack of interest from not knowing what weebooks means could be a problem. Harry didn’t catch on and take a look either, which means that’s two people who didn’t click through to a page where you have selling items. No, we aren’t stupid and yes, we can figure it out – but why make people work? Clarity. Not cleverness.

But! The term “weebooks” is great, so you have to find a way to make it clear to readers until the phrase catches on. “Wee-ebooks”? “We-ebooks?” Think about it for a while and see if you can’t find something that fits. Alternatively, put a description in the sidebar.

Also, while we’re on the cleverness subject, there’s some problems with your copy on that page. You could use a little more description and better wording if you want to increase sales. Washingtons? Lincolns? What the hell? Even Harry didn’t think of monetary denominations right away, and he’s from the U.S.

James never caught on, period. Ahh, poor Canuck…

The organization of those title tags in your navigation is off, by the way. People place importance on what they read from left to right, so your About is currently taking more importance than your Services. You may want to change that around.

Try this instead: Home, Services, Weebooks, Guest Post and Interviews (that’s a bit long), Bloggers I Heart, About, Contact.

James wandered around for a while, thoughtfully examining the pictures on the wall. “These are really nice.” Then he took one down.

“What are you doing?” Harry raised an eyebrow as he watched James cross the room.

“This is all wrong. It’s bothering me.” He took down a picture on the other side and hung the one he’d brought over in its place.

“Well, put that one there while you’re at it,” Harry pointed to an orange picture. “That one is bothering me.”

Ah, yes, the RSS icon, misplaced and too low down to be of much use. Move that up in your sidebar so that it’s in the top right-hand corner. Take that search bar away and move that down out of the way.

Then move the inkpot beneath the RSS. Why? Because between the orange RSS button on the right and the black inkpot on the left, people aren’t going to know where to look first.

Eye path is very important. Because you’re not there to guide people around, you have to make sure that they see what you want them to see in the order they should see it – without any confusion or jumping around.

Confusion… The email RSS button is nice, but the glass effect is making it very hard to read and we can only see the last three letters of “email” clearly. Fix that up and remove the shine.

The “Let Us Give Your Blog a Boost” icon doesn’t match the fun look of the other icons you have going on. It sticks out like a sore thumb with its modern, tech effect. We suggest finding a new icon that matches the site for consistency’s sake.

The archives should be out of the way – possibly in the navigation bar to keep the sidebar clean. Also, the Recent Posts widget has too many links. (How many times have we mentioned option paralysis in previous drive-bys?) Move it up as well so that people can see where they can click.

Then links and more links… Wow. The Discussions dropdown has way too many options. It’s also an odd feature, bringing us to a category archive. From the title ‘discussions’, we expected to see comments or forums. You may want to rethink having that feature.

The “Some of My Best” also has a long list going on. It kind of looks like everything is the best. Good on you for confidence, but…

Over to the left sidebar now.

As suggested, move that inkpot to the right. The snowmen cartoon can stay, as it’s less obvious and more subtle, so it doesn’t draw the eye over to the left when it should be on the right.

The rest of the icons there look fine. They have that glass effect going on with some of them, though, and again, we suggest taking that off. It’s overkill.

One big suggestion we do have for the sidebars is to change the title fonts. They look a little spindly, faded and broken up. They’re also in serif font, making them harder to read.

“I’m tired.” James sat down by the computer and rubbed his forehead. “This guy has a lot of pictures on his wall. But they’re not all jammed together or hokey or anything…” At least there was that.

“No, it looks good now.” Harry nodded, appreciating the spacing and clean wall between each image. “The guy has good taste. We’ve seen worse.”

“Hooo, yeah.” James pulled the thesis closer and read a few more pages. “You know, I really hate Times New Roman. Or any serif font,” he added. “This whole document would be so much easier to read with a nice, clean Arial or Verdana.”

“You sound so smart,” Harry smirked, knowing damned well James couldn’t tell the difference between either font.

“Yeah, well, I had a good teacher.” As if James listened to anything Harry said. But he did grin.

A key in the front door’s lock suddenly brought both men to sharp attention. They whirled, whipping out their guns to aim them at the office door. “Shit,” Jamie hissed. “They weren’t supposed to be home yet…”

Children’s voices drifted in from the hallway, punctuated by the sound of an adult stamping boots and a blast of cold, snowy air.

“He’s got kids!” Harry sucked in his breath, looking around for a quick escape. “We can’t shoot them with kids around! What now?”

“Here.” Three strides and James was tugging up on a window, sliding it open and letting in the freezing wind of winter. “We can get out this way.” Ground floor. No drop and a quick escape. The snow would leave their footprints, but once they hit the streets, they’d be able to hide their tracks.

Harry scrambled to slip out, turning to give James a hand. But he wasn’t there. The typewriter clacked four times, leaving one word on the page for the occupants to find.


Want more? You got it. Check out the lineup of upcoming hit jobs:

December 14 – Deaf Mom World
December 21 – Linkers Blog

Note: Requests for free drive-bys are closed. We’ll start taking names again in late December for January’s hits.

Want your blog shot down? Hit us up for a professional private drive-by via email. It’s only $30, and you’ll get your shoot-out within a week. Come on. You know you wanna.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.