Drive-By Shooting Sunday: Wahm Biz Builder

The humming was soothing. He liked to hum. And sing. In private.

Of course, Harry’s presence didn’t count as an audience, so James hummed without fear as he poked around the room with his usual curiosity. He picked up little keepsakes, admired a bright painting, peeked into desk drawers and shuffled through the papers on the desk, disregarding any violation of privacy.

There was no privacy here. This was a hit.

Harry glanced over. “What are you singing?”

“Hm?” James blinked and promptly stopped his humming.

“Was that The Rainbow Connection?”

“Uhh… Yeah. Why?”

Harry’s eyebrow arched. “No reason.” But he already knew why. The splashy rainbow colors around the room brought to mind Kermit and his friends easily.

It wasn’t easy being green.

Today’s hit is for Wahm Biz Builder, the blog of Melinda Brennan. Here’s what the site looked like when we drove by:

“How’d you know her name?” James peeked over Harry’s shoulder at the small scrap of paper his partner held. The hit information was written down, but the name wasn’t there.

“Facebook.” He’d managed to find the owner’s name by luck, tacked to a portrait called About.

That’s not the first problem with the site, but it’s a start – the About page shows up blank and devoid of any content. There’s no information, no back-story, no company info at all. Just a white page, a newsletter opt-in and a small Facebook avatar.

Ahhh, but then we notice the trick. The About tab in your main navigation has drop-down navigation features. Should a site visitor hover, by chance, on the About, there are two extra About pages.

That’s actually a barrier to information that can hurt your credibility. Put something on that main About page, even if it’s just a link to the two other pages.

“The lovers, the dreamers… and meeee…” James was back to singing, this time just to annoy Harry, and he wrapped up the chorus.

Harry gave his partner-in-crime a look. “You’re not helping, you know. Women who work from home already have a hard enough time being taken seriously.” And this site was broadcasting cutesey and a lack of seriousness that he found hard to swallow.

“I kind of like it here,” James pursed his lips and looked around. “It’s happy. It’s fun. It’s colorful.”

Here’s where we’re torn. James likes the fun appeal, Harry thinks that it only exacerbates the ‘mommy blogger’ impression. In both our opinions, though, it’s over the top and too colorful, with rainbows pulling our eyes and attention all over the place.

It would be great for a community, but for a business… we’re not so sure. There’s just too much pixie dust and unicorns going on for the professional services you offer to shine through. We suggest toning the colors down and using them as accents rather than the main focus of the theme. Bring some credibility to your coaching services.

We’re also not sure about the title of the business. It almost seems irrelevant to the site, and it’s difficult to know at a glance that this is a business providing services and not just a nice place for moms to hang out.

Also, James’ first impression was that “Wham” (as in impact) was misspelled, so there’s points lost for that. Being clear, not clever, goes a long way.

The tagline of “Work at Home Mothers” doesn’t work. A tagline should be relevant and tell people what this site is about, what they’ll get if they linger and how this site changes their life. Something along the lines of ‘Marketing for Moms who Work from Home’ is a good start, but even that needs more punch. What kind of marketing? Why do WAHMs need this?

“Hey, check this out.” James had found a photo frame on a table, one with a little blue bird in the corner. “It changes.” Sure enough, a few seconds later, the text disappeared to be replaced by something new. “Cool, huh?”

“What’s that for?” Harry walked over and took the picture frame, examining it. While he did so, the text disappeared and changed again.

“I have no idea,” James shrugged. Cute, cool and… well, that was about it.

We have no idea why Twitter is in the banner. It’s a fun little widget, but displayed so prominently, it confuses us. How does this add to your business? Why is this in the banner? How does this help new readers become clients? We suggest taking that down for credibility’s sake.

The banner itself isn’t bad. It could use some polish and an update, such as bringing in some texture and reducing the bubble-roundness of the lettering, or perhaps making it look more graceful and sophisticated. If the Twitter widget is removed, there’s going to be too much white space, but giving the logo a makeover for something more elegant can help use the space more effectively.

Harry opened a door and peeked in the closet. Then he opened another door – and was met with the same closet. They were identical. He blinked, shut the door, and went back to the first closet, thinking he was hallucinating.


That’s a little disconcerting. We see a navigation bar at the top of the page, and we see another navigation bar below the banner. Both have Home indicated, so as first-time visitors, we’re confused on which we’re supposed to use. At first glance, visitors won’t be able to tell either, and they just won’t bother clicking to find out.

The lower navigation seems to be for categories, of which we feel there are too many. Five or seven is plenty, and the number of options on each dropdown is too much. When given too much choice, people choose nothing at all.

Keep navigation bars together, or remove the lower navigation bar and put category links in the sidebar instead. Have elements in expected locations so that people don’t feel lost or confused.

“What’s this?” James picked up a small pink chip lying on the floor. The edges were a little chewed up, as if the dog had gotten a hold of it and put his teeth to good use. Maybe it was just a toy that had gotten stuck in the vacuum cleaner one too many times.

He turned it over again and squinting at the barely visible RSS letters. “Poor dog.” James shook his head and held up the RSS to Harry. “He needs a new chew toy. Something big that it can sink its teeth into, and something not so ragged.”

“And something not pink,” Harry added. The bright plaything stood out like a sore thumb, even in the rainbow room.

We’ll admit that the RSS, tiny and ragged as it is, did catch our eye – but we almost missed it. It really needs to be bigger, more prominent and in a better location to encourage people to click. It can stay pink if you like that, but not with so many other bright colors and distractions happening with the site.

Speaking of distractions, the subscription opt-in box overpowers the site and it’s definitely an element that our eyes keep coming back to. That may encourage people to drop in their email, but the box makes it difficult to focus on the content. The content itself is nearly invisible, written in tiny grey font.

We suggest a better balance to help with readability. The opt-in box could be smaller and still attract attention with a spruce-up to make it more appealing, and the font of posts could be upped a few sizes and switched to black. Combine that with toned down colors and a more stable scheme, and the site will be far easier on the eyes.

The rainbow curve of the graph is warring badly with the opt-in as well. Color on the left, color on the right… Where should we look first? We can’t focus on the content at all, and we can’t decide.

Building a better eye path would help your site immensely and get site visitors moving in a logical manner from one element to the other. Right now, the eye path is blown apart on landing and we just can’t focus on one element at a time peacefully.

Relief comes when we scroll down, because the site sidebar has plenty of space. However, we notice that the Facebook profile, ads and badges seem lost in a sea of white. Having the Twitter feed next to the Facebook image would help fill out the space and keep social media all in one place.

Also, move Recent Posts to be above Facebook. The widget displays a nice five links, so good on you for that. It’s below the fold, though, which may cost you readers. Reducing the size of the newsletter opt-in and making better use of the space above the fold will help.

Another element down too low on the page is the logo for the International Coaches Federation. This adds credibility to your services, so we’d move that to a more prominent location.

“We done here?” James was still moving around the room and examining things, but he felt the hit was coming to an end. It made him sad, truthfully, because rainbows were a nice thought, and the place was starting to grow on him – even if did seem to be a ‘Women Only’ place to hang out.

“Yeah, I think that’s it.” Harry had been unrolling the fuse from the center of the living room. He’d packed the bluebird picture frame and its magical text with putty – just enough to do some interior damage but not enough boom to destroy the building.

There was only a few feet more of fuse to lay, but he backed into a table. “What the h-…” The table teetered precariously, the green knick-knacks rocking on their base, and Harry’s hand shot out to steady it. “What’s this doing here?”

“You’re asking me?” James came over, picking up one of the green table ornaments to examine it. “Why’s this on the table? This doesn’t go here…” He promptly went to place the ornament on the mantle and set about cleaning up the area. “I’ll never understand why people put stuff where no one can see it.”

Which is exactly what we’re wondering with the footer area. Using this space is a nice trend, but down so low, no one can find the Recent Comments, Categories and Archives. The home page is long and full of blog posts, which push the footer area far down. The point of these widgets is to give visitors extra navigation and keep them reading, but they won’t do the site any good if they can’t be spotted easily.

“Gimme $50, will you?” James held out his hand and wiggled his fingers.

A dark eyebrow arched, and the only thing Harry pulled out of his pocket was a Swiss Army pocketknife to cut the fuse. “What for?”

“Would you just give me some money?” James rolled his eyes. “Look. I want to buy one of these.” He pointed to a dark corner that they’d both missed where there were some books and CDs for sale.

This ‘miss’ is a problem, and it brings us back full circle to the navigation.

There are products for sale, services for hire and stuff to buy, but unless someone pays attention to the Products page in the navigation way at the top, these sellers will never be seen. Notice that we didn’t catch it until the end ourselves, because we were too distracted by the site colors pulling our attention away.

We suggest adding some sales copy blurbs or images to the sidebar to promote that you sell something of value. You could have a CD case, a 3D book cover, a banner ad… Something to attract buyers. Tone down the brightness of the rest of the site and convey that this is a business, not just a hangout blog.

Since we’re back at the navigation, let’s take another look. Besides the duplicate appearance, you have good, clear title tags going on, and they’re in the right order of importance.

We’d ditch the Newsletter page, as you already have the opt-in box to encourage people to drop their email, and having a page on its own for this seems a little redundant. The contact form could use a little bit of work, too. There are green blocks showing up, and there’s no inviting content to encourage people to get in touch with you.

The About Me page has a nice image. We feel that you could promote this warm aspect of your personality throughout the site more, using more images of yourself here and there. It brings you to life. Paired with a design that is less Rainbow Connection and that conveys more stability, your business would probably benefit.

“What’s the matter?” Harry peered at James, who was holding a small picture of a happy family. “Are you… Wait, are you crying?

“Don’t be ridiculous.” James swiped away a tear and stood a little straighter. “Of course I’m not crying. I’m here to shoot this place up. Geez. Crying’s for girls.”

“Oh for god’s sake, James. You’re going soft on me, aren’t you.” Here Harry stood with explosives ready to blow, and his partner was getting sentimental about a hit on a family. “It’s that song, isn’t it. I knew it,” he shoved the knife back in his pocket and started dismantling the bomb. “No more Rainbow Connection for you.”

“Okay. I’m sorry. It was the green. It does funny things to me.” James started helping pick up, but he sighed. “Harry, could we play some AC/DC in the car on the way home? You know, Dirty Deeds…”

… Done dirt cheap, because we offer the most affordable drive-by critique so you know the truth about your site or blog. Learn what could boost its appeal for more readers or sales. Get the straight answers from the sharpshooters who know.

Book your drive-by-shooting site critique right here. It’s fast, it’s cheap and it’s value packed. It also comes in your choice of public and fun (with traffic bonus!) or serious and private.

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.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. You’re a softie James! LOL! You’re also at work very early!

    Thanks guys. I’ve made a lot of the simple changes already and it’s looking a lot better. Cleaner and easier to read.

    The bigger changes, most of which are Theme issues, will take a bit longer.


    Melinda´s last blog post…Destroying the Old to Release the New

  2. Oh, meant to add, I hadn’t realised quite how much green there was. On my laptop it looks fine, very muted and the pink contrast is great.

    I looked at it today on my husband’s computer – and went to put my sunglasses on! I think Kermit threw up or exploded or something…..

    A good lesson, just because it looks good on my computer doesn’t mean it looks the same on others.

    Melinda´s last blog post…Monthly Book Giveaway – Win in Business by Peter Irvine

  3. Harry and James addressed important usability issues with this site, and in an interesting way too. LOL

    In my humble, non-solicited opinion there are some issues behind the scene as well. I’d like to see more effective use of H1 tags (either the site name or tagline on the main page, and post titles on single-post pages). As it is now the site title uses the H1 tag on every page. I also think the title on single post pages shouldn’t be linked to itself, creating a loop . . . probably not good for SEO.

    Terry Heath´s last blog post…The Emperor’s New Blog

  4. James,

    Great hit as always. So many issues are already taken care of that it’s a bit hard to know how rainbow it was, but as it stands at 7:30, I think the green is distinctive enough that she can “own” the color and not so much that folks will run away. It must be because the rainbow, sign-up box, and pink RSS are gone that I’m just not seeing the girly/ mommy-ness that bugged Harry. Green’s pretty gender-neutral, and this shade suggests spring and environmentalism to me.

    (‘Course environmentalism isn’t what the site’s about. Just a thought.)


    You are a fast worker! I kept going back and forth from the site to the critique to their screen shot, in amazement at all that’s changed in just a couple of hours! Bravo to putting their advice to work so fast!

    I know WAHM is becoming a pretty well-known acronym. BUT. It’s very insider-only jargon. Used much more by techy, web-experienced moms, and it will not just make newbies feel shut out, but never show up in the first place—because they won’t know what it is. Naming is a sensitive issue after-the-fact but I must agree with James, your name could do a lot more for you. If you aren’t comfortable making that change then definitely make your tagline rock!

    I hate to say a word since you’re working furiously as we speak. Good luck with it. I like what you’ve got going there!

    Kelly´s last blog post…Inspiration Points: Reality Is Not on a TV Show

  5. Ah ha ha. No signature? Need caffeine.



    Kelly´s last blog post…Are You as Essential as Morning Coffee?

  6. @ Terry. Thanks for the comments! Your advice has been solicited, simply by me having this public! There’s a lot of behind the scenes work to be done, so I’ll add your comments to the list. Thanks!

    @ Kelly. It’s all in the time zones! James emailed me the critique before it was posted here. He sent it saturday afternoon his time, which was early sunday morning my time. I had most of the afternoon to work on it, and it was posted on here about 8.00pm-ish my time, sunday evening.

    The rainbow graph was in a blog post, it’s now been moved further down and is no longer on the front page.

    Environmentalism mmmmmmm….. a subject near and dear to my heart! But no, that’s not what this site is about!

    It now being just after midnight, and my alarm is going off in six hours, I’m out of here for a good nights sleep, secure in knowing I don’t have to worry about hitmen hiding in the shadows. LOL!

    Melinda´s last blog post…Surviving a Drive-By Shooting Critique

  7. James….luv your wit & humour….priceless, simply priceless! 🙂

  8. @ Deb – Heh, I try, I try…

    @ Melinda – You broke the rules! You weren’t allowed to scramble around like that after your sneak peek! (I didn’t think you were that fast, either – good on you!)

    @ Kelly – You saw what I saw – jargon that wouldn’t work with all types of target market. It’s true that WAHM is a common catch-phrase out there on the internet, but those work-at-home-mothers who are completely new don’t have a clue what it means.

    That said, Melinda is creating a niche business, so I do think that it’s both a nice play on words and an incredibly targeted name. Not for me, but I can see it working.

    @ Terry – Agreed that coding and back-scenes stuff can be major issues with sites. We cover those in private drive-bys but for the public ones, we don’t – we’ve seen sites so poorly coded we get a headache just from looking. Ugh. Good catch, though!

    @ Melinda again – You wouldn’t believe the difference of colors that occur between monitors. I have four computers at home, and each one displays different colors – some with HUGE variations. There’s really no ‘right’ color that works on all computers, unfortunately.

    (And no one is allowed to tell me to get a Mac.)

  9. Not only are there variations from monitor to monitor, but browser to browser and all of it is enough to give the most seasoned designer a never ending headache.

  10. Now I know what happens in a drive-by shooting. I like the conversational tone that you used to present this. Much more interesting than a boring critique.

    This was helpful for me. When I read about 5-7 categories being optimal I raced over to my blog and spent a half hour juggling and re-categorizing posts. I now have 5 instead of 9 categories. Plus I added the ICF logo to the top of my home page — thought that was a good idea — thank you!

    I’d really love to have a beautiful header designed and a background that reflects “shades of crimson”. That is on my shopping list.

    Davina´s last blog post…Benefits Of Turning Off Comments

  11. James, you’re too nice!

    I was expecting the critique to be a lot worse, so I actually felt relieved when it wasn’t too bad!

    I need to do a lot more thinking on the WAHM acronym. I totally see where you’re all coming from with that being niche jargon and quite possibly keeping out the very people I want to come in and stay!

    One of the reasons I used WAHM was a very simple reason – I couldn’t decide if I should spell it ‘mom’ or ‘mum’. Being Aussie, we spell it with a ‘u’, however google the two different spellings and mom gets millions more hits! I’m not specifically targeting mother’s in Australia, and it feels almost traitorous to spell it mom in the headings etc!

    Ok, now I’ve written it down, I can see that I just need to get over that…

    The site has only been up since mid-january. So if I’m going to make big changes, it will have less impact now than if I wait a year or so.

    Melinda´s last blog post…Surviving a Drive-By Shooting Critique

  12. @ Melinda – Add half the population of Canada and most of Britain to your ‘mum’ list…

    I’m not saying WAHM is a bad thing – it’s niche. That can be really good. But that’s where your tagline comes into play. Make it good, make it clear, make it relevant.

    @ Davina – Ha! Good on you for making changes that way. There are tons of tidbits in all our drive-bys, so enjoy!

  13. I’m a fan of Melinda’s that’s how I found this drive by. Wow! The way you guys get your point across; amazing! If only they were done all like this, more people would walk away from site critiques inspired about change rather than feeling deflated.

    Right one other thing, thanks for sharing those valuable little tid bits sprinkled throughout the drive by. I’m going to put some of them to use right away.


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