Embracing Feedback and Taking Away the Guns

Ask and ye shall receive. I’m a big proponent of that saying, and I ask questions often and consistently. After all, if I never ask, I’ll never know or learn, right?

We recently handed out guns to our readers and asked for feedback on our design, theme and blog features. The comment section lit up, with everyone camped out and taking shots at our domain. It was great, and the feedback was extremely valuable.

There’s a lesson in that for everyone: Because you are a professional does not mean that you always get it right, especially with your own work. It’s very easy to think that something is clear or appealing, because your perception tells you exactly that. Seeing the world from other people’s perspectives can be a real eye opener.

Getting feedback is important for any online entrepreneur – keep sight of the forest while you work on the trees. We’re constantly adding, removing, pruning and grooming our acreage in line with our goals, both present and future. We change and adapt, we make decisions in accordance with our needs.

We’ve been back in the labs for some time now, already creating and tossing designs like madmen, having serious discussions and patting each other on the back. Change is on its way, but like a fine wine, these things take a great deal of care and time.

In the meantime, we thought you might like to read the suggestions that people made in our comment section. There are valuable lessons on how people perceive not just our site, but any site out there.

So after reading these comments, how does your own site measure up? Let us know what advice from here could apply to your blog or site.

Now. Put down the guns, step back slowly and keep your hands in the air…

Change your default WordPress search for a custom Google search (David Airey)

More lively color scheme, less gun imagery and shooting, move recent comments widget up on the page, as it’s an important factor to discussion, the home page is too cluttered. Main post doesn’t have enough space and there are too many photos. (Gary Fletcher)

Too much grey – functional but no fun. Prefer mug shots. (Karen Putz / DeafMom)

Don’t get rid of the gunslinging theme; too ingrained in what we do. The logo could use an update, the tagline isn’t clear, and the ripped paper should be more theme related. Like the RSS button. Main post doesn’t have enough space. Too many navigational choices. I like it once I’m off the home page. Excerpts on front page, feed, email: HATE THEM. (Kelly)

The design is too cluttered, the equal-sized columns don’t work well. Go clean and clear. (Jean Gogolin)

The RSS button rocks and the home page is appealing. Just the right amount of color and not too busy. (Tumblemoose)

Your main or current article should have more real estate. Two column would be cool. (Mark Dykeman)

Too much clutter. Move the middle column with the “best of” links below the left column. Moving the “best of” below your current post also seems a bit more logical. Frankly, it looks too much like a blog, and not enough like a place where you would get design and writing services. Have a banner that says something like “What We Do” or “How We Can Help You”. The tagline should change.

Also, be more straightforward in your links. Add pictures of yourselves! Add more white space. I would also consider removing the ads. I’m not a big fan of the black colours. At the very least, make it more glassy like your RSS feed icon so that it is less menacing. Keep the big RSS icon! (Graham Strong)

My attention is scattered in several different directions at once. So much to take in; too much in fact. A banner, two lines of tabs, three columns of information, boxes within columns. Must focus! (Urban Panther)

Highlighting more “key” posts would be nice. Maybe putting your best posts into categories. (Ryan)

Change your tagline or have a tagline for your services and a tagline for your blog. It seems the purpose of your home page is to push your blog articles and not the real stuff that keeps food on the table. Answer these questions: So what? Why here? Why you? Why now? I think you need a great static landing home page and then a secondary blog. The ads should reflect your services.

Have a disclaimer on your site. I do like the “Books We Recommend” section. Add a couple links like “Read what Harry had to say about this book” or “James or Charlie….” etc. You wrote such a great article about the Branding book. Link to it!

Put testimonials in the sidebar and make your About Us more prominent. Add a “Subscribe To Topic Without Commenting” option. I don’t see the point in Recent Comments. Have Harry create some unique and totally cool social media bookmarks to show off his graphics. The ones now are way too small and when they were big they were way out of focus. Add gravatars. Though I’d like to see pictures, I have to agree that the mystery idea does work well. (John Hoff – eVentureBiz)

I have to disagree about providing more business/ blog separation. MWP are Relationship Marketing in practice. The blog gives folks a relationship with people they’ll never see, makes them comfortable, and lets them sample the writing and design that the boys can dish out on a daily basis. I hate gravatars. I think a newbie-friendly homepage is critical, because you are as welcoming as humanly possible here in the comments. Make people feel they were invited right from the start. (Kelly)

The current color scheme fits and is part of the branding by now, as is the gunslinger theme. The post on the home page could use more real estate. Tagline and menu link clarification is good. I love that you keep the post pics in your middle column, but it does tend to clutter things when added to everything going on to the right. I’m not sure adding personal photos would be beneficial. There’s something to the mystique thing you’ve got going on. (Nicole Brunet)

Remove the needless clutter on the homepage, such as Recent Posts, Top All Time Posts, We Read It You Need It, and the dreadful paper scraps and push pin in the header. (KatFrench)

If you’ve just added Charlie to the team, perhaps the copyright line in your feeds should no longer read “Another rockin’ post from your favorite *duo*, the Men With Pens”. (Joseph Z.)

Ditch Revolution Magazine. I find it frustrating to navigate. Finding yesterday’s post (or any post besides today’s) on the front page takes too much time. I always have to dig through the archives or go back through my feed reader. I’ve always wondered about the shooting from the hip thing. I get what it means but I’ve wondered if people who don’t know you and your theme would take it the wrong way. (Amy Derby)

How about a photo for any newcomer? (Gary)

It seems like what you do is buried. I like the setup, as a blog, and of course I love all the content, but what you do is five tabs over, and that’s IT. Consider having the black navigation bar be just the “Guns for Hire” subnavigation stuff and maybe the ebook. You’ve got ads taking you everywhere but to what you guys do. I love the silvery-black thing you’ve got going on, and the guns thing is great. Perfect. Love the brand. (Spyscribbler)

The home page is way too cluttered, and I find it difficult to concentrate on the article. The navigation is difficult to understand, and if I’m looking for something, it’s always hard to find. Have a better portfolio that samples everything you do. Also, it’s difficult to find your portfolio – you mixed it with “Our Clients” which could be confusing. I rather dislike the Revolution Magazine theme. Recent Comments never really appealed to me. I second the subscription without needing to comment. Mention your newest pen man somewhere! (Allison Day)

Cluttered is often about clear visual prioritization. Drop some lower-priority sections. I think much of the other Rev Mag-related criticism relate to unclear prioritization of content. I like “Guns for Hire” but I feel like it ought to be the first nav item you see. (KatFrench)

Three columns is too busy. I would like to see something more simple and easy to read. I like the RSS button because it’s different and fits here. (Jamie)

Try CrazyEgg.com to see where readers are actually going on the site. (Mike)

I’m not a huge fan of the front page either. When I was new to this site, I didn’t know how to navigate it. I like the RSS button. (RL David)

I think the giant RSS button is a bit obnoxious. The ads are a bit much, too — and some were really unclear as to what the product was — but that’s not your concern/domain. (Kristen)

The number one issue I see here is an identity crisis. It’s not that you don’t know who you are, it’s that we don’t know who you really are. The title tag says ‘Copywriting and Web Design’ but the banner says, ‘Shooting from the hip’ which says nothing substantive and ‘Web Business Tips for Writers, Freelancers, and Online Entrepreneurs’ which isn’t really text at all, since it’s in an image. Will the real tagline please stand up? What’s the unique value proposition, here? I don’t see it.

Change the font to Verdana. I like to see more than just one font in a design: one for headlines, one for body text. Good work on the logo, but it needs to be better. I’d rather see a “pen is mightier than the sword” concept with earthier colors instead of all the black and red.

I can’t tell what you offer on the home page. The business and services pages are too difficult to navigate, and they need a more unified front. A listing of services does not convey benefit. The clients page is a bit of a mess. I want screenshots, descriptions of the goals and deliverables. I want testimonials. I want to see how you work with clients and hear from clients in their own words why I should hire you. (Michael Martine – Remarkablogger)

Too much clutter on the front page. Two columns would make me happier. I’m okay with the gun imagery. You remind me of Men in Black with their fun-guns. The other thing that I have issue with is your archives. I hate having to scroll through the whole archive testing out titles. Could you add a date-related archive list? (Alex Fayle – Someday Syndrome)

A huge thank you goes to everyone who participated and dropped a comment. Oh, and that new design we have up our sleeve? Soon, my pretties, soon. Stay tuned.

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.