How to improve my blog for me me meme

I got a shout from Maurice over at his Cayman Islands blog on a a blog improvement meme started by Dane.

I’ve been thinking about this topic for some time. There is quite a bit on this blog that I think could do with a little attention, or at least make for a bit of a discussion.

General layout

For starters, I’d like to introduce a fluid theme (that’s one that stretches to a users screen size). My fixed theme is great, I love its look Ive used it for a while, its a great looking design and an impressive job. However, I’m losing out on a lot of screen real estate that could be used in better ways. I often feel like Im writing on paper and using huge margins left and right. I wonder if others feel similarly. Many of the good blogs I read these days use a layout that’s tailored towards the bigger screen resolutions.

Of course, my main reason for not doing so sooner is that I’ve made a hell of a lot of modifications to this existing theme which will be a bit of pain to add to any new layout.Add to that the need to upgrade to WP2.3 and I find myself losing the will to live.

Comment form usabilty

I’d also like to improve the usability of my comment form. Sebastian has some good reasons for doing so over at his SEO blog. I’m also going to take another look at my comment template and see if I can ajaxify some of the componants. I’d also like to alter the way I communicate my comment policy. As it stands, I link to some rant from within a big pile of words that are a bit of a mouthful – it isn’t an ideal solution. It might help to stick the words in a little pop up somewhere perhaps and drop the rant maybe.

Subscribe to comments

I’m not too happy with my subscribe to comments option either and find that my position has shifted somewhat from my original little rant. I thought about giving people a cookie option to choose. I thought about an onload event too whereby some div opened up asking 1st time visitors how they’d like to be treated, do they want follow up emails to their comments or do they not. I’m still undecided and kind of find myself thinking about going back to the default unchecked option. The problem always was that there are pros and cons on both sides and well, I sided with one that felt ok at the time.

Interacting with existing visitors

It could also be a good idea to give regular visitors some additional insights into say, how many people had read an article they’d commented on, what locations they’d came from, who was linking to the page that sort of thing. This could be a useful hook to grab a new subscriber or registration even. I can see the subtle attraction of an <? if(user_registered) { ?> show more stuff <? }?> option.

Writing better stuff that people will want to read

I’ve said it once I’ve said it twice I’m no Shakespeare . I do tend to waffle on and fly off on tangents that began in the recesses of my cannister and bounced off of the insides of my noddle a few times. I’d like to write a few more factual informative pieces, case studies things like that. Maybe make them available as a subscription or registered user option.

I try and avoid too many topical issues. I try not to follow the crowd and parrot a different version of what someone else out there is saying already. I think that by staying individual and true to who I am then some people somewhere will carry on reading me and as more stumble across my stuff then that reader base should grow.

I had 180 subscribers earlier which is really cool and a small indicator that I’m doing something right somewhere. I never really thought about getting lots and lots of readers here, but must confess to feeling a tiny degree of satisfaction that people around the globe find some of what I say interesting enough to hit a little button somewhere.

Getting out and about more

You can improve your blogs visibilty by getting out and about and commenting on other peoples stuff. I really need to do this more and expand my little circle. I tend to read the same people daily and whilst this is a good thing (they write interesting stuff) I do find that I might be spending too much time reading them and not enough time reading others.

I try not to be one of these people who targets A-listers or people with big established subscriber bases but it does need to be said that this is a good tactic for getting yourself better known. If you bang on the right doors hard enough and in the right kind of ways then eventually they might just open and send you a boat load of traffic.

Alas, such an approach doesn’t really fit with who I am, I’m not too good at it, I’m just not one of lifes schmoozers.I did give it a conscious try some time back but found myself thinking, hang on, what am I doing, I’m only commenting because he has a lot of readers, and heck they didn’t even acknowledge what I said, what the hell am I doing, so well… end of. I’m sure it looked far too transparent, sheeat the manipulative SEO strikes again.

Henceforth, the modus operandi is, one of if I talk about someone or comment on their stuff I’ll do so because:

  • They are discussing something that I’m genuinely interested in that has relevance to what I’m discussing and my readership
  • I simply like them or respect what they stand for and what they do and how they do it
  • I disagree strongly with an opinon or policy and need to let them know why.

I’ll probably see my blog’s subscriber base grow more slowly as a result, but I don’t really care so much. I’d rather grow my base on the back of being true to who I am, than as a result of being some comment attention seeking brown nosing whore.

It really is possible to grow a successful blog without being so.

Anyhow I feel myself beginning to waffle so I’m going to tag….a few people I’ve seen around at Sphinn I think, and see what happens, thanks for listening.

Ben Shana Bob Marty and Tancy01

Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios
Posted on: 28th September 2007, by : Rob Watts

15 thoughts on “How to improve my blog for me me meme

  1. I agree with David regarding the line length. I hate huge lines of text and find them very difficult to read. However, I can totally see your point regarding screen wastage because your posts ain’t exactly short (lol) and it may be better to use the space available. Yep – you lose some control as a designer – but maybe it’s worth it in some cases?

  2. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the mention. Regarding fluid layouts, I’ve never been a fan. As a designer, fluid width takes away a lot of control, and you can never be sure what your reader is seeing. I prefer to know what I’m offering up.

    One other thing I don’t like about fluid widths, is how wide the main content area can become, and the greater number of words that then fill one line of text. There’s a certain number of words that you shouldn’t go above on one line (I’m not sure, off the top of my head, the exact number, but I think it’s around 12). When someone comes along with a 24 inch monitor, chances are they’ll see a lot more than this.

    I reckon you can limit the width of your areas, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the fluid theme in the first place.

    Perhaps I’m off here, but that’s what I reckon.

  3. Hi Chaps

    When i 1st got in to web designing, I used to fanny around with screen size detection scripts and serve up different pages for different browsers and screen res’s. Today pah, on this thing at least, that’s just too much messing around.

    My problem with too big a fixed width layout is that on smaller resolutions you can end up forcing people to horizontal scroll all over the shop which is probably about as annoying as all that stretched out white space.

    Maybe its just a case of saying to all those 800x 600 people out there, sorry but no can do anymore.

    Thanks for the contributions 🙂

  4. The number of visitors to my blog who use 800×600 is minimal, although as you rightly say, there’ll still people who could convert to sales. For that reason, I make sure the most valuable info is on the top left of my layout:

    Logo
    Hire me
    View my portfolio

  5. I guess it’s also very much critical to what kind of business you are in too. Some might visit say a web design company and find that it scrolled all over the place and looked awful. This could act as a big dissuader, despite the ignorance of the person viewing in 800 x 600.

    Good point on the important info mind…

  6. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for taking part, I think this is a great post and has made me think of even more things I could improve.

    Your layout works well on my laptop, and although there is a lot of white space it doesn’t take away from the clean design. I like it, but, I can see how you feel it leaves a lot of worthwhile real estate unused.

    I think the ranting is something that, judging by comments made elsewhere, people associate with and feel it gives a blogger a human face and voice with which they can empathize. Keep ranting when the mood takes you 🙂

    I’d say your comments form is fine as it is. If there’s anything that could be improved, I’d say a tweak to your RSS subscription options to make it clearer for the less experienced, although I appreciate your audience are a primarily savvy bunch. Heck, what do I know though 🙂

    Keep on blogging, and I’ll keep on reading!

  7. Hi Rob, your self reflection about your blog is great since it jumpstarts my brain. Not sure I’m ready to go out and purchase a big screen though because I work with two monitors and big screens won’t fit on my desk. 🙂

  8. Hey Robyn, Ive read posts from people who use 2 and 3 monitors! I’m wondering where I can get a laptap like that 😀

    Hey Rob, maybe you need a bigger desk! 😛

  9. Hi Rob,

    Good to read your list of desired changes. Maurice got me on this meme too.

    A week or so before the meme I changed my layout from 800×600 to 1024×768 and added an extra sidebar. It gives you much more screen real estate. I decided to stay with a fixed width for the same reasons David gave above.

    According to Google Analytics, the number of my viewers using 800×600 is less than 1% so I’ve made the decision to stop catering to them. Can you check what percentage of your readers use 800×600 (actually one of them is me, right now, from a crappy work computer, but I don’t mind if you change!) 🙂

  10. Good morning Stephen,- You know, I just logged into the stats package and checked those stats out and yes, they are pretty similiar – Maybe I need to flush out the mindset from my web designing days that said ‘must cater for 8 600, must cater for 8 600…’

    Its funny, but some time back when Flash was all the rage, I thought to myself, wow a one size fits all tool…and then reality set in 😉

  11. Good Evening Rob (I’m the one responsible for Chinese flag in your Live traffic feed widget) 🙂

    My mindset was the same as yours. I was really surprised by the stats because we all know that 800×600 is common, right? Not any more it seems… Maybe 800×600 is dead.

    Having said that, with blogs like ours, most of our readers are other bloggers and I suspect they may have bigger monitors than Joe Public. For non blog sites, the figures for 800×600 may be higher. But I’d still have to say it’s on the way out.

  12. Ah, good evening back at ya! China eh? Wow, thats a way off from where I’m sitting 😀

    I agree I think its on the wane. That said, yes I have friends who view in all sorts of ghastly resolutions, even though they have top of the range monitors, there still is a lot of ignorance on some of this stuff.Lots of people just don’t do tech too well!

  13. Hey Rob! Thanks for tagging me and giving me another writing assignment! 😉 Funny this did not show up as a Technorati reaction until yesterday (and I then spent half a day trying to find out which post it was) – while your post has been up for half a month!

    What I like about your layout is that the content itself grabs my attention from the start. Your sidebars etc aren’t the most attention-grabbing but I’m sure you’ll be able to figure that out. I do find a little difficulty in commenting tho’, but not over usability, but the content – I am still feeling my way through blogging, SEO etc so I often get the “better not make myself look stupid” feeling when I think of saying something on blogs like yours, Marty’s and Andy Beard’s. I was even worried about my post about PR. 🙂 So in short, it’s just me.

    I have the same opinions about getting out to interact more. After my first month, I realise I’m spending more time on blogs I frequent – I have unwittingly reduced my reach to other new bloggers, so have to pick it up again. I ditched the reaching out to A-listers strategy – they often don’t have the time of day, and it’s more fun and satisfying with the wider community elsewhere.

  14. 800×600 is not only dead, it is an insult to your regular visitors to have a fixed width so small. Not insult, but it makes you look like your cluelesss about web design even though they don’t know much about it. They can’t conceive of why there is so much blank real estate in their browser.

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