Make Over My Blog! Law School Bound

makeovermyblogYour blog is awesome, you’ve got lots of killer content and some regular readers. But what about those eyes that fall on your blog for the first time? Are you losing opportunity because your blog doesn’t create a strong enough first impression?

Do you have

  • an ugly blog that makes small children cry and your dog cover his eyes with his paws?
  • a boring blog with zero zing?
  • or a blog that fails to stand out in a sea of sameness?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The Collective Inkwell can help you.

Welcome to the first edition of Collective Inkwell’s Make Over My Blog! This is the place for no-holds-barred opinions on how to take your blog from average to awesome! We might get a bit snarky from time to time. Nothing personal, we just want to make the posts entertaining for as many readers as possible.

Our first makeover is Law School Bound

The Home page

Our first impression of the home page is, “Hey, I’ve seen this blog before. In fact, I’ve seen it about 400 times.”

Why?

Kristina is using a free theme, something we will address in a bit. The blog is clean and pleasant looking enough, so clean it’s almost sterile. In fact, it has no visual trace of the personality behind it.

review1

click for full size

So, who is the personality behind Law School Bound? Let’s find out.

The About page

The About page starts with the sentence, “First and foremost, I am a dancer. Always have been, always will be”.

Okay, that’s nice, but who are you?

Nowhere on the About Page is the blog author’s name or photo.

Only after visiting the Resume page do I find out that the site is written by Kristina Duncan. The About page NEEDS to let readers know something about both the blog they are visiting and the person behind the blog.

What is this blog  about (she said she likes dancing, but it doesn’t SEEM like a dance blog)?

Why is this site on the web?

Why should I come back?

These are the questions a proper About page should instantly answer.

Another thing Kristina may want to consider – using a photo on her About page. Given that she uses it on her Twitter page (good luck finding that – see further down the page); she should consider using it on her blog. Kristina’s an attractive young woman and could use that to her advantage. Regardless of what we think about this, the fact is that people are attracted to attractive people. Heck, if I were half as photogenic as Kristina, I’d have a 1,000 pixel wide photo on every page of my site. Okay, not really, but you get the idea.

Theme

Kristina’s theme is the ubiquitous PRESSROW, by Chris Pearson. We love Pearson’s blogs and are using his premium Thesis theme here at Collective Inkwell. I like PRESSROW for its simplicity and intuitive navigation scheme.

Because PRESSROW is a good (and free) theme, it’s a bit overused. Generally speaking, unless you are producing great content that separates you from the pack; it will be hard to distinguish your blog from the many others using the same theme as so many other bloggers. Well, unless you do something to customize it.

Header and navigation

I’m not a big fan of the huge banner, though I do like the picture of the books. I’m even less a fan of the large navigation text, which takes up a good chunk of the screen. The navigation above the header is also redundant since the pages are also linked to in the sidebar. I would ditch the above-the-header navigation.

Kristina may want to shorten the navigation text. For example: instead of ‘My Resume’, use ‘Resume’. Instead of ‘My Favorite Blogs’, use ‘Links’ or ‘Resources’. Instead of ‘Ramblings of a Pretend Writer’, perhaps change it to ‘Ramblings’ or ‘Writing(s)’.

If she wants to stand out from the crowd, but wants to keep this theme, a good idea would be to create her own custom header which shows the uniqueness of her blog (or hire someone to do it for her – hint hint).

Pages

Looking around the site, I spotted a link to Kristina’s ‘My Favorite Blogs’ page. Curious to see what other sites she likes, I clicked and was surprised to see a page with only one link!

Talk about being selective!

To make matters worse, the one link she has isn’t even to a blog, but rather a Twitter page that no longer exists. Perhaps she should rename the page to ‘My Favorite Deleted Twitter Accounts”.

Speaking of deleted Twitter accounts… don’t click on Kristina’s Twitter link on the front page or you’ll end up at another deleted account. For those that are curious, her Twitter account can be found here: http://twitter.com/legalninjaKris Readers shouldn’t have to come here to find it, though.

Content

The blog reads well and is inviting enough to get me to want to know Kristina more. However, I have issues with some of the content. Namely, typos.

Just a few of the typos I spotted:  spelling venue without an ‘e’ and morter instead of mortar and use of the word through rather than threw on her About page.

Given that Kristina posted her resume on this site, I am guessing that she wants to attract clients? If that’s the case, she should pay special attention to details which might turn a client/employer off, especially on a page that will see consistent traffic over the life of the blog.

When I see typos, I usually give the person the benefit of the doubt, especially when I see content that shows they’re better educated than 95.7% of MySpace users. However, I instinctively wonder if someone spelled a word wrong because they don’t know better or because they were in a rush.

The minute my eyes hit a typo, it’s like a road bump impeding my progress just long enough to distract me from what the author is attempting to say.

Kristina is obviously a smart woman who is on the road to success. She would do well to show that by proofreading before hitting PUBLISH.

More problems

From her “Ramblings of a Pretend Writer” page, is a sentence which should NEVER be on a blog aiming at professionalism.

“This is where I will post my attempt at fiction which should include my post ‘pain in her soul’ as the first installment.  Now I just have to figure out how to move it over.  Hmmm…”

If she doesn’t know, she needs to find out.

But since I’m already here – there are two things I can suggest. Change this from a static page to one that shows items in a particular category, such as “Writing” which her ‘pain in her soul’ posts is tagged as. Option two would be to use the static page as an introduction with links to the appropriate pages.

SEO

If her blog is more than a hobby, it is essential to know her audience. To whom is she speaking? Knowing this essential bit of information will not only help Kristina write with clarity, it will also allow her to implement basic SEO with ease. SEO can be complicated, but knowing your audience will make the fundamentals feel far more natural.

The good:

  • The blog has a clean look, lots of white space
  • RSS button is nice and big and easily found
  • Content is good overall. Kristina writes well and is likable
  • The navigation is intuitive
  • The site is free from annoying ads, or other sidebar clutter that litters so many a blog across Blogopolis these days

The bad:

  • About page doesn’t really tell me much about you or the blog
  • The navigation bar takes up too much space
  • Twitter link is broken
  • Favorite blogs page has no actual favorite blogs
  • Unclear audience and no SEO in place

The ugly:

This page displays several lines of html coding that SHOULD HAVE been inserted in the html edit mode, not the visual mode. Given that the post is two months old and is still busted, it gives the impression that you don’t edit your posts and check them once live.

Thanks Kristina for volunteering to be our first Make Over My Blog! victim volunteer. Most of the changes we suggested are ones you can easily implement yourself. Should you want help, you can hire us at a discount and we can handle all your Blog Makeover needs.

Note to readers: We got a lot of responses to our free consultation offer, so we’ll be hitting those twice a month and are closing the free offer for now until we catch up.

However, if you’d like us to Make Over your blog immediately,  we have a few slots open.

If you would like a private consultation, our services can be had for a small fee of $60 via PayPal.  You can choose whether you want your review publicly posted on our site or private, sent to you via e-mail. And, if you pay us, you can choose how you want your advice: Straight up and a bit kinder (for those who don’t appreciate snarky criticism) or with full snarkiness intact. We definitely understand a lot of people don’t have the time or skills to devote to making their blog pretty and we would never want to make anyone feel bad.

If you decide to hire us for a consult, we will deduct $25 from your first custom design order.

Some of the things we can do to make over your blog

  • customize your WP Thesis theme
  • Install Thesis on your self hosted WP site
  • create unique custom illustrations (banners and other site graphics) from a professional cartoonist for any web site.
  • craft custom SEO and landing pages to help your blog be found by search engines and readers
  • devise a custom color theme for your WP blog
  • advise you on the best usability practices on the web
  • help you determine which items to keep on your blog and which to get rid of
  • ghost write copy for your site

Got more questions or want to hire us? Contact us at collectiveinkwell AT gmail.com.

Agree with our assessment of Kristina’s site? Or think we’re nuts? Leave a comment below. If you like this post, please consider tweeting it.

16 responses to Make Over My Blog! Law School Bound

  1. Matt Cheuvront

    Good thorough assesment. A little constructive criticism is always good – and getting some fresh eyes on your blog can pay dividends over the long haul. Everything you outlined are items Kristina can fix (or have someone else fix) that will prevent her from losing those first-time visitors.

    Matt Cheuvront’s last blog post..Social Media ROI: Preach the Intangibles

  2. janice

    @Kristina,
    You’re awesome for doing this – thank you!

    @Dave,
    I enjoyed all of this useful advice – what a great insight into how your thought processes work – but this bit worried me: “Kristina’s an attractive young woman and could use that to her advantage. Regardless of what we think about this, the fact is that people are attracted to attractive people.” What would your makeover advice be to people who don’t consider themselves to be attractive? This week already, a colleague over at Write to Done was snarky about people who choose notto have photos: “Adding a picture is a little too much for some people who prefer to hide their identity,” Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

    This is a great feature for the Inkwell. really useful and thought provoking. Thanks!

    janice’s last blog post..45 Life Lessons to Celebrate Growing Older

  3. Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)

    I’m quietly taking it all in.

    Why are people fixated on photos of bloggers? I really can’t figure it out. It seems like something that can work for you or against you.

    Best to sort out the writing first and then think about THE photo.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..Catch Your Daydreams

  4. Marc

    This was a very thorough review considering the price tag, a great demonstration of the Inkwell team’s generosity.

    Regarding photo: I don’t consider myself attractive in any way. In fact in the 14 or so years I’ve been on the Internet I’ve only began to share my mugshot publicly in the last few months.

    Honestly? Just upload one already.

    We may not have the beaming wide smile of Sean Platt or a cartoon caricature of ourselves like David Wright but we also don’t wear a hood when someone visits our home why should it be any different on your blog?

    A logo, anything really is better than the default logos that lets face it, spammers use 😛

    Marc’s last blog post..3 Powerful Yet Simple Ways to Customise Frugal

  5. Kristina

    It is thought provoking. I had never thought about my audience or putting a photo of my on my blog.

    Hey Dave, is there a follow up? For example, check back a year later…did she implement the corrects? have things improved? Just an idea I thought I would throw out there.

  6. David Wright

    Thanks to everyone for checking out the first Make Over My Blog! post. Thanks to Kristina for being first and for accepting the criticisms without taking them as a personal criticism. Let’s face it, none of us started out knowing what to do when it came to blogging. Sean spent months researching before he launched Writer Dad. I had some experience building a somewhat successful comic strip site and working in the news business, but blogging is a whole new stream once you wade into its waters. And we are all constantly learning how to better ourselves and our blogs. That’s the fun of the journey, I suppose.

    For those wondering “What do you do if you’re not too attractive”, I wrote a humorous piece (though it has some good advice) over at Blogging Without a Blog in April (which actually gave me the idea to start this makeover series to help people). Anyway, here’s the link. http://bloggingwithoutablog.com/does-an-ugly-blogger-stand-a-chance/

    Matt – Thank you and yes, they are all fairly simple fixes that Kristina can implement.

    janice – See the above link for the “ugly bloggers” for my thoughts on this subject.

    Paisley – I agree, a photo is NOT an absolute Must-Have. I only suggested the photo for Kristina because she is already using it on her other web sites and social media pages; it seemed a natural evolution to also use it on her site.

    Tracy – For me, your blog is about your personality – an eclectic mix which works perfectly. Not all blogs have to be ABOUT one particular subject. Kristina’s blog can easily be a personal blog just about her experiences, thoughts, etc… there is nothing wrong with that. We just suggested a bit of clarity on the About page might help readers figure out what the blog is about more easily. And if Kristina wants to use her site for business, she may want to sharpen her focus on specific areas. But back to your blog, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Marc – Thank you for the nice words. And don’t let Sean’s beaming wide smile fool ya! It’s just to distract you from his beaming wide nose. Just as I use a cartoon to hide my beaming wide belly.

    Kristina – We may do follow-ups once blogs have made changes. Reviews are fairly time consuming (yours took about five hours to review and write), so We will likely reserve MOST follow ups, before and after for paid clients to show the whole process more clearly. Since you are our first, though, we will definitely revisit your site, so long as you would like us to.

    Vered – Thank you.

    dinu – Agreed. Fortunately, a custom banner goes a long way towards improving even the most basic of themes.

  7. Barbara Swafford

    Hi David,

    I LOVE this new feature. I agree with the others; Kristina is brave to be the first, but after reading your critique, everything you said is spot on. When others land on our blogs, those first few seconds are the most important. If they stick around long enough to dig, it should all tie together – kinda like a pretty package.

    I’m thinking about what you said about her wide header as mine is extremely big. For now I still like it, but knowing me, someday it will change.

    Thank you for the link to the guest post you did on my blog. Not only was it well written and informative, the responses were superb. You have the knack to get all of us thinking.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Living Happily Now

  8. Tracy

    Hey David – I don’t think I want to change anything, but it might not hurt for me to try and tighten up my About Page a bit.

    Although between us, I think the only people who ever read it are folks that click through from Zen Habits. I don’t know what is up with that but if you ever get one of the first comments on ZH, about 80 people will click through and all they’ll look at is your About Page. It kind of freaks me out. No offense Leo, if you are reading. Love ya!

    Tracy’s last blog post..The Museum Of Snack Foods

  9. Mr. Nuggets

    Um…ouch…it all hit home for me, in a very good way. Taking notes.

    Thanks for putting yourself out there, Kristina. Awesome!

    • Sean

      Hi there!

      Just look in the upper right hand corner of the header and there should be a small RSS icon. Click on that and you will be good to go!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: