Hi everyone! I’m Erin and April’s been kind enough to let me hang out on her blog today! She recently posted about my website review giveaway and today I’m here sharing the review with all of you so that you can take these tips and apply them to your own blogs and websites.
I chose Marcia’s blog, Art is Basic, because it’s a great mix of blogging and sharing information. Although she’s not really selling anything, she’s offering great resources to her visitors so I felt like many of these tips would be applicable to both personal blogs and business websites. And like many of us, she’s been at this for a while so she has TONS of information and pages, so getting a handle on all of that content can be quite a task! Here are my recommendations for Marcia’s site:
I’m overwhelmed. There’s a lot going on and I’m not sure where to look! Let’s dive in!
Your banner text is simple and to the point, but the use of the word blog makes me wonder if there’s a website somewhere else. Typically you should only use the word blog in your title if you also have a website with the same name and the blog is hosted separately, or is otherwise at a different URL. I would drop the word blog and create a simpler header because both the colors and the font just add to the busy-ness of the whole site.
Holy moly, you have a lot of navigation–your site is huge! This is one of the reasons that I chose this site to review; when we end up with this much content it can be a challenge to organize it all! I can’t get super in-depth in this review, but I’m going to hit some of the major points so that you can apply them and help get a handle on your navigation!
It’s great that you’ve broken some of your navigation up into the sidebar, since the links in your sidebar are relating more specifically to YOU, I’d also move “about me” to the sidebar and move the directory to the top menu.
There’s not really a point in having “recent posts” up there since they’re on your home page. Ditch the link!
Okay, for the others you have got some serious drop-downs! I have to scroll the entire page to see the bottom of the Art History one–that’s just too much! You might be able to get away with the Art by Grade Level since it only goes to 6th grade, but the other two are far too long to really be useable.
In your case I think you should make pages for each of these categories. For example, if you made Art History link to a page where you listed links to all of the post categories it would work really well. And I don’t mean you just have to use boring text links, you could make a sort of gallery with an image for each category that would be the link, just make sure your page doesn’t scroll forever either!
Another option would be to re-evaluate whether you actually need ALL of those categories or if some could be combined. I’m not an art expert, but for example, perhaps Alaska and American Art could be combined and Alaska could become a tag instead of a category. It would still be searchable on your site, and you could convert the tag back to a category later if you end up with a lot of Alaska posts, but would help simplify your navigation.
Tip: Tags are great for sub sections of a category, and you can always provide links to popular tags in your sidebar.
3. Social Icons
I’d love to see matching icons here–maybe some cute artsy ones that look like paint splatter or something. You might consider moving these up to the header area as well, especially if you end up with a simpler header image.
Here are some free icons I’ve found that you might like:
I didn’t even see your search for several minutes–that’s bad! Consider moving it to the top of the sidebar, the header, or the main menu. It’s too hidden where it is right now.
5. Profile Pic
Okay, this has to be moved higher up! You say exactly what your blog is about, but I was on your site for ages before I even read it because it’s too far down and it gets lost. Put it at the top of the sidebar or immediately under your sidebar navigation. Also, consider adding a little more personality to your blurb and linking to your About page with a “read more” or something in the text since it’s not obvious that the image is a link.
Honestly, I don’t know why anyone uses archives like this. Readers rarely ever look for a post by year, they’re going to look by topic. I’d just ditch this completely!
7. Recent posts
I realize this is at least partially your theme, but the recent posts that small with double-sidebars just makes this whole design really cluttered. I’d love to see these the same width as the slider (ditching the right sidebar) with a longer blurb. OR, still ditching the right sidebar, more square with two next to each other and the titles below the images.
8. Share buttons
I hate to say it, but readers rarely, if ever, share based off a little blurb. If you can remove the share buttons from the excerpts I’d recommend that (uncheck “Show buttons on Front Page”). If you really don’t want to ditch the share buttons, go into your options and make them “Icon Only” so that they take up less room and hopefully all fit on one line. This will help clean up some of the clutter!
9. Sidebar and follow options
First, all follow options should be put together, so combine them with your Twitter, Facebook, etc. on one sidebar and use matching icons for all of them.
Second, and I already mentioned this, I’d ditch this entire sidebar so that your content has more room to breathe. There’s not a lot in this sidebar, and everything you NEED should all fit in one sidebar. Try to re-organize and evaluate whether you actually need everything currently in your sidebars (I actually recently wrote an article about this here).
I like your slider and how you use it to feature posts! I would probably get rid of the thumbnails underneath though since you don’t really need them. You might also want to remove the date from the title. Why? Because then you could link to older articles (that are still relevant) and draw traffic to content you’ve already created, but that newer readers may have missed.
Okay, I’ve already hit my 10 points, but here are a few other tips:
- Make sure all your buttons and images in your sidebar are the same width, it looks a lot better and more organized!
- While I think featured post excerpts can be great on the main page, the additional articles don’t make me want to click them at all–I’d rather see 4 featured posts with images and then FULL articles on the archive pages for browsing.
- Don’t forget your footer. It’s great that you’ve included your disclaimer and copyright, but you could also use the footer as a place to feature other posts, remind visitors to follow you, or a last-chance to get them to sign up for your newsletter!
Mobile Responsive Testing
Not bad, but not great. You do have a mobile version of your site which I checked out on my phone and it worked well. Unfortunately, I don’t know that it will work for every possible device so it’s nice to have a site that resizes properly without relying on an app or plugin.
Tip: Check out your site with Studio Pressís Responsive Tester
As you can see, it’s pretty wonky on a portrait iPad-sized screen. I realize that’s probably the theme and not anything you did to it, but assuming your mobile site app doesn’t automatically work on every tablet/phone, your visitors will have trouble viewing your site and might miss (or might not want to click) your mobile site link at the bottom.
Since you offer some great resources for teachers who may be using iPads in their classrooms, I’d definitely make sure your website looks great on an iPad! Borrow one from a friend if you don’t have one, and play around with your site until you’re sure that it’s easily accessible.
Tip: When the screen gets really narrow, most mobile-responsive designs will re-order your content into a single-column in this order: Header, Navigation, Left Sidebar, Content, Right Sidebar, Footer. To avoid your content getting pushed too far down (and without coding your own design) consider using a right sidebar only so that your content appears before the sidebar OR consider only including additional navigation/search bar in your left sidebar. Either of these options will ensure that your content isn’t pushed down below affiliate links or anything else that will take visitors off your site before they even see your posts!
Looks great on Chrome/Firefox/IE. Hooray!
You have obviously put a LOT of work into this website! I can tell you love sharing art and you’ve built a great resource for teachers and parents. I think cutting back on the clutter and keeping the focus on the content will make it easier for your visitors to find what they’re looking for, and simplifying the navigation may make it easier for you to manage too!
I hope this evaluation was helpful to Marcia and all of you reading Blacksburg Belle! Now don’t just sit there, take these tips and apply them to your own blog or website!
Thanks for reading!