It’s time to redesign BloggerJET! I’m going to search for blogs with astonishing visual design or either comprehensive usability design and CUT PIECES that I like to create a mockup of the future BloggerJET!
Did someone just say “CUT”? Seems like there’s a job for my friend Freddy Krueger!
Basically, the happening that is about to take place is nothing else but how I come up with a specification for designer.
Setting the goals.
I’m not redesigning BloggerJET for no reason. I think there are actually some huge flaws in my current blog layout. Let me try to break them down for you:
Right now I’m using a free WordPress theme by Woothemes, which is quite good actually, but the design itself is not very captivating (at least in my opinion), so I need something way better. Something catchy and professional!
The only customized part in this design is my logo, which was kindly designed by my friend (he started a blog too, btw) and it’s the only element which makes my blog design unique. That’s not enough! I want a cool big header, not just logo!
Let’s take a look at my “welcome message“. This is a very important part of my blog, as this way I can quickly tell my new visitors why BloggerJET is special and worth their attention. I’m in a journey of growing this blog from nothing to 100k visitors in only 6 months and I actually blog about how I do it and share all my statistics.
I have to deliver this message to every person that visits my blog, but unfortunately right now it’s only displayed on my homepage (I’ll share a screenshot of a single post later) so I need to put it in my sidebar, to be visible on every single page of BloggerJET.
Other than that, despite this message is very important to me, it takes too much space and it’s shifting my posts down, so that my readers have to scroll a bit to see the full excerpt of the most recent blogpost. If you look at the gods of blogging: Copyblogger and Problogger – there’s nothing in their blog designs shifting the posts down. That is called usability :)
My challenge of growing this blog to insane traffic numbers in a very short time is quite harsh actually. This means it shouldn’t cost you even a tiny piece of effort to subscribe to my blog. Running this WordPress theme for 7 weeks now I can assert that those subscription options are not converting my visitors into subscribers too well. And again this widget is only available on my homepage, which makes it painful for people that land on some random post to find where to subscribe.
I’m mostly happy with the way post excerpts are being displayed, but there are still couple things that can be improved. And besides, where are my social buttons? I have to let my visitors know that my posts are actually pretty popular. Right now people can only see my social buttons once they open a certain post.
Here goes the sidebar. Have you ever used those “category links“? I may be wrong, but I think they’re totally useless. Well, in my case for sure. I feel like I’m being tortured every time I have to assign a couple categories to my new blog post. Let there be only one category here – “masterpiece“! ( just kidding :) )
Last thing that bothers me in my current design is my newsletter subscription box. It was designed by me personally and as you can see – I’m an awful designer.
Now let’s review my single post layout:
As I’ve mentioned earlier, my sidebar neither has the widget with information about the blog itself nor the subscription options. This is a huge flaw that my blog had from the very beginning, unfortunately.
Once the post comes to an end, there’s nothing but the comments. I could at least use “Related Posts” widget here. As I’ve promised, I am going to explore some of the coolest blogs out there and see how they leverage this part of their blog design.
Btw, if you are intrigued to check the “cute kids” post from my screenshot, here is the link: 5 Childish Reasons No One Is Guestposting At Your Blog
Following the leaders.
Now, as I know what needs to be fixed I’d like to see how the leaders of the industry have solved all the issues I’m facing right now.
Usability Design Leaders: Which blogs are optimized in a smartest possible way? Obviously the blogs of world famous bloggers and online marketers. And so I asked Google: “top blogs about blogging” & “best blogs on blogging“:
- Top 100 Blogging blogs @ invesp.com
- Top 25 Blogs About Blogging @ dailyblogtips.com
- Top 10 Blogs on Blogging @ blogs.com
- Top 10 Blogs With Blogging Tips @ successfulblogging.com
Web Design Leaders: This one is a no brainer. Design blogs like SmashingMagazine, 1stWebDesigner or Hongkiat quite often post showcases of excellent website designs. So I asked Google: “amazing blog designs list“, “best blog designs“:
- 27 Blog Designs With Amazing Design And Functionality @ 1stwebdesigner.com
- 50 Beautiful and Creative Blog Designs @ smashingmagazine.com
- A Showcase of 50 Amazing Personal Blog Web Designs @ speckyboy.com
- The 13 Best and Most Powerful Blog Header Designs @ thesaleslion.com
So I’ve picked the blogs that I like most and now it’s time for Freddy to cut the pieces that I want to copy here on BloggerJET.
I’d like to keep my blog header as slim as possible. BloggerJET is a blog, and it’s most valuable part is the content (hopefully), so it should definitely be in focus. At the same time my header should be stylish and original, with some drawings related to rockets, jet packs, spacemen & stuff. Let’s see the cuts Freddy Krueger did for me at this point:
I’m happy with the way my posts are listed on the homepage. I like the huge font for the heading, I like the distance between the lines, I like the white background, etc. I think I’m following most of the rules described here: 5 Simple Font Changes to Boost Readers, Comments, and Shares on Your Blog. So the few tweaks I suggested my designer were:
- to get rid of those stupid rectangles with categories (remember I hate categories?);
- to move the date under the headline;
- to add “Written By:” next to the date (that’s because I have guestposters).
The other important thing is that I don’t have social buttons with the numbers next to each post on my homepage. This way my visitors may think the blog is not popular – I believe this is called social proof.
In my opinion TechCrunch has the best placement for those social buttons on their homepage. Not much work for Freddy here, I’d rather ask Mrs. Krueger to cut this for me.
And the last thing. I’ve seen this trick quite a few times on different blogs and I think that we all should leverage it on our blogs. I’m talking about “Popular Posts” widget – but not the one in the sidebar (which quite frequently stays unnoticed), but the one that goes after the list of your blog posts, or maybe even in-between them. Hmmm… now who do I ask to cut this piece? How about Freddie’s ex?
This is the part where I’ve totally failed with my original design. I need to move my “welcome message” to the top of my sidebar and ensure it stays there whichever page you visit. Plus all the subcribtion options should be placed right under and they should be as prominent as possible. Hey Freddy, there’s some work for you again:
One important thing! I don’t want to use any sort of custom buttons for Twitter and Facebook that just redirect people to Twitter account page and Facebook page. I don’t care if they’re perfectly designed and look awesome. This way there’s an extra step on a person’s way to following me on Twitter or becoming a fan on Facebook. I am going to use the default “Twitter follow” and “Facebook like” buttons, so that people could connect with me by a single click!
Now what else is going to be in my sidebar? The only important widget that comes to my mind is the one called “Popular Posts” or “Hot This Month” or “Most Commented Posts“. I think you cannot “OVERpoint” your visitors towards your best content. Psst, Freddie…
Last thing that I want upgraded is my “Monday Numbers” newsletter widget. As I’ve already mentioned, I was the one to design it and I’m not proud of myself. “Package design” is very popular among online marketers when it comes to promoting some ebooks, courses, file packs or any other e-goodies. And this is how I want to redesign my newsletter widget:
SINGLE BLOG POST
I will have to repeat myself again. I’m happy with the way my content looks, it’s quite clean and readable. But still… there are some things that I’ve asked my designer to polish:
- Headings: those h1, h2, h3 tags – you know them. At the present moment the only difference between them is their size. Well… I want to add a bit of extra styling. Maybe h2 should be followed with a horisontal line, to make my posts look more sexy?
- Lists: I rarely see custom styling of those list points, so I thought maybe I should use some little stars or tiny rockets? This might look cool!
- Quotations: I think they’re ok in this WordPress theme and I do use them quite often in my posts. Hovewer I’d like to make them just a tiny bit more prominent.
But those things are not too important actually. What bothers me most, it that my blogpost ends with comments and that’s it! There’s no “related posts” or call-to-action to subscribe to BloggerJET. What’s the matter, Fred, are you tired?
Since I saw that neat subscribe box at Quicksprout that reveals itself as you finish reading the post – I fell in love with it! I need one for myself!
Ideal Blog Layout.
That is how I’d like to think about it. Let’s see what the combination of all those cuts looks like. I will then give it to my designer and I’m sure that he’ll draw me something exceptionally cool! :)
I’m not including the single post layout here, cause it’s too much of huge pictures here already. But I’m sure you’ve got the idea:
In 7 weeks from launch about 5000 unique visitors landed on BloggerJET(this was a spoiler of my monthly stats) and do you know how much of them became subscribers?
- Feedburner says 82 – which is 1.6% of total visitors!
- “Monday Numbers” has 23 subscribers – which is 0.4% of total visitors!
- Facebook page has 99 fans – which is 1.9% of total visitors!
Those numbers ARE LAME! And this layout, which was constructed out of world’s coolest blogs should drastically change the situation!
Now here’s the deal!
If you were following my logic through the whole post, you may understand that what I was trying to achieve is the best possible layout a blogger may dream of! That said, I am willing to offer a copy to YOU!
Yes-yes, you’ve heard me right!
At the same time I do understand that you don’t need my branded BloggerJET theme, but you need one of your own! Well I am actually willing to throw in a few extra bucks and ask my designer to create an “Unbranded Version” of this blog layout, so that you could customize it easily and use on your own blog!
How cool is that?
And all I am asking from you in return is to show me that you like the idea and really want to get an “Unbranded Version” of this blog layout absolutely for free!
So what I want from you, is to share this post with the social buttons, so that the sum of numbers will be three times more than on my hottest blog post: 29 Brilliant Posts You Have to Read Before I Call You an Internet Marketer
Google +1′s: 49 + Tweets: 222 + Facebook likes: 138 + LinkedIn shares: 49 = 458!
Three times more than 458 would be somewhere around 1500 :) This is all I’m asking for in order to develop an awesome free WordPress template for pro bloggers!
UPD: Here is the link to portfolio of my designer on DeviantArt: http://bravedesign.deviantart.com/gallery/ – by looking at it, you can easily guess that the designs are going to be AWESOME!
Thanks for reading this whole thing to the very end! Hope that Freddy Krueger theme didn’t scare or disgust you too much :)
I think it will take my designer about a week to create a new design, based on the layout above, so there’s plenty of time for you to suggest me some edits or fresh ideas!
I am open to your suggestions and critique!