Friday, 11 September 2015

7 Reasons I Get Put Off Your Blog (+ First Impressions!)


First impressions are extremely important in most, if not all aspects of life, whether it be people you meet, places you shop, or websites you visit, there will will almost always be a first impression, and you might not like the admit it, but that first impression can affect you and decisions you make. Let's face it, we're all magpies, and none of your 'it's what's inside that matters' cuts mustard here, so you're probably best leaving your bull by the front door and leaving it at that. In the past few weeks, I've been experiencing a few 'first impressions' from blogs I've recently come across, and it made me consider what it was that made their impression good, or in some cases, very bad. Today, I want to share with you things that, during a first impression, can make me dislike your blog.*

*Please bare in mind that these are my preferences, and any examples used within this post have been used to highlight certain aspects and aren't used as a way to insult, hurt or cause distress to those featured.

1. A blog that doesn't look like a blog


I shall put on my black sheep hat now, please do bare with. *puts on hat of shame*
I'm serious though, blogs that look like anything but a blog make me feel weird, in a bad way. Sure, styles change, but it seems as though everyone everywhere is encouraging bloggers to make their blogs more professional, which somehow has become 'look like a scary organisation that wants everyone's money' and that's not something I like. Sure, create revenue through your blog, but don't look scary while you do so.

Example A: Problogger



Lets take a look at a blog who's design I'm not a fan of. Personally, I find Problogger's content to be interesting and eye-opening on the occasions I can bring myself to stay on the site, but for me, the look just feels too outdated, too harsh and doesn't seem to have much personality. I'm aware that Darren makes revenue through Problogger, and while his website and design work for him, it doesn't for me. It makes me feel uncomfortable, makes me feel like I've stumbled onto a website created for older bloggers, and it alienates me. It's not a blog I would willingly visit..

Example B: A Beautiful Mess



In contrast, lets take a look at A Beautiful Mess. Sure, their blog is a lot different to Probloggers's, especially in content, but their blog doesn't scream 'corporate' or 'I'm here to make money', because a) while they do make money through their blog, their true love is sharing DIY, creativity and design with everyone and b) it has personality, looks inviting and is so so pretty. Their blog-like style doesn't make their blog look any less professional - in fact, I think their look caters to their target audience, people who like attractive and pretty things, people with an eye for detail that love design and creating things, and it's without a doubt the number one thing that made me follow them.

Example C: Elembee



Elembee is a little more on the business and branding side of things and focuses more on driving traffic to purchase services or learn more, an good for Lisa, it works for her, but she has a fabulous look and style to do it through. It doesn't make me think 'oh my god, I've just walked into 1999 web design', it makes me think 'wow, look at those colours, this looks amazing, I must read more..' Lisa's blog has personality and somehow pulls off colour combinations I would never dream of using, and all the while, her entire website still feels and looks like a blog.

I like professionalism as much as the next person - but finding the right balance between being professional in what you do, and still having your personality shine through is one of the big aspects of having a blog. What your blog looks like is just as important as the voice behind it, and for me, if your blog looks more like a scary website from the early 2000's, then I'm really not loving it, at all.

2. Your Design Is.. Boring, Or Just Not My Thang


*pushes away your pitchforks* I would apologise for being a shallow, judgemental person, but why should I, aren't we all? You made a split second judgement of Nellie and Co. when you first landed here, and the fact you're still reading this says you're quite alright with it, and I thank you for that, but for people who took one look and said 'nah, not for me' I AM TOTALLY WITH YOU OKAY? Design is such a vital and huge part of any blog, it's your biggest form of marketing and promoting, it's what makes and creates your brand, it's the first thing your followers or readers see, and your content might be out of this world, but if your design looks like it was created by aliens of another world, then we've got issues my friend.

3. You Use The Same Old Stock Images, Like Everyone Else


Do not get me wrong, we can't all be computer whizzes and be magical at using Picmonkey to create simple, good looking graphics *cough* shameful plug of tutorial *cough* but we all sure as hell have seen the popular use of specific stock images being used over and over and over again by bloggers and frankly, it gets on my wick in a huge way. I'm hardly a photographer, but I still create graphics that looks good and don't look like anyone else's, and I'm definitely not bezzies with a photographer either, so I haven't got the ability to make snazzy, shiney graphics that just scream professional, but that doesn't mean the only option is to use the same stock photo as everyone else. Don't worry, I have examples, do they look familiar to you?


I just, can't people see this is a bad thing? I know these photos are free to use, and that IS great, having photos available for many people to use on their blogs is fabulous, but to me, it's tarnishing and ruining their brands too. Seeing the graphic on one blog is fine, and then I'll see the same graphic used on another blog and think 'okay, that's not too bad, it's just an image', but when you see the same image used on 7-10 different blogs, that's an issue. That's something I dislike in a HUGE way. It looks bad because a) I've just seen that photo elsewhere and will associate it with the first blog, not you, b) it looks as though you've stolen or copied the image from the first blog I've seen it from (which isn't true, but it's a first impression people, they are important), and c) the images are usually pretty unexciting or really really boring, and even the most inexperienced camera user could probably take something that relates to their post with hardly any effort. Please people, tone it down with popular stock image usage, please?

Images Found via Unsplash

4. You're Driving Me Batty With Your Sidebar


Sidebars are a BIG thing for me, seriously. I LOVE a sidebar (don't get me wrong, I like single column layouts a lot too, but still, I love me sidebar) and I always find that people either abuse them and overload them, or they just have no idea what they should really be putting in there, and so put nothing but blank space. (You're welcome to add some Swift to your blog, but please, don't make it auto play!) Everybody has their preferences on their sidebar - what to put in and what not to put in, and fair enough, we're all different and difficult to please, but these are my dos and don'ts, and there's some serious don'ts.

Do Put in Your Sidebar:

  • You. When I blogged on Book Badger, I had an about me, and I liked it, but when I made the transition to Bookish Butterflies, we ditched the about me because it didn't look right, but MAN DO I REGRET THAT. You need something about yourself somewhere on your blog, and I mean more than just an about page. You need to win your audience over, and you need to look human (bots these days are just gettin' too good, you know?) or else you're going to lose that personal feeling. An image of you, a little about you, and a link to find out more, it's that simple people. Do it.
  • Social Media Links. Have you ever visited a blog, fell in love with everything about it, looked for where to follow the face behind the name and - oh, there's no social media links. Are they not with the times? Do they not have Twitter, Instagram? Why can I not follow their feed? What are these maniacs doing?! *cough* Social media is link gold dust in the blogging circle, and if you don't want people to read your blog, you go right ahead and forget those links, but for those of you who do, add your links people, it's majorly important and I dislike blogs without.
  • Your Blog Categories. This can sometimes be implied by 'book bloggers' that they don't need to, because they only talk books, but that's not true. When you add labels or tags to your posts, these are what your categorising your post as. For example, this post is labelled as 'Discussion', and 'Blogging' and can be found by searching through the 'Blogging' category in the sidebar, and the discussion label. You have categories and want to drive people to search through them, make it easy. Even if you just list them, make sure they're there, okay?
  • Email Subscription. I'm not exactly working on my email following (although I probably should be, but hey, small goals first okay?) but it doesn't mean you shouldn't have the option. I personally don't think a blog looks complete without an email subscription option, and I probably won't follow one without it, BUT, I don't tend to use them.. Sh, details people.
  • Some Blog Posts. Now this is a tough one, because some people say to feature your most popular, because they're, you know, popular, and some say feature your most recent (which I'm still not 100% sold on, but am willing to test drive, more on that here) but me? I say feature whatever posts you think relate to the following you're trying to attract. I aim to cater for bloggers, people that want to learn about blogging and get the most out of, and I think my sidebar blog posts reflect that.

Don't Put in Your Sidebar:

  • Animation. Whether it be a video, a blog roll, an ever-changing countdown to a new book release, if it moves or is animated or does something other than sit and look pretty, ditch it. You do not need this in your sidebar - it slows down you loading time, it draws the eye away from your content and it look unprofessional, in your face and too busy. By all means, feature these thing elsewhere, but do not clog up your sidebar with them, they're not important enough to be there ALL the time.
  • Memberships/Sponsors. Sure, when it comes to sponsors, the whole point of them means you need to feature them somewhere, but that somewhere isn't your sidebar. Create a separate page for them, with all the information you could need on there. When it comes to things you're a member of, just put them elsewhere. The truth is, if you're a member of somewhere, goody for you, but I can promise you that nobody cares enough for you to mention it every. single. time. the page loads something new. Record on repeat anyone? Put them away.

I'm Not Fussed, But Would Rather You Didn't:

  • Include What You're Reading. I'm not quite sure at what point I decided that sharing what I was currently reading wasn't that important to my followers, but I know that I did decide, and I don't regret it. I mean, sure thing, if you want to share it, go right ahead, but I'm not bothered - in fact, I really don't care. It's more annoying that it takes up space in the sidebar and affects loading time than it is something I'd say not to do, but hey.
  • Include Social Media Widgets. I personally don't think including social media widgets brings anything special to your sidebar, it just makes it all the more cluttered and makes me want to beat myself up with a frying pan. I don't particularly care what your last tweet was, or what your last Instagram post was, because if I did, I'd check out your social media links. You won't convince me to check you out socially by putting them in your sidebar, you put me off your blog instead.
  • Include Disclaimers. Most commonly seen on book bloggers, disclaimers allow you to explain yourself and some of your content and clear up anything that could be claimed wrongly. You know what? I don't think that's super duper important enough to be in your sidebar. I would recommend you have one, but not right there, put it somewhere else, your about page, contact page, another page entirely, just. not. the. sidebar.
  • Include Graphic Heavy Content. This could be anything from OH MY GOD LOOK AT ALL THIS COOL STUFF I WANT TO POINT OUT to listing the last 20-30 books you've reviewed, or blog tours you're involved in, or blogs you've been featured on, or, anything else basically. If it's all about images and graphics, tone it down. Your sidebar is for important things, chill your beans.

5. Your Sidebar is Enormous and Needs Snipping, Pronto


So you're procrastinating on somebody else's blog, scrolling and scrolling and 'wow, no more content on this page - wait, is their sidebar still going? What the heck have they got in there?' So you scroll some more, and continue into the abyss that is sidebar hell. 'Do they really need all of this in here? They could put this all on different pages, or just not - oh my god it's still going, what on earth..' and so on, until finally, finally you reach the end and realise that the content ended almost an hour ago and you've wasted time you'll never get back.

Okay, so maybe I was a little bit dramatic, but it's like an unspoken rule - do not have sidebar that is longer than your scrollable content space, it's all golden and shiny and it's that way for a reason. I don't want to be scrolling through your sidebar for half of my life, looking for something that, knowing my luck, isn't even there, when I could have been reading your content, or reading somebody else's even.

Take a look at other blogs you love and see what they have in their sidebar. Then take a look at what you have. Can you cull your sidebar and still have a functional space that serves a purpose? Do you really need links to the world there, or can you move them, remove them, find another home for them? Thinking about what you want your sidebar to have and what your sidebar needs are very different things, and I'm telling you now, your sidebar doesn't need to go on forever.

See Also: 6 Things You Don't Need in Your Sidebar via NoseGraze

6. Your Doctors Scrawl is Making My Eyes Do Crazy Things


We all know that design matters (as we discussed earlier) and the different aspects of design are just as important as one another, and yet there's one I rank higher than the rest. Fonts. It doesn't matter who we are or what we love, we can all agree that fonts are a big player in how a design work, and yet some people just have no idea what they're doing, and it looks painful.

Lesson #1: Liking a font doesn't equate to using said font


There are fonts (we've all seen them) that look like scrawl writing, like really illegal calligraphy, and it looks nice, but can you really read? Slatny is funky, but if you've got to tilt your head 90 degrees to even read it, is it really a good choice? Don't even get me started on fonts that just have SO MUCH GOING ON it hurts your eyes to even look at it. Some fonts are made to look good, but not be readable. God knows why people create them, but they do, and you should not use them on your blog. You're conveying information, you want people to read it, yes?

I think the closest I ever got to an unreadable font was on Bookish Butterflies. For most of our graphics and our header, I used the Palace Script, and it looked nice, but it never really felt readable, so when I redesigned, I changed all the fonts to be bold and easy to read, and I feel as though people liked this change. It's one of the things I love most about new flat design blogs - there's no funky snazzy fonts, it's all about getting the information out to people in a way that functions and looks good, with function coming first. I love that my font choices on Nellie and Co. are simple and clean, yet don't feel boring or look too bland, and it's a tough balance to strike.

However, because I'm a bit of a font lover and admit to liking a lot of your swirly and curly's here's a small collection of my favourites that both look good, function well and are actually legible. Win win people!


Download


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Download

Lesson #2: If You Can't Read It At 10px, Don't Use It


The newest piece of advice around the blogging block? Make your blog text larger. 14 and 16px are the new 10 and 12px, and while I wouldn't advise using it on your next school piece, I would recommend you start using it on your blog. Personally, my text size is 16px and my font is Droid, yet I know that, should I ever wish to make my font size tiny (which I definitely do not) I'd be able to. Same goes for my graphics fonts and title options - all of the fonts I use are readable at much smaller sizes, and I think this is hugely important. It's good practice to use fonts you can resize - you never know when the internet might temporarily hate you decide that your blog looks much better the size of a hamster, so when you're choosing fonts for your blog, make them flexible and adaptable.

7. Your Content Is the Same, Like, All The Time


I'm all for continuity and giving your followers what they know and love, but sometimes, you've just got to do a Taylor and shake it off, you know? You've got to explore a little more, do something different every now and again, write something you normally wouldn't, share something you've been keeping to yourself, get personal, get creative, go outside the box, just don't become a broken record with the same kind of content all day, every single day.

When I first started out blogging, one of my biggest inspirations was Xpresso Reads. Don't get me wrong, I still think what Giselle, Amy and Faye have going on there is great, and kudos to them, they put out book reviews on such a huge, regular basis, and back when I followed them, they did a lot more than just reviews - they discussed, they took part in features, they got personal, and it was super, but they gradually focused more and more on book reviews, and I slowly retreated away from their blog because it wasn't what I'd fallen for anymore. It's to be expected that we will unfollow blogs we previously adored because we outgrow them and want something more, but I chose to unfollow Xpresso Reads, 100% because of content.

See Also: 4 Things That Make Me Click To Read Your Content

Blogs that focus on discussions, tips an tricks and advice are never the same content, although it may sound as though it is because of it's focus, there's so much that can be said and shared, so much experience that can be taught, so much to learn, every single day, and it keeps content fresh. Although I focus on blogging, my actual content varies a huge amount, from getting the perfect job with help from your blog, how to make Blogger work for you, how to create and get your content your noticed, then when you throw my book reading into the mix, you've got a blog with variety that could bring anything to the table to next day, and that' what I love on other blogs. I like following and never knowing what tomorrow's post may be. I love being excited knowing that there's something new coming and it won't be the same as yesterday. If you're always posting the same kind of content on a loop, I'm seriously not going to fall in love with you, or your blog.


As negative as this post sounds, I really do love finding new blogs and falling in love them. Your blog doesn't have to have the best design in the world, damn, mine is hardly award winning, but it works for me, and that's always what's important. If you love your content, no matter what it is, then you stick with it, don't worry about what one person thinks because one person against hundreds is nothing. If you can't create graphics and want to use stock images, do it, don't let your limited experience or resources stop you being in on the crowd just because one person dislikes them. As much as these are preferences, I would never say to anybody that they should change what they do to please me. First impressions are important and cost nothing in this day and age, but you don't have to all singing and all dancing to do it. Just be good.

What's the No.1 Thing That Puts You Off a Blog?



More From Nellie and Co. On: Blogging


5 Signs Your Blog Direction has Changed

My Co-Blogging Story and Why I Went Back Solo

Celebrate Your Blog Milestones | Promote and..

It's Natural For You and Your Blog To Change Over..

20 Super Awesome Blog Post Ideas

25 comments:

  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets slightly put off by super-professional looking blogs...I like pictures and pretty things and stuff happening on the page aside from the actual content.
    I mean, some people like it, but it's really not my thing.

    Great post :)

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    1. I'm the same Cassie, I know a lot of people like that, I just can't seem to love the pro's.. Thank you though, it was tough deciding whether to post this or not, but I'm happy I did :)

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  2. I am with you on a lot of these. It's hard to make your blog perfect because so many people have different opinions, but there are some things that are universal.

    I think my blog has a lot of the same content, but we do try to mix it up with different discussions & we come up with new monthly memes. We just came up with Netflixing Gone Wild where we watch a series and then review it every week or so.

    Like, I said above, it's hard but I completely agree with you. I'm so picky when it comes to things and I'm not sorry about it :P

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    1. I don't for one second think having the same content is a bad thing - the opposite in fact, I think creating consistent content that people love is a really great thing, and it's so difficult to do, especially without feeling samey, I just know that personally, I like variety in my posts, but I've read your blog and you have that! I don't think you should ever be sorry for your preferences, it'd be silly :)

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  3. I LIKE PURTY STUFF. Make me feel cosey and comfortable and go "I will sit here for hours drooling at the screen." And omg, Nellie. I love your honesty while reading your posts - you don't go and be mainstream, you just SAY IT. And I like that :) Blogger blogs with havy background images that make me want to squint at the screen to actually read it are also a no no. In that case I opt for the more homely/minimalist ones.

    Nirvana @ Quenching the Quill

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    1. Thank you Nirvana! I know my blunt and sometimes brash approach can be a bad thing, but if that's something Nellie becomes known for - not holding back - then I don't mind all that much. Thank you for your kind words, they mean a lot lovely :)

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  4. I definitely look at the design, but I try to focus on the readable aspect. Everyone has a different taste and I don't want to miss out on great content just because I didn't like the look. So as long as they don't use crazy colour combinations or lettertypes I can't read, I try to look beyond the design. Long, filled side-bars are annoying, especially when they have widgets with sound/music. I also love blogs with variation :)

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    1. As do I Mel, sometimes I will work really hard to look past a design because what they say is super awesome, and it works a lot of the time. Variety is the spice of life they say ;)

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  5. Ahh, I get VERY put off by a lot of things. Although, at the end of the day, I90% of the reason I follow blogs is for the person. And a lot of bloggers I loooove and adore have, well, erm, sometimes questionable designs or use same-old-same-old stock photos. BUT YEAH. I don't let it but me off. But it's not ideal. And I'm actually okay if their content is usually the same. It's more exciting when it gets shaken up,t hough!! But at least I know what I'm in for?!?
    OMG AND YES TO THE SIDEBARS AND FONT SIZES. I'm going to up my blog's font size like you suggested. ;) I just, am totally a lemon, but I don't know how to do it so I'm just waiting until I can snag my sister's hubby for a second and make him fix all the things for me. xD I'm also considering adding a little "Hello I'm Cait" thing in my footer (since I don't have a sidebar at all). Do you think that's a good idea? I DO like that on other people's blogs because when I know someone's name it feels more personal, right!?

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    1. The person behind the blog can always make or break following for me, as does content. It's like, you're 100% book focused, and I love that, but it's the not to same book stuff, you know? I LOVE YOUR STUFF. I'm even okay with the stock photos, it just makes me twitchy having seen it in other places..

      Upping your font size isn't major for you, your content is readable right now, I'd only raise it by one size, two at most, because too big would be too bad. I'm sure it'd be easy to figure out, but it should make a big different to your site. I think adding the 'Hello, I'm Cait' thing could be great, or maybe at the end of each post like you used to, you could put social media links in there with it and you'd have your own little about with every post? It's something you could consider, but Paper Fury looks beautiful as it is anyway :)

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  6. I hate the Problogger website too. You're right that it looks totally dated. X_X

    These days I hate small font sizes. This is particularly problematic for me because I have a big screen resolution, which makes the font sizes actually look even smaller. X_X We see this a lot with those "feminine" designs -- they often have a font size of like 11 or 12px. I actually have to zoom in on my computer or change the size via Inspect Element because I can't stand to try to read it.

    I'm all about 18px these days. Big and clear!

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    1. I think you're right, the minimalist designs tend to have bigger font sizes, where-as pretty and more feminine designs are smaller, and always lighter in colour too - sometimes too light. I think my font is around 16, but you're right Ashley, the bigger, the better, and the more clear it is too! :)

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  7. It's definitely about design and ease of use at the end of day, the reader doesn't want anything they don't want flashing or out at them or strain their eyes looking at a blog. Great tips here Amanda!

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    1. Exactly right Jeann, if it flashes or moves, it just isn't for me, you know? Thank you! :)

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  8. You are absolutely right about the Problogger site. Looks old and salesy. I love your honesty and blunt observations.

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    1. Thanks Tricia! Blunt and brash can be bad, but it's who I am at the end of the day :)

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  9. Oh good. I don't think I violate any of these except maybe fonts, but I like my fonts simple and easy to read. :) Great post!

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    1. You're a designer and developer so you'll know what works and what doesn't anyway ;) Thank you!

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  10. Haha, "continue into the abyss that is sidebar hell" is definitely the best thing I've read today. My biggest turn off is chaos--those blog designs with neon colors everywhere, a background picture, everything clashing, a million different links and pictures all over the sidebar and header and posts. If a design is really bad, I won't even try to read the content. The other thing is when the blogger doesn't use a more tag, and posts on their home page go on and on and on and I'm scrolling for two whole minutes like, WHERE DOES THIS POST END?! I usually just give up and leave since it's too much work to even find a post I'm interested in. But mostly I just hang around pretty blogs and stare at them in envy lol.

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    1. I find a lot of business bloggers or bloggers who make an income through marketing on their blog don't use more tags, and I find it does irritate me sometimes, the content goes on forever, but I can see why some blogs do it. I think having snippets like you, it makes it easier to find something I like and helps me decide if they're worth following. Bad designs are also dangerous - they can make or break a follower. I think simple, functional designs work best.

      I confess, I do like to stare at pretty designs too though Kristen, they're all so pretty! :)

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  11. I've definitely clicked off of a blog without reading a word because I found the design to be ugly. It's important to me that a blog be clean looking and not super dated. Everything else I can look past (except for booooring content).

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    1. It's so unlucky when that happens too, because the content could be great, but first impressions matter big time! Boring content is also really dangerous - entertain me or lose me. Thanks for reading Michelle :)

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  12. OMG, my blog is hurt from top to bottom..haha.....but hey, it's new year and new approach right? God Bless on your blog.

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    1. Aw, I'm sorry Mac, these are just opinions though, it won't be and isn't personal, I promise :)

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