Hey there! Welcome to your 9th serving of the Blogopreneur Blog Marketing eCourse! We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past two weeks huh! Today, what I am going to show you are just some little tweaks that you can add to your blog so that you can go from “good” to “wonderful”!
Little things matter.
Let’s get started
What is today all about? What I want to address today is the more “human” aspect of blogging. You see, many of us “technology evangelists” get so caught up with all the optimizing and tweaking of the code in the back end, that we forgot that we are eventually writing for HUMANs to read!
As far as creating a website (or blog) is concerned, I think web usability and creating a good user experience is just as important as all the marketing and promotion. If you have a blog with a font size of 6 points, don’t expect your readers to come back!
So let’s talk a little about web usability.
Web usability is a very, and I mean VERY big topic. I remember back in school, I had a full semester where i studied 13 weeks on usability! So, to cover everything in this short course (and in 1 day!) is crazy.
So, what I will do is just to highlight to you just three important areas to pay attention to.
Font faces and sizes
When designing your blog, you must remember that while you may have a million different fonts in your computer, your visitor may not have the same set of fonts in their computer, and as far as the web is concerned, font files are NOT transferred with the web page!
So, if you specify your own special font and your website visitor does not have that font installed in their computer, what your visitor will see will be different from what you will see. That is not good.
How then do you make sure the experience is the same for the majority of users? I would recommend you to stick to these fonts – Arial, Verdana, Tahoma and Trebuchet! These four fonts are installed in the majority of the operating systems by default, so you can be almost sure that everybody has these fonts!
Verdana, in particular, is a font that is made for viewing on the screen, so it makes a very good font to use for the web.
Next, font sizes. Remember that different people have different monitor sizes. What looks like a good size on your screen may not look good on others. Remember to test your blog design on all resolutions and if possible, different sized monitors.
Have you every came across an ultimately sucky looking website – so bad that you want to puke? I have, and its terrible. Colors play a very big part of web design, and different colours mean different things.
I understand that not everybody is born with the a good colour sense. If you have problems choosing colours for your blog, one very good way to stay safe is to follow another website you find nice, or even better – follow the colour schemes of very popular websites like Financial Times, MSN, or CNet.
Another very good tool to use is the colour wizard on colors on the web.
Layout and headers
The third area to pay particular attention to is your blog layout and headers.
Some blogs have a single column layout, some have two columns, some have three, or even four. While there is no exact guideline to show which is better, the thing to note eventually is that when you have more than one column, you need to highlight to your readers which is the one you want your reader to read first. Which is your primary column?
When you have determined your primary column, put an image or a very prominent header right at the top of that column, to tell the user “hey, this is what my primary content is, read this first!”
Headers. Many of us use templates that we download from template sites – and the drawback about this is that you don’t really understand the heading levels in the style sheet.
HTML allows us to use the headers from H1 to H6, and you want to be able to use these headers to the max, to highlight to your reader (and search engines!) what is important in your blog site! Consider looking into the CSS file of the template, and allocate one header (I use H3) just for subheaders in your blog posts.
Remember, people don’t really READ on the web. They scan. You need to write for scannability, and the use of headers helps very well in this.
So much for usability! Let’s move on.
Some nifty Plug-ins for you
One of the very wonderful things about WordPress is that it allows users like you and I to extend on the functionality of the system using Plug-ins.
Here are some very useful Plug-ins that you can use to help you create a better user experience.
1. Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter Plugin – This helps to add a copyright message at the bottom of the every post in your feeds, so that sploggers will be wary when they try to rip your feeds!
2. Subscribe to Comments – Using this Plug-in, your commenters can choose to be informed whenever there is a new comment on your post.
3. WP-ContactForm – Add a contact form for people to contact you with just one line of code!
4. WP-Notable – Create social bookmarking icons for each of your blog posts, not only for your visitors to easily submit your post to the sites, but also for you to decorate your site!
5. Smart Update Pinger – This suppresses the default pinging function of WordPress, and is especially useful when you want make future posts.
6. Adsense-Deluxe – Use this to add your Google Adsense code to your posts easily.
7. Simple Recent Comments – Display your recent comments, so people will know where the conversation is!
8. Ultimate Tag Warrior – A very powerful Plug-in for you to create tags for your posts, and create pages for each of your tags, and even tag clouds!
Of course, there are still A LOT of very very nice and useful Plug-ins out there, but do get started with these.
Write an Author Bio
People read your blog because they want to know you! So, do your best to write at least a short paragraph about yourself and put it in the sidebar. If you are like me, and want to elaborate more about yourself, consider these four points to address:
1. Who are you?
The obvious first things that people want answered is “Who are you?”, “What is your name?”. In doing this, you can mention things like your name, which part of the world are you based at, and what you are doing professionally. You can also put up a photo of yourself!
2. What is your expertise?
The second thing to answer is “What is your expertise?”. This is a little different from the abovementioned part on what you are doing professionally. In this section, you answer in terms of “What this blog is about”.
For example, you may be working full time as an engineer, but on this blog, what you are blogging about is your adventures in teaching your parrot to talk – so in this case, your expertise is teaching parrots to talk.
3. How can you help me?
People have found your blog for a reason – they either have a problem which is bothering them, or they are looking for information on how they can improve on what they are doing. That is the reason why people read your blog articles!
So you need to give them the direct answer to “How can you help me?”.
If your expertise was about teaching parrots to talk, then you might want to say something like “My parrot talking blog provides tips and tricks on how you can teach your own parrot to talk, like how I have done so for my 20 parrots”
4. How can I contact you?
The last thing you absolutely must have on your author bio is a way for your readers to get in touch with you. Use a contact form if you do not want to publish your email address, let your readers know that they are welcome to drop you a mail. Let them know you are a real person!
Respond to your comments
The best blogs out there are the ones that are able to create conversations with every single post they create – and very often this is possible because the author of the blog responds well to their comments. People want to know that they are heard when they post comments to your blog. So do your best to respond to your comments, you will be surprised how well your readers will respond to it, and you bet they will come back again and again!
That’s it for today!
Okay, well, I am picking out the best stuff for you today – the topic on creating an ultimate user experience goes far beyond what is covered today, but much has to be learnt as you start blogging more and getting feedback from your readers. Just remember to pay attention to this – you are eventually writing for human readers, not only search engine spiders, so the look and feed of your blog is equally as important as your marketing.
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