Are you planning to redesign a blog? If you are looking for advice based on a personal experience, you may find this post interesting. I’d like to share tips in reference to recent changes at Password Incorrect blog.
First, and probably the most important tip: don’t start with looking for a new theme. It’ll give you a false feeling of a job well done. What’s more, bloggers usually waste too much time to fix formatting issues, while more important things – listed below – are left untouched.
What you should really start with is an analysis of your blog’s current performance. List what is good and bad, what you want to change, what you don’t want to change. At every single point ask yourself a question: why.
Why do I want to change the color of a header? Is that more important than “I just can’t stand this pale green any more”? Did anyone say that this color is not relevant to the topic of your blog?
Second step is where you want to go. There are four major areas, listed below, you can dig into when thinking of how to move your blog forward. And one more thing: before you do anything, make a backup of your blog.
Improving Blog’s Profile
Some blogs have clear profiles – advice for writers or html tips and hacks. Most of blogs are, however, a reflection of their authors’ diverse interests which are not as simple as “discovering WordPress plugins”.
You have to choose a path you want to follow. Option one: be general (and join a large group of those who already do it). Option two: be specific and own a niche (and work hard to make your message as clear as possible).
There are four levels, where you can define the profile of your blog:
– blog’s name
– blog’s description
The replacement of “just another WordPress blog”, its description, is the hardest thing to do, and you can change it not only at the time of a blog redesign. Every day, with every new blog post written you define yourself and improve. Let the blog’s description reflect it.
I’ve found that my passion to technology combined with a problem-solving nature is the best I can give. That’s why a new tagline of Password Incorrect is “struggling with technology to help readers and writers”, which is also the best explanation of blog’s title.
You can be more detailed in pages available from a navigation bar. Read again all of them. Is there anything which needs to be rewritten? If yes, don’t hesitate to do it.
When you find a clear and appealing claim, think back. Are there any blog posts which are in contradiction with the improved profile? Are they important? Can you remove them?
This is important not only when you use a related posts plugin. It’s how your blog is seen by search engines.
Improving Blog’s Performance
Optimizing a blog for search engines is extremely important. If you want to stay strong as sci-fi writer but most often you post reviews of books you’ve read, search engines will place you higher as a reviewer rather than a writer.
So, when you nailed a better description of what you blog about, review your posts and pages. Is there anything you can remove? Remember, they are not lost forever. You’ve got a copy of your blog.
I got rid of anything which is not related to how technology can enhance reading and writing. All my literary experiments will no longer be posted here and all irrelevant posts published so far are removed. Thanks to that Password Incorrect is stronger with such keywords: Kindle, self-publishing, mobile, reading, e-books.
What is also worth doing is to clean up tags. Remove those irrelevant or those used once. Take a look at your tag cloud and match it with your desired profile. Is there a tag you don’t want to be associated with any longer? When writing any new post – think forward. Will you be using the tag in any of the future posts? If not, don’t place it at all.
Blog’s performance is also about its loading time in a browser. Generally the less plugins you have the better. Remove the ones you don’t use. You can replace others with the combo plugins – those serving many purposes. The plugins I recommend for WordPress self-hosted blogs are WordPress SEO by Yoast and Jetpack. I installed those two and was able to get rid of 10 previously used.
As there is a growing number of users reaching a blogosphere from mobile devices – tablets, smartphones and browser-enabled e-readers – it’s also good to make a one time go to make your blog mobile friendly.
Some analysts predict that blogging is dead. I don’t think so, but it needs to evolve. My opinion is that as social media networks are a huge source of distraction, blogs could promise the opposite: a distraction-free experience.
That’s why, especially if you use a blog to drive attention to your books, it’s good to think how to help the reader focus on what you write. Yes, there is a contradiction between the blog’s content and the way you want to monetize it, but have second thoughts about it. How much you really earn from Google AdSense?
Following a good example of Ebook Friendly I redesigned a blog to make it easier to read. The header is changed as well as a color code. All that to calm down the previously overwhelming and intense design. Also, the number of ad slots and sidebar links is limited to reduce possible distractions.
A simple way to reduce a feeling of cluttered space is to use a power bar like Wibya. It’s placed at the bottom of a web page and gives access to many features, even those you wouldn’t be able to place in a sidebar. This will give you a chance to limit the number of sidebar widgets to most important ones, like the links to your books.
If you don’t want to simplify your sidebar, you can always use a Readability button. It will turn your blog into a beautiful book interface. Read how to install Readability on your blog.
Better Subscription and Sharing Options
It’s good to keep up with what’s cooking in content sharing tools. It’s changing fast. Digg is not digging any more. Google recently introduced +1 button and it should be available for embedding soon. Facebook now gives a Send button. What to do with all of them? Which ones are most important?
I’ve used many bookmarking and sharing tools, but in the end decided to select only Twitter and Facebook buttons. It’s where most users share content. Other networks are much less important, unless you’re not using them personally.
Subscription. Most bloggers, including me, offer only subscription via RSS feed. After reading this great article at Copyblogger I quickly created ways to get free updates of Password Incorrect by e-mail.
Apart from a sidebar widget it’s good to create a special Free Updates page.
More Relevant Design
The last part of a blog redesign is a design itself. As I wrote in the beginning, don’t start with it. But it’s good to come back to it, when you have a clear vision of where your blog is coming.
If you want to be the sci-fi writer, the dark, futuristic theme you are probably using, may work very well and you don’t have to change anything. But if you decided that there is more of the reviewer in you, think of making a blog looking more like a book. Sometimes changing of the color code within a theme can serve a purpose. You don’t have to pick up a new theme at all.
This is what happened with Password Incorrect. The theme is the same, the colors are calmed down and the header is not that geeky as before. All that to make you reading this blog with greater pleasure.
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I’d love to hear your feedback. Is there anything missing? What is your experience? Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments.