Remember when I wrote “Psssst, Your Blog Is Showing”? We all took a second look at our blogs to see was what was showing above the fold. Some of us will make changes, others liked what they saw, and still others aren’t sure what to do.

In the comments, Al (of 7P Productions,) reminded us we also have to consider our audience. That’s true. Without readers, what do we have? An online journal?

Keep in mind, many of our readers are NOT other bloggers. They are people from the “outside world” who don’t know how to dig through our archives, our “Articles” page, or to click on “keep looking”.

Today’s Lesson

Blogs could be compared to a large fancy candy store with lots of choices that are inviting and intriguing.

Let’s enter.

In a big candy store, we often don’t know where to start. Customers grab their sacks, go from bin to bin picking out the candy they like, and with scoops, fill their bags. Some will take their time, read the ingredients, carefully weighing each bag, and then double check one last time, before leaving the store. They don’t want to miss a thing.

Many blog visitors do the same.

They land on our blog, look around, may read our current post, and then look around for more.

A problem arises if our current post is the only thing they can find. What happens if they can’t identify with the subject of our current post? Then what? Will we ever see them again? Maybe not.

We need to ask, are we giving them “eye” candy? Recent posts? Popular articles? Related and/or random posts?

Or, are we limiting their choices?

Today’s Assignment

Are you giving your visitors an assortment of eye candy, or just one choice?

When a visitor lands on your blog, how easy can they find previous posts of yours?

How much time would they have to spend digging?

Still not sure, have a friend or fellow blogger test this theory.


Photo Credit: -Sunny- *away till August 17th*’s photostream

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Look Who's Talking
  1. VeredNo Gravatar says:

    I think I am getting better at this. I now have “best posts” AND “funniest posts” links on my sidebar. πŸ™‚ I keep changing and improving the blog – it’s part of the fun!

  2. I like the candy store analogy, Barbara. Here in the UK, we call it a ‘sweet shop’ πŸ™‚

    I totally recommend asking a non-blogger to sit with you to review your blog. Let them give you feedback as they browse your pages.

    A blog-fresh friend of mine and I recently did this exercise on quite a few blogs out there. Together, we produced a really valuable mega list of issues relating to design, useability, accessibility, and blog community.

    These reader-friendly points will certainly be incorporated into any blog I produce.

  3. I enjoyed the candy store analogy. Intuitive and accessible navigation is so important. I like Vered’s idea of highlighting different posts that might appeal to different audiences through “best posts” and “funniest posts”. Makes it easy for new readers to find something that would interest them.

    Sterling Okura’s last blog post..The #1 Problem With Small Business Websites

  4. Cath LawsonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – This is a great reminder to me to do some tweaking. I have recent posts on my front page. But beyond that, my blog is terrible to navigate. It’s so bad that when I’m looking for an old post I want to refer to, I find it easier to Google it. So what chance do my visitors have of finding stuff?

    I’m going to try to make the effort to make some changes today.

  5. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Vered,

    I just looked at your blog and like how you added those in the sidebar. Anyone looking for more of your writings can easily find them. That’s good that you added “funniest” posts, as you have a knack for making your readers laugh.

    Hi Scott,

    Sweet Shop! What a perfect name for a place that sells candy.

    What a good idea analyzing numerous blogs. I bet you found a lot of what you don’t want to do when you go live.

    Hi Sterling,

    Yes, we do need to give readers more than our current post or the one they landed on via a referral or search engine. We want them coming back for more. πŸ™‚

    Hi Catherine,

    You’re funny. You google you own posts to find them?

    The topic for this post came up because I would land on blogs, but couldn’t find previous posts (other than by hitting “keep looking). I would end up subscribing to the blog as that was as easy way to have all of the previous posts listed. It’s frustrating and most people in the real world wouldn’t know to do that.

    Having a site easy to navigate is SO important if we want visitors to stick around and get our older writings read.

  6. AnnieNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara –

    Hmm . . . this is a good question. I have a recent posts list right at the top of the sidebar as well as a plugin that ads random post links to similar topics at the bottom of each post. There’s also an archives list a little further down the sidebar.

    I also have a search function and I know it does get used (from my stats @woopra and such) but usually it’s used by someone who’s already been there and is looking for a specific post.

    I’m working on creating a theme that adds some better functionality to it for all of these things without being too crowded or cluttered. It’s slow going because, on top of all the fun we’ve been having at our house lately, I’m not too familiar with coding for WordPress. I hope I can finish it soon.

    ~AA

  7. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Annie,

    I just clicked over to your site. The recent posts is showing up next to the comments – lower in your sidebar. I did see your similar posts at the end of the post.

    It’s tough to get our blogs such that visitors have a variety to choose from. I fear I make mine too busy looking as I use 4 different plugins to highlight my previous work.

  8. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    I have 11 posts so far in my blog and 10 of them are sitting on the home page. I use the recent post widget and the drop-down category menu, and the monthly archives. As the list of posts grows they should still be easy to find. After I move to a hosted site, I’ll be making use of some of those handy plugins that you are using Barbara.

    I like what Vered has done by incorporating the link for best posts and funniest posts.

  9. JayNo Gravatar says:

    When I started blogging, I wasn’t a blog reader so I created mine from a non-blog-reader’s viewpoint. I haven’t made any major changes and I’m still largely happy with it. I’m wondering whether to add a couple of things though, without making it too busy. Maybe a favourite posts will be one of them.

    Thanks for explaining ‘above the fold’. I must have missed that before.

  10. Alex FayleNo Gravatar says:

    I think it’s really important to have content for those readers who want to explore more than your current post, which makes it kind of hard for new blogs since they have limited content.

    As I’ve just re-started my blog, I want to make sure my visitors have more to look at, so I’m migrating my old posts to a second blog and I’ll direct people to that who want to explore more.

    Of course, a good blogger whether they have 200 or 2 posts will draw in readers from just one post.

    Cheers,
    Alex

    Alex Fayle’s last blog post..Commitment to Growth: Tina Su Interview

  11. MizFitNo Gravatar says:

    I so need to work on this.

    I know it.

    and yet Ive not yet found the time.

  12. Barbara

    My whole blog needs a redesign and that will happen in the next couple of months. I just need to get the time to actually work out what changes I want made.

    I try to make recent posts and popular articles out there for people to see above the fold, but I am sure there is loads I could do better. I will need to look at this before the redesign.

    If you have any suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them.

    Kelly

  13. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    well hopefully between my recent posts and my archives link they will be able to navigate my blog. since adding my new theme, i lost a few plugs-in and haven’t take the time to figure out how to add them back. i only miss my related post plug-in…otherwise i’m happy with the archives and the recent posts…

    πŸ˜‰

  14. RitaNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara,

    You have seen my blog. It has NOTHING. No pictures, just the name of the blog and a pen. When it was “re-designed” for me, I wanted it very, very clean, as I was VERY unhappy with the old design – there was SO MUCH THERE – between the huge avatar, the advertising, the # of daily readers, the categories…and that was before anybody started to write anything!

    I, personally, love my new blog design. It’s simple. It’s the words. Everything else runs down the right side.

    That being said, I do need to think about who is reading my blog. I have a small picture each day that relates to the blog, but nothing permanent. And ironically, I am getting far more comments now, as people can find where to comment (or, maybe I’m writing more about what people want to hear?)

    What do you think. My nice, clean pen or do I need something flashier? And if so, any ideas?

    Thanks,

    Rita

    Rita’s last blog post..How a Hard Hit on the Head Can Help ANY Man

  15. Chase MarchNo Gravatar says:

    I make sure to have my Archive above the fold. This way readers can not only see that I have a lot of posts but that I update my blog regularly. It is also easy to navigate and can draw a reader in from the titles.

    I run a feature on my blog about “Story” and have the chapters listed on the sidebar as well.

    But one of the best ways to make your blog easy to navigate is to include some labels on your posts. I don’t label every post. I’ve decided on a few labels that I think will interest people. So if you want to search for just my entries on “teaching” or “hip hop”, simply click on the label in the side bar.

    I think my blog is easy to navigate. But I am thinking of adding some more eye candy.

    Chase March’s last blog post..Comment Moderation – On or Off?

  16. I too like what Vered mentioned and how she categorized a couple articles for her readers. That’s very focused.

    I think I do a decent job at displaying my articles. I have my categories, recent posts, random posts, archives, and our community forum spotlight in my sidebar, plus a blog post sitemap in my horizontal navigation.

    I have putting the sitemap of my blog posts in my sidebar on the list, just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

    So hopefully I’ve made it easy to find things.

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..The Continuity Of My Blog – Putting It All Together

  17. Writer DadNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I’m still so new at this (on my fourth week). I don’t have time to give too much thought to design M-F, but on the weekends that’s when I try to look at things from the perspective of someone just seeing things for the first time. And you’re right, when we blog it is easy to lose perspective. Yesterday, I was speaking to a gentleman, who I would consider of far above average intelligence. Late forties, on his computer all the time. He had no idea what an RSS feed was. Maybe it shouldn’t have, but this surprised me. I’ve known about feeds for years, even though I was about three moons from blogging. But I thought on it long, and it’s a good lesson. I don’t think we should dumb our sites down, but we should make them as accessible as we possibly can.

  18. SpaceAgeSageNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the reminder — had been busy on other stuff. Soon. Soon!

  19. Sunil PathakNo Gravatar says:

    Easy navigation is mostimportant, Internet users are multi-taskers. It is very likely that they will browse your site while editing a document in Word, chatting with some. As a result, they need to be able to filter and scan specific information on your site easily; else they will just go somewhere else.

    @Scott McIntyre why not share your review with use am sure all of us are interested in learning more about making our blog more user friendly

    Sunil Pathak’s last blog post..Does Your Blog Visitors Really Read Your Blog?

  20. @Sunhil Parhak I’m aiming to write an article for Liz Strauss’s blog very soon on this topic.

    It will be on a general level, rather than mentioning specific blogs. That wouldn’t be polite πŸ™‚

  21. Linda AbbitNo Gravatar says:

    Hi,

    Since my blog is new, I’m content with the Recent Posts and Related Posts so far. Adding a “Search this Blog” feature makes sense for the future — at what point though? When did you add yours, Barbara? Was it after a certain amount of months? Amount of posts? Or when you couldn’t find a post you knew you wrote previously? πŸ™‚

    I just sent my blog link to a relative who is a pretty new computer user — on a pc for under a year. I’m going to ask her more pointed questions now about how much she read and how she investigated my blog. Perfect timing for a case study!

    Linda Abbit’s last blog post..Let’s Pay it Forward and Help Another Blogger!

  22. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Davina,

    That’s great you’re showing most of your posts on your home page. It makes it easy for readers to find your earlier work. It’s when we get hundred of posts, showcasing more becomes a problem.

    Hi Jay,

    We always have to consider our readers. Using a favorite list or popular posts lets others know what your current readers are enjoying and commenting on.

    Hi Alex,

    Yes, it’s all about the content. If you can hook a reader with your first post, they’ll com back for more. I like your idea of directing your readers to your old posts. Will you eventually import them to your new blog?

    Hi MizFit,

    Just keep it on your “to do” list. Soon, you’ll find time. πŸ™‚

    Hi Kelly,

    Redesigns are always fun. I think I would just look at other blogs, find bits and pieces you like and incorporate them into your new design. You do have some great stuff on your blog, so I would highlight your popular posts. I see you have it in your header – maybe consider dropping it into your sidebar.

    Hi Natural,

    The related posts plugin is a handy one. I remember when you found mine and left comments all over my blog. πŸ™‚

    Hi Rita,

    I’m looking at your blog as I write this (split screen), and I’m thinking you should move your recent posts and “Top Posts” to the top of the sidebar – showcase your writings.

    The category clouds are great ( I use one too but it collapses in IE) but a lot of readers don’t know how to use them. I’d move that down. Plus I see you have “Rita’s Categories”. Is the same information in the cloud?

    I’m laughing at something in your tag cloud. “Rated R Recipes” I know those are two separate categories, but…

    Hi Chase,

    You bring up a great point. Often readers are attracted to the titles of our posts. Showcasing them above the fold increases the chances of them getting read.

    Hi John,

    A site map. Are you using a plugin for that? I need to do that too. I have my “Articles” in my header, but I read an article written by Lorelle where she stressed the need for a site map (not to be confused with a sitemap, i.e. Google)

    Hi Writer Dad,

    You’re right. We should never assume our readers know how to navigate our sites, and/or use a RSS feed button. I didn’t know what an RSS feed was until I started blogging last year. I would see the orange buttons, but was never curious enough to figure out what they were.

    Hi SpaceAgeSage,

    Yes, all of these issues take time away from our lives.

    Hi Sunil,

    Isn’t that the truth? The majority of our readers are scanning, so let’s make it easy for them to do so.

    Hi Scott,

    Another post on Liz’s blog? Please let us know when it’s up so we can all read it.

    Hi Linda,

    The “search this site” button was part of my theme, so it’s always been there.

    When I’m looking for an old post, I either do a search behind the scenes, or scan through my “Articles” page (header).

    That’s a great idea to have your friend try and navigate through your site. That first hand information is the best.

  23. I’ve actually had 5 posts on Liz’s blog, Barbara- it’s a weekly guest series.

    I’ll let you know when the next one appears.

  24. I *love* getting sucked into a blog because there are so many fantastic links to go through. If I can find 3+ posts that look good, I’ll probably read them and subscribe.

    On my blog, I added in recent posts in the sidebar and then related posts at the end of each post (just not on the main page). It’s auto-generated, so sometimes they’re not the ideal matches, but it was a good step forward for me.

  25. Alex FayleNo Gravatar says:

    @Barbara
    I’ve created a secondary blog to “house” the archive. I just need to go through the site and fix all the internal links. Something to do while watching TV…

    http://somedaysyndrome.com/journey

  26. I’m embarassed to realize that I’ve spent very little time on this at One Bag Nation.

    But I’ll be giving it a lot of thought on my new blog – armed with all the great info I get here! πŸ™‚

  27. MarelisaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara: I think my blog is easy to navigate: I have a recent posts widget, archives, and categories. Pus I manually add related posts to the bottom of each post I write. I’ve come into your blog a few times looking for stuff (I’m sure you’ve probably seen me in here with woopra and all of your other high-tech toys πŸ™‚ ) and the information been easy to find, so I consider your blog to be easy to navigate.

    @Scott: Maybe you can share your findings with us πŸ™‚

  28. I really like the Related Posts placed right under the current post. That way, if a person likes what they just read, they might be more inclined to keep going onto the next one. The Lion and I don’t have that, mind you, but in our upcoming website redesigns, I think I will put this on the design must haves.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..He’s a scamp

  29. Sunil PathakNo Gravatar says:

    @Scott i was expecting the same from you mate, But even if you mention any specific blogs you’ll be doing him a favor. Because a backlink from blog like Liz’s is worth few nagative quotes about your blog

    Sunil Pathak’s last blog post..Does Your Blog Visitors Really Read Your Blog?

  30. JenniferNo Gravatar says:

    Good question Barbara. I think that my blog could be worked on to make it eaiser to find other post. Thanks for making me think about that.

  31. Categories and a favorite section are all that’s really needed in my assessment.

    If a blog has this, it has the goods it needs to be user friendly.

    Bamboo Forest’s last blog post..The Frightening Truth about Bloggers

  32. Al at 7PNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – thanks for the mention. πŸ™‚

    I absolutely love the candy store analogy, because that’s how a blog to a new user is like. I had a conversation with someone today about the cost that businesses spend to get new customers and that conversation was somewhat related to blogging and getting subscribers.

    Businesses spend a lot (and I mean A LOT) of money on getting new customers. The reason why is because existing customers are typically the easiest to sell to. Businesses will overspend to have us go from being a “non-customer” to an “existing customer.”

    As Sara on Simplicity said, if I can find a couple of other posts that I like after reading my first article, I’ll likely subscribe and become an “existing customer.” That was a long way for me to basically say “Ditto, Sara” but I thought the other conversation was related and wanted to share!

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..The Hero with a Thousand Jobs

  33. Hi Barbara,

    The *human* sitemap I use is found here.

    Once installed, it looks like this.

    The fact that you haven’t seen my sitemap proves I need to make it more visible. LOL

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..The Continuity Of My Blog – Putting It All Together

  34. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Scott,

    I’ve missed a couple of your posts. I’ll have to go back to Liz’s site and find them. Thanks for letting me know.

    Hi Sara,

    Like you, I enjoy finding a blog I can dig through, especially new blogs. Often the author’s best work is buried.

    The random post plugin does a fair job, but like you say, the posts aren’t always a great match.

    Hi Alex,

    That’s a good idea. Then via linking you can tie the two together.

    Hi Ann,

    Yes, that new blog you keep hinting at. When is the unveiling?

    Hi Marelisa,

    Thank you! I try to make it easy to navigate, so please dig away. I’m hoping after I add a site map, it will become even easier.

    Hi Urban Panther,

    Yes, the related posts is a great way to showcase our other work. That’s one thing nice about doing a redesign, we can all more bells and whistles.

    Hi Jennifer,

    You’re welcome. Just think of your blog as a work in progress. They’re forever changing.

    Hi Bamboo,

    Spoken like a true blogger. Although I know other bloggers may be able to find previous writings, it’s those that aren’t, I worry about.

    Hi Al,

    You’re welcome.

    You’re right. Blogging is very much like a business. In fact, many are blogging for a living. Just as we need to keep our loyal subscribers happy, we must also offer “something” to those who visit us for the first time. If they don’t find it, they’re gone.

    Hi John,

    Thank you for the link. I’ll check your sitemap as soon as I finish answering comments.

  35. Avani-MehtaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    This is one area I have focussed and worked on a lot. I still do keep tweaking my site for this.

    Home page offers the latest post, 4 featured posts and around 7 recent posts. In addition to this, there is a option to find articles via recent post, archives, categories, most read, most commented and random as well – in sidebar and footer.

    Surprisingly, all of them have been clicked on as per google analytics. I was planning to remove some options based on this data.

    I manually add 2-3 related posts with each article if possible.

    I am planning to add a ‘Best of Avani-Mehta blog’ kind of page and use it along with Seth Godin’s plugin. So that new visitors have a place to read hand picked articles.

    Avani-Mehta’s last blog post..Living Life Child Like

  36. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    Good points.

    I agree with Avani-Mehta on manually adding related posts.

    No matter how well you layout your blog, use categories/tags, and search, I think there’s a ceiling. At some point, I think the best thing you can do is create a PDF “best of” your posts.

    I’m basing this on the fact that no matter how well I organize a blog or Wiki, it’s no match for the impact of when I compile a guide.

  37. T EdwardsNo Gravatar says:

    This is a very good idea. I am so new to blogging that I am QUITE overwhelmed at all of the templates and widgets and tools available. I try to make small additions and adjustments pretty frequently but it seems like the more I do, the more there is to learn.

    T

  38. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Avani,

    You’ve done your homework well. Checking your stats to see what’s getting clicked on shows what’s working.

    I like the idea of the “best of” as it does give new readers a great place to start.

    Hi J.D.

    You’ve hit on a great point, about creating a guide. From someone who has an awesome business blog, I know you have experience on what works.

  39. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi T Edwards,

    Yes, for a new blogger is can be VERY overwhelming. I suggest to take it one step at a time, moving forward only when you feel comfortable doing so. If you see a future for yourself in blogging, you’ll have plenty of time to learn. I’ve been blogging for 17 months and learn something new every day. But, oh, what a joy it is to learn. πŸ™‚

  40. Evelyn LimNo Gravatar says:

    I included a “Best of Blog” tab that links to a page of the posts that I thought was good (as opposed to the votes by readers). I may have a top 10 favorite post widget on my sidebar but the posts are based on recent reader votes. I don’t want some of my older but nice posts (when I was doing less promotions for my site) to be buried in the archives.

    Admittedly, it’s quite hard to decide what to display upfront. I’ve got to check around what others are doing, to also get a feel!

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..7 Wise Confucius Sayings

  41. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Evelyn,

    The “Best of Blog” tab sounds like a great idea. Hand picking older posts keeps them on the surface and will often get them more attention.

  42. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara,
    I had my technical person put a table of contents on my blog. Then a post got picked up by Digg and I got lots of new attention on my site and they moved around and found/read lots of things a few made a comments, but I still am not getting subscribers. I am attempting to keep the themes simple and worded in such a way that a new reader might just feel like they are opening a book for the first time and notice that the wording/descriptions of “how to” feel familiar with more detail behind the click.
    I love reading all the blogs and often subscribe to the folks who write on your site after navigating myself. I try to look and comment on 4 blogs every week day. Thank you for this sweet information.

    Patricia’s last blog post..While the President is at Play – Women Beware!

  43. AmyNo Gravatar says:

    Loving the candy store analogy! I always find it interesting when I look at my stats and see the paths folks take when they first arrive at my blog. Never the way I expect they’ll go. I try to keep things easy to find, but I’m sure I could do better.

    Lovely blog you have here. πŸ™‚

    Amy’s last blog post..Controversy: the Always Hot Topic for Freelance Writers/Bloggers?

  44. […] Barbara S – you made me realise that more candy was needed on my blog. […]

  45. […] When I started blogging, I listened to what the blogging pros had to say. In fact, I was amazed how much information about blogging could be found online, for free. I felt like a kid in a candy store. […]