our blogs, our babiesBlogs become like children to us.

It’s no wonder. It is us who gives them life. It is us who introduces and shows them off to the world.

In the beginning many of us changed our themes as often as we would change a baby’s clothes – trying to find just the right outfit for the christening.

We nurture our blogs, add our blood, sweat and tears, and when we hit milestones, we celebrate.

And just like with children, we become protective and possessive of your blogs.

Mistakes and all, we’re proud of them. Happy to call them our own.

But what happens when others tell us we should make changes to our blogs?

Today’s Lesson

I’ve had blog authors ask for my opinion on their blogs. In some cases I suggested a simple tweak, and when others asked what I thought of their complete site redesign, I gave my honest opinion, but I let them know, that’s all it is – my opinion.

And my opinion is based on what “I” look for when I first land on a blog.

For example, here are my preferences:

  1. The content

    Is the topic something I’m interested in? Is the author putting an original spin on the subject, or are they just regurgitating old news?

  2. The “About Me”page

    How is the author describing themselves? What can I expect to find on the blog? Do they provide a back story? Pictures?

  3. Can I find the recent posts and/or the archives?

    If I’m interested in the content, I look for recent posts. If they aren’t listed, than I hope to find more of the author’s writings in the archives.

Even if the blog I land on is beautifully designed, if I’m not captivated by what I read, and/or the blog hasn’t met my personal preferences for blog navigation, I don’t stick around.

What I don’t put a lot of weight on:

  1. The header

    I see the header as being a personal choice. For continuity, a photo helps to match the blog title and/or tag line to the content, however, some blog themes don’t use a photo header. I also keep in mind some bloggers are using what comes with the theme and/or are yet to learn how to change the header image.

  2. How the content is formatted

    Although I prefer some white space (not just solid writing), if the content is good, I’ll read it.

  3. Spelling and grammar

    Knowing English is not the first language for some bloggers, and also realizing we’re often too close to the content to catch our own errors, I’ve learned to overlook grammar and/or spelling mishaps.

  4. Advertisements

    I know many bloggers (including myself) would like to make a passive income from their blogs. As long as the ads aren’t so distracting they take away from the content, I’m happy.

Now it’s your turn.

Today’s Assignment

What do you look for when you land on a blog for the first time?

Have you ever had someone say your blog could be improved – solicited or not?

Did you change it or leave it as is?

Should constructive criticism be brushed off as “just their opinion”, or should we listen?

signature for blog post.

For professional fee based, no words minced, blog critiquing services, check out:

Men With Pens who offer a “drive by shooting”, or
Collective Inkwell’s “Make Over My Blog”

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  1. “we’re often too close to the content to catch our own errors” – this is so true. I could proofread my posts 10 times and I still wouldn’t catch all errors.
    .-= Check out Vered – Blogger for Hire´s awesome post: Back To School =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Vered,

      I hear you. Knowing how easily typos and grammatical errors can happen, I now turn a blind eye to them (on blogs). But for professional websites, white papers, and/or ebooks, I’m a lot less tolerant.

  2. Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

    Sometimes constructive criticism can be a hard pill to swallow and at first I might bristle at it, but with time I mull it over in my head and may take the suggestion to heart. If I really don’t agree with it, I’ll just brush it off. I’ve never really received any unsolicited comments on my blogs and when I’ve asked for an opinion, I listen. I want the honest answer not just a lot of sunshine blown up my … well, you know where I was going with that.

    I have asked you for your advice in the past and you gave it to me. I appreciated it.

    I think the biggest thing I look for is content. If I like what I’m reading I stick around. I hate the music some people put on blogs. That’s about the only thing that might send me away. Everything else I can deal with; advertising, design, etc, but music, ugh. First I don’t mean to be rude, but we may just not have the same preferences in music, but more importantly, I hate clicking over to a blog and having it blare at me, especially if there are kids sleeping in the house. I really just don’t get the music thing. However, that all being said, I have a trusty little mute button on my laptop I can hit in 2 seconds, so, if I really like the blog, I’ll probably still drop by.
    .-= Check out Debbie Yost´s awesome post: Understanding and Preventing Elopement =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Debbie,

      That’s true. If we give ourselves a chance to digest what’s being said, we often see the reasoning behind the criticism.

      With regard to music on blogs, you must be traveling in different circles than I am. I haven’t experienced that on blogs, but have on MySpace pages. The first time that happened I couldn’t figure out where the music was coming from. You’re right though. With everyone having a different taste in music, a blogger could offend (and lose) a reader by their choices.

      • Debbie YostNo Gravatar says:

        Barbara,

        Yes, I am traveling in different circles a lot of the time. I visit a lot of mommy bloggers and they like to use them. It has gotten better, though. Last night I popped over from my reader to a blog the I know has the music but always forget so it was fresh on my mind. :)
        .-= Check out Debbie Yost´s awesome post: I Day in the Life of a Blog Post =-.

        • Like Debbie, I travel around to a lot of other mom blogs and yes, the music? It drives me batty.

          Yet, I wouldn’t mention it, since it is a personal preference.

          I don’t like it either, since I feel I have to leave my computer on mute in order to visit blogs. Plus, it always increases load time on a page.
          .-= Check out RC – Rambling Along…´s awesome post: What I have learned… =-.

  3. Barbara,

    Your sentence about changing blog themes made me laugh. I was constantly doing that when I started, and continue to do so though with less frequency.

    I look for design and content mainly. Music and pop-up ads do put me off though, and I’ll probably not visit a site even with good design and content if I have to contend with a pop up each time I land on the site.

    I’ve not had unsolicited criticism of my blog design, though I’ve had some nice words. Maybe people are just being too polite? I’d take the feedback into account, of course, just that the design is mainly for me at the moment – if I don’t like looking at my blog, why would I expect others to?

    Good post to get me thinking about my blog. Ugh… hope this doesn’t bring about another spate of re-designing!
    .-= Check out Daphne @ Joyful Days´s awesome post: Can We Grow into Selflessness? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Daphne,

      Yes. Those redesigns can be addictive.

      You’ve brought up a good point. As bloggers we are the ones looking at our sites on a daily basis. If we don’t like what we see, we certainly can’t expect others to, either. I also think as we grow in our blogging endeavors, our tastes change as does the message we’re trying to get across. Hence, we make more changes.

      And the pop-ups. I forgot about those. They can get aggravating especially if they pop up each time we visit a site. Seems like they should have a cookie showing we’re not interested and not pop-up the next time.

  4. jan geronimoNo Gravatar says:

    I look for content. I don’t care much where it’s hosted – blogspot, WP, posterous, tumblr – as long as the content is above average I will stay and read and go back for more.

    What content appeals to me? Humor pieces. Tutorials with lots of images. Stories about the author’s adventures an misadventures. Think pieces like Maki of Dosh Dosh, Skellie, and Steve Pavlina.

    I don’t discriminate actually. Even SEO articles I try to wrap my head around them. It helps if they are well written and comes out as if they’re handed down from the Vatican.

    I solicit constructive criticisms for my blog so it’s not as if I’d die of shame when I get an honest appraisal. lol
    .-= Check out jan geronimo´s awesome post: So, You Want to Write a Book? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jan,

      Like you, I don’t care where a blog is hosted either. Those thinking and.or learning pieces are great, aren’t they?

      I didn’t realize you solicit constructive criticism. With so many opinions, the comments must get interesting.

  5. Hello Barbara!
    I look for many of the same attributes as you. #1 is design–it’s not about the site being fancy but just about being relaxing and inviting to the eye. #2 is good content. I like bloggers who can teach me something new in a creative way–good story telling, pictures, quotes, etc. #3 is the length; too long and I just can’t get through it (I write this knowing full well that some of my own articles run on!). I also really like it when the full article is visible on the screen vs. clicking through. I think we should pay attention to constructive criticism. But we probably shouldn’t give it unless asked to do so!
    .-= Check out Jodi at Joy Discovered´s awesome post: Inspiration Pages =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Jodi,

      You’re right, long articles can be challenging. Often if I land on a long post, I’ll go back to it later – when I have more time to read.

      That’s a good point about how the site “looks”. If it feels relaxing, we’re more apt to stick around and read even more than the current post.

  6. RobinNo Gravatar says:

    Hi there Barbara – I find that if I really want to read a blog, I’ll stick with it no matter how badly designed it is, or how or difficult to read it is – I’ll even copy and paste the text into a document to read it, if I have to!

    A pop-up newsletter or subscription invite will have me clicking off very quickly.
    .-= Check out Robin´s awesome post: Physical Immortality Discussion On Oprah.com =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Wow Robin,

      You’re a dedicated reader. To go to the extent of copying and pasting an article so you can read it is devotion.

      Yup! Those pop-ups can be a turn off.

  7. Kelvin KaoNo Gravatar says:

    You know, I actually don’t care about navigation that much. What I do is, I read the whatever article that I happened to be taken to. And then I look at the about page to see if it’s interesting. If both seem interesting, I go straight to my Google Reader and subscribe. When I subscribe, Google Reader will show the recent 10 or so posts. I would skim to see if they are interesting. If they seem to be interesting, I keep the subscription. If not, I unsubscribe right away. Now, why do I do this?

    I do this because I don’t tend to go back and check the website unless I want to leave a comment. So most of the navigation is not that relevant to me. I will keep the subscription even if the navigation is confusing on the website. I don’t care because I don’t really use it.
    .-= Check out Kelvin Kao´s awesome post: Friendster Messages from Quintuplets! =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Kelvin,

      That’s a great idea – to use your reader to gain access to recent posts. Plus, like you said, at that point you can make the decision to keep the subscription, or not. What a great time saving technique. Thank you.

  8. J.D. MeierNo Gravatar says:

    As a blog owner, I think it helps to have a set of scenarios you test against.

    I try to measure against some basic usage scenarios:
    – is the focus clear? (still working on that)
    – can you quickly subscribe?
    – can you easily search the blog?
    – can you browse by relevant topics?

    I ask folks for feedback all the time, but it’s often conflicting. I try to balance multiple perspectives against the scenarios.
    .-= Check out J.D. Meier´s awesome post: 3 Take Aways =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi J.D.,

      Those are all great questions to ask ourselves. If we answer “no” to more than one, we know we have work to do.

      Asking others is a good way to gain feedback, but I can see how conflicting comments could be confusing.

  9. Garden GiftsNo Gravatar says:

    This is a great post.

    I am sooooooo protective over my own blog, I couldn’t take anyone bad-mouthing it. Advice can be hard to take, but in many cases, should be taken. If it improves your blog and user-experience, then it has to be worth taking into account.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Garden Gifts,

      You’re not alone. Many of us are protective of our blogs. Hearing something negative is hard to take, but like you said, that’s also how we learn.

  10. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. thanks for those points and your readers comments. I hate busy sites, with flashing ads – drives me nuts (perhaps I am already!), music I haven’t come across thank goodness, JD’s comments made a great deal of sense. Pop ups too – but mostly it’s the overly “everything in one place” that can be all too much. Simple is better.

    I’ve been lucky I did one major design tweakwithin blogger, and it was picked up and given approval comments by readers, I’m sure it’s not completely set up .. but I’ll be working on that soon, as I learn more and have time.

    My content overall statement – has been commented on by Daphne in particular as she has said she likes the ethos, and how I’ve put the wording. (In fact very kindly wrote me a personal letter on her blog – I was so chuffed, especially as I was so new).

    I’ve also been lucky, for someone who really had absolutely no idea they could ‘write’, that I’ve had some amazing comments from people inthe blogging world and people from outside.

    I know the grammar isn’t perfect, nor do I always quite accurately correct it, which I am trying to make amends on now … things will be changing.

    I have notified others if their video isn’t working, and someone told me one of my BBC ones wasn’t working .. I’ve now worked out why – it’s the licence fee aspect .. we pay in the UK, and others don’t and therefore can’t get access – not sure of the other parameters.

    I do hate your for you’re … etc .. and friends I might point it out .. other grammar I leave .. we simply can’t nit pick – unless we’re asked to.

    Thanks that’s a really useful post ..
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
    .-= Check out Hilary´s awesome post: Garlic Beer Anyone? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Hilary,

      I agree. Some sites are way to much to handle. How fortunate you are to have had others helping you along the way. That makes a big difference and lets us know we’re doing something right.

      I like what you said about not realizing you could write. I’ll bet that was a pleasant surprise when you started posting your articles, and comments came in commending you for your knowledge.

  11. LanceNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Content is king!
    That said, if I find a site that is just too busy, too many many ads, if it all feels like a sales pitch – I won’t stick around.

    Daphne brought up a great point about music and pop ups. There are a couple of sites I visit that play music, but not many…because I really have to love the writing to stick around. Music is great…it’s just I’d like to choose my own. And pop ups and too many ads – just too annoying to deal with.

    Keep is simple…that’s the philosophy I like…
    .-= Check out Lance´s awesome post: Sunday Thought For The Day =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Lance,

      Isn’t it ironic how from when we first started blogging we heard, “content is king” – and here we all are, confirming that it is.

      Although I haven’t encountered music on a blog yet, I’m with you, let me pick my own.

  12. RibbonNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara…

    It’s mostly about the content for me…. and the person behind the blog too.
    but I don’t like pop up things of any description.

    best wishes
    Ribbon
    .-= Check out Ribbon´s awesome post: Extreme… =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Ribbon,

      That’s a good point. The person behind the blog can get us to read and/or subscribe. If we identify with them, even if their content isn’t the best, they’re often a joy just to read.

  13. ToyLadyNo Gravatar says:

    Hi, Barbara! I’ve been enjoying (and learning from) your columns for a few months now, although I seldom comment – I usually don’t have much to add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said! This is an excellent topic – thanks.

    *What do you look for when you land on a blog for the first time?

    I generally look for more of whatever brought me there – usually it was a link from somewhere else or a comment on someone’s blog. If I landed there for information, I look for that, or similar. If it was an amusing comment on another blog, I try to get a sense of “who” that person is, whether the comment was just a passing thought, or if that’s the person’s writing style. I do like to to be able to at least FIND prior posts and check out a couple of older entries – has this person been blogging for a while?, has his/her style changed?, etc. If I think I may regularly enjoy a particular blog, I’ll do much like Kelvin does (above) and subscribe to an RSS feed – if I end up reading regularly, then great, and if not, well, I don’t, and eventually I unsubscribe. While a few typos don’t necessarily bother me, consistently bad grammar does!

    *Have you ever had someone say your blog could be improved – solicited or not?

    Not as a design thing, but I received a comment once (unsolicited) from someone who objected to some of the photos – I do a lot of “foodie” sort of posts, and, well, sometimes it’s tough to make ingredients look appetizing.

    *Did you change it or leave it as is?

    I didn’t actually change anything at that time, but I do try to be more aware of how a photo may appear to someone who’s not used to cooking.

    *Should constructive criticism be brushed off as “just their opinion”, or should we listen?

    I certainly think constructive criticism (with the emphasis on CONSTRUCTIVE!) should at least be heard and analyzed. In my case, I didn’t actually change anything I’d previously posted, but I don’t know know that that one person’s opinion wasn’t reflective of others – how many people don’t say anything and just don’t come back, because of the same problems? Mine was an easy fix – more than likely, if it had been something more complicated, I may have taken a different attitude (“if you don’t LIKE what you see here, then go look somewhere else”). Of course, criticism just for the sake of criticism is a whole different story, isn’t it?
    .-= Check out ToyLady´s awesome post: Monday Musings: 08.17.2009 =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Toy Lady,

      You’re right. A comment on another blog can tell us a little about the author and lead us to their blog. It’s like following a trail of bread crumbs and until their blog page shows us, it’s like a mystery. A lot of fun, actually. And hopefully we won’t be disappointed.

      I found that interesting how you had someone criticize photos of food. Being a cook myself, I like to see food photos, but I do understand how someone who isn’t familiar with food in their raw form could be grossed out.

      Yes. Some will criticize, just to criticize. If we can differentiate between that and constructive criticism, then we’ll have something to work from.

  14. DavinaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara. I’m with Robin on the pop-up newsletter or subscription invites. They pop up and I pop off. I’ve learned to let go of worrying about typos (it’s a break for a proofreader), but I still groan if I see one AFTER I’ve published. I’m not too fond of reading blogs that use black backgrounds — it’s hard on the eyes enough to be in front of the screen all day. Having said that, if the content is interesting to me I will read, but it won’t be a blog I will visit very often.
    .-= Check out Davina´s awesome post: Laziness is Like What? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Davina,

      I was wondering how you felt about typos with you being a proofreader. :)

      Blogs with black backgrounds can be difficult to read. It seems like some font colors are better on black than others.

  15. DotNo Gravatar says:

    Like others, I’m content-oriented, but I also enjoy good and original design. I’ve never received criticism unasked, and even when I asked for it, got only praise. I also asked for a review from Men with Pens, which was very helpful, but I was glad they were gentle.

    Things that turn me off are things that prevent my reading — like the pop-ups mentioned. Also, I once found a new blog full of interesting thoughts, yet when I tried to get to earlier posts, I got lost on the site. There was no navigation for previous posts and no popular posts or featured posts. I found that hard to take.

    I find even seasoned bloggers sometimes fail on the navigation. I may have left a comment yesterday, and today when I click through from my reader to see whether the blog author has replied to me, I can’t find a way to get to their yesterday post. Sometimes even the archives don’t help. Very frustrating.

    As for themes, I was just thinking about changing mine. Along with a change in the scenery, which I’d love, I need greater functionality, such as an easier-to-read type size, than I’ve been able to get with my current theme — it’s just too hard to modify and I’ve already paid to modify it once.
    .-= Check out Dot´s awesome post: Comment on Loss by Dot =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Dot,

      So, you had a “drive by shooting”. I’m happy to hear it didn’t “hurt”.

      Yes. Navigation of blogs can be very frustrating. Like you said, if you comment and want to go back to the post, it should be fairly easy to find. The frustration of not being able to find it again is often enough to get a person to stop reading.

      P.S. I know you enjoy changing your theme. After looking at our own blogs everyday, months on end, it’s often nice to have something different. I’ll be watching for what you may do next.

  16. Hi Barbara – The combination of Content AND Personality is the hook for me. If the personality isn’t a fit with me, the best content in the world will always be tainted. That’s why voice and authenticity rate so high with readers, I believe. You can’t be or try to be someone you’re not. And if you’re being you, it’s important to remember that you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Thanks.
    .-= Check out Betsy Wuebker´s awesome post: A MEAL COULD CHANGE YOUR LIFE =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Betsy,

      Yes. The author’s personality and authenticity can be a big hook. I think too often bloggers think they need to write like the big boys/girls whereas if they just shared their personality (quirks and all) with their readers, they’re more apt to gain a loyal following.

  17. This is great, Barbara – it really made me think (and I just re-vamped my layout a little, and luckily hit most of what you said you like! PHEW!).

    I believe that we attract mirror images of ourselves in the form of people & experiences. Therefore, if someone gives me feedback, I don’t look at it as just anyone talking. I see that person as me, talking to me. I believe I manifest everything in my life, even so-called hurtful opinions. As I’ve grown into a more joyful existence, hurtful opinions are fewer and further between, but still… They’re never just someone else talking, in my mind. And yet I may still choose to ignore them! (wink)
    .-= Check out Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s awesome post: Giving Freely =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Megan,

      I hear what you’re saying. I also think we attract “like” and even though we may not all agree on everything, we learn from each other. Some are further along on the road of life, some have more experience, and/or some are book smart. The feedback we get from those we’ve attracted probably becomes the most valuable – often they’re looking out for our best interest, too.

  18. Barbara,

    I love the image you have as a post pic! Great job!

    I didn’t write my own bio.It needs to be updated.
    I didn’t plan adventuring off on to so many topics. I agree with Verde, we are too close to catch our on errors so I will edited usually a day later. Sometimes I may have my husband edit things.

    I was recently featured and ranked on a site. Over all the ranking was great but certain things were brought to my attention. I knew my header was big but the screen shot on the feature made it look humongous and they said I should change the design. Well I like the design and at some point will make some changes widen it probably. What was more important is that the value of the content and publishing was ranked high.
    .-= Check out Bunnygot blog´s awesome post: Eleanor Roosevelt: Speaking Volumes, Part 2 =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Bunny,

      I had fun creating the image.

      You and I have discussed big headers before, and like you, I like mine, too.

      Having your blog featured and ranked was a great way to find out your content is filled with value, and even though you already knew that, hearing confirmation from others is great for the ego.

  19. DotNo Gravatar says:

    I forgot to mention editing. There are a few blogs that I like and even subscribe to, but don’t really read. I have to skim through them because the writers don’t edit out the extraneous details, resulting in paragraphs and posts that are too long for the content. I’m guilty of this myself and remind myself (when I have time) to cut, cut, cut.
    .-= Check out Dot´s awesome post: Comment on Loss by Dot =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi again Dot,

      Thank you for adding that. Learning to cut our posts down by editing out that which is unnecessary is hard to do, but critical if we want to keep our readers happy.

  20. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    Content is my most important connection. I am thinking about Lance’s Sunday thoughts too – beautiful photo, lovely quote and I read all of the comments because they so exquisitely add to the idea…

    I really like Tim Bronson’s caricatures/cartoons

    Yep my blog is my baby and one I have more control over than my own children, but I do have a child as an IT person and she is also opinionated.

    I like shorter blog content – but posting less often if the content is long and they post less often.

    Another interesting lesson to ponder.
    .-= Check out Patricia´s awesome post: No Reversing Without Rear End Supervision =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Patricia,

      I’m laughing at the part you wrote about having more control over our blogs than we do our children – so true. :)

      You’re right. Short posts/quotes added to a beautiful photo can say so much. Plus, like you said, it’s fascinating to read the other comments and hear what their reaction is/was.

  21. Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about these issues when it comes to my About page — that maybe I could use some more casual, non-business-related pictures to give people more of a sense of who I am.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Chris,

      That’s a great idea. If your readers see more than the professional side of you (in photos), they may be more likely to connect.

  22. ElizaNo Gravatar says:

    What do you look for when you land on a blog for the first time? – that it isn’t overly cluttered. If it makes my eyes spin in my sockets when I land there, I immediately back right out. Too me, that is just more noise in an already noisy world. Oh, and no background music please. It maybe your style, but it might not be mine. And again, more noise. Of course, these are just my personal preferences, but you asked what I look for :-)

    Have you ever had someone say your blog could be improved – solicited or not? – LOL, sure, James at MwP, so now the clever beast has designed 3 sites for me: Urban Panthers Lair; Silver & Grace, and my upcoming website for my new business.

    Did you change it or leave it as is? – see above. It cost me money, but I now have 3 professional looking sites, each with a unique flavour that matches the content.

    Should constructive criticism be brushed off as “just their opinion”, or should we listen? – I pay attention to all criticism, constructive or not, then I extract what works for me, if anything. And that applies to my whole life, not my blogging life. :-)
    .-= Check out Eliza´s awesome post: Alex Fayle on Someday Syndrome in Women Over Forty =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Eliza,

      I knew you had Men with Pens design your sites – and what a great job they did. You’ve raised a good point also. When we have a site professionally designed, and pay money for it, more than likely it will contain that which is important to readers.

      That’s true – Constructive criticism and how we react to is applies to both our blogging and personal lives. Some is best taken with a grain of salt.

  23. LindaNo Gravatar says:

    I look for content! The peel page is better for blogs as it gives the reader the opportunity to explore if they want to. Not the in your face way of doing business as some sites do. Advertising does not bother me but if the whole site is nothing but ads and you have to hunt for the post, then I am gone.

    The times that I have asked for opinions, I have taken some of the critique with a grain of salt. Other times, pretty good advice and I did some changes. In fact, I got one here. I have learned to go with the flow.

    Of course, my focus has been changed the last couple of days and will be back to delivering content shortly! 😀
    .-= Check out Linda´s awesome post: Forced Green Proudly Presents =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Yes Linda, I can imagine your focus has changed with your book release. WooHoo! :)

      That is one thing about constructive criticism. We all have our personal preferences and even if we ask for it, there’s no guarantee we’ll take it. However, some will open our eyes to something we haven’t thought of.

  24. Evelyn LimNo Gravatar says:

    I always prefer if the font sizes are not too small and that there is enough paragraphing. If I see a blot of words that go on and one, without full stops, I turn away. I don’t have the time to decipher what the author is trying to say.

    I have just received an unsolicited email about changing the spelling and grammar in one of my articles. Not an issue for me! I just change my article as needed.
    .-= Check out Evelyn Lim´s awesome post: Creation, Intention, Consciousness =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Evelyn,

      Good point. The size of fonts can make it difficult for us to read the blog post.

      The formatting of posts can be a deterrent. Just a little bit of white space or full stops can make a huge difference.

  25. NaturalNo Gravatar says:

    i look for a blog that can teach me something or make me laugh. i enjoy a dark background, but not if the text is hard to read. if the content is good, i will still try to read it.

    yes someone told me how i could improve my blog and i listened – can’t say that it was easy, but if i ask, that’s the chance i take. i made some changes on the design. i don’t mind listening, but in the end, it’s still their opinion until i decide to do something with the information or not.

    it’s too hard to try to please everyone. either they want to be there or not. :)
    .-= Check out Natural´s awesome post: Herstory In the Making =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Natural,

      I think it’s wise to listen to constructive criticism, but like you said, it’s not always easy nor will we necessarily make the suggested change. It’s hard to please everyone and in the end it is our blog.

  26. I look for blogs that really show me gems either from the heart, with regards to marketing, insights into programming, etc.etc.etc.

    Anything that makes me think or smile…it’s a good thing indeed!

    Here’s one thing guaranteed to frost my petunias – I will NEVER stick around (never ever ever) at a blog that’s written in chatspeak. ARGH! Hate that stuff.
    .-= Check out Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s awesome post: BY Invitation ONLY – Income Fitness Launch =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Barbara,

      That’s too funny. I had to look up what “chatspeak” is. So what you’re saying is when people use language similar to texting, with all of the abbreviations, etc., you’re gone. I can’t say I blame you. Although I haven’t run into a blog that uses it, I would also click off.

  27. TumblemooseNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    I would like to say that my “Should I stay or should I go, now” decision is based on specific criteria but for me it really boils down to a few things:

    Do they have something to say? (content I want to read)
    Very few grammar/spelling mistakes
    Attractive blog design

    Finally, I need a sense of goodness. Something in me that says this person is good and is doing things for all of the right reasons. I could not put into words specifically what this means, let’s just say that since I believe we are all connected my inner self guides me and I listen to what it has to say.

    Umm, sorry for getting all metaphysical on ya, Teach. 😉

    George
    .-= Check out Tumblemoose´s awesome post: A New Home for the New Blog of the Week =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi George,

      I know exactly what you mean – and that’s actually easy to pick out on a blog. Sometimes a blog author will try real hard to come across as caring and giving, but if you follow their comments and/or their activities on Twitter, it becomes apparent they’re only looking out for Number 1.

  28. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a LONG time…Everything you’ve said is bang on. My favorite part was the comparison between changing themes and finding the right clothes, haha! I honestly changed my theme over 40 times in the first month of blogging.
    .-= Check out The Gooroo @ iBlogPlanet.com´s awesome post: CommentLuv Coming To iBlogPlanet Soon! =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you so much Gooroo,

      Isn’t it amazing how when we start blogging we just don’t know how we want to project ourselves. Thank goodness there are hundreds of free themes available, so we can dress our blog however we want.

      P.S. I was just on your blog. The “clothes” you picked look fabulous. I read your comment how this one is a premium theme. I’m guessing you’re planning on keeping it for awhile.

  29. janiceNo Gravatar says:

    I sometimes do guest posts at one blog whose core theme doesn’t allow paragraphs. It makes me rant, swear and scream to see my piece turn into one brain-frying paragraph.

    Another blog, whose owner is brilliant, nearly lost me as a commenter because of my age. The font in the comments box is so small, I can barely read what I type!

    Like the other commenters, I hate automatic music and all pop-ups, but although I have a blocker on, the pop ups still appear.

    I’ve been told that one of the many reasons I don’t get many subscribers is that I deliberately don’t put the whole post into a feed reader which means that folk have to visit the blog to read it. I do that deliberately, though, to encourage folk to read any comments I’m lucky enough to get and replies I write that add to the post.

    I always read posts on someone’s actual blog; if they go to the trouble of designing and tweaking a blog, then surely there are enough minutes in the day to go over and savour the whole experience. Content may be crucial, but it’s not everything. A sense of place and community count too. Folk often highlight their favourite charities, have lists of commenters and favourite blogs and you can get to know them through their design preferences.

    This was another yummy, comment rich one, Barbara!
    .-= Check out janice´s awesome post: Welcome to My Kitchen Table =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Janice,

      I’ve seen blogs like that – where all the content runs together. I’ve also left comments and that happens in the comment section too. I can’t figure that one out – why would a blog be formatted that way?

      Yes. I’ve heard that is a pet peeve for many – to HAVE TO click through to read the entire post. I know some only show excerpts as they don’t want their content scrapped.

      I’m with you, as I also like to experience the whole blog experience by going to the blog and not just reading the post in a reader. It really shows the blog author’s personality, doesn’t it?

      I like how you’ve added that a blog also needs to have a sense of community. When I wrote this post, I didn’t even think of that, but that’s another thing I also find enjoyable.

  30. When I first land on a blog, the first thing I look for is what the blog is actually about. I almost never go to the “about” page though. That’s probably why mine doesn’t look so great at the moment! I have a hard time writing about myself.

    I haven’t had any negative feedback about my blog yet, but I know once I get more traffic, that will happen.
    .-= Check out carla | green and chic´s awesome post: Green and Chic Moving Sale =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Carla,

      Good point. As our blogs get more popular and we attract more comments, we may also attract opinionated individuals who will want to “have their say” about our blog.

  31. DaraNo Gravatar says:

    I will be the first to admit…I immediately lose interest in blogs with painful spelling/grammar errors. A stray one here or there is one thing, but consistent poorly-written posts is a total turn off for me.
    .-= Check out Dara´s awesome post: about a trac phone =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Dara,

      Spelling and grammar errors can be a distraction,however because I know how easy it to make them, I’m more tolerate when others do, too.

  32. Wilma HamNo Gravatar says:

    My focus is content too. I value my time and I want the posts to add value to me, like yours do.

    I am not a stickler for detail myself so I am not getting upset about mistakes.

    And yes, the blog feels like a baby and I too have put on many clothes on my child.

    I found the about page very hard to write. There is so much I can say and I have washed and rinsed that page many times AND I always visit that page when I first land on a blog. I want to know who I am talking with.
    .-= Check out Wilma Ham´s awesome post: Exciting and tough; this learning to play a totally different game. =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Wilma,

      The “about” page can be a tough one. In one sense we do what our readers to know more about us and what they can expect when they land on our blog, but on the other hand, where do we draw the line?

      I just reread your about page. I like the story you tell and how you plan to take your readers on a journey. What I’ve read of your work so far, it’s going to be a fun one. :)

  33. For me the key aspect of a blog is the tone with which the posts are written. It is obvious to me whether the person is writing from their heart or their head. If they write from their heart, then chances are I am going to keep reading their blog whenever I can.If someone writes from their head without any feeling, then I just cannot make it through the post and I just never visit again. So for me it all boils down to the tone and content of the writing.
    .-= Check out Nadia – Happy Lotus´s awesome post: One Year Already? – Sunday Song for August 16, 2009 =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Nadia,

      That’s a good observation. Like you said, it’s easy to tell.

      If a blog is providing information only (facts or researched data) and that’s what I’m looking for, I don’t mind if it sounds sterile, but for the more personal type of blog (like most of the BWAB community members have), I’m with you, “show me your uniqueness”.

  34. Avani MehtaNo Gravatar says:

    If the site is easy on eyes, ads and a single pop up don’t bother me much.

    I don’t like music on site. I open 10-12 tabs at a time and then go one by one. It gets difficult to figure out which one is playing music. I usually have my own music or some audio book or some tv program running in the background. So music gets really inconvenient.

    I invite criticism. Mostly from people who know that I wont take offense – so that I know I am getting true answers. A lot of times, the feedback has helped me to make constructive changes in my blog design. A lot of times, criticism was just that persons personal preference over something. That times I choose to let it go.
    .-= Check out Avani Mehta´s awesome post: I Am The Power =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Avani,

      I can see how music on a blog would be a problem if you’re opening a dozen tabs at once. It could take awhile to figure out which “tab” it’s coming from.

      Like you said, when we invite criticism, we need to take into consideration whom it’s coming from. If it’s from someone who’s looking out for our best interests, then yes, we should consider it. But if it’s from a passerby, we less apt to give it much weight.

  35. HI Barbara,

    Content content content…if the articles aren’t good…i aint going back. I don’t care that much for design, or look etc…i just want the articles to be good. They should be informative enough and have the ability to move me.

    I love the bunny image..its so so cute..and in pink…my favorite.

    And this post is just so wonderful in the timing sense of it. I often wonder where i am going wrong…i constantly second guess myself when it comes to the design part of my blog. I am confident about the content…but the design and small technicalities always keep me puzzled. After much ado i have finally set myself with the right theme(or so i think).

    Criticism is and should be welcome…cause they come from your readers. When you write for the readers…i think they do have a right to voice their opinion. If they are happy when they arrive at my blog…its only then will i feel my blog has done what it set out to do. So if they are happy….i am happy:)
    .-= Check out Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s awesome post: Letting Go of the Past: The Healing Power of Forgiveness & Release =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Zeenat,

      I had fun creating the pink image. :)

      I don’t think you’re alone. For new bloggers it’s tough to know what others opinion of “good” looks like. Plus, when we start our blogs we’re so exciting to be publishing, we aren’t spending that much time tweaking our themes. In time it seems like we all settle into a theme (at least for awhile).

      Criticism from our readers can be beneficial as long as we don’t take it personally, and like I mentioned to Avani, it often makes a difference “whom” it coming from.

  36. Hi Barbara. Great article and as you know, the type of topic I’m always interested in.

    I value every single person’s opinion when it comes to our site and my blog. I even go out and ask for feedback . . . continually. It really is what we should do to better tweak our blogs/sites. We are too close to our own work and often times we *think* we are designing (and even writing) for our target customers/readers, but in reality, our vision is skewed.

    I’ve asked for advice from you and a few others who read your blog. I take some comments and implement them, others I don’t. But by working together, we can build something far better than trying to do it all alone.

    The first thing I look for when I arrive on a blog for the first time . . . “Is this what I’m looking for or would be interested in?”

    And it better tell me quick!
    .-= Check out John Hoff – WpBlogHost´s awesome post: Introducing The New WP Blog Host Television Channel: wpbloghost.tv =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi John,

      WOW! You now have a television channel – how cool. I’ll have to come by and spend more time on it when it’s not so late. :(

      What you said is true. Often we’re so close to our site that we don’t see what could be improved. I like how you said “together we can build something far better than trying to do it all alone”.

      Good point about us letting our reader know “quick” if we’re going to give them what they’re looking for. Their attention span is often SHORT.

  37. Hi Barbara! Wow, I was absent for a couple of days from our class here. Got entangled with lots of workload in the office, ehehe!

    By they way, to participate in the discussion. What I primarily look in to a blog is the content. Then when I saw something interesting on his/her perspective, the way she/he writes, I go to the about page and discover more about the author…and when I am high on steroids, I go directly to the google reader button.

    Yes, I am not afraid of telling a blogger that there rooms of improvement on his post or his blog. I think it is just on the manner of how you told your fellow blogger that would not offend him or her.
    .-= Check out elmot l PinoySoundingBoard´s awesome post: P1 Pork Barrel for Congressmen, Should I Sing Hallelujah? =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Elmot,

      When life gets busy, it’s tough to find time to make the rounds, isn’t it?

      After reading your comment and the previous ones, content is what wins with blogs. And like you, I also like to read the about page. It’s like putting all of the pieces together, isn’t it?

      I like what you said about telling others there is room for improvement – it’s not what we say, but how we say it. Absolutely!

  38. Personally, I think that constructive criticism is always a good thing. I willingly accept it. Negative criticism on the other hand is not welcome. I don’t like negative people period. Lol.

    What do I look for when I first visit a website/blog? I like clean appearances (whatever that means). I just don’t like to be hammered/drowned in a lot of widgets or Google Adword and the like. Ever walked into a house that’s just too cluttered and messy? And you feel like you can’t wait to get out? Well, that’s how some blogs feel. I look for coziness. Some people have different styles and likes and I don’t criticize that. I just want to be cozy is all. I want to feel comfortable whilst reading your content ya know?

    As for my blogs design, it’s been an ever-changing piece since day 1. And frankly, I think that will continue to be the case… Whether that’s good or bad I don’t know… LoL. But we shall see where the road takes us.
    .-= Check out Ricardo Bueno´s awesome post: Animoto Property Slideshows =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Ricardo,

      It’s great to see you here. Having seen some of your tweets, I know you’re a busy guy.

      You’re right. There is a huge difference between constructive and negative criticism. Negative criticism is totally unnecessary.

      I like how you equate a blog to a house. They are very similar. And as you said, a cluttered blog can send us packing real fast. Cozy blogs on the other hand, make us want to stick around.

  39. First thing i do is:

    Look at the articles and comments of a blog
    I like when blog admins interact with there commenters, makes the blog alive.

    Design and structure is important to me, so i also look at the structure of the blog. There are some awful blogs out there that i just skip when they look bad 😛

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Willem,

      That’s a good point. When we see the author interacting with those who comment, it does show life, as well as community, on a blog.

  40. MartinNo Gravatar says:

    Lets be honest – the most of comments that are put by ordinary people who are not very experienced in blogging or in writing posts 😉 And those advices (sometimes very critical) are not what we would call “the professional comments”. Of course there are many interesting and helpful tips so it is necessary to read the comments. But there are also many… Completely unnecessary and out of subject.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Martin,

      That’s true. When we read the comments on posts we can find real gems – helpful tips. That’s one thing I love about blogging, people willingly share thereby helping others in the same position.

  41. Hi Barbara — It’s about time someone wrote this and I loved how you compared our blogs to our babies. Also, I agree with you about white space, not overusing ads, consistent and regular content, and spelling/grammar. I thank the computer wizards every day who developed “spell check” :~)

    Regarding constructive criticism, I listen when someone gives me a suggestion about tweaking or changing my blog. Sometimes I’ll make the change and other times I will not. For example, I have been told my posts are a bit too lengthy, but that’s the way they come. It’s me. I talk a lot in person and I write a lot:~)

    The suggestions you give are excellent ways to ensure a blog is seen and is easy for visitors to navigate and enjoy. Certainly, they can help bring more people to a blog.

    However, I think a blog, unless it is a business/marketing blog, can be whatever the “mom” or “dad” wants it to be…you just have to decide what’s most important for you. That’s the beauty of blogging!

    SEE..even my comments are LONG:~)
    .-= Check out Sara B. Healy´s awesome post: The Still Small Voice Was Right =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Oh Sara, you’re funny, “even my comments are LONG” :)

      That’s true. Our blogs can be whatever we choose. And I think that’s what makes blogging so much fun. When we land on a blog for the first time, it’s almost like we can tell a little about the person by the theme they choose, as well as what layout they use.

      I also find it fascinating how the longer a blogger blogs, their blog design/theme will change. I see it as part of our growth process. Often what was important to us when we first started blogging, goes by the wayside.

  42. What do I look for?

    1. Content that calls to me. Totally subjective here, but if the message doesn’t call to me, then I’m not going to read no matter how much it’s “supposed” to be a great blog.

    2. Paragraphs that are easy to read. That means shorter than usual – two or three lines at the most. Lots of white space to allow my eyes to focus on the content.

    3. Relatively short articles. I spend a lot of hours online reading. I just don’t have the time to read posts that are longer than 1000 words, no matter how interesting they are.

    4. Easy to navigate. If I want to find other things on the site, like older posts, it should be easy.

    The rest doesn’t really matter to me, although a nice design and layout go a long way to making me feel welcome.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Alex,

      I’m happy you brought up the point about “content that calls us”. Like you, I’ve gone to blogs that are suppose to be the “it” place to go, only to be disappointed as I didn’t get why the blog was so popular.

      I think like others have mentioned, we need to connect with the blog author. Although every blog isn’t for everyone, most blogs can gain a good following as long as the author remains authentic.

  43. JeanneNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, geez, Barbara. . . your posts raises LOTS of questions for me. Me, who is probably the greenest, newest, wettest-behind-the-ears kid on the blogging block.

    OK, I agree content reigns, especially now for me because I’m wanting to learn it all NOW, you hear me, NOW! Reading comments is also important because there’s so much to learn there as well — like listening to a conversation (duh, that’s what it is, right?)

    Appearance: I like soft and gentle, but that’s just me. Cozy is good.

    I’m hereby inviting EVERYONE reading this to visit my blog (brand newborn baby) and offer suggestions — speak freely, because I’ve developed a really thick skin over the years, so don’t be shy!

    Thanks for your classroom, Barbara — I’ll be here often!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      *smiles* Jean, and you’re welcome.

      I know exactly where you’re at. There’s so much to learn and we become consumed with learning it all – now. On that note, I will say, just take your time and enjoy the journey. All that is in blogosphere to learn, will be there tomorrow, next week, and even next year.

      I accepted your invitation and visited your blog last night. Oh what a joy it was to read your posts. Your journey will be a fun one to follow.

      I’ll see you again soon.

  44. I accept advice and criticism eagerly, but in the end, my blog has to please me, since I’m writing for me.

    As for other blogs – content, content, content. If I like what someone has to say, I will be back. However, if I feel completely overwhelmed by their site (music, advertisements, poor layout), the chance that I will comment when I visit – or the chance that I will even leave my reader to pop over – is rare.
    .-= Check out RC – Rambling Along…´s awesome post: What I have learned… =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi RC,

      Content is the clear winner based on your comment and the comments of others.

      Like you said though, good content can be ruined by add-ons like music, ads or a poor layout. I agree.

  45. EvitaNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Great questions and I completely know what you mean, our blogs, our babies. I have to say I have not actually had many people say to do this or that, but most people I find won’t go out of their way to tell you how to improve. Usually people speak if they really love or hate something…to bad in a way.

    Anyhow I am very open to comments of all sorts, as long as the are respectful of course, but I agree with RC above, even though I want to appeal to my readers, in the end I have to be happy with how the blog looks like first.

    P.S. As an aside and since you have seen many, many blogs, if you ever have any comments or suggestions about my site(s) I’d love for you to pass them along, privately perhaps 😉
    .-= Check out Evita´s awesome post: Book Review: Conversations With God =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Evita,

      I know what you mean about how some will not go out of their way to tell us how to improve.

      What I love about the community here on BWAB is that everyone is willing to say what they like, or don’t. Although we’re hearing personal preferences, they do hold weight as the opinions are coming from bloggers who visit others and make those decisions to continue reading, or not.

      Having said that and having read all of the comments on this post, in a nutshell the consensus is content rules. Music and too many ads can be distracting, the about page is important, as is having a blog that is easy to navigate (can our readers find our older posts?). A cozy feeling to a blog is a plus, as is interaction between the author and their readers.

      P.S. I just clicked over to your blog and you get an “A”. :)

  46. JenNo Gravatar says:

    hi Barbara,
    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog topic! At first when I got serious about blogging it might not have felt like a baby, but now it does. I guess the concept in reading this was new to me, but I felt myself saying YES, right on! As our focus becomes more clear why we must blog, whether it is business or personal reasons, it really does become our pride and joy!! So, thank you for such a wonderful visual!

    I would say, simplicity, great content is best! I get stimulated too easily so I do not like too many ads or too bright of colors. Some art or the titles of the site and blogs really captures my attention. Often I will write a blog simply from inspiration of a title, so I am equally drawn to other bloggers who seem to use this tactic! :) variety is also important, not just the same style all the time, but list blogs, to point form how to’s to engaging conversation, its neat to see a bit of variety even when a blogger has a specialty, i think this shows creativity and willingness to be flexible! :)

    great job! I enjoy following your blogs! :)
    Namaste!
    ~Jen
    .-= Check out Jen´s awesome post: Kindred Spirits: to grieve is to Live,.. =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for your kind words Jen,

      Isn’t it funny how when we first start blogging, we’re not that attached to our blog? But, as time passes, they become more and more like a child to us – something we feel we need to nurture.

      You’ve brought up something new, and that is variety. I like that, too. If we were to land on a blog and the author just carries on about the same topic, often repeating themselves, that gets old. And it’s in that variety we also get to learn more about the author, as well.

      Good points, Jen. Thank you.

  47. MiaHysteriaNo Gravatar says:

    If we ask, we have an obligation to hear. If we are asked, we have an obligation to be honest but not ramming.

    I haven’t solicited feedback from my blog for some time. I have been asked, and have been gentle and thoughtful in my feedback. At least I hope I have.
    .-= Check out MiaHysteria´s awesome post: Tweet Me Friday =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mia,

      Yes, that’s true. If we ask for input, we need to be willing to hear what others are saying. And, if others ask, kindness is key. After all, we’re all in this blogging thing together.

  48. […] loved Brabara Swafford’s honesty in her post Our Blogs, Our Babies – Criticism Hurts, “I know many bloggers (including myself) would like to make a passive income from their […]

  49. Content over design but I also need to see content with a big enough font to read it! Some are great blogs with small font. Yuk.
    I also like shorter posts for the reason that is personal…I’m the direct type of person. I’m to the point kind of person in real and blogging life. I have trouble not mincing words. I don’t care about adds or anything else meaning it doesn’t bother me if the content is great!
    .-= Check out Tess The Bold Life´s awesome post: Bold Solutions For A New World =-.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Tess,

      That’s true. Much can be overlooked in blogs if the content is solid. Like you, I have a hard time with the smaller fonts. Hopefully the one on this blog is to your liking. If not, let me know.