Chime In: Feedback Needed for Blog Redesign

I’m practicing what I preach to clients, and am adopting one of the five objectives we call “Embracing” which is when brands use social technologies to collaborate with their customers to create new products. In this case, the product is my blog, and the customers are you, my community.

I’m undergoing a blog redesign, and after deciding on designers (read the process) I’m working with Mitch from studionashvegas. We’ve done several comps on my redesigned logo, which is now finalized, but am looking for feedback from YOU, my readers on the blog redesign.

I study community, and this blog needs to serve your needs as well as mine. I know who my audience is from real research (see stats), it’s primarily interactive marketers at agencies, corporate, and consultants. Since I’ve outgrown this current design, see the overflowed right nav, it’s time to clean up the layout, make it easier to find information and highlight what I think is important.

Although we’ve taken a few comps to get to this point, here’s the latest version we’re willing to share. Since you’re going to be looking at this design as a community member, I want your feedback, and am watching for patterns in suggestions, or what you like.

Comp 1 for Redesign of Web Strategy Blog
Click image to see large version

We’re also having the same discussion on Friendfeed. Here’s to making a great blog to suit our needs as a community, love to hear your opinion, please leave a comment below.

  • Very clean design. I like the social tools nav bar. In the spirit of feedback I would suggest getting some code from getsatisfaction.com so you can add a small expandable “Feedback” bar on the left-hand side. If you want an example check it out on my blog.

    Also just a small nitpick, but perhaps consider widening the space between the right hand nav bar and the body? As all the colors of text/background match it may be easier for the eyes to discern between two diff. sections of text?

    Good luck with the relaunch!

  • As long as you keep publishing full feeds, I don’t care what it looks like — for some of us, it’s actually about the content. 🙂

  • Len,

    Thanks, Good one, should I use Get satisfaction or user voice? I have a user voice page that allows readers to vote for suggestions.

    Sandy, thanks! I still got a lot of traffic to the site (says analytics) a great deal from Google search as people research topics and end up on my blog.

  • I’m reading the rss-feed of your blog. So, while impressed by all the effort you put into the design of your weblog, I might never see it.

  • Jason

    Since you are revamping your entire site I think you should update your picture as well.

  • Jason thanks

    I’ve some pics to use…thanks

  • Hi Jeremiah, thanks for asking the crowd for feedback!

    Over the Christmas break, I did a blog redesign of my own, so here are some of the things I considered in my reorganization:

    1) When I first looked at the screen shot, I didn’t even notice the “popular posts” on the sidebar. I’d worry you’re not giving a strong enough call to action to draw people deeper into past content.

    2) You’re one of the most well-known and respected individuals in the social media field (as far as I’m concerned). You have a large number of subscribers and followers. I would continue to showcase that, as a sign of your expertise.

    3) What’s the “web Strategy Vault”? I’ve never clicked on it in your existing layout, b/c I thought it was the archive. Now obviously I see that’s not the case (since you’re also surfacing the archive), but I would consider having some sort of call out (even if it’s just a tooltip on mouseover, although that’s not ideal) to let people know what’s in that section.

    4) What next? We’re looking at a single blog post, and I don’t get a good sense of where you want me to go next. You may want to look at bit more at the navigation: should you do “previous/next posts”? How about “other {category name} posts”? Although you have many frequent readers, you want to give first-timers a way to explore your site a bit more (In my redesign, I added a breadcrumb trail and “more in XYZ category to allow people to explore related content, as well s “prev/next links” to allow them to explore in a sequential fashion)

    Despite my “suggestions” above, I think it’s a good clean design. I like the fact that you’ve limited the number of links, as it’s less overwhelming. I just think there are a few tweaks you could do to make the blog a bit more usable.. and many of them are wordpress plugins! 🙂

    Looking forward to the launch!

  • I agree with Sandy, it’s about the content not the design. It all looks the same on Google Reader.

    What would be really nice is if there were a way to once a day publish all the comments on a post, say 24 hours after the post was originally published.

    What rss readers miss is the comments. Getting them individually is too time consuming, but if they linked to a post and published through an rss feed once a day, that would be great. And you might even know someone who does that…

    Love your stuff!

  • Hi there Jeremiah (and happy new year!),

    Having recently re-designed my site/blog — and being OK with the result, altho no deliriously happy — I appreciate how difficult this process is.

    I think your design guy has a number of things spot on:

    – twitter feed at the top
    – search box at top
    – easily visible “sharing” tools at top
    – clean simple nav bar at top
    – right-hand column well organized (and features the important info)

    Only thing I’m not 100 percent about is the color scheme. You said you wanted a makeover. Change it! Try something new, something a bit unexpected.

    My .02

  • Wilder

    Looks good.

    Would like to see more video/audio on your site –text is becoming old(er) school. It take more work, but is worth it.

    Small comments.
    – think about what you want your brand to be. isn’t a 100% clear.
    – what’s the difference betw Vault and Archives? Naming is too similar
    – its good you have RSS feed and the FaceBook, Linked In chicklettes high on the page, but maybe some text explaining them. Newbies might not get it. Depends though on your audience.
    – I don’t want to scroll to Subscribe Via email
    – how about adding ratings
    – we are using user voice (thanks to you) and like it, so maybe have an ongoing dialogue with your readers about how to improve the blog.. ongoing rating and comments (keep it organic)
    – how will popular posts (and comments, if you have them be determined). seems like it is just stuck there on the page
    — too much wasted space in the header.

    That’s it for now. Willing to look at other designs.

    Thanks for all your great work and information in 2008. Definately made my job easier,

    Scott Wilder
    Intuit

  • Andrew – you can subscribe to the comments on any WordPress blog at /comments/feed/ unless that has been explicitly disabled. Works fine for this blog.

  • Last message was clipped: I meant to say [blogurl]/comments/feed/, e.g., http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/comments/feed/

  • FWIW, my thoughts (in random order)…

    Rounded corners are on their way out. Quickly.

    Are you abandoning categories? If not, where will they go?

    The reading font is too small. Design-wise, it looks too small relative to the other type treatments in the design, but it’s also just too small for comfortable reading.

    Twitter feed at the top is nice, but maybe not very “discoverable.” Also, it’s not clear whether the icons next to the search box represent your profiles on various other services, or if they are buttons for sharing your site/posts via those services. If the former, then why is twitter separate, and not represented in this group of icons?

    Why is the “Contact” tab highlighted? Is that just to represent the “on” state for the navigation – even though the page shown is not the Contact page?

    Is this the home page? Will it just show your most recent post as shown here, or multiple posts? How do I navigate back to the home page if I click away from it (the logo? that’s probably fine)

    The Date icon adjacent to the title looks nice when the post title wraps to two lines (because the heights are even); make sure you’re happy with the way it looks next to both shorter and longer titles.

    The text justification and indents used in the sidebar look a little messy to me.

    Always enjoy your work. Keep it up!

  • Looks great, Jeremiah.

    Only thing I would personally change is the logo. I’d try to have something more unique and that represents you a bit more. Easy to say but I think some more thought into the logo would be great.

  • Hey Jeremy, a couple of random thoughts:
    – The big “Nov 12” box is better than the current setup. The date is obviously really important in this space. However, the year is not irrelevant and it’s nowhere on that page.
    – Serif fonts in the main text really make a big difference in readability.
    – I didn’t see the Twitter feed, looked like a toolbar to me. I think it’s better than the giant blue box, however, why not put it under the search bar (above the photo and title). The top 2 inches are fast becoming the “header zone”, who looks for anything above the logo?
    – Difference between “Vault” and “Archives”?
    – Are photos an important part of your website? They’re getting a good chunk of real estate.
    – Are the categories in the title clickable? They’re not under-lined or differently colored, so it’s not clear.
    – The various chicklets are contextually attached to you. Don’t they belong closer to your photo (maybe a vertical bar beside the photo)? Right now, they’re visibly attached to the search button, which is kind of confusing b/c they obviously have nothing to do with search. If I want to find your linked-in profile, my first instinct is to look on/around the big picture of you and the whole “About Jeremiah” section.
    – Is there a hyperlink anywhere on the page to Forrester Research? Is there a link to the landing page for your department?
    – Take a look at your title, that line breaking is very unusual.
    – The bar on the right-hand side only has “whitespace” as a separator. A slight change in background color could go a long way.
    – “Archive” link at the top but not at the bottom?
    – How important are videos? They have a link on your current page. Are they more or less important than the Flickr photos?

  • – Take look at your job title, that line breaking is very unusual.

  • Although you’ve already decided on the logo, it looks awfully similar to the Mobile Marketing Association’s one… http://www.mmaglobal.com/

  • Just a little feedback. I like the overall concept of your logo with the dots, but it is kind of big and distracting being all white. I think social media is all about growing, so I would try to add some sort of component that suggests movement, growth, and knowledge accumulation.

    Again, not that the logo has movement, but that it’s still but suggests movement and growth.

    I think video or podcasts would be better than the Flickr photos, unless you have some knock em dead photos to put up.

    Great new page, good luck.

  • Thanks for all the feedback, I’m reading EACH one and taking each to heart. I’ll be tallying up and putting weight next to the common requests and feedback I’m getting.

    Your voice is important to me, thanks!

  • 1) At first glance, the comp looks good. I still think there is too much wasted space in the header – seems overly luxurious.

    2) I don’t like the copy in the header – suggest some word-smithing on the “Jeremiah discusses..” line. Sex it up?

    3) The default article font size is too small.

    4) I almost missed the tweet headline at the very top – after I noticed it, I liked it, but… you tweet like noone else I know. Consider a side-bar widget that shows your last “x” (say 5?) tweets.

  • Many of us have talked about the idea that you need a CMS. You can still use this new blog & the header & use a CMS like Joomla which will surface your most read content (and whatever is deemed valuable).

    I’m very happy with my site’s makeover at:
    http://communitystrategist.com
    and my blog is integrated but still at
    http://conniebensen.com

  • Jeremiah,

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment, and Happy New Year!

    Although some of your commenters are mostly right that it’s ultimately about the content, the reason you have a web destination in the first place is to offer readers/subscribers a branded experience, otherwise the website would disappear in lieu of a faceless one-way subscription model.

    Hong Group is thinking a lot about how social technologies can best integrate with blogs, newsrooms and corporate websites to offer visitors the most relevant information and useful connections without overwhelming or distracting from the very few main purposes of a site, which again is ultimately the experience of consuming the content plus interaction. Your audience needs to be given compelling reasons to revisit frequently.

    With that in mind, a few suggestions for your consideration:

    * How can you better utilize the APIs of Facebook, FriendFeed, and LinkedIn to name a few, to bring dynamic content into the interface, instead of just offering a grouping of icons which require an additional click and potentially route the user away from the site?

    * How do your users want to interact with you (not just passively consume your content via the feed)? Where can we offer additional pathways for that interaction?

    * Your twitter bar at the top does seem to get lost – I would argue that the branding should remain the topmost area, with content-level items such as that twitter feed appear prominently below that header bar, but above the body copy.

    * Legibility is not ideal here – it’s our preference to up the body copy size at least 2 points for an easier read, and to make sure there is ample side margins and white space – give the visitors weary eye a visual vacation, and they’ll come back for more.

    * You don’t need that much branding space at the top – you seem to be wating a good bit of valuable real estate. Use begative space liberally, but don’t waste it.

    Hope these thoughts are helpful, and best of luck.

    Michael Mancuso
    Director of Interactive Services
    Horn Group

  • Zachary Reiss-Davis

    More important than any of the below (I’ve done a lot of web design work – these are just quick thoughts):
    It’s the content – I rarely look at the website – RSS feeds all the way.

    On my widescreen fairly small laptop, there is simply too little content “above the fold”. But this is my biggest complaint with the current layout as well.

    I really dislike the left-aligned “About J.” text; it removes the negative space divider between the right-column and the main column that is present currently and makes it feel much more cluttered than it is. I would either right-align that section or swap it and your picture to re-create that line. I can explain this from a design standpoint more if you want; the human eye needs clean negative space.

    In general, I dislike having paragraph break spacing be a full stop tall, and you may have it as much as 1.3 or 1.5x tall; try two-thirds or half the width of the text and I think you’ll find it flows much better. (your current layout probably is a full stop; the new one is more and thus worse).

    One idea: how about putting the “about” and maybe the picture in the big block of fairly useless space that is the sentence inside {…}? It’s too much wasted space in too good a spot. There’s nothing to keep the eye there.

    Like someone else said, I don’t know what the difference is between “vault” and “archive”. It should be more clear.

    If you aren’t using twitter anymore, it shouldn’t be the top thing on your page.

    A positive: I like the new logo.

    I don’t like the way the date is displayed; it feels tacky/amateurish. A clean date byline “12 November, 2008” would suit you better. (Think AP style)

    I agree with someone above that you should consider getting a new picture; nothing wrong with this one, but you can probably do better, and your face is part of your brand.

    There should be a clear, above the fold link to your tags for your posts so they are easy to access (or they should scroll down the side like they do now).

    I’d be happy to discuss more in detail at any point – It’s an interesting effort; sorry I’m not a big fan.

    -Zack Reiss-Davis

  • Zachary Reiss-Davis

    (NOTE: I meant I’m not a big fan of the new layout)

  • Michael, Zach

    Thanks for this, we’ve another iteration coming, stay tuned. I’m capturing all your feedback and will analyze, prioritize, and discuss with Mitch.

  • Hi Jeremiah,

    I am a designer and blogger. You’ve got some excellent feedback here. Overall the new design is clean and easy to navigate.

    A couple of things:

    1. There is too little space between the left and right column.
    2. The subheads in the main content need to be bigger and/or a different color. The eye needs to be able to use them for better information intake down the page.

    BIG SUGGESTION:

    I am a specialist in strategic brand development and deployment and I think you are really missing a big opportunity here. You banner is completely generic both in content and design.

    Web Strategy is a broad and almost meaningless name. Certainly not unique in any way. It barely describes what you do. You’re tagline helps to explain, but there is virtually not brand messaging here.

    I would suggest developing a strong personal brand that establishes your unique perspective and expertise in what you do (think Tom Peters).

    Let me know if you want to discuss further.

    Zoe

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  • I must have missed this post over the holiday break but I’m glad to have caught the link from your post today. I was on last night and was very frustrated by the lack of good social bookmarking and sharing tools. I wanted to post your stats post to Digg but I couldn’t find a share this type function and I’m too lazy to copy the URL, open a new tab and go to Digg myself. I love to share good content but unless it is super easy (URL and description pre-populated), I just can’t take the time. Good luck with the redesign. When I advise clients on blog implementation and new website redesigns, I look to you and other experts who have implemented the latest tools, widgets, and the best practices of design for examples.

  • Hey everyone, Mitch here (the designer). Jeremiah and I have compiled a lot of the feedback into a spreadsheet that I’ve been going over, making what changes I can. Thank you all for your great feedback, and (on a personal note) I’m glad that the overall consensus is positive.

    If you have questions on why I made a certain area a certain color or shape or design or whatever, feel free to reach out to me on twitter (http://twitter.com//studionashvegas) and I’ll be happy to answer when I get the opportunity (I do have a blog design to finish, after all 🙂

    Thanks again!

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  • Good idea.very wonderful blog.and i wish you have a good time.

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