SEO, Usability, Graphics … What Should My Redesign Focus On?

I’ve had this site for about a year now and feel it’s time for a redesign. I think that there are improvements to be made in terms of usability and conversion rates, but most importantly, I’d love to hear what you think needs to be fixed/improved. How can I make my site better?

Some goals I have for the coming year:

Develop my audience and reach. I’d like to have 20,000 + subscribers a year from now. I don’t know how realistic that is, considering that I don’t blog about web design or beginner topics that seem to generate subscription volume for most sites, but it’s something I hope to achieve anyways.

Finally launch Original Monetization. My developer’s gone AWOL with my money and code, and is not answering emails, which is quite frustrating. This site would likely be used to cross-promote it.

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Comments

  1. How about making it a business case and asking advice from specialists from every field? You know, something like "SEOroi, the place where SEO, usability, design and content meet". Don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't stop at just improving the design. *ducks*

    Comment by Wiep - October 30, 2008 @ 3:13pm
  2. Not sure what you mean. Like, asking how to improve my content ? I mean, to me, usability is part of design, which goes beyond just graphics in my books. And who would I go to to improve the content? Ultimately, I need to figure out who/how can advise me on gaining subscribers, though I think I'm going to launch an ad campaign to that effect soon, but considering every internet marketer thinks they have the answer, it's kind of hard to find the right person(s). Can you clarify what you were getting at?

    Comment by gab - October 30, 2008 @ 4:28pm
  3. What I meant was that asking others (preferably specialists from specific fields, such as an online PR expert for your press page) for input, you could try to make the perfect website. I know that every internet marketer thinks they have the answer, but all these answers combined can make a solid answer that probably isn't far from the truth.

    Comment by Wiep - October 30, 2008 @ 4:51pm
  4. Hi Gab, I second Wiep's idea. The concept is something I have personally thought about taking on for a small medium sized business. Here is my take on the idea. There are a handful of A Listers in every field (i.e. blogging, seo, social media, link building, ppc, copywriting, etc.), but there are many more B or C Listers (if there is such a thing as a C Lister) that don't have the sheer experience someone like Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan, Rand Fishkin, and others have - everyone knows them. But very few know about the B/C listers, and yet their are some very talented ones, they just don't have that level of exposure. So the idea is as follows: Find a number of people in each area who are willing to work with you to redesign your website. These people should know the industry they are going to represent for you, have a collaborative team effort mentality, and be willing to do it for little to no money. The last part is tough, because we all need bread and butter. But I see advantages to an opportunity like this: 1. The project will be recognized and most likely mentioned on some of the A Listers blogs (they are always looking for something different). This will help gain you and your "team" recognition. 2. These "team members" could become strategic partners and that will bring customers down the road (think long term). 3. It will provide experience and it will be more valuable than just doing a project on their own because it will be a large collaborative effort working together. These sorts of projects raise different challenges. 4. Everyone's brand increases...if done correctly. If you choose your "team" wisely, they will do the job you expect and you win. Because you win, they win too and their "status" elevates as they become more recognized. I know the plan isn't perfect and it probably has a lot of flaws or weak points. But I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this. It might not be for you, but it would be a cool thing to try. [Ed: Thanks for the quality comment, Bob]

    Comment by Bob Potter - November 2, 2008 @ 8:15pm
  5. That reminds me ... I've neglected Best of The Z List and need to fix that. The database got corrupted and took the site down. As to your suggestion, that's interesting in theory. In practice: 1) People want to get paid. That's normal, and I don't begrudge folks that. If you want work done, pay for it. 2) Attention on A listers' blogs isn't valuable enough consideration for the work that goes into a design. A few links and a few hundred visitors (the likely outcome of the attention) is not motivating sufficiently. 3) I have experience and so will the people whom I'd like to work with on this. The cost in time and aggravation of working with amateurs outweighs the benefits when cash isn't the #1 deciding factor. Something like that could work as a daily blog series for a month on Problogger. "30 days to a complete redesign..." Do you have feedback on how to improve the current design, Bob? Things that are lacking/wrong with it?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - November 3, 2008 @ 12:34am
  6. I can recommend a guy as a prominent advocate of simple and semantic web design. He's in the UK, but most of his clients are US-based. Regarding the current design Gab, I would go with the 'zones' approach. i.e. clearly marked areas of content, using shape and colour. As you have so much (excellent!) content on SEO, it's important to clearly mark the different types of content and also where one part ends and the next starts, in my humble opinion....the blog as an example. It needn't be brash or sharp, and in fact subtlety is definitely the best way to go. I'm personally not a fan of Times New Roman font but that's just me being picky now... Maybe an approachable/subtle call to action on each page? You can really impress with your writing so capitalise there and then. Your website has some distinctive areas though (e.g. Times New Roman, good use of interlinking, impressionable logo). It has a personality, which people always want to see. And it's a place I like to spend time meandering through the content so don't change it too much! Cheers, Ben

    Comment by Ben McKay - November 4, 2008 @ 2:27pm
  7. Hey Gab, Thanks for the feedback. (I was expecting to receive an email letting me know about future comments.) You asked for some design/ui thoughts (I've also included some urls to examples to demonstrate what I'm talking about): 1. The most important strategy is to keep your awesome content up front (and you have a lot). One reason I've continued to subscribe to your website is because you choose to write about topics that others are not. With blogs rehashing the same info, yours will stand out and keeping your articles up top/above the fold on your homepage is key. 2. Since you want to grow your subscriber base, I would place a "recent comments" section up top to stimulate more conversation and add value. Your blog doesn't get the number of "hey, that's a great post" type comments - they are more thoughtful and that generates value and more conversation. 2.5. I'm a fan of this type of tabbed interface - http://cli.gs/5TELWq because it is fast, clean, and keeps three high priority features without taking up three times the space. You could use something like this for my #1 and #2 suggestions. 3. Many Wordpress driven blogs allow a commenter to receive email updates on the particular post they leave a comment on. I for one have left multiple comments under one post as future commenter conversations continued (and was kept up-to-date because of this feature). 4. Because this is your business website and blog, I would create a custom home page that highlighted your work and displayed a featured (most recent) and recent posts via snippets. For homepages such as this, I prefer snippets because it allows me to take a quick glance without tons of scrolling to see what you've written recently. 5. You've got a big RSS subscribe button, but no subscribe via email option. Give that option. This could help with your subscriber goal for next year. These next items are less strategic and more "design" oriented and are 'my' preferences. - I agree with Ben on the Times font choice. I personally find Verdana, Helvitica, and Lucida to be much easier to read. - Keep it two column. Move the content to the left and move the side column to the right. Studies show online reading patterns they always start top left - again, you've got great content, so take advantage of our habits. - I like fixed width (vs. liquid). Again, studies show that wider columns put a bit more strain on our eyes. Well that should add to your list of ideas I'm sure you have running around in your head! If you have any other questions, post it and I'll check back at this post more often.

    Comment by Bob Potter - November 10, 2008 @ 1:14pm
  8. Ben, I accidentally missed your comment because it wasn't held up in moderation. Sorry for the delay answering. I like the zones idea, and think that will be a core element of the new design. I need to decide on the site's goals and where the balance of business development vs reader development should lie, first though. You've given me food for thought here. You're right that Arial and other fonts are easier to read. I think that's a shift I'll adopt for the blog content. I'm wondering if I want to do that for the business part of the site too. @Bob - I'll look at Verdana, Helvetica and Lucida as well. BTW, I'll be in touch for the name of your UK guy. I'm assuming he's a WP dev? And thanks a bunch for the kind words on my writing! That's what keeps me motivated :D. Bob, that was a spectacular comment! I like the homepage snippets idea , as well as the recent comments bit. Perhaps something to promote really great comments like yours and Ben's would be helpful. The promotion of community elements is a key point you've hit on and I think that's got to be a core principle for the redesign. The tabbed interface is also an intelligent suggestion. I have it on the backend and will probably consider something of the sort for the new frontend. The plugin to subscribe to a post's comments is a good idea. I also just downloaded a category-level subscription plugin and hope to implement that soon. Email subscription and fixed width are also good points. I need to consider analytics on my average visitor's screen size though ... more and more people are getting oversized screens and fixed width can look a little silly on them. Perhaps there's a way to create a "range" of widths?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - November 10, 2008 @ 9:03pm
  9. Re: Screen Size I come from the stand point that as the content area widens, reading becomes a bit more "strenuous" on our eyes. (I tried finding an article I thought I had saved on this topic, but couldn't locate it.) The basic premise is that moving your eyes 3/4 of the way across a screen or paper for that matter is more difficult than 1/3 to 1/2 of a screen. This is why newspapers/magazine columns are roughly 3-5" wide. In regard to people having wider monitors, if you're concern is about your site looking silly, then the best way to tackle it is to use a percentage based liquid layout with a minimum and maximum width set. The best example I can provide is: www.clearleft.com Go ahead and minimize your screen and pay attention to the main content column as well as the side column. While they shrink and expand, they do so at different rates. They key is to use percentages vs pixels for the width, padding, and margins. As a comparison, your main content expands and contracts, but the padding/margins of your content does not (nor does your side column).

    Comment by Bob Potter - November 10, 2008 @ 11:49pm
  10. Thanks for the fast reply Bob. I agree that lines being too wide is a problem. I was also unaware of the limitations of my liquid-width design. I'd thought it had gotten done fully. The percentage tip is one that makes sense, and I'll keep in mind in selecting a designer for the new site. As an aside, Clearleft's content overlaps itself when I narrow the site size to just a few inches. Nobody would do that, but I find that such extreme testing shows you how well a site was designed - it brings out the blemishes and flaws. In all fairness, that happens here too.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - November 11, 2008 @ 1:12am
  11. Just emailed you the developer's details... Ben

    Comment by Ben McKay - November 11, 2008 @ 9:47am

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