10 Minute Blog Tips: Making a Good First Impression

Filed as Features, Guides on May 25, 2007 7:28 am

What do visitors see when they arrive at your blog?

You have seconds to make a good first impression. That first glance might make all the difference between a subscription and the loss of a return visitor.

Design makes a big difference, as in colours and graphics, but layout could make the biggest difference. What you put and where. Today’s tip: 10 minute blog tweaks that make a good first impression.

Your first job is to download and install the Firefox Web Developer plugin. This allows you to view your blog in various resolutions. Set it to 800×600, 1024×768 etc.

What do you see? Anything on screen without requiring scrolling is considered “above the fold”. This is a phrase inherited from the newspaper industry. Anything above the fold is most likely to be seen and therefore is where you want important content.

Your layout should answer the following questions:

  1. Where am I? – Does your visitor have a clear idea where they have arrived? The first thing they should notice is your blog name. What does this tell them? Does it say “My Stuff” or does it say “Wallys Wonderful World of Widgets – tips and news from the widget world”. They need to know what site they have landed on and why they should care.
  2. Who are you? – You will find it easier to make a connection with your readers if you show them who you are. Put a picture in your sidebar, write an about blurb, sprinkle personal details in your posts. Read this from The Godin on name tags.
  3. What is here? – The visitor is there, now you need to feed them before they wander away. First of course should be the content they came for. Are your headlines and first paragraphs in view above the fold or have you pushed all your content down the page with superfluous navigation and advertising? Does the headline and intro pull the visitor into becoming a reader?
  4. Where now? – You have managed to get them to read your article, can you get them to stay? Help them with useful links and buttons. What good articles should they read next, where do they sign up for your newsletter or RSS subscription. They are not going to go searching, you need to put this stuff right where they can find it.

Get a second opinion – While most of us can see right away any issues in other peoples stuff, we are too close to our own to be objective. We all need a second, third or fourth opinion. Best of all is if you can get an expert opinion (thanks Liz! /wave) and feedback from a non-expert, someone like Grandma. Make notes on what they say or record the conversation.

It’s amazing the difference some small tweaks can make. Normally the problems with a layout are hidden beneath hundreds of tiny changes and delayed due to ongoing commitments and priorities. Take ten minutes to look with fresh eyes, your blog and readers will thank you!

Chris Garrett welcomes your opinion of his blog. Subscribe to get more blogging, copywriting and marketing tips, plus a free ebook on creating flagship content

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  1. By Liz Strauss posted on May 25, 2007 at 12:06 pm
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    Hi Chris!
    What a team Liz and Chris talking blog. That was so productive. I got as much from it as you did!

    I particularly like this sentence that you wrote here:

    Normally the problems with a layout are hidden beneath hundreds of tiny changes and delayed due to ongoing commitments and priorities.

    Over time we add “stuff” to our blogs, especially the sidebar, thinking it’s just one more little thing. But those little things taken together become lots of “ones” that weren’t considered the last time we stood back and looked at the big picture of our blogs.

    We should make it a habit to review our blog design regularly. Thanks for the reminder, Chris!

  2. By Chris Garrett posted on May 25, 2007 at 4:37 pm
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    Any time you want me to return the favour just shout Liz. It’s good to have someone you can rely on to give your blog a reality check :)

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