Blog Critiques: What’s a Successful-Blog?

Terry StarbuckerTerry Starbucker, (moderator?) Ramblings from a Glass Half Full,

David Armano and Liz Strauss (and the audience) are critiquing this site.

Web critique of this:

Liz’s first question – explain what you are doing, and WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?

Dave – says there are some nice elements here, but it can/should be aligned with his personal brand – he is warm and approachable but his design doesn’t show this. There is a disconnect here, even though the blog is really well done and professional.

Liz -says there are almost no visuals, and any of the visuals are BELOW the fold – the statement of his ownership stuff (who I am) takes up so much, almost too much of the valuable real estate. Pushes his content below the fold. She is pointing a number of things that she doesn’t want to see on the most valuable places – even if it does change it seems like it doesn’t (and maybe she doesn’t care to read the static).

Dave – conventions become a standard, they get used to them (whether it’s right or wrong). This same thing is happening with blogs – the first thing that you see is most recent posts… so it’s almost like this is inbetween a blog and a site because I expect certain things on a blog that i’m not seeing here (feels almost like a site, not a blog) … some of these are:

  • see the most recent post at the top, fresh content front and center, and that is what’s changing
  • most recent comments
  • blogrolls
  • categories
  • certain layouts (2 or 3 columns)
  • first form box is either a search or e-mail subscription (most people think the first box they see is a search)
  • look at content sites vs. marketing sites … if you want to learn from examples then go look at things like the NYT sites

Tony Nest Guy asks about two sites, a business site and a blog… David says you need to understand what the strategy is… if your strategy is to put the content first and “be a true blog” then it is more critical to follow the conventions.

David: there are no “rules” but if you have a certain kind of site (marketing for example)… you deliver a certain thing, but you have to have a clear strategy and know what the purpose is and that will have an impact on your design and delivery.

Tony says to create a blog as a sub-tier… (jason: I need to put some recent post stuff on’s first page).

David – has his own site (his name) where you can get his resume and jazz like that… he has very different purposes between this site and his blog, and the designs are different.

Kent wants to know how you can tell if someone is using the search box to subscribe (or vice-versa (sp)).

David – there are two types of visitors to cater to – the first time visitor AND the repeat visitor – how are you going to accomodate both of these?

Liz – Seth Godin always says “where’s your banana?” Where is the monkey supposed to go? Liz finds on most blogs, the place that stands out the biggest and best is the place to click out to someone else’s blog! What it shoudl say is “hire me,” catch my fee” or something like that. What’s your banana.

Dave says “seth’s great” but that’s not accurate – that is looking at the blog from a first time visitor… but what about others? Repeat visitors are going to start seeing blind spots – they are there for the new content… so the question is how do you make the design work for both??

  • Consider what is above the fold (and what is below)
  • Use images to break up content
  • Look at excellent content design (NYT, USAToday) and see what they are doing

Tony the nest guy is talking about design for lot’s of audiences, because even with the regular timers vs. new timers

Book recommendation: Don’t make me think – one of the first places the ideas go to is the top left. David hopes/thinks there will be a followup book on social media. So when it comes to blogs, the first place to look might be center, because of blogs.

Mike Sansone says to find the top 5 sites you like, and the top 5 sites you don’t like.

Wendy P. eMom needed to do a rebrand to make it more gender neutral… but then got comments like “I miss the pictures of your kids” – so she puts the pic’s of her kids in the top right that go through to affiliate links (brilliant!)

(lady that I haven’t met yet) Look at your competition as well … when it comes to design everyone is doing different stuff… make sure you look at your own business, what makes you different and better than your competition, and consider useability… design is a hard thing to say.

From the dude that’s blog is on the screen – he is in a state of flux right now because he is coming from a regular web design guy, and a new blog, and is at a hybrid, but really not sure where he is headed.

Question – why would he want to stop marketing (newsletter)? because 95% of his business comes from referrals… What an interesting point to be at – I wonder why he doesn’t take new business and refer it to someone else.

David – the bigger question is the brand question …

David … and readdressing something, Doc Searles (sp?) has a horrendous looking blog. This is subjective… perhaps it’s right for his brand. However, he has the comment thing that you have to register, which is part of his design. Look at the interactive experience, and there are subjective things and non-subjective things (like having to register to comment).

Candy (sp) says that you need to have the visual represent your brand and personal, not just your content.

Lorelle – design EVERYTHING. Even a 404 needs to be designed!

Chris Cree – what about the recreational blogger?

Jason – you will always have a brand –intentional or default (that was from Lorelle)

BlackInBusiness -Tony says this might not be super intentional design but it’sreally excellent – it’s “simple and to the point” …

David – getting your brand right …

As a designer, when it is your work, it’s really hard! Other comment – with pictures… we want to see pictures of people to connect with you!

Lorelle – one of her most successful pages is the “who in the hell are you?” Her name became her brand… it doesn’t have to be a picture of you but it has to be something.

Adam – if you are in the service business, and you want to sell you or your talking or consulting or whatever, you are a fool if you don’t put your picture… if you are hiding your picture what else are you going to hide from me? “I want to look in the picture of you and see me!” This is the kind of thing that creates community.

Lisa (?) – by hearing you speak and seeing your website, it’s the classic case of connecting YOU with your WEBSITE.

David – there are a lot of blogs that seem just too self promotional.

Jeffrey Brown (Bawld Guy (a realtor)) – he doesn’t have his picture anywhere … but he has his branding. He is doing an excellent (there are two types of bloggers: the kumbaya set and the business set – and he doesn’t care what anybody looks like – and will never put his image up)

Someone else – as an editor, it’s critical for him to have his picture, holding his two kids… it is an “I am a person trying to help you…”

a lady I don’t know – this is the one way you can put in eye contact.

Ann Michael – if you want a picture, put the picture up. If that doesn’t work for you brand then don’t do it. However if there is no picture then there are no preconceived ideas of what that person looks like. Do what works for you.

Troy Worman – “i’m the last one to critique design I identify when I see a picture”… but when I look at business that’s different.

guy I don’t know yet – it all starts and ends with your brand. When you figure that out you’ll know what your design needs to be.

Wendy P eMom – if the readers are asking for your photo then they want to connect with you more.

Lady who I had dinner by last night (sorry, didn’t remember your name :p) Design doesn’t need marketing, marketing is separate from design – it isn’t a website or a blog, it’s about an online conversation. You notice good design, you FEEL great design.

Liz – what makes a successful and outstanding blogger – and the answer is: only you can answer that!

And that’s the end folks – see you next year.

8 thoughts on “Blog Critiques: What’s a Successful-Blog?

  1. RIck Cockrum


    Thank you for blogging SOBCon. I wasn’t able to attend physically, but am getting a taste of it by reading you, Easton, Sean, Jesse, and others who were there.

  2. Karin H.

    Hi Jason

    Did you get any sleep at all???? Wow, that is one load of articles – have to read them one by one I think – spread over a few days. You’re a top journalist!

    BTW: the ‘someone else – editor’ hope you got to know him a bit better too. IMHO it must be Marcus Goodyear of Goodword Editing. His family is his reason. And he’s a great guy too 😉

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  3. Karin H.

    Hi again Jason

    Read this topic in its whole now. Poor Dawud. His main aim of his blog and IMHO he is succeeding with that, is to create conversations. His blog is ‘lively’, he even rebranded it recently (from Healthy Webdesign to a more personal brand D Miracle @), and although his topics can sometimes be described ‘random’ most are about making your website – blog work for your business.

    And besides that, I like him 😉

    Karin H. (Keep It simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

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  6. Mary Schmidt

    Thanks for typing your fingers to the bone for us! Greet to have this record. And, I’m the “Lady at dinner” who got up and blathered at the very last. What I actually said is that I totally disagreed with David’s statement that design doesn’t need marketing. Everything we do is – in fact – design…and marketing. You can’t truly separate either out as a distinct activity, budget line item, or somethng you go “get” (as in, I gotta get some marketing.)

    Looking forward to seeing all y’all next year!

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