We’ve all been there, landed on a site that drives us absolutely crazy. At times it can be our very own site. As a blogger and business owner I tend to focus on content most of the time, however as a designer I can never ignore the visual aspects of a site I visit. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, then you’ve seen my site go through many changes. At one point I probably had half if not more of my own pet peeves going on with my site. I believe most of them came from my own frustration with not having a site I was in love with and having a site with no real focus.
When I rebranded in March, it was much easier for me to develop a cohesive brand, on both design and content fronts. In rebranding, I took a deep into what my businesses mission was, my own personal design aesthetic, and the type of content I felt I could best share and educate people on. Its the one reason I’m so passionate about branding and helping others with theirs. All too often we wonder why we our readership isn’t growing, stats are low, and why no one is sharing or engaging our content, many of these times its due to a lot of the things I’ll be sharing with you in today’s post. These are things that again I’ve either had to correct on my own site or that I’ve observed throughout my many years of blogging, that I feel really have a negative impact on growth.
Of course you know I never identify a problem without providing a solution for it. My intent with this post is to help you identify those problem areas with your content or design, in hopes that it won’t take you multiple revisions like it took me to get things right. So here’s some things that you don’t want on your site or in the content you produce:
1. Low resolution, unclear images
You may can guess why this one is number one, and its pretty easy; the visual catches the eye. When it comes to the images you have on your site, you never (and I rarely use the word never) want to use fuzzy or low resolution images or graphics. For one, many of the devices people use these days are built with retina ready technology, so low resolution images can appear extremely fuzzy or unclear on screens.
The fix: To be on the safe side, save your images optimized for the web, at twice the normal file size. Once you’re in your post editor, you can custom set the dimensions to display at the normal size.
2. Slow loading pages
Let’s just be honest here, no one likes to wait…especially online. Your site having optimal speed is crucial to the visitor and reader experience that you provide. You never want to have people waiting a long time to view your content. We live in a fast moving world and the online world moves even faster.
“…nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.” – source
Keep in mind that many who have a poor visiting experience on your site due to slow page load won’t return. If you sell things on your site, this can have a huge negative impact on your success. You’re setting yourself up to loose conversions and referrals with this one little thing that can be corrected very easily.
The fix: Using tools like Pingdom and Google’s PageSpeed Insight can give you insight about your page speed, as well as offer potential fixes for the slow load time. A few of the things I do for my site on a weekly and monthly basis to help with page speed is clean up old media files, such a graphics that I’m not using, and run the WP Optimize plugin to clean up my database. I also use a plugin called EWWW Image Optimizer to reduce the file size of the images I upload, since large images can slow down page load time.
3. Not being able to find an email sign up box or social media icons
You can’t expect people to follow you or sign up for your email list if you make it hard for them to do so. I can’t count how many times I’ve come across an amazing blogger that I want to follow and wasn’t able to find a single, sole social media link on their site. At times, when I did find the links they were either super small, at the bottom of the site (I have one caveat!), didn’t stand out, or were broken. The same thing goes for the email list, so there that goes…one missed follower or subscriber!
The fix: Position your social media buttons or links and your email sign ups boxes near the top of your site, in very noticeable, yet non detracting from your content, areas. Its also a great idea to post these icons and sign up boxes at the bottom of your posts and on other pages on your site. *My one caveat to having your social media icons or links at the bottom of your site is that you must have them at the top, and in other places as well.
You want to make it extremely easy for people to follow you, so by having them in multiple places, you leave people with little work to do other than a simple click to become part of your community.
4. Logos and headers that are too big or small
Disproportionate graphics are never good, but especially when they are the main focal point of your site, like a logo or header. This makes your site look unprofessional, and can really make a beautiful web design look horrible. I’ve seen this time and time again, and it never fails that other design elements of the site tend to follow suite, either not being proportionate to the overall design and inconsistent as well.
The fix: Your logo or header should be noticeable such that when visitors visit your site it stands out and is easily identifiable. However, it should be so big that it takes up a fourth of your page, unless you have a site that is using a photo background as a header or has a parallax effect like Bliss & Faith. The size of your logo or header really depends on your sites design and dimensions, but here are best practices that you can go by or keep in mind when creating or having your logo created:
Don’t have your logo be so large that its overwhelming to the eye.
Don’t have your logo be so small that its not noticeable.
Consider what position your logo will be aligned on your site. – A center logo will typically be larger than a left or right aligned one.
Too much white space or not enough around the logo is a no-go. – Balance amongst all design elements on your site must be considered.
If your logo is a part of your navigation menu, it should be larger than the text links of the menu. *Note: I’m not referring to your site title being a sticky part of your navigation menu, i.e like on Bliss & Faith. I’m referring to the placement of your actual logo at the top of your site with no scrolling occurring.
5. No breaks between text in posts
Large blocks of text with no breaks in between can be overwhelming to readers. When you break up your content it makes it easier to reader and more appealing. Using large blocks of text can also make your content difficult to follow, because its easy for someone to loose their space while reading so much text.
The fix: Organize your content in a hierarchical fashion. Break up large blocks of text with spaces, subheadings, graphics, or call to actions.
Another thing to keep in mind, is to take note of the spacing between words. You don’t want your text to appear squished, nor do you want it to be too spaced out. Adjusting the letter-spacing can be edited via the CSS Stylesheet for your theme. I recommend using a plugin to edit your stylesheet, and not overwriting your original theme’s stylesheet. WordPress’ Jetpack plugin includes a CSS Editor, making it very easy to make these small changes.
6. Content without images
Unless you’re reading the dictionary or a novel, most things that people read have some form of visual stimulation included in them. One mistake I see bloggers make all too often is not including images in their posts. When you post a bunch of words your content can appear boring and vanilla, as well as having a lack of effort put forth in creating it.
The fix: When you include images in your posts, you’re letting readers know that you’re making the extra effort to make the post resonate with them. Including at least one image within your post can do just this. You can use your own photos, stock photography, or programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, PicMonkey, and Canva to create post graphics. PicMonkey (aff link) and Canva are free by the way!
7. Unorganized content
Clean, organized, easy to navigate content that is appealing to your reader should be at the forefront of how you set up your site. Messy content denotes that you either are an amateur or that you don’t care about the flow of your content. The human brain likes order, so when content is unorganized, it send the message that it makes no sense.
The fix: All of your content, including text and graphic elements should have a clean and organized look. If your site has a sidebar, don’t clutter it up with too many things, especially ads. Utilize the space on your site in smart ways, to draw visitors in and make your best content standout. You don’t want the usefulness of your content to be overshadowed by a lack of organization. The same thing goes for the header and footer areas of your site, in that you want to keep them clutter-free.
8. Too many ads – in between posts, at the top of posts, at the bottom of posts all at once.
Ads should not be in places that call-to-actions should be in. In addition, they are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. There are much better and effective ways to make money online or as a blogger than displaying ads. In displaying ads, many have way too many of their site, all over the place and they’re detracting from the content. Also, displaying too many ads can send the wrong message to your visitors, denoting that you only care about making money and not really helping your readers.
The fix: Select one or two prime locations on your site to display your ads. Include no more than one or two in a row if your site utilizes a sidebar, place an ad before your header so that its easily recognizable and one of the first things that people see, or include a ad at the bottom of your site. Stay away from pop-up or auto-play ads, as this is a sure-fire way to loose visitors, because they can be seen as annoying.
9. Posts that don’t come through on the promise of the headline.
There is a clear reason I saved on of my top (most peeved) mistakes for second to last! One of the mistakes that irks me the most is a post with a headline that doesn’t come through on the promise of it. This is especially frustrating when I go to a post and think I’m going to learn something amazing, and it ends up being a complete let down. Many times its due to there being a lack of information or detail within the post or the post being completely off subject from the headline.
The fix: I discussed long-form blogging a while back and how I preferred to blog this way, because I’m a huge proponent of giving readers as much information as possible. Landing on a post that lacks detail is one of the ways that posts don’t come through on the promise of their headlines. Of course its just as bad to have a really long post that does the same thing. Brainstorming ahead of time, creating an outline, and clearly thinking through the point of your headline are all ways in which you can stay on subject, and don’t forget to add as much detail as possible.
10. Bait and switch posts
These kinds of posts should seriously be outlawed. They plain out lie to and disappoint readers. Many times people publish these kinds of posts, because of ulterior motives. They think that the compelling headline is going to overshadow the fact that they are trying to trick readers into buying, agreeing, or supporting whatever they are writing about. It rarely works, because people are very quick to point out the main subject of a post, since its the one thing we look as soon as we land on it.
The fix: Its simple, be honest with readers on why you’re writing the post. If you’re selling something let them tactfully know upfront, and preferably in the headline. Don’t have a headline that leads people to believe you are helping them or providing them with information, only to turn it into a sales pitch. You will quickly loose the trust of your readership by constantly pitching to them. Use the 90/10 rule when it comes to promoting yourself, give 90% and promote 10%. When you are promoting be clear about it, so that readers know upfront the purpose of your post.
Its one thing to casually mention your products and services at the end of a post to inform or remind readers about it. However, to have a headline that denotes you’re providing free, unadulterated tips in the post, only for your readers to find out that they have to pay for the information is just plain cruel. The free information you put out builds trust, and in doing so, by the time you launch or promote a product your readership ill be ready to support you.
Do you have any blogging pet peeves? – What are some of the things you do to keep from committing blogging mistakes?