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31 Days to a Better Blog--Day 11: Dig Into Your Stats

31 Days to a Better Blog--Day 10: Declutter Your Sidebar

Buildingabetterblog2 Apparently Problogger Darren Rowse has been reading my complaints about the clutter in my sidebars, as the task for today is to clean things up.

Let me say that on my blog, as in my life, the IDEA of simplicity is incredibly appealing. It's in the execution where I seem to have problems, primarily because I have difficulty in deciding what should stay and what should go. When it comes to cleaning out my closets, that's a personal decision. When it comes to cleaning up my blog, though, that seems like more of a community decision, since I'm not the only person who uses this place.

Some things I know I want to keep:

  • My About Page
  • Info on subscribing to feeds and my RSS instructions page
  • Categories
  • Links to my Web 2.0 in Nonprofits Wiki and the Social Media wiki.

Other things, I'm not so sure about. So again, dear readers, this is where I'd like your feedback. I've already removed the widget I used to have in the left sidebar that listed my most recent posts. I liked it, but I don't know how functional it was. I also realize that my site is loading much faster without it. If you want that one back, let me know.

Here are the other things I'm questioning:

  • The Best of Bamboo links--I have them all listed on the front page. Should I just have a link on the front page to Best of Bamboo and move the links themselves to another page? Or will people read them if they have to click in deeper?
  • Blogs I Read--same question as above. Leave them all on the front page, or have a link to another page where I list them.
  • Tools and Resources--again, same question.
  • Bamboo Project on Tumblr--does anyone care what I'm posting on my microblog, especially since I've been less good about putting things there lately? My guess is "no."
  • Monthly Archives--from a purely functional point of view, do you read old blog posts by month or by topic? Although the good thing about having monthly archives is that it also gives people an idea of how long you've been around.

Any and all feedback welcome. This is a project I plan to work more on this weekend.

31 Day Challenge Update
The other day I committed a grievous error, acknowledging that Frances McLean rocks, but not that Sue Waters rocks for getting James Farmer to contribute chocolate to our challenge. I meant to correct that the other day, but got sidetracked by my paying job, so I apologize and want to thank Sue for her role in bringing more sweetness into our lives.

And remember, as a reader you can win by posting a comment here or on one of the other participant's blogs. We'll all be nominating our best reader comment and then voting to see who wins. It's your choice, too--dark or light, whichever gets you motivated.


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Am I correct in the fact that I am one step ahead on the 31 day project? About three days ago, while working on my About Page...I did a 'clean sweep' of my sidebar. I have always been a minimalist at heart and I thought it time to add it to my sidebar. Mainly because I have ADD and it is hard for me to focus on content when I am distracted by the busyness of the sidebar. I have found, through experience, that readers do like to have your archives easily accessible...especially the new readers. They are able to go back and learn a little bit more about you. I like to look at it because it tells me immediately how long the individual has been blogging. Since doing my "About Page" as a different link I have since taken down my 'blogroll' and am considering not having one anymore. Last year I did a poll and discovered that readers generally will link from the comments if they are interested in seeing who you like to 'converse' with. I like the Best of Bamboo links but to keep with the 'zen-like' feel of your blog I would put them on a separate page. Just because you asked ;)

Hi Michelle

Interestingly enough the one thing I like to see in a side bar was missing - a Search widget. I prefer to use search then categories. This is why I have a short list of categories - so they know what I post on.


I like your Best of List, and have used it to discover more of your archive. I also like seeing what a blogger reads, and if there are at least a few blogs I also read on the list, I tend to at least follow it for a while. I don't however think they necessarily need to be on the homepage. I am also thinking about this, and leaning toward putting all of the links on another page. It will be interesting to see if doing it that way will start to be adopted by more bloggers. I only tend to explore links of t people who I have come to appreciate, and then I am motivated enough to add a click.

Like Sue, I tend to use a combination of search and categories. I never use dates.

Well -- Hmmm. You have two sidebars, which is an interesting approach. Could these be combined or do you have a strategy with that?

Right now, your right side bar is cluttered with the 31 Day Challenge List...not a bad thing:)

I'm wondering if your links to your profile and portfolio should go on your "About Michele" Page. (I've been thinking of doing the same at my blog as a way to declutter my own sidebar).

I liked the list of previous posts and miss it -- it's a way to quickly navigate back to a post I meant to read more in-depth last week....

Perhaps "Resource and Tools" could be a single link that takes us to a page listing all of those resources and tools.

I guess it's about trying to balance giving people quick and easy visual access to useful information, while also keeping it all easy to use and decipher and not be overwhelming.

I'm sure you have a sense of what people are actually clicking on, which can let you know if it should stay in the sidebar. So use your stats as a starting point.

Danielle, Sue, Christine and Cammy-This is all REALLY helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to give me the feedback on what you do/don't like.

Sue and Christine--I think you're right on the search feature. It's what my husband wanted, too. I currently use Typepad's category approach, but what I may need to do is create a separate Typelist that only includes my most important categories so people can see my main topics. I have a LOT in part because I haven't had search and it was partly for me to find things again!

I'm also hearing that I need to put my recent post widget back in and that I might want to put things like Blogs I Read and Best of onto separate pages. And date archives should probably come right off.

The other thing that's interesting to me, here is how getting feedback from readers is really so important, but you have to ask the specific questions. It gives people something to respond to, which they are less likely to do if you don't ask at all or if you ask "What do you think of my blog?"

Again--thanks to all of you for your thoughtful feedback. Looks like I have my work cut out for me. :-)

Hi Michelle,
Your questions on decluttering your sidebar sent me back to my notes from my blog audit with my boyfriend. Here's what he said about our Archives section (also arranged by month): "I would never click on those links and go back and read old posts. The only thing the archives section is useful for is seeing how long you've been blogging and how often you blog." (Our Archives section also lists the number of posts per month.) I asked him what he would do if he were looking for old content. He said he would use the search bar that appears at the top of the page.

Regarding the "Blogs I Read" section, I like to know who else my trusted blog authors are reading, so I find the section helpful. That being said, I think I would be as likely to look at a blogroll if it were a separate page with just a link on the homepage that said "Blogs I Read." But even more importantly, I think the best way bloggers can give credit to other bloggers they read is by linking to interesting content on their favorite bloggers' blogs within their own posts. In other words, what are you reading on those "Blogs I Read?" I pulled up your blog in my browser (I usually read it in Google Reader) and even without counting the BB31 blogs you're linking to, you've highlighted interesting and helpful content by at least 5 other bloggers. I'm a real sucker for clicking on links that I find in my favorite bloggers' posts. I think I'm also more likely to go back to those new blogs because my first experience reading them was helpful - I learned something new about a topic I'm interested in. Hope that all made sense!

I have found your blog rich with excellent information.

I agree with the suggestions of getting rid of the date archives (you might want to post something like "blogging since November '06") and putting the blogroll and the best of on separate pages.

One other comment. When I first came to your blog I could not figure out how to get back to the page you had written most recently. After several tries, I found "home" in the middle of the top. Maybe you could make it larger or put it to the far right or left. Your titles at the top are helpful for going forward and back and I like that feature.

I think you all rock! I'm really enjoying the 31 day challenge. Has it trickled down to my blog yet. Not yet. but....

I'll keep you posted!

I think you all rock! I'm really enjoying the 31 day challenge. Has it trickled down to my blog yet. Not yet. but....

I'll keep you posted!

Nancy--thanks for the feedback. RE: getting back to my most recent post from an individual post, that feature is actually an automatic one provided by Typepad, so I can't do much about it. Although I can add a link in my sidebar to home that might be helpful.

And Robin, glad you're enjoying the challenge! Definitely let us know if/when you start playing with changes!

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