Yesterday's assignment in 31 Days to a Better Blog was to run a first-time reader audit. We were to watch a new reader navigate through our blog, noting how they moved through posts, what they clicked on, etc. Then we were to ask a few questions on the experience.
Results of My First Time Reader Audit
Last night I asked my husband, Darvin, to be my first-time reader. Yes, that's right--he hasn't really read my blog before. And before you start thinking that I selected someone who was going to let me down easy, let me just explain that my husband has no problem being blunt. I definitely got an honest assessment of the blog.
Watching him move through The Bamboo Project was fascinating. He reads a blog very differently than I do. I won't bore you with all the details--let me just share some key information that I thought was interesting.
- He started with the first post, rather than the most recent post. Darvin says he does this to see why the blogger started writing the blog in the first place. He did NOT go to the About Me or the Newbie page until I pointed them out to him as being places to get more information about my blog. He said that he wasn't attracted to the term "Newbie Guide" so he suggested that I change it to something more explanatory like "Wondering What This Blog is All About? Start Here"
- He was much more attracted to posts with photos, charts and videos. It was OK if the posts were longer if they were broken up by some pictures, but long posts with no pictures? Not interested. I know that this is typical and I also know that I'm being lazy not including more visuals. I need to work on this. And please note that I'm starting with this post. (Let me also say, though, that Darvin wanted flashing bamboo somewhere on the site, so I have to take his opinions with a grain of salt.)
- He did not know that he could use tags to get to topic areas in my site because he hasn't used tags before. This one shocked me. I thought that tags were self-explanatory, but this just shows the Web 2.0 bubble I'm living in. Darvin suggested that I include something that explains to new visitors how they can use tags to navigate through the blog. He also wants me to add a search feature.
- He said that there was no immediate way for him to tell what my blog focus is. This one did NOT shock me. I've been bothered lately by a feeling that I'm delving into a lot of different things, which many argue is a cardinal sin of blogging. I've tried to stay focused, but my interests are fairly eclectic, so the blog becomes "Stuff that Michele is Interested In" as much as anything else. This is an issue I need to do some more thinking about.
- He liked the posts where my voice sounded "warm" and hated my "data" posts where I sound like I'm "lecturing." This is another area that has really bothered me in my blogging--getting my voice right. Yes, part of it depends on the topic. But part of it is a struggle to try to sound "professional" while still being personal. It's a balance I can't always reach, but I keep trying. Leave it to my spouse to see that it's an issue.
Darvin's overall assessment of the blog was that it was "clean" and easy to navigate. That's good. He also said that he wants a different photo of me on the site because apparently the one I have up is not one he considers flattering. I won't share exactly what he said. Anyway--maybe I'll run a photo contest and have you guys vote on which one I should use.
As he described it, I realized that he wants to navigate through a blog like it's a mind map. Each blog post would be a bubble and when we pulled up the blog we'd see all of these posts with all of these visual connectors to other posts. When you hovered your mouse over a bubble, you would see a list of key words or links and if it interested you, then you'd click into the post to read it.
This is an intriguing idea, in part because he's describing visualizing a blog as a web of interrelated ideas, rather than as a chronology. I explained that the use of tags would start to move in the direction of him being able to explore ideas, but the visual method was more appealing to him--tagging still felt too "linear."
I have no idea whether or not such a thing would be feasible. It seems like it might get really complicated really quickly. But it showed me how conventions I take for granted are seen differently by people who aren't in it every day. And it's also a really cool idea.
- Use more visuals
- Get more focused--or at least be clear about my lack of focus
- Work on the "warm" voice in my posts
- Have a few more newbies look at my site to get a better sense of what navigational features are and are not working.
- Make changes to my About Page to make it easier for new readers to use.
Update on the 31 Day Challenge
As you can see from the growing list in the right sidebar, a few other people have signed on to the blogging challenge--Christine Martell of VisualsSpeak and Liz, Amber and Jennie from SmokeFree Wisconsin. I'm glad to have some organizational blogs on board. It will be interesting to compare their experiences to individual blogs. I also have a few more people who have emailed me to say that they're considering participating, so I'll add them if and when they decide.
If you think you want to join, drop me a line. I can tell you that in the past few days I've learned a lot and I'm already seeing an increase in traffic and conversation/community.