After a 15 year hiatus, I find myself with a website again, only this time it’s not 2001, Web 2.0 has completely changed the landscape, I’m learning a lot about blogging through trial-and-error and having previously said that I was a pure coder and would never use a CMS, a lack of spare time has led to me using a free WordPress site template.
I’ve been beta testing my site on my long-suffering friends and family, who have been getting their revenge with their extremely useful feedback and suggestions. They were a lot more diplomatic than I’m leading you to believe in this post, but I’ve translated what they really meant. Here’s (roughly) what they said:
- “Don’t be so bloody narcissistic” People want to hear about you, sure. But maybe they don’t want your giant grinning face to be the first thing they see when they land on your site. Turns out that they’ve probably come to your site to find some information or learn something – and I’m not talking about what you like to eat or where you go in your spare time (that’s what Facebook is for, right?).
What I Did: Cut my front-page bio down to a tiny photo and paragraph and put my ‘about me’ section on a different page… anyone who is interested in why I consider myself an authority on the subjects I talk about and what I like doing in my spare time can go and check out my specific bio page. My front page is now given over to…
- “Make it obvious where the information is” My background is in old-school web development and I never got over my infatuation with frames, so my main menu sits in a responsive frame-style sidebar. The problem is that when it’s viewed on a mobile, the menu becomes the small mobile menu icon. I assumed that was fine and that most people would know to click on the drop-down for the menu, however my bounce-back rate was HUGE from the front screen. Probably due to the afore-mentioned giant grinning face, but possibly because actually, not everyone knows to click on the menu icon and the front page gave no clues as to what information they might find on the site.
What I Did: So free WordPress is incredibly restrictive. I wanted a smart gallery of photos, each corresponding to a different section of my website and linking to the relevant landing page for each. Free WordPress said no. Then it scrambled my entire page, stuck its tongue out and laughed at me. After a few days of arguing with the HTML code, a sleepless night or two and a *lot* of swearing, I gave up on trying to make the gallery work and managed to get a fair assimilation of what I wanted and most importantly, my visitors can immediately see where all the information on my website is.
- “We want nice pictures to look at” In my defence, my website started out as a writing portfolio, so I didn’t get too hung up on the graphics and photos. Then I started blogging and sharing pages and realised that without pictures, owning a square cyber-metre of online real estate is nothing. Sharing a link to a blog post without an associated picture is a pathway to obscurity and the text-based post gets lost amongst the sea of online content.
What I Did: Found an absolutely amazing supply of free stock imagery from www.pexels.com. All of their photos are free under creative commons and can be used for both commercial and non-commercial endeavours. A couple of hours of tweaking the images to size and artistically placing them around my site and it looks a lot more interesting and professional. What’s more, when I share links on Twitter and LinkedIn, my share is accompanied by an intriguing photo, which should capture more attention than the text alone.
Luckily none of my friends said “your writing is shit, stick to the day job”, so I will be continuing to post my musings on all things digital, technology, creative and social-media related here on http://www.racheldrinkwater.com and on Twitter on @REDrinkwater
Thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions. I’ll be keeping an eye on my stats and will update you as to what impact the above actions have had. I’m also very open to more suggestions, ideas, criticism (and praise regarding my site.