31 Days to a Better Blog – Days 1 & 2

Following up on Michele Martin’s recent post at her Bamboo Project site, I too am going to take up the challenge of problogger Darren Rowse who has relaunched his series of articles and guides of 31 days to a better blog. (although may have to miss the last part and do that later as I’ll be in a very rural part of Southern France for a week at the end of August!).
The aim of the series of articles, filled with tips and inspiration is that others will join in on the journey, and comment and share their experience of how it is going. It aims to help with the key essentials of a useful blogging site such as finding and keeping readers, building a community and making money from a blog (although that last one, doesn’t really relate to what I am doing).
It’ll be an interesting experiment, and like Michele and other readers/bloggers who have also linked to her for this project like myself, we’ll be able to connect and communicate our learning and share the ups and downs of this experiment. Hopefully there will be some good outcomes, not only for me but also, you the readers. I have spent a little time, with thanks to my Google Analytics and Feedburner looking at how people are using my site and how many are using the RSS feed with my site. Will it go up or down over the month? I’ll keep blogging and reporting…

The tips that they give here for the challenge on day 2, is something I do with just about all the sites that I design and work with as I find a ’spare pair of eyes’ to go through everything that I have done, helps me to see if the design and content balanced together is not only accessible and usable but approachable too.

So far, my blog has a fair few readers, very few comment directly on the site (why are we so shy here in the UK?), and most contact me directly via email (and phone!) to discuss some of the articles.

Day 1’s assignment of my personal learning challenge and is for me to email a new reader. So if you want to comment on anything – feel free!

Day 2’s article from Problogger is to do a First Time Reader Audit on your blog.
I’m going to tackle one of my blog resistant friends later today and ask them to have a go with this for me.

The tips that they give here for the challenge, is something I do with just about all the sites that I design and work with as I find a ’spare pair of eyes’ to go through everything that I have done, helps me to see if the design and content balanced together is not only accessible and usable but approachable too. I do this every so often with my current blog too, which is why if you are a regular reader you’ll notice that there are often little changes and tweaks to enable better readability and usability.
I’ve shared here the challenge for day 2, as I feel that these are relevant to all who publish on the web, be it for a non profit website or a blog. Taken from Probloggers latest article of 31 Days to a Better Blog, it involves a process of looking at how people use your site. You need to find someone who has never read your blog before, sit them down and let them read and use your blog. The key thing is not to talk to them, but to watch how they are using it.

* How do they navigate?
* Where do they click?
* What do they pause to read?
* What do they skip over?

Once they’ve surfed your blog ask them some questions about the experience.

* What were their first impressions?
* What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it?
* Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand?
* What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog?
* What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog?
* What questions do they have having surfed your blog?
* What words would they use to describe the design?
* What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later?

It’s amazing to see what you’ll learn by watching someone use your blog.

I look forward to trialling this in detail again later for my own blog. I’ll also see how Michele is doing with hers too.
As well as being a learning journey for myself which will be really useful for my own work in not only designing for the web, but writing good content too, I’ll hopefully be able to pass on some useful knowledge to many of the groups that I work with in my circuit/e-rider activities, especially those that are seeking to use blogs as a way to record and communicate the work they do.