31 Days to a Better Blog – Day 18: Create a sneeze page

Day 18 of the 31 Days to a Better Blog challenge involves creating a ‘sneeze’ page for your site. A sneeze page you may ask? What is that?
Darren from Problogger explains the task.

“A Sneeze Page is one that simply directs readers in multiple directions at once – back into your archives.”

A useful tip for not only blogs but can be transferred to websites too. Darren suggests creating themed pages where people can see the best of information.
I thought a lot about how I can implement this on my blog site. Being a fairly new blog, I don’t see it as essential yet, but as the blog grows with many more articles and posts, it makes good sense to help readers to be able to find the older posts and also easier to find what they want to read an easily.

Over the coming months I’ll be implementing some themed pages to help direct new readers deeper into my site. But for now, I needed to examine how people found what they needed to find.

I thought about my archives. I’d already added some text on the home page to say that ‘here are the latest articles’, and at the bottom about ‘seeing more articles.’ It led you to a drab basic archive page which I created when adding a more transparent navigation system for the blog. I’d explained a little about what the archives were, but nothing too helpful unless you were a blogger yourself. Not very exciting to new readers especially if they weren’t sure what they were looking for.
So time for another small overhaul, by going into the backbone of my site to make this work.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I added a neat plugin called smart archives which helps my archives to appear better rather than just lists of titles under the month headings. Readers can now find their way into my archives abit easier now.
  • When linking on a month or category prior to the changes, all that showed was a simple list of titles and dates, not very appealing or useful. So I tweaked my archives.php to show the full details and summaries of the post, in either the month or category. I did have a few glitches making it work, due to the permalink structures.
    But now if you click on a category at the end of a post, or in the archives section you can now see fuller details of all the posts in that area, which to me is a big help especially for those new to the site and investigating what I write about.
  • I got plugin happy (again) and added the Popularity Contest plugin too. It did appear for a few days, and showed lists of popular posts where ever I added them. I added it to various pages, such as the archive page and on my about page, and for a brief moment in my sidebar. It didn’t show the popularity in the way that I had hoped and began to cause some serious problems too. I have now deactivated the plug in as it overloaded my sites ability to keep searching the database.

I don’t have time to deal with caching problems currently and seeing the downsides of switching over to WordPress, so I’m now looking into other plugins and options, or doing it abit more manually by creating some pages or widgets which show the most popular area’s by using my Google Analytics as a basis to see which articles and posts have been the most successful for my readers, and of course my readers comments.

My learning observations

Even though I haven’t created a full on sneeze page I do plan to implement some for thematic areas as the blog grows. It did give me a perfect opportunity though, to look at my archives section and enable that to be made more usable in readiness for sneeze pages. I was able to make it more approachable for readers. It’s useful to remember that it isn’t just the new articles that are important.
Other learning observations, well, some plugins just don’t work for me in the way I want them to, I’m going to start writing my own soon!

Filed under BB31Days, Personal.