Category: Design

Get a Peek Into Your Site Usability with Peek

Get a Peek Into Your Site Usability for FREE

Ever wonder what a new visitor to your blog thinks about your site usability? Peek allows you to hear first hand what a new visitor “sees” when they look at your blog.

Accessing Your Site Usability

What is Peek?

peek-site-usability

  • A FREE service provided by UserTesting.
  • Submit your website, blog, Social Media profile, landing page or even competitor’s page and receive back a video of a REAL person visiting your site for the first time.
  • The video shows their computer screen and what it looks like on their computer. You can see their mouse move and hear their voice talking about what they see.
  • They answer questions about site usability such as what do they notice first, where do they want to click, what happens when they do that and would they return to the site.
  • The video is emailed to you when its ready which can be from hours to a few days.
  • The videos seem to average 5-10 minutes in length.
  • You can run 3 tests/month.

Why You Need to Use Peek

  • It’s not just another blogger visiting your site, it’s a random “regular” person who has only basic knowledge (or perhaps less) of blogs and has never been to your site before.
  • The visitor sees things you don’t notice on your blog such as confusing navigation, broken links and inconsistencies.
  • It confirms what you are doing right and tells you where you might need to make improvements in a considerate and helpful manner.

My Testing Experience

I tested two of my blogs so far and am happy with the results I got back. I was emailed a link to the video. For some reason it wouldn’t play in the browser for me but there is a way to download the video as well which I did so I was still able to view it.

It was really eye opening and not as scary because I don’t know the person critiquing my site. I’m a sensitive person and have shied away from asking other bloggers what they think of my sites because I’m afraid I’ll hear all bad. Having a random person from some random place made it less scary.

Also because they are seeing it from a computer that’s probably never been there before, it revealed things that don’t show that way to me such as errors in plugins and the welcome message I’ve set for new visitors but don’t see myself and so forget to update. It also revealed that one of my categories has no content showing when you click on it.

The tester wasn’t another blogger so she pointed out things I wouldn’t have thought of as being confusing. She didn’t know you can click on a post title to get to rest of the post and my Callista’s Ramblings theme doesn’t say “Read More.” She also was confused over what the 72p means in Intense Debate comments. She also picked up that the blog is Callista’s Ramblings and the About Me section talks about me but doesn’t say for sure if I’m Callista or not. Also she pointed out that she didn’t know what Girl Guide Leader was and she assumed SAHM was stay at home mom but that if her husband had been on my blog for instance, he would have no idea what that meant. It was very enlightening and I will be requesting more tests for sure!

Your Turn

Get a Free Peek Into YOUR Blog!

*I did not receive anything for writing about Peek. I am just sharing because I think it’s a great tool.

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Blog Design for Dummies by Melissa Culbertson

 

9781118554807 cover.inddBlog Design For Dummies met my expectations and soared even higher.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for evaluation purposes. Regardless, I only promote products/services I truly recommend. This post contains affiliate links.

I like to think I know some basics about blog design, even if I haven’t been able to implement what I know in my own blogs. I know my blogs aren’t the most beautiful but I work with what I have.

Even though I loved the author Melissa Culbertson’s blog Blog Clarity, her DIY Critique Workbook and I’ve recently signed up for her Content Brew course, I wasn’t sure about this book at first because I thought that it would either tell me what I already knew OR go into something so complicated I wouldn’t be able to implement it. I WAS WRONG.

Somehow the book covers the basics as well as more advanced techniques without making those that know the basics bored with certain parts. I have read the whole book and I still don’t understand how the book manages to do that!

There is just SO much in this book that you will be bookmarking, rereading, highlighting or sticky noting the whole book. I think any blogger could find helpful advice in this book, I really do.

The book is so good in fact, that I’ve been struggling to review it for weeks trying to find the right words. I’m still having trouble but didn’t want to put off sharing this book with my readers any longer.

What Topics are Covered in Blog Design for Dummies

Part 1: Getting Started With Blog Design – includes components of well-designed blog, applying core design principles to your blog, getting to know your blog and establishing a style guide (more on that later in the review.)

Part 2: Choosing the Visual Design Elements – Gathering design ideas, selecting fonts and colours, developing your overall blog layout, customizing your header, footer and background and customizing the design with coding basics.

Part 3: Designing for Easy Navigation and Interactivity – Navigation and SEO basics, laying out your navigation menu and sidebars, making content easy to find and increasing ability to share and interact.

Part 4: Creating Design-Friendly Content – designing main pages of content, working with images and incorporating design into your blog posts.

Part 5: The Part of Tens – ten places to extend your blog’s design and ten well-designed blogs.

Not Just for WordPress Users

74636_Culbertson_V2_300x125All my blogs are on WordPress now but I used to be on blogger and I know how frustrating it can be to see a cool element you want to use on your blog or tips on making your blog better you want to use only to find out it’s for WordPress users only. Of course some things can only be done on WordPress but non WordPress users are not completely disregarded.

This book is not just for WordPress users as Melissa states in the introduction:

“The majority of this book is not geared towards any specific blog platform; however, when I show you steps, they are typically for the WordPress.org platform because it’s the most popular one. The majority of plug-ins that I mention are also for WordPress, although some plug-ins can be used on multiple blog platforms. When possible, I mention options for Blogger, Tumblr and a few other platforms too.”

The Why, Not Just the How

I think this is what makes the book so great. You aren’t just told what to do to improve your blog’s design. Time it taken to explain why the recommendation is being made and how it affects your blog and its readers. I found the parts that read like this very intriguing and sometimes I read it through twice to really let it sink in.

Visually Appealing

The book itself is visually appealing too which makes sense if you think about it. Who would read a book about design that was designed poorly? It was a pleasant surprise to see the book was in full colour and printed on glossy paper, unlike what you usually see in a For Dummies book.  It is much easier to see how a small change can make such a difference with colour screenshots or understand how certain colours compliment each other while others clash when you can see it in the book.

Style Guide

The Style Guide is an extremely helpful part that I have started to put into practice but still have a long way to go, especially since I want to do it with each of my blogs. The Style Guide is a document that outlines all the design aspects of a blog from it’s colour scheme, fonts and sizes, rules for how certain words are spelled (such as ebook or e-book), formatting, image size and more. It’s best to create it as you create a new blog or a new design for an existing blog but it can and should be made for any blog. It’s especially helpful if you have more than one blog like me because if you need to design an image for a blog or double check how something is formatted on your blog, you can refer to the style guide.

Conclusion

I really have only begun to scratch the surface explaining my thoughts on Blog Design for Dummies. This is a book I will be referring back to many, many times as I plan and update the look of all my blogs. The book isn’t only for those who plan to design the look of their blogs from scratch. Even if you have or are going to hire a designer to create a unique design for you blog, you can still make use of many parts of this book.

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Free or Premium Stock Photography from Dreamstime.com

Free and Premium Stock Photography from Dreamstime

Dreamstime is among my top sites for free and premium stock photography. Searching for the right stock photos has been a struggle year after year for me. I’d love to use only my own photos but there are two problems with this: 1) I am not good at photography and 2) Sometimes I am posting about something I don’t have a photo of or couldn’t take a photo of. Stock photos come in handy at these times.

Free or Premium Stock Photography at Dreamstime.com © Leigh Prather | Dreamstime.com

Free or Premium Stock Photography

I’ve tried the sites that are purely free and while you can sometimes find some good images, let’s face it, it’s just not the same quality. Dreamstime is not cheap but that’s because the quality of it’s photographs are outstanding and the site is easy to use. I have not found a single image on the site I didn’t like or that wasn’t good quality. There is a free section as well which has some pretty good images.

If you are looking to purchase premium photography, there are multiple options depending on what you would like to be able to do.

Credit Packages

If you are looking to buy a few photos for upcoming projects you can purchase credits and use those credits to download the images. For example you can buy 11 credits for $16.85 CAD which allows you to download up to 11 images. It says up to because a photo is not always worth one credit. Looking around I found most were 3-5 credits for the SMALLEST size and 9-11 credits for the LARGEST size. You can buy credit packages from 11 up to 2000+. The benefit of the credit packages is that they do not expire for a year so you can use the credits over a long period of time.

Subscriptions

Subscriptions are a larger amount of money upfront but allow you to download a LARGE number of images during a certain period of time. For example a 1 month subscription at 25 downloads a day is $245 CAD BUT you can download up to 25 photos a day for each day in the month for maximum possible 750 images. In this case you would mass download images that fit the topics of your website/blog that you might find use for in the future and then you can back them up on disc for future usage. With a subscription, you can download your images in ANY size.

Are You a Photographer?

If unlike me you take good photography and don’t make much use of stock photography sites, then consider selling your photos to Dreamstime and make money off of them!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I received a complimentary subscription to review the site. All opinions are honest and mine.

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Maximizing Your Call-To-Action Button

blogathonsummerThis is a Guest Post Mini Challenge for the Biannual Blogathon Bash event. Anyone is welcome to read this post and try the challenge but only blogathon participants are eligible to win prizes for completing it. It’s not too late to join!

You can read more about the guest author at the end.

Maximising Your Call-To-Action Button

awesomebuttonWebsite owners and bloggers have to use call to action buttons frequently. If you are wondering what a call to action button is, it is simply a link or a button on a site that webmasters want web visitors to click. As the name suggests, it is aimed at convincing web visitors take certain action i.e. buy products or services being sold in a site.

Call to action buttons simply offer customer’s guidance. They are what websites are centred around. They are simply links to buy something, sign up for something or enter contact details. Call to action buttons can be used in very many other ways. The above ways are however the most common. From the above information, it is obvious that call to action button must be designed perfectly for them to serve their intended purpose. Below are some of the top features of a great call to action button.

Design

The design of a call to action button also matters a lot. Contrary to popular believe, people click more on plain call to action buttons as opposed to colourful buttons. This is a proven fact in many studies carried out on call button design. Your focus should therefore be getting the size and placement right as opposed on spending a lot of time on fancy designs that don’t influence action contrary to popular believe. Keep your call to action button plain and simple and you will be surprised how much attention the button attracts.

Message

It is important to note that the message on a call to action button matters a lot. You should therefore focus on a message or word that grabs attention instantly. The best call to action buttons have action words which arouse curiosity or demand action. You should however avoid being too demanding or pushy with words. Stay relevant to the style of your site and used appropriate words only. You should also be specific.

Placement

This is a very important consideration for a call to action button. The button should stand clear of other content preferably an area with adequate white space. This is the only way to ensure that the button is noticeable. Placement is important because it considers where web users are likely to look at. A perfect call to action button should be placed near content to ensure that users see the button.

Size

A great call to action button has to have a perfect size. For guidance regarding the appropriate size of a call to action button, you should check the size of other features i.e. banner ads. A call to action button shouldn’t be bigger than a banner ad. This is important in terms of portraying the intended visual impression. A big call to action button can scare customers away. Again a small button can go unnoticed. Balancing the size of the button is very important. The button should measure average i.e. less than a banner ad.

In summary there are many other good features of call to action buttons. The above features are however adequate enough to get you started on the right path.

Your Mini-Challenge

Survey any Call to Action buttons you may have and see what you can do to improve them. Make changes now if you can or if not (maybe because you are waiting for a designer for example) then just add it to your to do list or make plans to get it done. Comment on this post to tell me what you did or will do.

About the Author:
This post was submitted
Mo Raja. He currently works in online marketing at a mobile phone specialist insurance company Protect Your Bubble. Mo occasionally writes blog posts on technology, gadgets, mobile phones and online media. This post however is solely the opinion of Mo and not endorsed by any other individual or organisation.

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