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Blogging 201, Day Two: Audit Your Brand

To build a strong brand, you have to assess your blog, top to bottom. Today you’ll figure out what’s inconsistent or unhelpful — and start to fix it.

Looking for Blogging 101? Click here.

Some of us have purely personal sites where we discuss the day-to-day, while others are trying to create an online presence or use our blogs as a springboard for other projects. No matter which describes you — or whether you’re a bit of both — you’re not just a blogger: you’re a brand.

You may never be Coca-Cola or Apple, but you can still use good branding to grow your blog.

Today’s assignment: audit your brand — look at all the ways you communicate information about your blog, and make sure they’re consistent, focused, and say what you want them to say.

Why do this?

  • Because every choice you make, from header image to background color to widget title, contributes to you brand (or hurts it).
  • Because a strong brand creates an emotional connection with readers, and that connection is what keeps them coming back.

A strong brand is more than a logo: it’s a guarantee. When readers see something associated with your brand — a post on your site, a guest post, a tweet, an email — they know what to expect, be that a laugh, a great DIY project, a recipe, parenting advice, or whatever else you kids are blogging about. It’s unique to you, and it’s distinctive.

The good news: you’re already a brand! As soon as you chose a theme, picked a blog name, and started publishing, you announced to the world, “This is the place on the internet where you come to find XYZ.” The better news: you can shape it even further, and make sure your brand is helping you meet your goals.

First, focus on your goal. Think back to yesterday: why do you blog? What do you want to accomplish? What is the thing you’d like your blog to be known for? This will be the lens you use to dissect your blog.

Second, examine your blog from header to footer. Consider your theme. Look at every widget, page, and image and ask: does this clarify and reinforce my focus?  How will this help me meet my goal? Here’s a checklist to get you going. Each point includes a link to more info:

Third, start introducing changes that reinforce your brand. Make one update today. You don’t have to burn things down and rebuild — just start making tweaks that move your site closer to your vision, and watch them add up. Here are some easy starting points:

Questions? Ask! Not sure if your blog is giving off the right vibe? Share your sites and ideas in The Commons for feedback from fellow bloggers.

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      1. I also have that problem… I am using my self-hosted site and only when I am in the WP hosted profile can i access… are there any keys to the commons via self host?

      2. I am also having a problem accessing the commons. when i click the link it tells me I don’t have the proper credentials for it. I believe I was mistakenly added to Blogging 101 (which I don’t mind at all, actually), but I would like to have access to Blogging 201. Please help?

  1. Hi everybody,

    We are a team of 4 artist who set up a blog 2 months ago. we would like to encourage people to participate in our arts project “what if?”, a project on identity and freedom of choice.

    I would appreciate, if the community here would have a look around at what-ifblog.net and let me know, if our goal is clear. What we did up to now is provide a basis for the content. Provide different examples from the arts and let our audience know why we like it. Yesterday we have started to directly approach the community with a challenge (the post: Who are you this spring?) and got our first contribution.

    I would be grateful for comments and hints about what you need from our posts to get inspired to participate.

    By the way, I am not sure I have been enrolled, although I thought I had done the right thing. If possible, please enroll me so I am visible and may comment in the community pool. I have addressed yesterday’s assessment and found it very rewarding. And horray one of my goals (get the first comment) has already been met.

    Thank you, Barbara

    1. I went to your what-ifblog site. I went first to the tabs. If I hadn’t read the above, I’d have had no idea how to participate. I could see others were participating though. Because of the above, I kept looking and finally saw “your contribution” above in smaller print, barely visible.

      what I’d suggest is a tab with the more prominent ones labeled “the project” or “guidlines” or something better that says the same thing.

      1. Thank you very much, I will think about how to make the participation aspect more visible and prominent. This is the thing, the moment you are involved and know everything about the project, the moment you become blind for how other people who know nothing about it might perceive it. This is very valuable advice of you. Thank you.

    2. Barbara: I just took a look at your site and I like the concept very much. I think it just needs to be organized a little better. For example, it is hard to differentiate where a post ends and the community comments begin from left to write. Take away the clutter, leave the content and you’ll have an excellent site. ‘hope this helps. Dena

      1. Thank you, Dena, for taking a look. I can see what you mean, if I compare the what-ifblog to the very clean and beautiful structure of your blog.
        Nevertheless, I am not sure, what I would consider clutter at the moment, but I will have a good think about it and might try to change the font size on the sidebar to smaller to make more obvious what is post, what is comment. Thanks and all the best, Barbara

      2. Barbara: This is a reply to your 2:11 PM comment. I think I could have been clearer by what I meant by clutter…When I look at your blog I think: cool, I love what they are doing! But when I look at what you have on the site, my eyes don’t know where to go….You are right doing things like changing the font to differentiate between the blog posts and the comments is a good start…Perhaps, too, placing the comments in the footer are instead of the sidebar so they are that much more separate? Also, the tag cloud takes up a lot of space. I wonder if it might be better to remove that and any other widgets that are not absolutely necessary. Like, you have an events widget but no events listed. Perhaps that can go….I hope this helps! D

      3. Thank you for your second comment which I just discovered. Funnily enough I was already busy reducing the tag cloud, and struggled with the calendar– of which I am not sure yet how I get it working– and got rid of the recent post widget which doubles the left side. Thank you for helping me with it.

      4. Hi, yes. One thing about this assignment is that it is hard to figure out the reply thread…Anyway, I am replying to Wendy. I was able to find your site and it is lovely. I understand not wanting to limit what you have to say, because it appears you have a lot of beautiful thoughts to share. Still, an organizing principle for your site would give us, the readers, a clearer idea of what we might find when we visit your blog….Musings are wonderful. What do you “muse” about the most…perhaps that could be the place to start for your branding….Just a thought. D

    3. I’m thinking of making my Home page, the first page of each of my menu sections, and anything else people just stumble upon, into fixed content pages that explain each section. Do you think having a fixed start page would help? I am in agreement with the other commenters that you have a great concept, and clearly there are people who get what you are doing. I just wonder if, for my own blog as well as for your page, if more explanation is a better approach.

      1. Thank you, Becca, I am still pondering about what would be the “perfect” solution. It has become clear to me that I need a better way of presenting our goals. I just don’t know yet, how. How do you create fixed content pages? Could you give me a hint? I will have a look at your blog, too.
        Thank you everyone for looking around and thinking about it.

  2. whew. this is.. a challenge alrite! im kinda wishing i had started with 101. but also feel like 201 will make me smarter/better.
    (hopefully).

      1. hmm.. tempting but quitters never win. or something. LOL.
        will we be able to go back and look at the entries for 101 after 201 is done? i may start it afterwards since 201 is shorter than 101.

      1. Why can’t I comment on your blog!? Am I doing it wrong? Because I had a bunch of “hahahahahhaaaa’s” to post! Funny stuff! I’m following your “bitch face” now. :)

      2. Hahahaha, I’m so sneaky.
        Just kidding…
        My layout is kinda goofy – I’m working on it. You have to click either up by the title where it says “comment”, or you have to make sure you are on the actual post, and not just on the home page – then scroll down after the other recommended posts – and there should be a comment box I hope. I looove my theme… but there are a few tweaks I wish I was able to make.
        Thank you so much for the visit & the follow!
        By the way…I love food – so… your blog – which is super pleasing to the eyes & vibrant! Love it. – I will be frequenting.

  3. In the early days I spent quite a while on this issue. I think I have it. ttp://trentsworldblog.wordpress.com/ What do you think? If you took a quick look at my site, what would you think it’s about? I most likely will change the outdated tag line, but I’ve yet to come up with anything I like. Still need more work?

    1. I might recommend putting your “Categories” up higher on the left so they are easier to find/spot. Maybe above “Recent posts.” Just an idea.

    2. My first thought, based on the name “Trent’s World Blog” was that it was going to be about travel! I think the way the site header is phrased – “Trent’s World (the blog)” -makes it clearer that it’s a blog about Trent’s World, rather than a blog about the world by Trent. I would try to use one consistent phrasing, rather than both “Trent’s World Blog” and “Trent’s World (the blog)”

      1. Thanks Alex, that makes sense. I have a web site, Trent’s World, which I built in the 90s. That’s why this is Trent’s World (the Blog). (I haven’t been keeping the web site up to date.) I’ll try to make it a little more consistent. Thanks.

    3. Hi Trent, I think you’ve designed the site really well for a newcomer to be able to find out what you’re about right off the bat – all the important details are above the fold (above the scroll?). You’ve got concise blurbs top left and top right that tell a little about you, and then your About menu is very easy to locate for the visitor who wants to learn more. Looks good.

    4. I’d suggest a new Header Image. It just doesn’t seem to be in line with the rest of your blog. Your blog, overall, is clean and crisp looking with some nice sketches. The header image looks like a 90′s graphic. I’m not trying to be rude, it just seems out of place with the tone and feel of your blog. And that image is the first impression I got from viewing your page. I then had to overcome that impression to discover you have nice stuff. Just my thoughts/opinions.

      1. I’ll look into it. Actually, the graphic was created in the 90s for my web page “Trent’s World”. I guess it’s time to update it… Thanks for the suggestion.

    5. I like the painted header. It gives quickly gives the creative place vibe to your blog.

      In terms of the categories and recent posts, why don’t you just chose the drop down menu? You can keep them there but it will look less cluttered.

      As a personal preference, I prefer a drop down archive to recent posts. I guess I’m snoopy and if I’m interested I’ll go waaaay back.

      1. Thanks Lori. Drop down menus might be a good choice. I’ll experiment with them. I understand your preference for the archives. I think having both is the best way to go so I have where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to lately. Thanks for the input!

    1. At the top of your blog, I like the two pics of the girl with a camera, but I immediately thought your blog was going to be about photography. After reading your “About this blog,” I found out that it is about your writing. Maybe that could be a change?? Just an idea. :)

    2. Yan, I just started following your blog, I love Asian culture! I’m viewing your blog on a cell phone so it may look different on a regular computer, but I don’t see any images at the top of your posts. I love it when people have that because it entices me to read the post. I’m very new to wordpress so I’m not sure I’m giving you the right advice, but if you haven’t set a “featured image” on your post, maybe that would help. I love your blog by the way!

      1. Hi, Cristina:

        Thanks for your message.

        There should be some pictures on the write-ups of my Asian trip (just came back 10 days ago). Here are the links to the trips:

        https://cxianliu.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/taipei-a-mesmerizing-city/

        https://cxianliu.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/xian-the-place-with-enriched-stories/

        Sometimes I had hard times to view my the posts from my mobile phone, but they show much better on regular computer.

        I am new at WorldPress too (only here for about 9 months), so we may learn from each other.

        Thanks,

        Yan

    3. Hi Yan. I think you changed your blog a little since I started following it. I do like the layout but I can understand what Cristina is saying. Although there are images in the articles some of the posts don’t have one at the top. When someone is scanning down your home page they don’t see the photos. Seeing a photo cab help draw someone into the post, particularly if it is someplace that many of us think of as “exotic”. Also, I think you removed the pictures at the top – I don’t see the pictures Chey mentioned. The graphic you do have at the top is cute and fits the name to some extent, but I don’t know if it is eye catching. As far as layout, it is clean and easy to read. I like having the “stub” to each post in its own box. I also like that it is a “stub” – I find it a little more difficult to navigate a blog if they leave the full articles on the front page.

    4. I like the color scheme of your blog. It’s very pleasant and inviting. I also like the images at the top, although they appear to be too small, especially the text in the image. I’m working on a larger laptop screen and had to get closer and squint to read the text next to the image.

      I think you have space to add in a menu that will allow you to categorize your writing more thematically. You can put it at the top or you can put it on the side. I don’t think you need the “The List of My Posts” on the sidebar, especially since it doesn’t provide any additional information when you hover over the titles. Your blog already is a list of your posts. I think you could categorize your writings into themes, and if you’re going to maintain a list of posts, add some detail so when I hover over the link I get more of an idea of what the writing might be about.

      I hope this helps!

    5. Hi Yan,

      I like your content a lot.

      The first thing I notice about your blog (viewed from laptop) is that there is a lot of blue space taking up the page. The cartoon figure is super cute, but the blue space distracts me. If you drew the figures, could you draw more to go across the top? This may not be possible. I just spent a long time trying to get a theme that had a header size I like.

      I was wondering if maybe spicing up the widget titles is an option. The words you choose give us a sense of tone in the blog and who you are. How could you change the title of “Blog Category” to something that reflects your tagline “From Hiding to Blogging.” The titles are a little on the business end.

      These are only suggestions and, of course, totally subject to personal preferences.

  4. Really? I got out of breath reading all of this. :) I’m going to have to take this one bit by bit as there’s a lot to consider. Good Day 2 challenge and it’s got me thinking about some things.

  5. Happy Hump Day everyone! I updated a side “welcome” text to reflect what my blog is about. I’m pretty happy with everything else. This task is a toughy because I know that I need to change the name of my blog. “Chey” does not really tell you anything, now does it? I just don’t know what to change it to! I have had a few ideas but after googling them, I found that they were “taken.” I’m having severe title block! Any suggestions fellow students?

    1. Hi Chey. I like the description in the side bar. It helps tell me what the blog is about. Because of your topic – you – I think the name is fitting. And the feet are fine.

      One thing I would like to see, possibly in the About, is why I should follow your blog. I don’t mean that in a bad way. As you said, it is a personal blog talking about your journey as a newly single mom which is a harder “sell” than other topics. You actually did this to some extent in your Goals post. You know, starting with, “My ultimate purpose in telling my story is to help others in the same situation.”

      Now your third goal interests me more than most of the other parts. Are you going to be talking about your writing in your blog or just practicing the craft on your posts about kids, divorce, etc.?

      1. I will be writing about said topics, not writing about writing. I thought the post linked in my About page provides a “why.” I will have to take another look. Thanks!

    2. Your site is attractive, inviting, easy to navigate – and focused on an achingly common phenomenon. Wish I were better at titles – something I struggle with. But I have no doubt you’ll find your tribe with what you’re doing.

    3. What about “Embracing Change” – which you have anyway, but as a subtext. I think !’s the main idea. Great blog btw, having been through it myself, I relate.

      1. I have thought about that but after googling it, other people have used it. I’d like to have something different. I’ve thought of Chey on change…but someone said it sounds political and I agree. Thought of, Chey to change or Chey transforming. I like these but I’m still not sure they say much more than simply, Chey. Thank you for the comments! :)

  6. This is not the place for this comment. My 3 rd goal is to learn to be a better writer. You asked what that looks like? I see myself opening my new post with confidence about grammar ,captivating the reader with the least amount of words and subject matter.

  7. This need a deep reflection. I need to detach myself from my blog to avoid personal biases and look at it in a readers point of view. What a challenge. Whew, I hope I’m single to have more time on this. Oh my X would be very glad. :D

  8. This is an ongoing process. I am glad there are prompts for me to really “think about.” One thing I reminded myself “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Think of it this way, we are all in this together, growing our brands/blogs together. Good luck everyone, and thanks for your support!

    1. Cristina, it looks like a good start. I like your custom side headers and your images, but for me I think your background is competing with the images. It might be the background leaf colors, or their design but I found something about it distracting me as I tried to read the main part.

      Also your link didn’t work on your post. http://bourbonandblueberries.com/

      1. Dena! Aaaagh! Your site is making me rethink mine!! I really like the way it’s organized, and it’s really easy to navigate. I’m following you. The “seasonal” category is such a good idea. Lookin good!! :)

    2. I like the way your blog is organized. Your categories are simple, divide up your posts, but have personality to them. I would add an “About Me” to your top menu with some explanation as to why your blog is called Bourbon and Blueberries (great name by the way), it says food and drinks.

      My one criticism is the back ground. I like the botanical feel, but it looks like a tropical plant which contrasts with the “Bourbon and Blueberries.” Maybe a more food oriented botanical background would work? Again, I like the feel of it just not the detail of it.

      This may be a bit nitpicky, but I would also reduce the facebook like to just a basic button instead of the picture follow format. With all the other pictures (I like the magazine feel to the sidebar), it just adds a bit too much and seems cluttered.

      If you’d like to give your opinion of my blog, I have a comment further down this thread!

      1. Thank you guys! Christopher thanks for pointing out the background, I knew it was wrong. What happened was, I tried a different one, decided I liked my old one, but now it’s not there for me as an option anymore! I guess wordpress switches the backgrounds it offers? I was pretty disappointed, and I shouldn’t have doubted myself.

        Anyways, I found a pattern I like on line, but now my issue is I can’t get the image to “stretch” when I apply it! It only appears “tiled” and the seams are bugging me. Anyone know how to fix this?? I don’t speak code.

        Also, is it weird that my “recent posts” and “newest posts” both show up on the same page?? I think it’s weird. But the pics on the “recent posts” are so big, I love them! Anyone! Help! I’m going to check out everyone else’s blogs now. Thanks for the input!

      2. I checked out your blog. Yay beer! First of all, I love the name. You like the way my blog is organized because it’s similar to yours! Ha. So, I like the way your blog is organized too. Love the pics of Belgium when they pop up, I’m a visual person so pics and color get my attention. My only critique : More manly font in the header!! Your blog is manly, I’d use a stronger font. (Just in the header, the other fonts are perfect.) Also, I have no idea what I’m doing so feel free to ignore me. :)

    3. Thanks for checking out my blog. Actually my goal isn’t to be a “manly” blog. Beer is for everyone, regardless of race, creed, or gender. My goal is to be a place that women feel comfortable visiting as well. Everyone has the right to be a beer geek. That’s why I try to keep a nice clean and more gender neutral look.

  9. Ok, is anyone turned off by my feet? lol My blog is very personal and so I have chosen to make it as anonymous as possible, hence the pic of my feet and not my face! I know this has nothing to do with my blog though; however, I have read that a pic of yourself helps make a blog personal and people like that. So, I can’t offer my face, but why not another body part? This pic is one of my favs because it represents my favorite thing to do, which is sit on my boat, read a good book, and have my feet warming in the sun. What do you think? Oh, and don’t be too harsh on my lovely feet ;)

    1. I like your feet. Wow, that sounded a little creepy :-) I also love your header photo of the rose up close.
      There is a lot going on on your page. It was a little distracting for me, but it wouldn’t keep me from reading. I’m a minimalist (just adding my twitter feed made me panic a little :-) ) so don’t feel like you should change based on anything I say. The one thing that confused me a little was the “want to share” until I clicked on it. It made me think it was for if I wanted to share something you had posted until I clicked on it and saw it was a category of stuff you wanted to share.
      I love your tag line. You were talking about a new name for your blog and at the end of your tag line it says “embracing change.” I think if you want to change your name you should think along those lines. :-)
      Hope this helped!

      1. I get the “a lot going on.” I am a minimalist myself but my research seems to point me in the direction I have gone. I do think it is good to have easy access to everything. Many of the blogs I have visited are too minimal and I don’t know how to navigate other than by scrolling. And then I just loose interest.
        I will have to think about the “want to share”. It is so hard to change up categories!!
        As for my title, I was thinking…Chey on Change. People seem to like Chey and well I am definitely shy on change. What do you think? Thanks for your thoughts!!

      2. Im not sure why it wouldn’t let me reply to you so I’ll reply to myself :-) I read where you posted above about someone saying chey on change sounded political and I agree with that. Maybe changing chey?
        Names are hard, but I’m sure you’ll find the right one :-)

    2. I completely understand your wanting to remain anonymous, however might I suggest a branded logo, or a silhouette of yourself, or something else that is a little more professional looking. Personally speaking, the avatar image is something I use to tell me whether it’s a real account or spam. Not sure if that’s correct of me, but that’s what I sometimes do.

      Sorry, I really don’t mean to put you down in any way… I’m just trying to give my two cents :) Have a great day.

  10. I’m currently in the middle of a blog rebrand, and so I’m going to completely be redesigning my blog. But I’d like to know – if you visit my blog, what words come to mind? If you didn’t read content and just looked at the layout, etc, what would you expect it to be about? http://tayloryates.wordpress.com

    1. Your header image and tag line tell me your blog is about style/fashion, and that if I stroll through, I’ll get tips and advice on those things. But, when I looked a little deeper, I noticed a variety of topics… which matches what you say in your “About” page… that you’ll write about the things that matter to you.

      I think you’re on the right track. I’m far from being an expert in branding, but if you were to ask for my advice, I might suggest that you narrow your topics of interest to two or three main items, and maybe have a random or general category for those things that don’t fall into the main categories.

      Not sure if I’m getting my point across, or making sense… sorry :) Good work overall though.

      1. Thank you! That really helps. I’ve been trying to decide how to brand in a way that allows me to talk about all of the things that interest me without labeling my blog a fashion/style blog or without losing sight of a brand completely. I needed an outsider’s opinion; it’s hard to look at your own blog because I know what mine is about!

    2. My first impression was “busy.” The pinstriped background is pretty distracting to my eyes and draws my focus away from your content. When I focus on the rest of the organization, it seems clean, well assembled, & interesting.

      I would make the “thoughts on” section more prominent so people can read your writings in a more thematic approach. I only will do so much scrolling on a new blog before I get disinterested if I don’t see what’s going on with it. I like to quickly look at various parts of the screen to see what you’re offering me. I had to do a bit of looking to find it. Overall though, you’re not using a lot of widgets that clutter up your sidebars. I think the biggest distraction, for me, was the stripes.

    3. Agree with Shane and Christopher on different points. Your header image leads me to believe it is going to be a fashion blog of some sort, but as I scrolled through, I found that you write about a great many things!

      Awesome use of images in your posts. I am working on being better about that with my blog. The background is a bit distracting, however. It draws your eyes away from the focus of the blog, and that is your posts.

      Good work all around! I am going to follow you.

  11. Totally what yesterday’s assignement made me think about ! I already have my own headers (made by a friend of mine who is an awesome designer), but my template is very simple and may need a little something more. I need to think about it all more, but by tomorrow, I think I may be able to make some “visual” and “organizational” changes to my blog ! Can’t wait !

    1. And, to all of you who want to help, feel free to tell me what changes I could make to my blog in its form. I haven’t had time to think about it today, but I’ll work on it first thing in the morning tomorrow. Thank you for your help/advices !

      1. @Lana Thanks for the feedback ! I can seem to be able to reply to your comment directly, so forget me to do it this way ! A little explanation, though, about my headers. Yes there are more than one ! You see, I’ve chose to put something like 15 different headers, and let them be displayed randomly. Everytime you refresh, you get a different one. All of them are specially made for my blog and they are all on the same model : a celebrity, a fake quote from them saying that my blog changed their lives, or that they love me or something unbelievable like that, all that on a particular pattern. This is obviously humoristic and I think that it helps the reader understand that I don’t take myself seriously and that (I try to) write funny stuff !

        Anyway, thank you for having given a look ! And yeah, I think that it will take patience and time for me to change everything I want for my blog to be as I want. I am already considering changing my theme, but still for a quite simple one. And as for my Categories, I have a few ideas to reorganize them as well.

        I also have a question for the ones that know more than me about WP : when you have a free theme, I understood that you can have a limited number of pages. Am I correct ? And second question : can you post more than one entry on a page ? (I don’t know if this is clear…) Thank you anyway if someone can help me !

  12. I did not receive todays “lesson” via email. PLus I ask yesterday if there was a way to not have all the responses from both The Commons and Daily coming to me via email. way way too much.

  13. Google has been pushing “authorship” in order to highlight original material. One of the requirements to sign up is a email address associated with your blog. I’ve not been able to find a way to set up a specific WordPress email address for my blog in order to sign up with Google Authorship. Can someone tell me how to get one? Cutting and pasting all the code, etc. that I’ve read about in order to get authorship has been too confusing and it’s failed the half dozen times I’ve tried it. Can’t we just get an email address from WordPress instead? There are now dozens of new domains available. Does WordPress have one yet?

  14. This is a well timed prompt. A couple of weeks ago I made a theme change to the Suits theme because I felt it featured my images better… and I’m quite happy with it. And just this morning, I edited my About Page, but I’d love to get some feedback on it’s relevance. I’m hoping some of you might offer suggestions, or let me know that it is headed in the right direction – http://wp.me/P2fKaT-2

    Thank you all in advance.

    1. Nice site, Shane! My first reaction, without reading a word, was wow, this site is clean and professional and I can find everything I want – Menus, Social Media, examples of your work – without having to touch a single key or a mouse. Well done. As far as your About text and photo – they tell me everything I need to know. Your happy portrait gives the reader an instant feel for your personality, you give your name and background, and you tell the story of your blog’s title. I think it’s great.

    2. Sharp, clean, professional. I liked the color selections. They almost seem to telegraph before I even scroll down that this is a photography blog. I think your about is also clean and crisp. Great job.

    3. I like super short About pages… and this one is perfect. Your blog is so polished, I now feel like mine has Snoopy stickers all over it. Well done.

  15. Done and done. I pretty much started there with the language and the attitude. My brand being I talk (online) like I talk (in life). No excuses. So it goes to show widget titles (“WTF you looking for?” etc) have already been tweaked. I can’t say that I’ll change or tone it down, but wouldn’t mind hearing honest opinions anyway. Here is a prime example (warning–language):

    http://www.gettingdckfordummies.com/hello-all/are-you-man-enough-for-dck/

    My main question for this forum would be theme/formatting. I recently updated trying to find something that fits the tone. I like the graffiti art picture of “DCK” and have that same image on FB page and Twitter page both I am trying to tweak the colors of blog page to go with it, without defaulting to typical black/white format. I am afraid, though, color is too distracting. Also I am not too keen with sidebar being hidden–it looks better/cleaner having it hidden and having to open it up–but I am not computer savvy and think readers won’t find it easily. (no insult intended…I have my own issues finding stuff every time FB changes up its format…)

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Denise

    1. Denise,

      I dig the graffiti but would suggest you do two things: enlarge the image some, maybe double it? and crop the top part off so you don’t see the ceiling but only the painted parts.

      The brownish background color is ok, but judging by the content maybe a little “soft.” I’d say keep playing with the colors and see if you can get something blacker, but not necessarily all black.

      Lastly, I do like the fact that the side bar hides away. If that is your front page and your prospective man can’t figure out the side bar then maybe he should just move along (LOL). Nowadays most people online should recognize the icon for it. It does make things tidy and the layout is simple/uncluttered enough that no one should really miss the drop down tab.

      My 2 cents. If that was helpful let me know what you think about my blog at http://www.thegraceapparatus.wordpress.com

      Gene

      1. Hahaha. Thanks so much Gene. I talk about dummies so have learned to never overestimate. old bad habit. Yeah on the header picture. The size is what comes with that theme. the picture itself is like 1200 x 700 pixels. I will keep on it, editing

        Your blog I think you should keep with the one blog and tie in faith with fiction. It is a natural fit together. You mention going with a whole other style and I do picture a large header picture much like you suggested for mine of a gothic Christian artwork (for example) image. I am Catholic so I picture stained glass art or stations of the cross type artwork that you would find in cathedrals.
        The font used also seems more tech oriented, not romantic or what you would find in old world bibles or writing. A good cross of old world and new world styles would fit much better.
        I very much like the picture links (widget) to other posts. I tried the same but didn’t like the look of it (with current theme). It works with your style, stay with that. I would so click on older links based on picture alone I think it draws reader in especially for fiction stories.

    2. I like the contrast of your clean white theme and background with your photos. It really makes them pop and seem extra vivid (especially the graffiti), which works well with your “brand.” So, I would actually stick with the white back ground.

      The one area that I think is out of order with your theme is the hover over details on your menu. “View all posts filed under…” seems really tame and out of character with the rest of the blog. I would spice those up with some humorous commentary on what is actually filed under these categories.

  16. This really helped me make some key changes to the pages I already had, making the tone more inviting and updating the information therein.

    Question: how do people use footers? I’ve always focused on the sidebar for my widgets, but my new theme comes with the option to have two footers, and I’m a little stumped on what to feature there.

    1. Very professional looking and solid branding. The green screen background ties in nicely with logo but not what I would expect from a technology driven blog. Your blue twitter page colors much easier on eyes. Sorry if it’s nit picking maybe it is the brightness throwing me off., though it does remind of the green screen used in film making/ digital enhancements. (maybe that is the point…) :)

      1. Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate it. I’ve changed the background colour and am wondering if that makes the page easier to read???

        Thanks again,
        Tom

    2. As someone who appreciates clarity and subtlety, like DCK below, I think your front page screams a bit too loudly ( the green, the overwhelming variety of choices at the top). You did ask….

    3. I’m not a fan of the header image. The yellow text portion seems to “bleed” and doesn’t look crisp. There is also some text running over into the background on the side bar when you give full links instead of a title with a link attached.

      These small things seem to be outline with what I perceive a tech blog should be: clean, correct, sharp, and professional. The things I mentioned look like “errors” which might detract from the power of what your saying as a tech blogger. I think average people probably hold “tech” people to higher standards when it comes to things like blogs and webpage.

    4. Love the gray text… and that’s a nice, muted green happening in the background. I can’t see the yellow Techno very well in your header. But overall your site is professional and lovely and easy to navigate.

  17. Hi Everyone,
    Being rather new to the whole blogosphere (less than a month) I want to get some opinions of you other bloggers out there regarding my site so far. Feel free to critique! I welcome it :)

    http://dont-delete-me.com

    Here are a few of my thoughts:

    ■Does my theme match my blog’s intent? What about my font and color choices?
    I wanted my theme to look really simple, almost like blank paper. I want to focus more so on the writing/posts rather than the site.

    ■Are there elements that are counter to my brand? Why have I included them? What role do they play?
    I think the only item that would be a little opposite to what my blog is about (writing) is my Max Minute posts. I wanted to add a little element that was more personal…and who doesn’t like stories about dogs, right?

    ■Does all this carry through in the other places my blog has a presence — Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or forums/sites where I’m active?
    I am mostly active on Twitter and Instagram. Again, I have only been active on these accounts for a little over a month so I am still learning but I think I stay true to what I want my website to portray. Let me know what you think!

    1. Your theme totally matches. It’s spare, it’s polite and unassuming, it might not be there tomorrow (don’t delete it!). I love the blank notepad in the About section. I got the sense that the “brand” of your blog right now is Writing Is Hard, but let’s all dig in and be diligent and kind to ourselves about it. Is that correct?

  18. Here is my blog with yesterday’s assignment regarding my goals. http://thegraceapparatus.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/the-blogging-201-challenge/

    I mentioned in The Commons that I’m trying to split my fiction off into a new blog while leaving the above blog to focus on faith and personal life. So I’m sort of branding two blogs at once.

    Please comment on the following:

    1. What would you suggest if you were to read the above blog knowing it was supposed to be about Christian topics and my personal life? What feelings does it evoke when you check it out? Is it easy or difficult to navigate? Do you think you would follow it or come back? (assuming you were interested in religious topics)

    2. I’d really like help with names for a writer blog. I have registered the following blogs with the reasons in ()
    genebrodejr.wordpress.com (trying to build a personal brand)

    alaymanscalling.wordpress.com (playing on the fact that I am called to write, not to be a pastor)

    adreamerscalling (a slightly different angle on the 2nd one–I dream of writing full time)

    Can you think of a better domain name that would reflect my intent and goals written in the link above? I appreciate any and all feedback!

    1. I’m a sucker for all writings about Faith. I love that you put your testimonial as a tab up top. And the About section is clear and now I know that you will post Monday and Friday. But there are 11 different tabs and that is almost too daunting to navigate. Are ALL of these sections necessary for your reader to understand who you are? That was my first impression. Looking at your list of questions up there, I’m flummoxed again. TWO blogs? I’d start with just one. Everything is you, and the you is interesting. I worry your message will get lost in the categorizing and spreading. Have a blessed, and peaceful Maundy Thursday and a joyous Easter! xoxo

  19. I was looking at my sidebar after reading this post and decided it was too cluttered. I opted for images only and shorter or no widget titles rather than trying to be clever. Not sure how this fits my brand, but I like the neater look.

    1. Hummm, I reworked my blog but after looking at yours I am still not sure mine is how I want it. Think i’ll leave it like it is for a while and see how I feel in a few days.
      Looks like this assignment has really been helpful to most of us. Great tips for the widgets.

  20. I’m still examining my layout and how it promotes my brand but I’m way open to other opinions. idlikearedo.com is my blog. I like my about page and the message it sends but I’m a little layout challenged. I liked my header when I first made it but i’m definitely getting sick of it. Thoughts, my darlings?

  21. Hello:
    Sorry I missed yesterday’s challenge, we were traveling. I am ready to join the conversation now!

    I work with two sites on WordPress: Gathering Flavors (http://www.gathering-flavors.com), which I have written since 2011. It is my personal, culinary blog. My newest site, Dena Testa Bray: Web Design Services for Creative People (http://www.denatestbray.net), was started in January. I have started a small business designing websites and I have a blog that is part of that site. On that blog, I write about web design, social media, branding and photography…..For today’s challenge, I took a close look at both sites. I think they both work well in terms of being clean and uncluttered with everything serving the higher goals for each site. Where I feel challenged, and would love some input are:

    1. The tagline for Gathering Flavors. Write now it is “Seasonal Recipes by Dena Testa Bray”, which I feel is too flat. While I do write recipes inspired by the seasons, my posts are infused with warmth and observations about family life, New England, change and the joy of the day-to-day. Any thoughts on a tagline that with a bit more zing to capture all that?

    2. I don’t have a title for the web design blog. Any thoughts? I know there are a lot of folks out there who write on this topic. My particular slant on things is the personal: creating websites and blogs that come from the owners’ heart and represent them in a unique way of their own. I’d appreciate any input on that question, too.

    I have looked your comments and posts. It seems like we are all looking for connection and help. I will add comments to others’ posts in constructive ways shortly.

    Happy Blogging,

    Dena

      1. Hi: I just checked all my links to the asparagus recipe and they seem to be working. So sorry you had trouble. If you were looking at it on the Gallery Page the caption link will first take you to the photo, then there is another link to the recipe…It’s not the most streamlined way of doing things, but it is a limitation of the gallery photos in WordPress…Anyway, here is the link to the post with the recipe. I hope you enjoy it!
        http://gathering-flavors.com/2013/04/22/april-in-boston-and-new-york-city-recipe-simple-roasted-asparagus/ D.

  22. Great so far but I’m not getting email updates that the challenges are up and running. Handy for us who are on GMT so generally will be in work when the post is up. Will get onto the challenges tonight…

  23. I look forward to tackling this challenge when I get home from work today – my gears are already spinning. I did spend quite some time editing and personalizing my blog, when I signed up for Premium. With that being said, I’ve only been blogging for 2 months – and there is always room for improvement! I would absolutely love some feedback and some constructive criticism regarding the layout and widgets & the site appearance as a whole. If anyone would like, I’d be happy to return the favor…just ask :)

    1. I don’t have much criticism but I do wanna say I love the quote you have placed there up top in the corner it gives your layout a nice, unique feel — was that something you put in yourself? I would say maybe your blog title could be a bit bigger so it’s more easily seen but overall, I think the balance of your layout is pretty spot on. If anything, I’d just keep adding more little details like the quote to make it uniquely you. After reading some of your posts I look forward to checking out your blog in the future!

      1. Thank you so much for taking some time to check my space out. I recently added that quote in the corner just last week – for the reason you stated…make it a little more personalized. I think I’ll play around with more of those small little tweaks & see what I come up with tonight.
        Oh a different note, I am so happy I had the chance to look at your blog also! I think the quest to become Mindy’s (first name basis, of course) is the best goal ever. Who wouldn’t want to be buddies with her? No one I associate with.
        Thanks again for the feedback & the follow – can’t wait to read more of yours!

    1. You can post what you did here or in the commons if you want to share, or you can keep it to yourself. I’m pretty sure no ones keeping track to make sure we do the assignments. No grades, just growth ;-)

    1. Love the colored (or coloured?) pencil header. Honestly, everything looks professional and theme-appropriate and the content just delightful. It’s ALREADY VERY GOOD! So, you need not apologize to your audience about there being so many more to go, or that you might not have ideas yet… that sent the message to me that you might be kind of winging it. But it’s VERY GOOD! Own that.

      Then again, maybe it’s just a British thing? So sorry to trouble you with my charming, awesome blog, excuse me, please, go on and read something else, so so sorry.

  24. Oooh, a tweeking assignment! I’m always changing up something, but I did tweek a widget or two, starting designing a couple of new widgets for my Twitter and Pinterest (will get those up tomorrow), made sure my “Follow” buttons were configured correctly and posted about bloggy stuff today! Everyone’s blogs look great — what a talented bunch we are ;)

  25. I was thinking about adding an email address for my site and have a question. My site is currently 2crazylittleboys.wordpress.com. Can I only do this through wordpress (instead of using gmail or another email site) if I upgrade to 2crazylittleboys.com?
    Also I just recently added widgets and a header photo so I’m feeling pretty good about them, but if you’d like to take a look and give feedback that would be great. I really like the background and minimal look of it so it made me nervous to add the twitter feed because I was afraid it was distracting. :-)

    1. I love your pictures and your posts, however it was hard to read. Maybe it’s just me but either the background needs to be lighter with black print or the white print need to be a larger font. I will be following to see what else you have to say. I have two sons and three grandsons so I can relate to the “crazy little boys”.. ;)

      1. Thanks so much for checking it out and following. My very best friend loves my blog and let’s my use her pictures on it. I’ve wondered about the text on the black background so it’s good to know that some people have trouble with it. I’ll definitely look into lightening it up a bit more or making it bigger.

    2. I’d appreciate a larger font, too. But it didn’t stop me from reading. I really liked your marriage post. And the pretending post. And now I’m going to go back and read more.

    1. What a fun, pretty blog! Very professional-yet-accessible. And though this is largely recipes, what struck me is your delightful writing. Bravo! Cheers! Bon Appetit!

  26. I’m having trouble with this task. I have a brand in that I’m about Boomers but I have no desire to pigeonhole my writing. My ideas stem from being alive, and that can go in any direction, at any time. Any suggestions? Am I improperly interpreting this?

    1. Hi Wendy,

      I’m going through the same thing with my blog. I don’t want to pigeonhole but looking back I can see that I needed some focus.

      I’m trying two things.
      1) Using my categories and menus in a way that streams my writing into 4 different categories (subject to change on my whim!)
      2) Considering point of view as an author and the role I want to fill. Your point of view as a Boomer is going to give you a certain kind of voice, very different from a teen or someone in their 20′s. I think that helps unify your blog no matter what your topic. See if you can find a phrase that encompasses all you want to do. If you’ve got a specific topic, gardening for example, fine. But if your blog is about examining the Boomer lifestyle through fiction and creative non-fiction and analyzing trends I’d totally see that as a solid brand.

      These are just examples of course.

      Does this help or did I make it worse?

  27. Hello everyone… Branding wow love it!!! I have so much to learn…never even new what a widget was…TE HE…I have been blogging for only 3 weeks.. yet seem to have branded myself…as Earth Angel Insights… which seems to be catching on emotionally to my readers..I want to link my website to twitter…instagram…and others this week…as to have more visibility…it seems the more transparent I become…the easier it is to be an inspiration for others…as I definitely need to tweek my ‘about’ page…I also find that shorter posts… with at least one picture… keeps the attention of my followers…I want to keep my page clean…narrowing categories and tags…making sure my pictures are relevant..as my goal is to inspire the world…I was wondering if anyone has a good tag line for me..all taken with a sense of humbleness of course…I am excited to share…this is my passion…Thanks for your help…Heart to Heart Robyn….Any suggestions would be great!!

  28. I started using my own photos a few months ago. I did change the photo today. http://chasingdestino.com/ What do you think? It was this one or one of a tattoo. :) I’ll try to be more aware of the font color. Sometimes it blends into the pictures and no one can read it.
    Has anyone put the Google analytics on there page? I’m not sure where to put it. Thanks!

  29. I think I’m getting this branding thing down…all my social media accounts have the same header image and my theme is a girl that loves to get down and dirty with nature but also likes pink, lipgloss and heels! :)
    Happy Travels,
    Daisy