what do you think? [31dbbb project]

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. school of ministry and missions instructor. president of fistbump media, llc.

May 23, 2010

When I set out to participate in the 31 Day to Build a Better Blog project, I knew that it would be an experience that would really help me to grow as a blogger.

I’ve been doing this for a little over three years now, but I’m still growing quite a bit. In fact, I think that I’ll look back at this time as a landmark experience in the evolution of bibledude.net.

Not only do I have the opportunity to learn through the study that many of us are doing together, but I also get to solicit feedback from project participants (and anyone else reading this) that will help me focus specific areas of this blog. There are a few areas that I would love to get your thoughts on…

  • Theme – I use a magazine theme as opposed to a standard blog theme because it lends well to the types of projects that I run regularly. But I’d love to hear what you think about whether the theme is appropriate or if I should refocus the overall look and feel.
  • Page elements – Within the theme, I’d love to hear what you think about things like the header branding, sidebar widgets, post formats, advertising, etc. Is there anything that you’d like to see that you don’t? Or am I trying to do too much and should focus more on simplicity?
  • Content – If you poke around the content a little bit, then you’ll quickly discover that I regularly have guest contributors. But I’d love to hear what you think about the content in general. Am I hitting topics of interest? Is the content engaging enough? What could I do different that would make you want to subscribe?
  • Social networking – My Facebook page for the blog is an important part of what I do. What do you think about it? Is there anything that I can/should do different with it to make it more value-added for readers?
  • Overall impression – Generally speaking, how am I doing? What should I continue doing? Stop doing? Start doing?

Now let me have it! I appreciate your honest feedback! I really look forward to this opportunity to continue to grow as a blogger through what you share right here, right now. Thanks!

16 Comments

  1. Jon Reid

    Dan, I think I need to come by here and steal your ideas! Your design feels very clean and clear. And I really like what you've done setting up a Facebook page. I've pondered between doing that, or making an email newsletter of some kind. But I suppose the choice is not exclusive, so I should just jump in.

    One comment about your email subscriptions: I like your “subscribe by email” page. But when I clicked on the dark-gray email icon in the sidebar, I was surprised to find myself directly at Feedburner. I think it would work better for that to also go to your page, where you explain things. Otherwise, it feels abrupt if people click around just to explore. …Also, on your “subscribe by email” page, why not add the Feedburner form and button right there, instead of adding an extra step?

    Reply
  2. @bibledude

    Thanks Jon! That is some really good feedback, especially around the email subscription setup. I'll have to make the tweaks that you suggest… I really like those ideas.

    And feel free to 'steal' my ideas anytime! I don't claim exclusive rights to anything that I do here. I would definitely recommend setting up a Facebook page. In fact, I am in the process of writing a post for HighCallingblogs.com on that topic.

    Thanks dude!

    Reply
  3. Scott Ayres

    Dan… I love the look of the site.. Nice, clean theme. I get the grunchyness of the social media logos, but at first glance I didn't notice them. They don't really stand out. Personally speaking I would move the tag cloud to the bottom of the sidebar and move up your twitter and resources widget. And do you need the “about” widget seeing that you have an about page? I don't know the answer to that, just curious what the thought was to have it on the side.

    The ads are good, I like that you left one blank. The opportunity page could be updated since you have double the fans on FB now..

    Speaking of your FB, you aren't utilizing the full side bar on the fan page. I would place more info on the side bar with url links to the different sites you have. To see what I mean go to the church fan page I coordinate. http://www.thrivefacebook.info

    Overall great page and I am going to start following and learning from you.

    Reply
  4. Peter Eleazar

    Theme: As a toastmaster, we learnt that a written style never translates to a spoken style of communication. I suspect the same is true of blogging. So I would stick to a blog theme.

    Branding: I have previously soul searched about branding. It is a a challenge, but my view is it should communicate the essence of what the brand represents. It should tell what you about in a nutshell. Many visitors tend to walk away before connecting, so in many cases your first impression is what hooks.

    General look and feel: Very pleasant, engaging, but do you need to show the key word list – might be able to use that space better.

    Social networking: I am still not sure of twitter – it seems so granular, with people remarking on all kinds of trivia. FB seems better suited as a blog companion as you can find friends easier (better selectivity) and keep the content in theme.

    Will look at your past blogs later.

    Reply
  5. Stuart

    Like others have said the layout is clean and crisp and I have no real issues with it.

    Also, as I've said with others, I don't get the need to have your feedburner +fb +twitter followers advertised. If there's a specific reason you do and if so great. If it's just as a 'look how well I'm doing thing' then like I say, I don't get that.

    As part of the process when I'm reviewing I always go back to the homepage to see how that looks and unfortunately unlike individual post pages it looks crowded and a bit daunting. Not sure how your theme would allow for thinning out what's there?

    As to the branding I do like the heading as it fits but feel it is very much spoilt by the advert on the right hand side. Other than that keep on keeping on dude 🙂

    I don't interact with FB fan / business / group pages much so I haven't really got anything to say about that as my FB'ing is all for personal reasons.

    Reply
  6. Elaine K Stepehn

    Wow! I think your blog looks very professional. I love your banner at top w/ the net.
    I'd like to know what you used to determine if and when to sell advertising spots on your site and how much to charge. I read an article a while back that said I needed a lot more visitors.
    I haven't signed up with Facebook yet. It's on my to do list.
    Thanks for following me on Twitter. I'm following you now too!

    Reply
  7. Becky

    I'm not real sure what I think. It looks BibleDudeish. I think it looks good.

    Reply
  8. @bibledude

    Yeah… the social media icons fit better before a few other recent changes. I'll update them so that they fit the look/feel better and stand out a little more.

    Regarding the “about” widget, that is there to tell more about the post author. I have a bunch of different people that contribute on a regular basis, so when other people post it will show up with their information. The about page is more about the site as a whole (using my elevator pitch) than it is about just one person. Make sense? Or confusing?

    Thanks for the thoughts/feedback! You make some great points, and I will certainly work on these things!

    Reply
  9. @bibledude

    Hmmm… great points Peter! You've got me thinking particularly around the branding piece. I think that I may have a little work to do to better integrate my message (and/or elevator pitch, which is now on my about page) into overall branding of the website. I think that it probably needs to filter through to a few other areas as well.

    Great feedback! Thanks!

    Reply
  10. @bibledude

    I appreciate the honest feedback on the followers thing. That was something that I tried because I saw it on some other A-list sites and thought that I'd give it a shot. My thinking is that since I do sell advertising, then it might lend to credibility. But I can easily add that information to my advertising details page for those who are interested. I think that you may be right in the point that (especially) to the general audience, it may not mean anything.

    I also appreciate the feedback on the homepage. What you are feeling is one of the things that I was actually a little worried about. I might be able to find a different template that is similar in overall format, but that is a little less cluttered. Some of this might be done through cleaning up the sidebar a little more too.

    Thanks Stuart! Your feedback is very helpful!

    Reply
  11. @bibledude

    “BibleDudeish”? Nice… I'm hoping that's a compliment! 🙂
    Thanks for the feedback!

    Reply
  12. @bibledude

    Thanks! There's a story about the banner with the net, and it is something that has significant meaning to me. So I'm glad that you connected with that!

    Regarding advertising, some of it is just some affiliate stuff that is not paying to be there, but that I get a cut of any sales that come from it. Lots of places offer that Amazon, ChristianBook.com, Dayspring, etc. But for the paying advertisers, I just shopped around for comparables, and found some formulas for calculating rates (based on traffic, etc.). But in the end, I still had to just sit down and just come up with what I thought would be a good balance between the value it offered, and what I was willing to give someone the space for.

    If you feel like your site is too low traffic to sell advertising, then you can always test the waters with some affiliate programs. You won't make a fortune, but the little extra that it does bring in might help cover your costs (if any) for running the site.

    Reply
  13. Janis@Open My Ears Lord

    Dan, I like the whole feel of the magazine format. Having a journalism background, though, I'm probably biased. I enjoy your direct style of writing that gives the details without a lot of embellishment, yet it is interesting. The tabs at the top of the page work well. I especially enjoyed reading your About Me page. It was substantial, covering all the aspects of who you are and what is important in your life in a friendly, news-story way.
    The only thing I did not like was the Day Spring add in your header. Could it go any place else?
    Otherwise–great.
    Janis

    Reply
  14. @bibledude

    That's great feedback Janis! Thanks!

    Regarding the DaySpring ad, the template that I use has a spot for that kind of thing that is there naturally. I could remove it, but it would leave it with a big, blank white spot. Probably with a little custom coding I could fix that. But before I do something like that, what was it that you didn't like? Was it the fact that it was advertising in such a prominent space, or was it the design of the ad itself? would it make a difference if I put something else up there that might be more attractive/relevant to the site content?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  15. Janis@Open My Ears Lord

    Oh! I'm up a little late here, but wanted to check back and see if you replied to my comment. About the DaySpring ad–I think in itself, the ad is designed nicely. However, it detracts from your header because it is so large. If you could put something else in there that promoted the overall theme of your page or the purpose of it, I think that would be better.

    Glad you liked my feedback. See you at 31dbbb in a few hours.

    Janis

    Reply
  16. SynapticLight

    I really like your blog, nice and professional, the type of blog I will look at for ideas (layout and design)
    Sidebar is great; neat and useful 🙂 especially the About widget (which is right there for ppl to look at rather than scrounge around for)
    The header looks good as well, but my only thought here is “There is no carry over of the typeface and colors used in the header to the rest of the blog” – I am at fault here in my own blog.

    I did 'Like' your facebook page, but I need to actually go there and engage. Hmm, come to think of it – I need to be more engaging and useful on my own facebook page.

    Reply

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what do you think? [31dbbb project]

by Dan King time to read: 2 min
18