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Tips for Probloggers from Getting Real – the new e-book by 37 Signals

Rachel CunliffeHi! This is Rachel Cunliffe. I’m a blog designer from New Zealand and I thought I’d share with you some problogger tips from 37 Signals’ new e-book, “Getting Real” (which is selling very well).

If you haven’t come across 37 Signals’ products such as Basecamp, Backpack, Tada, Writeboard and most recently, campfire, it’s worth your time to find out what they offer. I’m finding Basecamp invaluable for managing my blog design clients.

As I read the e-book I realised that there’s also a lot of insight, encouragement and tips for (pro)bloggers. In fact, 37 Signals recommend their book for anyone who is an entrepreneur, designer, programmer or marketer working on a big idea. Their thoughts echo many of Darren’s posts here at Problogger too.

Here are 10 tips from the book along with some comments.

  1. “Build less. Less features, less options/preferences.” I’m a strong advocate for less blog clutter. Some examples: ask yourself how much of your sidebar is really necessary. Are social bookmarking icons needed? Chicklets? How many blog-speak terms are on your blog that a casual visitor from a search engine will understand?
  2. “Build for yourself. When you solve your own problem, you create a tool that you’re passionate about. And passion is key. Passion means you’ll truly use it and care about it. And that’s the best way to get others to feel passionate about it too.” Does your blog solve a problem? Does it offer something useful not found elsewhere? Are you passionate about it? As more and more blogs are made, originality and usefulness are of prime importance.
  3. “If your [blog] doesn’t excite you, something’s wrong. If you’re only working on it in order to cash out, it will show. People can read between the lines.” Authenticity and passion. You know it, I know it, we can all tell when we visit a blog.
  4. “Be Yourself. Differentiate yourself from [other blogs] by being personal and friendly. A lot of small [blogs] make the mistake of trying to act big. It’s as if they perceive their size as a weakness that needs to be covered up. Being small can actually be a huge advantage… fewer formalities, less bureaucracy, and more freedom… they can communicate in a more direct and personal way. Being small means you can talk with your customers, not down to them.” The number of times I’ve read blog about pages where it makes it seem as though there’s a massive staff team behind the blog, when really it’s just one person…and I wish I could get to know that person…
  5. “What’s the Big Idea. What does your [blog] stand for? What’s it really about? What makes it different than other similar [blogs]?”
  6. “Ignore Details Early On. Work from large to small. Success and satisfaction is in the details…[but] success isn’t the only thing you’ll find in the details. You’ll also find stagnation, disagreement, meetings and delays.” If you’re working on getting your own blog up by yourself, just start blogging first. Don’t worry about Adsense optimisation, getting the design perfect, adding on forums and other nifty features. Just start writing. I’ve seen many blog projects abandoned because people get bogged down in the details of tweaking everything to be just perfect before launching the blog, or writing on it. “Just get the stuff on the page for now. Then use it. Make sure it works. Later on you can adjust and perfect it. Details reveal themselves as you use what you’re building. You’ll see what needs more attention. You’ll feel what’s missing. That’s when you need to pay attention, not sooner.” The latest trendy plugin can wait. Find out if you need it first.
  7. “Don’t waste time on problems you don’t have yet.” I recently recommended to a client who wanted me to go through a long series of steps found on a forum for search-engine-optimising phpBB that he wait to see if his forum gets used and there’s a lot of content in there that he wants search engines to pick up. “Don’t sweat stuff until you actually must. Don’t overbuild. Increase hardware and system software as necessary.” Think your blog should have a forum? Do you have the user-base to make it a successful forum yet? Worried your host can’t handle a digg-effect traffic surge? Upgrade your hosting plan when you start having traffic problems. “Create a great [blog] and then worry about what to do once it’s wildly successful. Otherwise you may waste energy, time and money fixating on something that never even happens.”
  8. “Half, Not Half-Assed. Beware of the “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to [blogging]. Throw in every decent idea that comes along and you’ll just wind up with a half-assed version of your [blog]. What you really want to do is build half a [blog] that kicks ass. Stick to what’s truly essential.”
  9. “Hold the Mayo. Ask people what they don’t want. ‘If you could remove one feature, what would it be? What don’t you use? What gets in your way the most?’ More isn’t the answer. Sometimes the biggest favour you can do for customers is leave something out.”
  10. “Rinse and Repeat. Work in iterations. Don’t expect to get it right the first tie. Let the [blog] grow and speak to you. Let it morph and evolve.” Revisit your blog’s design and functionality regularly. Instead of just thinking your blog needs a new look after a while, ask yourself what’s working, what’s not. What can be improved? What don’t I need any more?

This is a tiny sample of the thoughts and applications found in “Getting Real”.

Disclaimer: there is no affiliate program for e-book sales ;)

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Comments

  1. DaEMoN says:

    Great tips. I couldn’t agree more

  2. Those are terrific tips, Rachel. I’d endorse them all. #1 is my main principal in building Syntagma Media. I hate clutter. #7 I call the Resiliency Model, which most big shots ignore.

    I note that the $19 ebook took $33,000 on its first day alone. Now that’s problogging!

  3. “principle” … Grrrr.

  4. Julian says:

    Thanks for the tips.

    Can I ask a question of those who have more experience. I started a Pub Review blog back in February. Doing OK so far, but I have ended up with about 20 different accounts for directories, technorati, haloscan, and so on.

    If I am going to have a couple of other blogs (got some good ideas), what is the best way to manage the accounts.

    Do I go for one, or a new set for each blog?

  5. Andy Merrett says:

    “Upgrade your hosting plan when you start having traffic problems.”

    oooh no no no – upgrade *before* you have traffic problems. If you are watching your traffic growth and understand your current hosting plan, you shouldn’t hit problems.

  6. Rachel says:

    You could argue it either way. Some clients tell me they want a dedicated server and there’s no point – they don’t have that sort of traffic. Keeping an eye on traffic is important though.

  7. 10-4 Andy…

    If you wait until you encounter problems, you have proabably waited too long…

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  1. [...] Just wrote a post over at Problogger which may interest you. [...]

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  3. [...] Why do they say, “Write what you’re passionate about”? Because passion makes good business sense. As Rachel Cunliffe reported on Problogger, quoting from the 37 Signals book Getting Real, “If your [blog] doesn’t excite you, something’s wrong. If you’re only working on it in order to cash out, it will show. People can read between the lines.” [...]