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Run a First Time Reader Audit on Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today is Day 2 in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge and today your task is to Do a First Time Reader Audit on your blog.

Get a friend or family member who has never read your blog before and sit them down at a computer.

Load your blog up and let your friend surf it.

Don’t talk to them as they do – but watch carefully how they use your blog.

  • How do they navigate?
  • Where do they click?
  • What do they pause to read?
  • What do they skip over?

Once they’ve surfed your blog ask them some questions about the experience.

  • What were their first impressions?
  • What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it?
  • Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand?
  • What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog?
  • What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog?
  • What questions do they have having surfed your blog?
  • What words would they use to describe the design?
  • What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later?

It’s amazing to see what you’ll learn by watching someone use your blog.

Once you’ve done your First Time Reader Audit come back to this post and let us know what you learned.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Good tip! One of the things we preach most in marketing is to watch how your customer reacts to materials and modify them until you get the desired effect.

    When I launched the SmallFuel Marketing Blog I sat down with a new reader on at least 5 separate occasions to see how they traveled through the website, how they read the articles, and what they liked/disliked.

    I learned on each occasion that my website can never be simple enough, or easy enough to navigate. It is my lifelong goal to simplify navigation, make the important elements stand out properly, and remove needless distractions.

    Good luck to everyone with your reader audit,

    – Mason

  2. Glen Allsopp says:

    I actually did this recently and it worked out well

    Another nice tip, thanks

  3. Brad Isaac says:

    I’ve done this a couple of times with my lovely, but not so computer literate wife. She is absolutely fantastic at clicking stuff that makes me slap my own forehead I’ll ask questions like “I thought you wanted to read about public speaking and you are clicking on a bookbinding post! Why?”

    Definitely a recommended strategy to find out what’s not working well and what’s working better.

  4. George says:

    Wow, that is a great idea. We do these kinds of studies on the software I write at work. I really like this idea. I am going to have do this soon.

  5. Elliot JC says:

    Great tip. Google did a very similar thing when they where in the design process of their site. After watching people surf it they realised they need to a add a copyright notice at the bottom as people didn’t know when the page ended. I’m defiantly going to try this.

    I don’t know if a product like this is on the market and in fact it might breach privacy laws. But wouldn’t it be cool if you could take a video screenshow of your visitors computer whilst on your site, to see what they looked at first and stuff. Let me know what you think?

    Thanks – Elliot
    http://elliotjc.com

  6. Can’t you do the same thing with heatmaps?

    You can start a free subscription with crazy egg and get that feature.

    It’s nice because you can do a lot more research than just one or two users.

  7. Brennan Ryan says:

    Thats a great idea.

    i will have to hassle Mum when she visits this weekend :-)

  8. Thanks for the new tip.
    Elizabeth G.

  9. Chuck says:

    Excellent advice, Darren.

    I always itch to explain things to my friends while they’re looking at my site–that indicates a problem.

    Now if I only had the programming and design chops to do it : )

  10. Dan Cole says:

    Very nice Darren, I think some web developers tend to forget this.

  11. great tip darren. I am just going to do this on my new blog and see how it goes..

  12. I don’t have the luxury to do it now, but I’ve done it in the past. One thing I do now is scan the “actions” part of Clickly (analytics) to see what route each reader is taking. It works really well and helps me write articles that “guide” readers in the direction I want them to go.

  13. Ian says:

    I tried this with my new blog Tethics that I recently launched, using both mother and father as testers. However, the question is what to do when you get mixed responses like I did.

    For example, when my mother looked at it she had a hard time understanding the logo, yet when my father saw it, he immediately understood the association. I suppose one misunderstanding, however, is enough to warrant some refining.

    @Drew Stauffer: I tried Crazy Egg about 6 months ago when it was still in beta on a larger site I run, and it ended up causing a great deal of errors in our error logs. The service was great though and extremely useful for this type of thing, especially if you receive mixed reactions like I did today trying it with just 2 subjects. You can use these large amounts of data to qualify any hunches you might come up with with a few test subjects. I may have to try out Crazy Egg again now.

  14. shawn says:

    @Drew

    Heatmaps are good at indicating where people are clicking most, but I believe that is as far as they go. The benefit of watching a user is the feedback you can get from them. A particular link or area of your website might be the most popular, but feedback from people will indicate whether specific needs are being met.

  15. I generally do this once a month with a friend, and I get great feedback that way.

  16. Martin Muehl says:

    I also think heatmaps are better for placing ads the right way to maximize clicks. The great thing about watching others is that you can see the approach someone takes to eg. find some specific information on your blog. If possible, I wouldn’t do it always with the same person though.

  17. marquis says:

    This is the best way to improve your blog. Feedback is a must when you’re trying to make your blog the best it can be.

    http://alltalksports.wordpress.com/

  18. Just make sure they are somewhat computer literate. I had some relatives look at a site that I run which is quite popular, and they were clueless.

  19. That’s a pretty good idea. Something I think I’ll start doing. :-)

  20. vantrice says:

    I think this is a great idea. Unfortunately, I don’t have any friends at all. I’m a single mother of 2 and I spend all of my time at the computer trying to find ways to make money with my blog. I have found some very useful information on your blog on how to accomplish this. I still know that my blog needs some more work because I have been turned down by several paid to blog companies. They say that my blog needs more links and a higher pagerank. It’s pretty upsetting for me trying to improve my blog. Thanks for posting such helpful tips on your blog.

  21. I actually have my wife and brother in law read my site about twice a week. This is an excellent tip. I preach to my members daily about simplicity.

    Thank you,

    Jason MoneySpace

  22. Jon Smock says:

    This method probably works best with users (your test guinea pigs) that might have come across your site or that you would want to attract. So, if your blog describes the newest types of lamps on the market, it’s probably best to get people that are interested in interior design or lamp salesmen ( or both, depending on who you’re trying to attract) to test your blog.

  23. Genesis says:

    Good tip, unfortunately I can´t use it right now because I don´t know anyone here who speaks enough English to actually be able to read my blog!

  24. Matt Batcho says:

    I never really thought of that. People rarely look towards the family to critique their work. They wait for a potential customer to hit them with the bad news. This is something I implemented with my girlfriend, who by the way hates self help and the like. She is not totally against it but instead would rather be doing different things. Great post!

    Please feel free to check our site to provide feedback for us.

  25. Chase Roper says:

    I won’t be able to do this one until early next week, but I will and return with my feedback!

    Thanks,

    Chase

  26. Kelvin says:

    It’s day 2 and it’s been interesting. Instead of doing the homework assigned, both days I found myself recalling and analyzing previous experiences, because they are things that I’ve already done before, but just not think about the reasons behind them that much.

    What I noticed about people that’s not familiar with blogs: they don’t scroll down! They see what’s on the top, and then don’t know that there’s plenty more if they scroll down. Well, I am not going to put up in huge print on the top of the page: SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE! But I am going to put one of those “most recent posts” or “most popular posts” things near the top of the page, so even if they don’t scroll down, they are aware that there’s something to click on.

  27. ApOgEE says:

    Good Tips! However, I’m afraid to let them surf my blog though my own computer because these first time readers will accidentally clicks on my Adsense Ads then. ;D

  28. I would watch their eye movement, and where they smile (or otherwise)… Love those analytics, and they have their place for sure, but for deep-root understanding of how it’s working, can any stats package beat the act of watching a real person’s interaction with a site in 3-d real time?

  29. Rindy says:

    great idea. I have hit a plateau of readers and would like to get a new upswing to reach more people. Here’s an invite for all who read this blog!! ;)

  30. Eric says:

    I have a new blog I just started and today I had a friend surf my blog. Here’s what I found out.

    - The user (friend) never really scrolled down the page. He pretty much just looked at the first post and what links were in the left and right nav

    - I’m not sure the user understood exactly what the site was about, nor how to use it (Not into blogs)

    - I have a content block on my site called “essentials” which was empty because I was going to place pillar articles there. Unfortunately, the articles are not done. The user kept trying to click on this block of content to reveal its contents. After talking with him a bit, he was looking for essentials on “How to use the site”. This got me thinking, maybe I need a page explaining what the site is about and how to best use it.

    - Lastly, my site is about recommending fun online applications. I noticed the user would click away from my site and play with the site I was recommending. The user spent a good 5 minutes just testing out the application. Not sure if this is good or bad, but it took a while before the user went back to my site (actually I had to nudge him back)

  31. Wendy says:

    I learned that people have very short attention spans!!

  32. Great tip! I’ve actually committed to doing each of the 31 exercises and blogging about the results daily and have challenged bloggers who read my blog to join me in going through these exercises. Several have already taken me up on it. And the process of writing up my results is really forcing me to think things through. Thanks Darren–I’m already seeing an increase in community!

  33. Charles says:

    again great tip! will try this on my “new” site which is in development stage, so great moment to make it more user friendly…

  34. Alex Miller says:

    My “First Time Reader” keeps telling my they were impressed by the cleanliness of my blog, how easy it was to read. They were not interested in the content, as it is not relevant to them, more interest in the layout, design and personal pages….

    Here are the repsonses…

    * What were their first impressions? CLEAR, CLEAN LINES, EASY TO READ
    * What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it? BORING I.T. SHIT AND WORK STUFF THAT DOESN’T INTEREST ME
    * Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand? VERY
    * What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog? IMPRESSED
    * What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog? NO SUGGESTIONS
    * What questions do they have having surfed your blog? ARE YOU A NERD?
    * What words would they use to describe the design? CLEAN
    * What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later? THE BLUE, THE CLEAN LINES, THE LINKS AND WHO AM I PAGE

  35. Gema says:

    First Time Reader Audit (Result)

    Bad English, it doesn’t mean a rock band. That is a comment from my first time readers about my blog :) I ask my friends to open my blog in front of me and watch their activity in this blog and make some evaluation. I ask their review, comment and suggest. You was right; I got much valuable review from them. I list evaluation conclusion on my blog.

  36. Los says:

    Great post, I actually posted it as a blog.

  37. Yes, it’s really useful to get feedback. Recently made some improvements to my blog, because of some of the feedback I received. Now I have several way’s people can give feedback, by placing comments, sign my guestbook, or write in the ‘Shoutbox’ there is also a ‘Life Chat’ and a ‘Poll’
    Your welcome on my blog to take a look and let me know what you think.

    All the Best,
    HPvD.

  38. HairySwede says:

    Never would have thought of this! It makes perfect sense though to read it. Thanks for the tip.

  39. Y. S. says:

    As always, you made a great point.

    Can you run this on your blog? I mean make an exclusive page for reviewing and first impressions of blogs? Because friends and family aren’t professionals. I’d rather hear from professionals.

  40. Amy says:

    Great tip. Can’t wait to try it out!

  41. Ryan McLean says:

    Great post,
    I am setting myself the goal of 31 days to a better blog

  42. Y.S. has a great idea. For those of us new to the blogging playing field and for those of us striving for continuous improvement – I would be grateful and also willing to be involved in peer review. Maybe even a great idea to write an article about peer review and ask for specific comments about the site. I might add this idea to my list of ‘Articles to write’.

  43. Hi Darren,

    I posted this step on my blog and got a few great comments. I just made some changes based on the feedback…

    http://offonatangent.blogspot.com/

    Thanks!
    –Steve
    http://stevegarfield.com

  44. p@r@noid says:

    thanx for the info…!!!!

    well…..i wish if one day i can be a blogger like you..!!!

    http://virgintech.blogspot.com

  45. Surender says:

    Dareen,
    Surprise.So valuable post like a guide book.I am following your guide and getting more users on my tech blog.
    Thanks again.
    Meet me at http://www.iboozi.com

  46. Magneto says:

    Nice tip. I have done a course on user interfaces and this sort thing came under User Study. But an important thing to keep in mind is that if the user is aware that his/her actions are being watched they would act differently than they normally do. It would be more effective if you use a tool like Camtasia to record the actions and then view it later.

  47. Great article, there are a lot of good tips here. I am going to start the New Year going through your ideas one by one!

  48. Zarek says:

    Hi Darren,

    Good tip ,
    I just made some changes based on this…

    http://www.nichec.com/

    Thanks!

    Zarek hu

  49. Jojo says:

    …. I wish I can pull you aside so you can do the browsing and clicking for me :]]