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Fashion-Incubator – a ProBlogger Community Blog Consulting Project

Problogger-ConsultingIt’s time for our first Community Blog Consulting 2.0 project. Darren previously explained what this is and it’s worth reading that post to get yourself up to speed. Your participation in the project could see you win an iPod shuffle!

This week we’ll be looking at Fashion-Incubator. The blog is maintained by author Kathleen, with the help of a few other writers. Kathleen sells copies of her book through the blog.

Update: Kathleen has requested a revision of the blog’s description. It’s a blog written for those who manufacture items made with a sewing machine. In her words: “Think operations and engineering, not Heidi Klum and Project Runway.”

I’ll now throw it over to the ProBlogger community to provide your advice, suggestions and constructive critique. The commenter who provides the most useful feedback for the blog will win an iPod shuffle.

A summary of the community feedback (with my own commentary) will be posted in 4 – 5 days, so make sure to get your comments in soon.

A screenshot of Fashion-Incubator.

The key questions you’ll want to consider are:

  • What do you like about this blog?
  • What could be improved?

You might want to focus your comment on these areas:

  • Design — usability, visual appeal, readability, navigation.
  • Content — got an idea for a great viral post the blogger could write?
  • Promotion — how would you suggest the blogger promote the blog?
  • SEO — can you see areas for improvement?
  • Monetization — could this be done more effectively? Do you see any missed opportunities?

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible. I’m sure Kathleen (the blog’s owner) is eagerly awaiting your advice.

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Comments

  1. Bryan says:

    I’d definitely recommend a new blog design. If you’re speaking about fashion, you should have something fashion related and a little more trendy. There are lots of reasonably priced blog coders that will customize one for you for cheap.

  2. Nick says:

    I too think a re-design could be good – the site seems a bit plain. For me the blog seems a little bit too cluttered with amazon ads and some of the menus (e.g. archives) could be compacted a little.I really like the ‘sites I don’t like, but visit anyway’ section lol.

  3. In a first look the main page is way too long. There are too many articles posted so definitely change that.

    A new layout would be nice, if not maybe get a logo, work on the current design to improve readability like nicer headers.

    Use images in the posts, there is allot of text surrounded by image ads that don’t bring any value to the website, I would reduce image ads and use images in the posts.

  4. Rinaldo says:

    I’ll recommend a few things:

    1) A more attractive design, doesn’t have to be anything over the top but the site is lacking depth and becomes boring to read quickly. Simple stuff like shadows to raise the content wrap over the body background are pleasant to the eyes.

    2) The structure of the posts needs more images and colors. Not a carnival but it would be nice to see stuff like little images for the unordered lists instead of plain gigantic dots. Also needs to order a little more the posts, I saw one of the Pop Quizzes that suddenly talked about another subject. Is better to make another post and talk about it, more posts only make your blog more active :P.

    3) Lack of social bookmarking integration. I see tiny Feed buttons on one side instead of an attractive section to invite me to subscribe. In the same vein, no post has any “Share This” or Digg or any link to help bookmark or tag the specific post in my favorite service.

    4) No meta-tags in the source code. Important stuff for SEO and is missing in all the pages.

    That’s what I see at first glance :).

  5. Rhys says:

    Right, first things first, I didn’t like the design. It is functional, and it’s easy to read, but it didn’t grab me. I would’ve thought (and this is me speaking as an outsider to the whole fashion industry, and not really delving too far into the archives), fashion blogs would be a lot more cutting edge design wise. I think even a nice header graphic that matches the design would do wonders for the blog.

    SEO wise is tricky. My advice would be to switch to wordpress ;), I’ve worked with MT in the past and found that title tags and meta descriptions are stupidly fiddly. It was a while ago, so could change now.

    Finally, if the main way of monetizing it is the book, then I’d make a better feature of it. Maybe make a bar accross the top with “Most Read Posts” “Subscribe to My RSS Feed” and “Buy My Book”. The current location whilst good, it isn’t perfect.

    If you don’t want to do this, maybe I could suggest the following changes to the sidebar.

    Left Sidebar:

    - Move the book to the top and give it a title (the red letter spaced text with the line underneath it).
    - Increase the size of the orange RSS feed button and lose the “Add to google” etc., move it to the same place where the subscribe box is, and also write a post dated post explaining what is RSS, and link below it.

    Middle Sidebar

    - How many donations do you get? If it isn’t much, I’d suggest burying the “Make A Donation” button. Instead, move the “Link To Us” Icon futher up, and give it a title.

    Anyway, that’s my thoughts. :)

  6. Krista says:

    Just a suggestion, but without knowing who her target audience is and what her blog goals are, it’s difficult to provide constructive feedback. Would it be possible for her to provide some background info. For instance:

    What are her top 2-3 goals? For instance, is she primarily using her blog to sell more books? To gain sponsors? To get people to subscribe to her feed/newsletter? Something else? You only have so much real estate space on your site, so you should maximize your design for your top goals first.

    Who is her target audience and what do they expect from a fashion blog? From a quick glance through her site, it looks like her book/posts are focused on small business owners in the fashion industry (is that right?). It would help me provide feedback if she gave a brief description of the types of readers she wants to attract and what other blogs/sites they might visit.

    Both questions would give us some context for providing feedback rather than just telling her what we (who aren’t her target readers) like or dislike.

  7. Peter Cooper says:

    The three biggest issues from my point of view:

    * Barely any images. Need an image on nearly every post.. it’s a fashion blog, pictures are expected.

    * Titles of posts are the same size as regular text. They need to stand out and need to written in “headline style” to pop out in an editorial sense.

    * A great design is not essential on a blog.. the key is to get subscribers who then rarely come back to the site (except to comment). However, the design of this one really could do with an update, even if just to wow new visitors into hitting that subscribe button.. sell the sizzle, not the steak.

  8. Well, I like the design – except that it is too wide and too long.

    It doesn’t validate (http://validator.w3.org/) which probably isn’t your fault, but validation is worth striving for. If it’s MT’s fault, I’d switch to something else.

    Regarding the length: once you reach end of text, there’s no point in ads and other links in sidebars – nobody is going to scroll into them and what they can see “hanging out” just looks messy – like one side of a shirt untucked :-)

    It’s tough (though not impossible) to control that; the easy way around it is just to have less: don’t have those long sidebars. Most of the text stuff could be done with mouseover menus (so those long lists of links would only be exposed when people mouse over them. There’s another fairly easy way to match text like that to the length of your post; see my http://aplawrence.com/Web/equal_columns.html for an example.

    The width is too much also – I do not like seeing scrollbars when I go to a web page. You need to get rid of one column at least (and really two column sites look a lot less cluttered).

    White space, white space, white space. Buy extra when it is on sale :-)

    Ahhh.. the book.

    I didn’t even notice it until I read Rhys’s post above and went looking for it. I thought it was just another ad, and we all tend not to notice ads.. I’d definitely agree with Rhys: “Buy My Book!” makes me more interested in looking at it.

    Search: the results page is plain jane ugly. A Google CSE result page would be better than that, or jazz it up some. That’s another place to put in a plug for your book, by the way.

    Search is also very, very slow. Again maybe MT’s fault?

    I noticed your link in Pattern Services – yet another thing to promote where you have the space (Search results)

    It looks like you have Amazon Product links for some books over on the right? How about a Book Review section where you can really promote those? Review posts provide excellent content opportunities and give you another chance to pick up some ad revenue.

    Comments need to stand out from your text. Different background or font or indented (As Darren does here).

    Ads within text work well (notice how Darren promotes Problogger right in the text). Your posts are generally long enough to easily hold an ad or two – and again, this might be a great place for “Buy my Book!” and “Visit my Pattern Services Site!”.

    Have you tried other advertising – Google, Chitika? If you have, and Amazon outperforms them, than that’s fine, but I can’t help wondering if you could do better.

    Content, by the way, excellent. Easy to read, and at least even vaguely interesting to someone like me with no interest in fashion. Good job!

    Those are my first impressions..

  9. Bradly says:

    One thing I noticed is that the theme is fixed width and does not fit on 1024×768. I had to scroll side to side.

    3 sidebars may be a bit much. I would move the links and most of the content from the left sidebar to a resources or links page and anything that wouldn’t make sense there move to another side bar. That way you can eliminate the need for that many sidebars

    I would also remove the MyBlogLog link tagging as you are drawing extra attention to links that aren’t earning you any money and directing people away from your site.

    As others have already stated you need to include more pictures. Your site is pretty sterile over all and doesn’t make for a great user experience. Add some color and absolutely without a doubt get a logo created for you. I e-bayed the logo I have on my site. It only cost $20.00 and It was super easy.

    Stock photos like from istockphoto.com would be a great place to start if you need fashion photos. Basically you need to liven up the place and make it eye candy. That will get Stumblers to take a look at it without just clicking the button again.

    Shorten the front page to highlight a few posts but keep it reasonable. If you have to scroll more than 2 1/2 page lengths down, I feel its too long.

    Also your Amazon ads don’t really add any value to the site. You could still use the Amazon Ads but I would not use the ads in the format you currently use. They aren’t very aesthetically pleasing, especially the ones with no image.

    With your e-book, you need to make a logo for it and put it up top in the make a donation spot and either leave the make a donation there or move it somewhere else on the page.

    Hope this helps.

  10. First off, the content on this blog is fantastic for it’s target market. I wish I had a resource like this many years ago when I was doing work in this market. The way the content engages around the book….repeatedly referring to it, and making it almost a right of passage to being part of the group, I found to be very effective. I wanted it. And the quality of the posts were consistently high enough, that I thought the $60 price point was low.

    The donate button is confusing to me, what are you raising money for and why is it where I look for a subscribe link?

    I found the visual quality of the blog challenging. First because I expect compelling visuals for anything connected to fashion. Second I found the template visually noisy. What do I mean by that…..too many things calling for my attention. With many of them seemingly irrelevant, like the calendar.Rather than call each one out, I would suggest reading Skellie’s post 50 Tips to Unclutter your Blog, since she names most of them there.

    The first thing I wanted to find was your about page, and I wanted to know about you. It was tough to find. The other authors were less important, so I would consider moving them down on the page. I also wondered why how many children and pets people has were important….is there reason in the posts?

    I liked the way the blogroll was chunked up, giving me a sense of what I might find. But I don’t know that it needs to be in the sidebar, might be just as effective as a static page.

    The community on this blog is engaged. People are commenting back and forth. You get a sense they enjoy the space. Kathleen, you have done an amazing job building a compelling resource. I hope this blog review helps you bring it to the next level.

  11. Oh, another thing: you have some Javascript errors.

    Easy to spot with Firefox, just open the “Error Console”

    Again, probably not your direct fault but broken scripts can cause broken content, missed opportunities and visitor annoyance.

    Christine Martell asked about your missing “About” page – again, a perfect place to promote your book and your other site(s).

  12. Zach says:

    Some things that would make me want to read Fashion Incubator more:

    As the previous commentators have mentioned, the design is not very fashionable. It looks very Web 1.0. {Not good for a Fashion Blog – or any blog} Things that should be done to the blog are:


    > Get a header image made, and incorporate it throughout.
    > Go with 2 or three column design – 4 is confusing.
    > Use more color and images throughout.
    > Use rounded corners.
    > De-clutter the sidebar – Take out the calender, and lose some of the amazon ads. If you still have a lot of stuff, give the blog a thick footer{see bottom of this page}.
    > Make the feed more prominent . – Raise it above the fold, and give it a title. Also, group it with the email subscription form.
    > Put the navigation in the header.
    > Make the pop title font larger. – Right now its the same size as the post content just bold. Make it H3, or H2.
    > Place the archives on their on page. – The archives list is way to long for the sidebar, so give them their own page.
    > Use a header similar to John Chow’s. – In his header he has Popular Article, Promotes His ebook, Recommends some money making sites, and subtly
    {= P} points out his feed and review pricing. This would look great on your blog.
    > Burn your feed and display the Feedburner subscriber count.
    > Either lessen the number of articles on the home page or use the “Read More” tag sooner in the posts.
    >Make the post titles click-able.
    > Differentiate the comments from everything else.
    > Create an individual ‘Advertise’ page.
    > Hate to be repetitive, but switch to WordPress. I’m fairly sure you can export the posts and comments from MT and import them into WordPress. WordPress is just so much better, and you’d have a way easier time with the theming.
    > If it sounds like too much work, than just save a few special articles and start fresh on WordPress.

    Well, thats what I think. Hope you find it help full.
    Thanks for the opportunity.

  13. Ricardo says:

    I’ll keep it short and clean:

    1- Change to wordpress
    2- Install WPSeo
    3- Get a Glossy, yet simple theme. Something like the barthelme theme.
    4- 4 Sidebars? Go for 3 sidebars!
    5- Show the social bookmarklets in the content of every post on the bottom of it. Dont do it in the sidebar – nobody notices that
    6- Since you have so many content on the sidebars, why not use Scriptacolous (Ajax Framework) to add an accordeon animation to the text? You’ll be having a nice effect and it saves you a LOT of space.
    7- Get a Top Page Navigation
    8- Wayyy to much Amazon Stuff on your page. Get rid of that.
    9- Instead of the Amazon Headscrapers, why not just include the Amazon Wiget in every post that is related to something that is buyable on Amazon?
    10- And finally: It’s very nice that you like to link other sites, but your overdriving it… just keep it short and nice. I dont really believe you are visiting those linked sites every day.

    Btw: I’m only making some constructive critisizm … don’t get this as an insult. I love the way you write. But its also about the eye candy when you are blogging :-)

    best regards,

    Ricardo

  14. I was just looking through a few more posts – as Christine Martell noted, you do have an active community there, which is great – but are you responding to their comments enough?

    I don’t like comments where it is hard to see who said what – again, using Problogger as a reference notice how easy it is to see that I wrote this? On your pages, I squint and search for names..

  15. markowe says:

    I see I am not the only one to notice – I kind of expected a far more cutting-edge design for a fashion blog. This template looks more or less like a boggo WordPress template.

    I know design don’t come cheap (much more expensive than a ProBlogger peer review) but it could work wonders.

  16. Hank Osborne says:

    Kathleen,

    On design and content here is what impressed me:

    1. You have a forum with more than 600 registered users and more than half the top level categories were active in the past week.

    2. You get straight to the point and have fresh content above the fold on the front page.

    3. The design does not take away from the content.

    Design and content thing that I would change:

    1. Get rid of the calendar move your book image into that position. Make the book image a link to a page telling more your book. Add ALT text to replace “cover”.

    2. Move up the site navigation to where the “subscribe” button is. Clarify what the subscriber is subscribing to and move down with RSS feed links.

    3. Get rid of the ” Sites I don’t like but visit anyway” section.

    4. Get rid of all the Amazon affiliate links in the sidebars unless you are making a ton of money on them. Many are missing images and it takes away from your site’s appeal.

    5. Make the forum more accessible for guests. I did a Google search for “sewing site:link:fashion-incubator.com/phpbb” and was able to get links to forum articles as a guest, but was not able to navigate from the forum main page.

    6. Change the About page to start off with who you are rather than who you are not.

    Promotion, SEO, and Monetization:

    1. Make use of that forum traffic with some ads. Maybe try Adsense or other context driven ads.

    2. Offer a limited number of free copies of your book as a promotion to site/blogs that will feature your blog.

    3. The big one you already did. You got a link from Darren.

  17. The first thing that stands out while opening the site in a new tab is the lack of a favicon. Since I use Firefox for my browsing needs favicons are the first indication to draw me into a site.

    The other thing I noticed is there isn’t a short description of your site in the title bar. This also is another thing I look at while viewing blogs. Since I don’t know right away about what your blog is about, I am a bit unsure if I want to read your articles.

    The next thing that stood out is the overall blandness of your site. This template isn’t just a premade template, but it is boring. The title and the description are just sitting there with no sense of imagination, logos, or pictures to draw the reader in. The site seems overly cluttered. Also, the calendar on the left has headings that are too big for the columns.

    The site, to me, screams messy. The navbars of information aren’t fluent and to find all of the information necessary you have to jump all over the site. Also, I see a ton of advertisements and am actually more drawn to them than you’re posts. Like Pro Blogger stated in an earlier post, use pictures in your posts. With all your posts being complete text your site looks dry.

    When hitting the bottom of the site the footer is a boring solid blue and there is a logo for what I presume to be a stat tracker of some sorts. Use Google Analytics and get rid of that picture.

    My key words of advice in no order are:

    1) Get a more unique and enticing template
    2) Get a favicon
    3) Get a logo or something to draw the users attention
    4) Cut down on the clutter and organize things in a clear and understanding manner
    5) Cut down on the amount of advertising
    6) Include more pictures into your posts
    7) Put a description in your header
    8) Get rid of the sitemeter image in the footer

    I hope this helps. As a web designer I tend to get a bit picky with the overall fluidity of sites. Sorry if this was a bit harsh.

  18. Julie says:

    First of all, Kathleen, the image for your book should be clickable. It should take you to a page that provides details about your book. Plus, bring it up higher in the column. Get rid of the unneccessary calendar and the image will be closer to the top. I don’t think a calendar should be one of the first things your visitors see anyway.

    The title and subtitle aren’t clear to me. Be more specific as to what your blog provides in the subtitle. Let the readers know that you have quality information to share with them.

    The site is too long and too wide. It is frustrating to have to move up and down and side to side. Too many Amazon ads too. How about recommending items in posts instead. You’ll probably have more sales that way.

    I know blogrolls are popular, but you list lots of sites. And clicking on them takes the viewer away from your site. If you prefer blogrolls, they should open in another browser. Otherwise, you are leading the reader to another site and they may never return.

    Where’s your about page? I wanted to learn more about you but couldn’t find the info. Maybe I didn’t scroll side to side in the right place. Oh, I see it now. But it’s on a post!!?? It needs to be a separate page and easy to find. Regular readers want to know more about the writer. I see you have 27 years experience in the apparel industry. Don’t hide that fact. Let the readers know you are an expert.

    The post headers need to be more exciting and attention grabbing. And be sure to include words in your titles that will help the search engines find you. Also, make your titles bigger and brighter so they stand out more. Add some pictures too! With the word “fashion” in your title, pictures are pretty much expected. Or perhaps, spiff up the header a bit with a logo or a picture. Dress it up somehow.

    I don’t care for your “Admin” list or the location of the RSS feeds. Things seem scattered a little.

    There are some things I do like, however. I like the image for your book. Very nice! You also provide lots of information and submit posts regularly. You seem reliable with your information. Best of luck to you!

  19. I’l try to keep this short:

    My blog advice:

    - Get a new logo, though I would like the template to stay, it’s very readable.
    - Get rid of the calendar sidebar and put archives on a separate page
    - A double sidebar on the right instead of the triple one we see now
    Try using crazyegg to improve ad placement; should try to provide less ad space
    - FEEDBURNER!

    Very important:
    should make titles clickable to view the separate single post page and allow users to submit them to social bookmarking sites

    Hope this helps!

    Greg

  20. Lid says:

    For me, the critical areas of a blog are the look; does it inspire me, or does it send me running, the content, both the way it is written, it it succinct as well as is it useful, and the blog itself, what the point of it is.

    When it comes to content, and we all know content is critical, FI is fantastic. Well written; the posts are a good length; not too long so they bore, long enough to detail. I particularly like how posts have enough information in them before breaking to the “read more” link (perhaps a tad too much?). It allows visitors to make a reasonable judgment about whether they want to read more.

    Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur extraordinaire, recently started adding the read more link, but failed miserably in my opinion. He didn’t give enough information before the break to allow readers to choose whether they wanted to continue reading. When you have so many posts coming in through an RSS reader, you find yourself clicking very selectively. It obviously didn’t work for Guy, as he has gone back to his previous format of publishing the entire post – he should have looked at FI.

    I love that words are used well; the FI team obviously has a good grasp of the English language and it points to credibility. I also like seeing blogs that have several authors; it shows a kinship, a passion for a subject.

    In terms of other pages, forums are fantastic for building community so setting up the forum is a good move. I wonder, however, about the Tutorials index – would it be smarter to link to another page on the blog rather than a document? Also, the about/contact page seems too long and readers need to get through the entire page to work out what the blog is about, and who Kathleen is. Maybe start off with a paragraph that introduces the blog and Kathleen, then follow on with other authors.

    The look of the site unfortunately doesn’t inspire me – it feels conservative, almost clinical, and that is a shame given the really great content. It doesn’t send me running either, which is interesting; it doesn’t do anything, but it should. It needs to wow me somehow; a really great logo, or title, or tagline – something – it needs to affect me.

    Although FI uses images for ads, and on occasional posts, they are all very simple and (sorry) bland. It would be nice to see posts spiced up a bit with fun images. Images nowadays are really quite inexpensive; a dollar or two each if you go to someplace like stockxpert.

    I’d look at reviewing colors too; colorlovers is great for ideas, and is free.

    I’d like to know what the main aim of the site is; is it to promote the book, create a community, share information, etc. and then design with that in mind.

    Well, that’s my two cents worth :-)

  21. Lid says:

    Oops – also, for Bryan –

    You mention in your comment:

    “There are lots of reasonably priced blog coders that will customize one for you for cheap.”

    Would you mind providing a couple of examples for the rest of us that won’t get the opportunity to get a blog make-over? Please :)

  22. Kathleen says:

    All of this feed back is GREAT and I sincerely appreciate your efforts! Some suggestions are already in the works (I had to agree not to implement any changes for the purposes of review). I will follow up when this is over and post a summary of changes and resubmit for your final review.

    About the general feeling the site is by turns staid (not fashioney enough) and too busy: this is my big weakness. Yes I work in fashion but I am an engineer. I can make your factory into a finely tuned machine but I could never tell you what to design or make in it. This will be my biggest challenge. I feel at a loss as to how to manage that. Yes I can hire a new design made and I’m readily willing to do it but the ongoing thing of sticking in visuals will be a challenge.

    Re: Amazon links: I’m stubborn. Those are books I want people to read. I think they need them, covers apparent or no. No, I don’t make that much on them, maybe $300 a month for all book advertising. Like I said, a public service because I think my readers need them.

    The image ads in the far right sidebar tho, bring in revenue although two of them are literally sponsors, they love the site and choose to support it financially. I place an ad for them as a way to thank them. I have another sponsor who is anonymous. I don’t know that I’d agree the visual ads add value to visitors tho. I’ll certainly ask that among other questions you’ve raised.

    sob, I love my calender! lol. Maybe I’m the only one that uses it.

  23. Patrick Burt says:

    Kathleen:

    1) Reduce the site size so it can fit in a 1024×768 monitor.(970 pixel width total instead of 1100+)
    2) Logo graphic more credible then a typeset one
    3) Titles should be bigger then the text
    4) Calendar at the top left is relatively useless and takes up too much screen real estate
    5) The Subscribe field box doesn’t indicate what it is I am typing in there.
    6) A lot of outgoing links might mean a hit when it comes to PR.
    7) Too much space between categories on the right
    8) About page is hidden so that I can’t easily build a personal rapport with the blog’s writer
    9) Excessive amazon affiliate links.
    10) Google Analytics is much better the SiteMeter and runs invisibly.
    11) Too much line-height on column names: eg. Apparel Sites I Like
    12) Sponsors are wonderful, but they’re given too much screen real estate
    13) No visual indication as to what kind of blog I’m looking at when I arrive at the website.
    14) Consider no more then 10 keywords in your meta tag.
    15) RSS icon should be above the fold if what you’re looking for is subscribers

    Cheers.

  24. Aaron Stroud says:

    Kathleen, I hope you find the feedback useful. I recently had the same experience after launching my site!

    Here’s three changes I would recommend:
    (1) I would highlight your content column because it blends into the other columns. More whitespace would be another option, but the design already is a little wide.
    (2) While I’m not a potential reader, readers interested in your subject would probably appreciate a clearly defined starting point that describes the site and offers some starting points (introductory posts, popular posts, etc)
    (3) Personally, I’d recommend a portal starting page like Problogger’s. I think the portal/frontpage/magazine look is more accessible than the traditional stream of posts. You can check out my site if you interested in how I approached the portal/blog delineation.

  25. Benson says:

    Thought I’d just weigh in with a few critiques…

    -You need a header image.
    -A four column theme is very cluttered. I’d reduce it to 3.
    -Do regularly get donations? If not, I’d remove the donation button or at least move it.
    -You don’t really need the calender there. It serves (IMO) mainly as a distraction from your excellent content.
    -Make your post titles clickable. It can be frustrating to look for that Permalink.
    -Your book looks great. Make it more prominent and the image clickable.
    -Make your post titles larger than the rest of the post’s text.
    -Add a favicon.
    -Place archives on a separate page.

    Good luck!

  26. I’m going to comment without reading the others’ comments first:
    1. You need a logo or graphic headline – a unique identifier. How do I know your blog title won’t change next time I look for it?
    2. No calendar. Dates mean nothing in your subject – archives are useful for topics.
    3. Move subscribe up.
    4. What do you want me to do on your site? Other than read, I need shortcuts – Archives, Contact, etc. visible from the first 2 seconds – that way I can open another tab with your About page while I read your first post. I would put “About the Author” instead of about – it immediately establishes some credibility and context.
    5. The formatting of your posts (font-wise) leaves it to be very dry. Huge paragraphs lose the reader.
    6. Full content on the front page. Why do I have to click to read one article? You lost me. Shorten the number of articles on your front page to 3, but make them all full length. Then, if I like you, I’ll click through to others.
    7. Shorten recent entries list on right-side-bar. Should be easier (shorter) to scan. Too much text and too small!
    8. Your links on the left side – why are they there? Do you want to sell books through Amazon? They should be higher and more prominent then. Clickable links.
    9. You can put links on a separate page or call them “Resources” if they are industry links. Update this resources page religiously and it can become another reason people land on your site other than putting a few random links in your sidebar.
    10. Ditto the above comments: get rid of the Donation button – are you a non-profit, or a professional? It’s confusing. If you want people to buy something, maybe consider creating a short mini ebook of a new topic or – maybe 5 pages for $2-3 dollars. Then I’ll receive value.

  27. Shark Girl says:

    The first thing I noticed was too much clutter. The second thing I noticed is I don’t know what the site is about, and still don’t. So, I looked for an “about” page of any kind. I couldn’t find one.

    If it were not for the purpose of this review, I wouldn’t have stayed on the site, at all. It has “bail out” written all over it.

    The site offers a “donation” button, but why? There is nothing on the site that tells me why anyone should give up their money to it. For instance, what do they do? Why do they need a donation? What will the donation benefit? Who are the people asking for the donation?

    I gather it’s about fashion, because of the title, but fashion what? There is nothing on the page to tell, within five seconds or less, what the site is about, without having to read a post.

    For instance, a simple little header that shows up on every page (because not everyone comes in on the home page) that gives a brief description about what the site is about.

    More importantly, a readily available “about us” link should be available.

    To be honest, I’m bailing out on the site because I still don’t know what it’s about and it would take too much work to figure it out through all the links, ads, small text in the posts, and not good use of “white space”

    If there is an about us page, it got lost in the clutter. I did see a “view my profile” link if you scroll down, but I was looking for more like “tell me what your fashion blog will do for me” page.

    Make sense?

  28. Benson says:

    Oh, forgot to mention: Try making sure there’s an image in most posts. The image grabs attention and makes the whole post more interesting.

  29. Jill says:

    Ooh! I LOVE Fashion Incubator. Can’t wait to look at this more closely.

  30. Kathleen said

    “Re: Amazon links: I’m stubborn. Those are books I want people to read. I think they need them, covers apparent or no. No, I don’t make that much on them, maybe $300 a month for all book advertising. Like I said, a public service because I think my readers need them.”

    That’s why I suggested a book review section – if these are important books for your readers, you need to tell them WHY. Also, any chance you get in other posts, link to the review when it is appropriate and relevant.

  31. Gina says:

    Wow! There’s a lot of room for improvement there. I’m no expert, but a fashion blog should be… well… more fashionable. I expected beautiful or cutting-edge graphics with a free-flowing form. Start with a header.

    The 4-columns is too much and advertisers are getting squeezed out of the picture. If ads are important to the blogger’s revenue stream, then they need to be a bit more prominent – and relevant.

    The content reads well but I can’t tell if it’s targeted to the consumer, the industry insider, sewing hobbyists or fashion students – maybe these areas could be delineated and placed in separate areas.

    The photos included as illustrations with some of the posts are not appealing. A simple DIY light box would go a long way toward improving photos of small items and a roll of butcher paper and a couple of clip-on halogen lights could help improve photos of the larger items. Since these are either unique or specific items in most cases, stock photos aren’t the answer. More photos or even photos with all posts would improve the look of the blog and draw more interest.

    There are too many links to outside sites and the headers for these sections don’t make me want to visit them.

    It took me three views of the blog to finally realize that the purple-ish rectangle in the upper left was the e-book the blogger is selling. There was nothing to identify that it was even a book or that the blog-owner was the author. I’d expect more build-up for something of this nature.

    I’d get rid of “Recent Comments” to free up more space, campact the categories (and maybe combine some to eliminate overlap?), switch a few of the graphic ads to text (because the site needs more graphics overall and the ads will just clash), drop most of the outside links (keep those most important and most likely to enhance your business), create an “About” page, a prominent link to it and a small blurb that entices the visitor to want to visit the “About” page, include a photo or similar representation of the blog owner and reduce the number of posts on the front page.

    Now I should probably take my own advice and get the heck out of here! ;)

  32. Skellie says:

    Great, constructive feedback so far, everyone. I’m sure Kathleen would love you to keep it coming :-).

  33. Evan Hadkins says:

    From an uninterested perspective.

    I’m well and truly outside the target audience (I have refined a wardrobe that takes no thought – polo tops and chinos all coloured blue).

    The post on colleges grabbed me because I’m interested in education. It’s content that is most important for any blog from my point of view. The content looks goods to my uninformed reading. I think the voice is good to – direct and practical.

    I found that having the text in the middle with stuff both sides was a bit distracting.

    I’m not sure what the answer is to: What’s in it for me as a reader? Although just gossip is fine – newspapers make money and they don’t provide anything terribly useful usually.

    Not sure how you want to make money from the site. If from clicking on ads that’s OK. If you are wanting to sell stuff I didn’t see it.

  34. kristarella says:

    Good suggestions so far. Although I can’t see those Amazon links everyone is complaining about (if they’re genuine recommendations they could be useful).

    In terms of clutter and visibility I suggest:
    - move navigation (forum, archives, tutorials, contact) to the top – heaps of room in that header area
    - add a links page and direct from main navigation (maybe everyone doesn’t agree, but linkrolls can just take up too much space on the front page)
    - give your book and RSS link pride of place at the top of the sidebar
    - lose the monthly archives list, it can go on the archives page

    You could work with the current theme to make it better – or apply principles from the suggestions being made to a new theme.

    Other things:
    - logo would be good
    - bolder colour scheme, you could still go with purple, but at the moment everything is muted with the mauve background and orange-ish headings (try here for inspiration)
    - something weird is happening with the footer, there’s the main line, then the stats link, then a different coloured line

    Good luck! The makings of a great niche blog are here. It’s not just fashion, it’s fashion with a conscience and a voice.

  35. Ken Y-N says:

    I’m with most of the posters here – my first impression was “Zzzz – is this really a fashion blog?” Only three pictures of dubious quality.

    Above the fold:
    * 4 columns is one too many, especially with the Amazon overload. I run on 1024×768 and I still get a scroll bar.

    * Calendars are useless!

    * “Subscribe” – to what?

    * The Buy Now book – you cannot click the picture.

    * Use Google for site search

    * Admin – some of the links, like “Archive”, “Tutorial”, and RSS buttons need to be moved higher-up, others demoted. All the other “My AOL”, “My MSN”, etc can be handled by FeedBurner.

    * Why are there two RSS icons going to the same place? You should sign up to FeedBurner to get it to handle all that.

    I also personally do not like the MyBlogLog link popularity tooltips, but at least they are not as bad as Snap! previews.

    Out of interest, how many uniques per month does the site get? How much does it make?

  36. I’m not sure I can add much new info at this point. I agree with almost everything suggested.

    Your content is very interesting, even to a non-fashionista!

    I would say that you need to “brand” your blog. There should be an image that unites the page. Use it as bullets in lists, in your favicon, in your header image, and on social book marking sites, etc.

    You also need a simple navigation menu under your header, With Home, About, Links, Buy My Book, Contact. I would probably not spend much time at this blog, because it is so overwhelming to look through it all.

    Also, the photos that you do have need a little pizazz! In the one showing the sleeve detail, maybe you could hang the jacket in a little more eye-pleasing location or crop it tight. You have good info in that post, a great picture would get more people to actually read it.

    Lastly, make your archive into a drop-down list. There’s no need to always display all the months.

    Good luck!

  37. Jewbie Ninja says:

    Along with a new design (A colorful design) and use of pictures. I think you should think about placement. The header could be colorful, with a easy to read name, maybe logo, and with a picture, (Maybe a shoe heel pointing to the posts.)

    The things on the sidebars should be rearanged also I think. The more important tuff at the top, (Moving calenders and such down.)

    Also when you use pictures try to use them near the top of posts, so when a reader sees them, they scroll down wondering more about it.

    I also agree that the main page was to long, and it helps if it is shorter, so it’s not overwhelming in ways of speaking.

    Suscribe = Maybe use an Icon (Make a donation close to this if someone is going to do one, they might do the other)
    Also put all the subscribe buttons together

    Calender = Better If Gone

    Space = It looks so plain and overwhelming. Dropdowns
    could fix that.

    Also fix the post titels.

  38. lol says:

    example of some gud design blog:
    styledash.com
    purseblog.com
    might give u some inspiration^^

  39. dP says:

    No, Rhys, first things first.

    The writing itself needs to be revamped.

    The posting on December 3, “Why Fashion Colleges don’t Teach Entrepreneurship” has 841 words, with 132 big words. Readability is 9.61, with a score of 38 on sentence complexity (compared to 14/100 for Hemingway) and a vocabulary complexity of 30 (compared to 5/100 for Hemingway).

    Yes, the audience is college students and the topic of entrepreneurship implies big words. But blogs thrive when readers are invited in for a friendly chat, not for a college level lecture. While some complex vocabulary is needed, passages like this could be simplified:

    “I think the latter complaint is more common lately. Increasingly students perceive their roles as consumers and feel that colleges should do more to meet the demands of customers. I see this as a conflict between two core problems, expectations and infrastructure.”

    Of course, every blogger has a voice and style of his/her own, but this one is overblown. Keep the ideas, the passion, but think harder about connecting with the audience.

    In fact, it’s obvious that connecting with students is on the blogger’s mind. She suggests students form a social club and invite the advisory committee (including the blogger) to a schmooze. But that long, last paragraph doesn’t sound like a warm invitation. The tone is too tight, the writing too stiff.

    Loosen up and write simpler. Your expertise is fantastic and lays the background for a superb blog–if you learn to communicate your passion to the passionate students you are addressing.

    dP

  40. Shane says:

    This may be a repeat of previous comments, sorry, I don’t have time to read through them all.

    What I like:

    1. Seems very well written.

    2. It is busy, alot of people like busy web pages.

    3. It doesn’t make my eyes bleed.

    What could be improved:

    1. Enlarge your Post Titles – it is very hard to tell where posts start and where they end.

    2. Enlarge the body text a couple of points. Remember, big text is IN.

    3. You need a logo so people have a way to distinctly remember what and who you are.

    4. About page is VERY long and not concrete. I still don’t know exactly what your page is about after reading for 3 minutes, that is a problem.

    5. Like many others have said. Get a distinct theme, something that is unique and stands out in people’s memories.

    6. Avoid using “I” so much. Of course it is “I” because you wrote it. We are trying to get past that as readers.

    7. The Archives page is not laid out in any form of dates. All I am left to use is Ctrl+F. :(

    Good luck with the site Kathleen.

  41. Evan Hadkins says:

    Readability.

    The most popular blogs often have a high reading level.

    Some people may well be looking for a college lecture. MIT just put their courses on line.

    It depends on the intended readers I think.

  42. Ok, here’s what I got for ya.

    1) Get a logo.
    2) Get rid of the socialization buttons. If someone uses those services – he/she won’t need your buttons.
    3) Oh why not, get rid of the whole Admin section. Your readers don’t need that. :-/
    4) Move your ‘Apparel Sites I Like’ and ‘Other Sites I Like’ (and other similar slots) to their own page. Your readers don’t need to look at that on every page. If someone wants to look at ‘em, he/she will visit that page.
    5) Put the categories on their own page – as well as the archives. Again, your readers don’t need to be looking at it on every page.
    6) Cut down (or eliminate) the Amazon ads. They look cheezy. :-/
    If you really want to advertise those books, create a page for them and give it a nice looking list with links to the respective Amazon pages.
    7) Add an RSS img button.
    8) Get rid of the calendar widget. We’ll browse your articles before we look at that. We don’t care when it was posted, just what was posted.
    9) With all that cut out, I’d move down to a three (or possibly two) column theme with the page navigation in the header.
    10) get an about page. Web users need to be fed everything. We don’t want to have to do any research – so give us a clear about page. Otherwise, we’ll spend five seconds trying to find out what your site is about, and move on.

    But don’t get discouraged!
    It looks like you have a great blog coming along with great content!
    Just make some adjustments and you’ll do great!
    Best of luck!

  43. Cathy Moore says:

    Kathleen, congratulations on creating a blog that draws a lot of comments and supports a forum as well. You’re obviously providing things that your market wants. I think you’ll find even more success if you make your focus more sharp, both in your design and your content.

    I wasn’t sure what your blog’s main goal is. I’d recommend identifying a main goal and maybe a secondary goal and then removing everything that doesn’t support those goals.

    Design stuff

    I agree with previous commenters that the site design could be made simpler and more impactful. I do instructional design, and having so much information on the page contributes to what we call “cognitive load.” It’s like noise (even if it’s potentially useful info) that gets in the way of the more important message. Research in learning and marketing both say that “less is more.”

    Some recommendations:

    1. Remove lots of the info that’s currently in the sidebars. This includes the calendar, lots of the links to other sites (narrow it down to 9 or so of the most useful & maybe put the others on a Resources page), the social networking buttons, the Get Firefox button, and other miscellaneous things that don’t directly support your goal.

    2. Show only the 5-7 most recent entries. More than that gives the impression of too much information.

    3. Keep the recent comments (your commenters are priceless and should be publicly recognized) but also limit them to 5-7.

    4. Remove the archives list altogether. Your categories are more useful. (It would also be helpful to make the parent-child relationships in the categories clearer.)

    5. Make the book image clickable and have it link to a page with more info–”buy now” is too big a step to take without more information. Make very clear graphically that this isn’t an ad. This could include continuing your current practice of keeping it out of the ad sidebar.

    6. I’m using ad blocking software, so I don’t see some of the stuff others have mentioned. If it’s important to have these ads, then I’d encourage you even more to simplify other aspects of the site.

    7. I agree with other commenters who have recommended a clean, powerful image header and a bright graphic at the beginning of each post. iStockPhoto and similar sites are inexpensive sources of professional images.

    8. I agree with other comments about making clear what I’m subscribing to and what the blog is about.

    Content stuff:

    1. You might write more action-packed headlines that more clearly promise what I’ll get from reading the post. For example, “How to calculate denim shrinkage” may not seem super witty, but it clearly communicates the point of the post, while “Textile manufacturing” doesn’t really say what’s in the post, so I’m less likely to read it.

    2. Consider chunking your text by using more paragraph breaks and subheads. This will make it easier for visitors to scan your post, see what it’s about, and get drawn into it. Use meaningful subheadings (like mini-post titles) to both make the structure of the information clear and make me want to keep reading.

    3. Send visitors deeper into your site by referring to other posts, either by directly mentioning them in the current post or by using a plug-in that automatically lists 3 or so possibly related posts at the end of each post. Look at a single post from the point of view of someone who landed on it from a Google search. What can you do that will pull them deeper into your blog?

    Good luck, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do.

  44. kristarella says:

    “Get rid of the socialization buttons. If someone uses those services – he/she won’t need your buttons.”

    Not if you like to use them and they’re incompatible with your browser. ;)
    I don’t mind a few social bookmarking links, as long as they’re done nicely – relating to each post might be better. The equivalent to Share This or Sociable might be okay (if there is one for MT).

  45. Kirk Warren says:

    Haven’t read most of the replies, so forgive me if any of this has been said already.

    First Impression

    It’s very bland. Looks like a default template from Blogger or WordPress. There’s little to no images and nothing to draw my eye but a wall of text and ads on the far right. I have no real idea what this site is about outside the broad category of fashion. Is it selling something? Is it a blog about fashion trends? What am I supposed to get by being here?

    After Viewing A Bit

    I still don’t know exactly what the site is about. The About / Contact page starts talking about other people for several paragraphs before actually telling me who you are and what the site is about. I know you’d like to give credit to people that help you, but cut and paste them to the bottom of the About page so I can see in the opening paragraph or two what the site is actually about. And, to be honest, I’m still not sure. You appear to be selling lessons or teaching or promoting a book based on the About page.

    Design

    Again, it looks like a default template from any generic blogging platform.

    I’m not sure about others, but the calendar is a waste of prime real estate and, if you absolutely must have it, should be placed somewhere below the fold or removed altoghether.

    Get a banner. Doesn’t matter what it is, but plain white font on a generic blue background is not a banner or logo. You don’t need to pay someone to make it or even be a wizard with Photoshop to make it. Look at Problogger. A simple dual font with different colours for each word. Try something like fashionINCUBATOR. Maybe use a cursive font for fashion and a bold Arial-like font for the INCUBATOR part.

    Also, if you don’t intend on using any of that banner space (you use a like 400 pixels or less in the left aligned banner), you should make a new banner that size and place an ad in that space. The banner area is like one of the biggest heat indexes for where people’s eyes are drawn. If you aren’t putting anything there except a big blue rectangle with nothing in it, put an ad there and get some return from it. A link to your book could be placed in that space for more advertising for yourself.

    Fonts

    It might be just me or my browser, but I find your font size about one size too small. It’s a small complaint and others probably don’t even care though.

    Also, I prefer a justified text for the paragraphs if you are going with the 3 column look. The other two columns are justified and look uniform and then the text in the middle is jutting in and out from each line and I find it clashes with the rest of it.

    Post Related

    Titles

    Get a new header for each post. A normal sized font that’s bolded does not stick out to me. Look at ProBlogger’s large, thick, bolded headers for each post. They stick out and just beg to be clicked or looked at. Your’s are plain and uninspired (not the wording, just the presentation of it). Capitalize each word in the title. Change the heading size to something that makes it bigger. Maybe make it coloured (blue like the banner perhaps?).

    Graphics

    Your posts are walls of text. There’s nothing drawing my eye to anything. A simple image (could be anything) to start of each post would do wonders for drawing me into a post. Right now I just scroll down looking for something that sticks out to me and I’m not seeing anything to stop me.

    Bold Text

    Going along with drawing me gaze with images, add bold font to ‘random’ words to stop me from scanning. By random, I mean key words. If it’s about your book, bold the book title. If it’s about how fashion colleges suck, choose key words to bold. Also, bold links. Just underlined hyperlinks don’t cut it if you ask me. Unless you don’t want people to click something, then I guess don’t bother.

    Footer

    Do you want people to post comments or to know who wrote the post? That text is tiny beyond words and the ‘post by’ is in a faded out gray that makes it a chore to squint and read it. I didn’t even notice the fact I could comment until the second or third scan through the page (add things to stop me from scanning the page!).

    Continue reading…

    I didn’t realize there were more to your posts until the second or third pass. The headings / titles aren’t clickable, so I didn’t think the posts were just snippets and that I needed to click to see more. Make the headings links to the posts. Also, if you add images to each posts, make them link to the full post.

    Finally, studies show people click links more if they are a)underlined and b)specifically state “click here”. Continue reading doesn’t register very high in these studies. A simple change to “Click here to read more” or “Click here to continue reading” should result in more click throughs. BOLD this as well. You WANT people to click it.

    Related Posts

    When I click a post, I should see related posts after the post is finished. I personally don’t care if they are there, but as a designer, those are gold mines for driving people further into your site. If you do a post on a your book, if there’s a link to various other posts related to that, there’s a damn good chance if I liked that post, I will click those related links.

    Currently, you have none and I’m forced to search your poor archive system to find related posts or rely on a search engine to filter it out.

    Sidebars

    Archives

    Honestly, having a list of months with the year by them is not an archive. I have no reason to click on July 2007 unless someone specifically told me that the post I was looking for was there. Same for any other month / year. Also, you don’t even have post counts on those months, so I dont even know if you posted in that month or what I’ll see when I click it.

    My suggestion is to either tag posts with simple headings that can act as archive categories. Don’t put a new tag heading for each post. If it’s fashion news related, fashion news is the tag. If it’s a review, fashion review is the tag and so on. Don’t have 8 tags per post and 1000+ tags on your blog. Ideally, about 5-10 tags total for a blog focusing on a single topic should suffice.

    Also, look at Problogger for an idea of how to set up an archive. You can keep a date based archive system on a unique archives page while having category headings and search for the main focus. This lets me click the archives, see things related to say your book and click that heading and find all the archived posts related to it. I dont click december 2005 and go month by month looking for each individual post.

    Right now, your archives take up a lot of side bar space and are useless for their intended functionality.

    Categories

    These are actually functional and work well, but take up a tonne of space and are buried beneath the fold and under the useless Archives heading. Take both of those sidebar items, remove them, make a new page and put both on it. Add a general link to archives in a prominent position above the fold (say where the useless Calendar is currently).

    Recent Entries

    Too many entries. Overwhelming in fact. I haven’t viewed your site before, but if you only update once a day on average, you should expect people to be there daily or semi-daily. You don’t need the last 20 posts in a list for regular readers and casual or random readers won’t click through all those links. Also, you alreayd have a huge number of posts visible on the main page. You’re just repeating yourself now. Go with 5-10 Recent Posts at most.

    Popular / Featured Posts

    Take the left over space from your Recent Entries being reduced and add a Most Popular Posts or Featured Posts widget. Popular posts can either be automated (if you have the coding / money to set it up) or manually updated every so often. I do it on my own site with Google Analytics. Every week or two, I sort my posts by unique pageviews and just copy the links into my link list for Most Popular posts. This sends people into your archives and gets them viewing even more posts and content.

    Mass of Links

    Are you in some sort of link exchange? I know there’s providing some worthwhile links for your readers, but you have dozens of links on the left sidebar. Do you want people to go to other sites? Is there a reason I should be clicking this links or are they just there for linkbacks from those sites?

    Personally, a few high quality links is what most people would like unless you specialized in having links to sites, which I don’t think is the purpose of your site. If you want to bring someone’s attention to something, write a post about that site or limit the number of links to 5-10 range. Currently, I have no idea what those links are about aside from the generic headings and I don’t even know why I would want to go there outside you say you visit those sites.

    Conclusion

    I’ll cut it “short” and just say that the site is very bland for a fashion site. When I think fashion, I think beautiful clothes, models, unique patterns and designs. I don’t think generic default template with little to no images.

    Your writing is fine based on what I’ve read of your front page. It’s just you have nothing to distinguish yourself and the site fails to capture my attention. Unless I was truely into fashion, I don’t see myself returning to this unremarkable looking site.

    Steps to take:

    1) Get a new logo / banner. Doesn’t have to be fancy, just not basic font on solid background.

    2) Fix post headings / add images / attract attention to each post / make it much more prominent that there’s more to each post and people need to click

    3) Clean up sidebars. Way too overcrowded.

    4) Think about a site redesign. Doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Even downloading a nicer default template would do wonders. Try customizing colours to fit your needs. A banner goes a long way to distinguishing a site.

    5) Fix Archives / About Pages

    6) Have fun and keep blogging

  46. Phil says:

    I didn’t have long to look over this, but two things struck me immediately.

    The first thing I looked at were the adverts down the far right column as they were the best looking things on the page. This doesn’t say much for the design or the way the design presents the content. If you want people to look at the adverts then having them stand out like that is all well and good, but if they miss the contents, click an ad and never come back there’s another potential reader gone.

    Secondly, there is a horizontal scrollbar at 1024 x 768 resolution. This would annoy me if I didn’t have a bigger monitor, and if I had a 800 x 60 screen then I wouldn’t know where I was.

    Sorry I couldn’t be in more depth.

  47. Jacky says:

    Hi Darren/Skellie,
    just one quick question:
    How the heck are you going to chose “the best” out of this huge amount of great long comments?
    greetz
    Jacky ;)

  48. ashok says:

    I would redo the About Me page for starters, introducing yourself first and getting as soon as possible to the “what are you offering the reader in this blog” point. You have a 2 paragraph intro to yourself before “my rates” and while I love the info, I was sent to critique the blog. Do look over Darren’s advice for an about me page, please. After you’re done introducing yourself, then you can introduce your guest posters.

    The About Me link should be more prominent, not jammed on the side with the “admin” functions. Is it possible to have a header with links to the About Me page (updated like I suggest above, and hopefully shortened), a FAQ/About My Work page, a Contact Me page and whatever else atop your blog? You know, a setup like http://galadarling.com has with the shop/participate/press/links setup.

    The Categories are nice, but what if I want to access related posts via the post I’m at currently? It doesn’t look like you’ve enabled the categories to be visible per post, and that’s not good.

    As many have stated above, this design is not eye catching at all, a lot depends on what you’re going to do design-wise later. I can safely tell you that right now, a larger font is good, and as for your posts, the more paragraphs and breaks in text and images you have the better. It is no fun to look at your blog.

    Do you expand on “Lessons from the Sustainable Factory Floor” anywhere? It’s an intriguing byline, and instead of that calendar thingy right below it, why not something brief explaining it? One thing I’m doing is staring at your page without scrolling down as soon as I land on it, to see what grabs my interest, and honestly, nothing does. Your site is maximized for functionality at the top of the page, with “search and subscribe” features there. Why not, for now, move your categories and about me to the left side of the blog, in place of the calendar and subscribe?

    Furthermore, you have plenty of images on the page right now that if interspersed with all the text links lists, can break up the monotony of the page.

    Honestly though, the whole thing needs to be redesigned and with a bolder vision. I think, from above, http://galadarling.com is probably not the way you want to go, but is definitely suggestive in terms of “you can use a lot less words cluttering the page and maybe use a pic somewhere in the header.” A blog that is more technical and yet very sensitive to issues of drawing the readers eye: http://www.tiara.org/blog/ – actually, I think you should find a template just like that one and use that. I like how in that latter blog she explains the blogs she links to, and the idea of the links in the header is kinda why I’m putting it your way.

    Oh, and in addition to the preponderance of text, did I mention you have way too many Amazon ads? Darren’s got a great post on monetizing the blog, find something a little more subtle please? You have great content, you just need to eliminate useless sidebar junk, create a briefer, to-the-point about me and a faq, use images and spaces between text and a larger font generally, eliminate the vast number of ad units and find something else, use categories to advertise and interlink your content, make your subheading make sense, and look for a really bold design somewhere that will make that improved layout stand out even more.

  49. ashok says:

    I have no chance of getting the Ipod, but I wouldn’t want it anyway. The only music I listen to is the sound of my own voice.

  50. ashok says:

    Actually, now that I think about it, two blogs whose site design you might want to look at are http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/ and http://crookedtimber.org/ – note how clean everything is, and how space on the page is a good thing, and how soon the posts have cut links, and how nice and big and pretty the font is.