Watch a First Time Reader Use Your Blog [DAY 17 31DBBB]

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

New readers to your blog are making decisions within seconds of arriving at your blog that will determine how (and if) they’ll use your blog.

In the same way that first impressions can be vital in real life interactions – online they are just as important.

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to do some analysis of what first impressions people have of your blog by doing a First Time Reader Audit on your blog. Here’s how to do it:

What you’ll need:

1. A friend, family member, work colleague or even a blogger that you’ve not had much to do with before. The key is that the person has not seen your blog before. The person will need 10 or so minutes with you so bribe them with a coffee or something else to get their time.

2. A computer in front of your friend. Ideally you’ll be in the same room with the person but you can adapt this and still have a valuable time by doing it ‘virtually’ with someone.

The Process

Load your blog up and let your friend surf it. Get them to spend 4-5 minutes just wondering around your blog.

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?
  • What areas of the blog do they seem most drawn to

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?
  • What suggestions do they have from a user perspective?

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.

PS: Last time I went through this process I actually got 4 people to do it for me. I chose people of different web savviness (ie from someone who doesn’t use the web much at all through to another experienced blogger). I found getting feedback from across a small group of people to be very valuable.

Update – There are lots of people who joined the challenge that are working together on this 31 DBBB Daily Task over at the forum, you should check it out! Day 17 – First Time Reader Audit

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

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. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  1. dawnaurora says:

    This is an invaluable tip for me. Now off to find some people to browse around my blog.

  2. Good article. There’s nothing like user testing to uncover site shortcomings. Besides the informal testing you describe here there are a number of services becoming available that can provide other forms of inexpensive user feedback. Two that come to mind are Feedback Army and User Testing (dot com in both cases). I’m not affiliated with either but they look like promising ways to gather additional opinions for consideration.

  3. Maureen says:

    Excellent list of questions. I’ve already used it this morning with another commenter.. we traded reviews and it was great! Thank you!

  4. Team Nirvana says:

    As usual, your tips do surprise me a lot. The thought process of any blogger involves around how his/her blog is looking, all the time. Never do we dwell into what the end user thinks about the theme or visual layout of the content.

    Now, I have another job to do. Should ask for a layman’s opinion about my blog.

    Thanks for the invaluable tip Darren. You are a Pandora’s Box of information and suggestions.

  5. Carrie says:
  6. Great idea, but kinda scary.
    Since, I’ve already hounded my friends and family I think that means i’ll have to start knocking on the neighbors door ;)
    I’ll be back or in forums with results later.

  7. Well, this sounds like a great tool to get response to your blog/site!

    My challenge is to find the right person (-s) to do it…


  8. Ara says:

    Nice suggestion Darren! After the break, we will have more sense in growing our blog and the way to communicate with our readers or visitors.

    The Lifehack Post

  9. Honza says:

    This is a great idea. Unfortunately, I won’t manage that today. Tomorrow, I am going to assault one of my friends who hasn’t seen my blog yet. I’ll let you know about the results.

  10. Stan Webb says:

    Thank you for this great suggestion. I too, am looking for ‘First Read’ input for my blogs:

    Like you I am taking Darren Rouse’s 31 Days Blogger Course.

    I notice from your comments that many of you would like to have someone review your site, and I would be happy to reciprocate.

    My sites are:

    Modern Living – Cybercafé, Internet Café, Net Café eMagazine Life “Sometimes On The Edge”© … Modern Living – Cybercafé, Internet Café, Net Café eMagazine Life “Sometimes On The Edge”© … []
    Diet, exercise, computer, medicine, mental health, physical health, best of the internet, photography. People who are passionate about their pursuits are also positive in the rest of their lives. They know that meaningful activities, a positive attitude and a joyful perspective on life makes us healthier, happier, more productive and more fun to be with. Laughter is necessary to a healthy lifestyle.
    Email [email protected]

    Web [Web 2.0+© (web2u©)] … Web [Web 2.0+© (web2u©)] … []
    Blogs, Computers, http//www., Internet, Web Design and Development, Web Pages, The World Wide Web, Web 2.0+. Education and Free Courses about Web 2.0+ Applications. With such heavy topics we try to inject a bit of humor.
    Email: [email protected]

    Your comments would be appreciated; and I will respond, in kind. Please also note that I am looking for other blogs to link to in Modern Living – Cybercafé, Internet Café, Net Café eMagazine Life “Sometimes On The Edge”©

    Thank you.
    Stan Webb

  11. Stan Webb says:
  12. Angela says:

    I just bought your book too and it came in yesterday – will be spending a good amount of time today reading up on your many wonderful tips on blogging. :)

    By the way, read this WSJ article about bloggers being the next big profession –

    Take care,

  13. Thanks for those tips. It’s quite amazing how you put it. I should try doing this experiment.


  14. Never thought of this really, but this is one super idea. We would naturally love our blog so wont be able to find defects that easy.

  15. The saying must be right even in the internet; “first impression counts because it lasts”. Thank you for the pointers. Trying to do your every lesson…i hope on the last day, i will really be good at this.

    thanks again.

  16. Jamie Lee says:

    What a great idea – sort of like a focus group of one … unless you do it multiple times with different folks. I love the idea of getting a third-party view of your work. As the creators and writers of our blogs, we can easily get into a place where it’s almost impossible to “see the forest for the trees,” as the old cliche goes.
    Sometimes the best person to assess something is the person who knows the least about it and can provide that fresh, unbiased opinion.
    Thanks for this simple and genius idea.

  17. Robert Owen says:

    This is a great idea!!! I’ve had friends tell me they saw something on my site before but, never watched them go through the process. The challange will be finding a few people to do it. Might cost me a dinner or two but it sounds like it’s completely worth it!

    I’m a few days behind on tasks… this is alot like school.. haha. This one I might be able to accomplish!!
    Thanks Darren!

  18. That’s interesting. But I have found that people who I ask to read my blog, other than my usual readers, find it boring to read even a paragraph! They find it difficult. Maybe as you said earlier, I need to use some pictures and multimedia to grab attention! But people who have a passion for writing and reading definitely do read through!

    Destination Infinity

  19. Kristen says:

    Well, I’ve been trying to get someone to look at my blog all day, and no one is biting. Either they hate it, and feel too bad to tell me, or it just doesn’t seem interesting enough to get them there to look at it.

    Everyone I know has already seen it, so I guess I’m outta luck!

    It’s a great idea, though. Maybe in the future I’ll get someone to look at it and tell me what they think.

  20. desiree fawn says:

    Oh this is such a cool idea! Once again, thank you for your brilliance, Darren!

  21. Thx – a usability test for a blog. love it!

  22. PuterPrsn says:

    * What were their first impressions? Easy to read – like the font better on the blog page than the “home” page ’cause it’s bigger & easier to read for old folks like me.
    * What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it? About blogging – a focused site
    * Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand? Yes except when clicking on “book” link, you go outside the blog site & have to “back” to return
    * What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog? Breathing easy – large font, nicely spaced paragraphs make it easy to read. Don’t mind scrolling down – scrolling across or squinting to read is a major pain & usually won’t go back to one of those
    * What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog? Make your “home” page as easy on the eyes as the blog page
    * What questions do they have having surfed your blog? None – it’s pretty self-explanatory & easy to understand
    * What words would they use to describe the design? uncluttered & relaxing on blog page, in no hurry to move along
    * What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later? It’s nice to rest your eyes and use your mind to think about what’s being written
    * What suggestions do they have from a user perspective? Already said…


  23. Ryan McLean says:

    I think I would be too nervous to get one of my family members to read my blog while I was there

  24. Hi Darren,

    I agree. Too often we get so hung up on making our blogs the way we want them, we forget about the most important aspect of blogging – gaining a readership.

  25. What a super idea! I’m so glad you mentioned this – I just invited a friend to look at my blog for the first time, and I’ve asked her to wait until I can be around to observe now, so I’m excited to see what I learn from the exercise!

  26. Laurie Foley says:

    So important and so often not done – thank you!

    The primary question I like to ask is “What ACTION do you want to take when you visit this site?”

    Those answers are very enlightening indeed.

    BTW, Darren, your book is the only blogging book I recommend in my Bootcamp for Baby Bloggers class. They LOVE it.

  27. Stephen Wise says:

    I did it today with my friend at my University library computers-

    They all say “this looks really clean, and they blog images make it look like it has alot of content” They go to the blogs that have titles as questions, or with pics of something unfimiliar to them.

    if youre a reader from ProBlogger, mention so in a comment under the first blog that first catches your eye.

  28. edwin allen says:

    My site is in spanish, the url is
    Please help me doing this task then send you coments to @theiphonetips

  29. Kurt Avish says:

    @Samuel: Thanks for sharing this link man. I will be doing a small sets of question about how to improve my blog today evening. Meanwhile I would be glad if anyone here have a look and tell me how I can improve or what part need to be tweaked or removed. The address is HERE. Thanks in advance. You can leave your comment on the latest post there.

  30. Steve Thomas says:

    I’m enjoying your 31 days to build a better blog.
    Last week we challenged our blog readers to ask their “Aunt Ruby” to do something similar to optimize their online donations. We had great responses and feedback to the strategy. And my Aunt Ruby loved it.
    Thanks for the great information.

  31. elizof says:

    Thanks again Darren for the assignment and reprieve!
    A number of us have been using the forums to solicit participant website reviews and it has been fantastic…
    The feedback has been excellent and people have been both supportive and sincere.
    I had my sister and kids do quick reviews for me and the results were astonishing… needless to say, I have lots of work to do.
    Have a great day ahead!

  32. Mrs Green says:

    Ack; I’ve been away and I’m trying to catch up! This is an excellent idea, Darren. Both Hubby and i can’t be particularly objective when it comes to looking at our own sites, so I’m definitely going to get the coffee in and bribe some people!

    The questions you suggest should provide some interesting answers and useful material to work with.

    Thanks so much for this idea!

  33. CGabriel says:

    This should be a great exercise to try!

    The ideal group for me would be my extended family since they view blogs as something akin to medieval torture. They all know that I have a blog but wouldn’t know the first thing about how to find it, what it’s about…some folks just aren’t into blogging, bloggers and blogs like everyone in this challenge.

    So, I’m getting this on here late in the game but I’d certainly welcome anyone to take a peek around Blog Harbor and sharing a thought or three. And I’ll be more than happy to peruse your blog.


  34. Sudeep says:

    Thanks Dareen ,
    It was gr8 idea that was provided in this article … would be keeping that in mind

  35. kern says:

    After reading this I solicited a fellow reader to help me. The points she made were eye opening! Thanks so much! Changes have been made, and if anyone wishes to look at the new site, please do and feel free to post.

  36. TammyQuitter says:

    I think this is a great idea. Sometimes, you get so “enmeshed” in your own project that you just can’t see it the way others do. looks like a pretty cool (and affordable) service for this. You can also get paid to test websites. Anybody have any experience with them?

  37. PShankar says:

    Excellent Information. I just started blogging for a month and I use google analytics and stat counter statistics to see how my visitors navigate around my blog.

  38. blog4movie says:

    I have ever did it before, but the problem is sometimes my friends don’t want to let me down, so they only say good things about my blog, so I start to ask some opinions from other people who I never meet before (by chat in internet etc), they can say anything that they want, but honestly sometimes I need more than two ears to hear their criticism :D, but it’s okay, I will get used to for it :)

  39. Hi Darren,
    That’s a fantastic idea! Will definitely try it out with some friends.
    Thanks again!

  40. Nancy says:
  41. I received an e-mail from a Stan Webb (whose comments are above) asking me to check his blog. He didn’t mention where he got my e-mail address from and his e-mail address stated “Editor Access”. I don’t know what that is. Did anyone else receive such an e-mail? It could be completely innocent but thought I’d check first because I didn’t release my e-mail address on this page.

    [Lara Says: You DO have a contact form on your blog, Keith… could that be it?]

  42. Elena says:

    This is a great idea. It can be hard to find someone who is objective enough to give you feedback but it just takes patience to find the right person. You can’t improve on insight if you only have one opinion. It’s definitely next on my list.

  43. Ark Lady says:

    I had two people give me feedback. Just saying something is nice doesn’t quite help but check out this beauty (and BTW I changed my website over to a blog so it will make sense when you read part of it):

    * What were their first impressions?

    Interesting, informative and inviting. Nice clean presentation. The videos draw you in like you’re on a Treasure Hunt.

    * What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it?

    No introduction, so I wasn’t sure what to expect

    * Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand?

    I wasn’t sure if I had arrived at the Blog when I clicked on the Animal Blog link, until I scrolled down the page, as everything still looked the same as the site’s landing page. I did this twice, from the Blog link at the top of the site and from a category on the right side. I thought I was still on the main web site
    Otherwise it was very easy to read, navigate through, and to understand.

    * What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog?

    Easy and inviting, the colored type and photos add alot and the bullet points and references give great added value so that I would want to write this information down or forward it to friends. Oh I am a dummy and here I thought that it was just colored type and now I realize that those are hyperlinks.

    * What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog?

    Have the blog links take a person to an anchor where the actual blog begins so there’s no confusion. Underline the hyperlinks for dummies who don’t know better, or bold the hyperlink type.

    * What questions do they have having surfed your blog?

    No questions as you have listed action steps as well as resources on the Blog article I looked at.

    * What words would they use to describe the design?

    Clean attractive, easy on the eyes. Easy to read.

    * What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later?

    What great information was there.

    * What suggestions do they have from a user perspective?

    Have a title at the top of each Blog entry that identifies this as the Ark Animals Blog. Just for clarity.

  44. Stan Webb says:

    Keith Jenkins:

    Ooops, my inquiry to you was totally innocent.

    I had used the contact form on your page and I do not have your email address. The default address for our blog is ‘Editor Access’.

    Yours truly
    Stan Webb

  45. Nope, I added the contact form to my blog just this afternoon, way after I received an e-mail from Stan.

    Stan must’ve gotten my address from the bottom of the ‘About’ page on my blog (it was tucked way way down on the page) – good job Stan in finding it! I replaced it with a contact page today.

    No worries. Stan, I’ll reply to your e-mail separately.


  46. Marie says:

    I had a few family member do this for me, but was uncertain if they were being truthful or just being kind.

    So, I decided to tweet about it and ask if anyone had he time, could they please just look at the website and give me honest feed back.

    A few people came through for me and I’m honored that they took their time to make suggestions.

    Great advice! Thanks for helping us to think outside the box.

  47. Steve says:

    It was weird hearing a guy tell me I did not have enough information to lead people to read more of my articles. He commented that I should link more within the blogs. I had never thought that was a big deal but after this I guess I need to add more linking. Thanks for the article.

  48. We found this task to be very useful and enjoyable. There is something satisfying when someone reviews your-baby and in anticipating the feedback, also sometimes we are too close to our work to see what is lacking.

    We chose not to watch the reviewer, mainly because people tend to behave differently when they are being watched. We also chose a friend to review our site since relatives can be overly-harsh – especially if you appear to spend more time on your blog than with them.

    Summary Of Comments

    site takes too long to load (we were unaware of this as our computer was caching web sites)

    relate stories more to daily life. Make it more personable

    domain name is easier to remember (

    needs more color

  49. Amy says:

    This was a very interesting task. I got some great feedback, with the most suprising being that, along with the problem solving and advice I give on my blog, they wanted more real-life stories from me. I thought that was interesting as we always talk about our blogs being a service to others or add value to others. I guess there is a certain balance that is needed. I also need more pictures in my post. I completely agree with that and am currently dealing with technology limitations, but I will be doing that also. The feedback was mostly postive which was good. Also, the person who reviewed my blog decided to feature my blog on one of her post! Yay bonus!