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Does Your Site Frighten Readers Away?

When someone arrives at your website, be it a corporate site, personal site, or blog, they have a couple of questions on their mind:

  • Where am I?
  • What is there to see/do?
  • Why should I care?

Many times a potential reader will have these additional thoughts:

  • Woah, what is this guy talking about?
  • This looks like a lot of effort …
  • Looks nice, but not relevant to me!

I’m going to set you some weekend homework :)

I want you to look at the following blogs and figure out the different features of each blog that help present the blogs benefits, orient new visitors, help new readers settle in and prevent people from being frightened away

To let you in on a clue, each blog does some things well and some things not as well. Take the good stuff from each and you will give your own blog a terrific boost …

Update: A few people have asked if I will be providing “the answer”. Yes I will be giving my answers on Monday, but they will not necessarily be any more valid than yours and I think you will get a lot more out of the exercise if you think about it yourself first :)

Table of contents for Does your site frighten readers?

  1. Does Your Site Frighten Readers Away?
  2. Does Your Website Have These Friendly Features?
  3. How to Build a Useful Site
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Comments

  1. Most of the time, I get a clue about my site by the comments posted by my readers. And rest on intuitions.

    I will check the sites you referred.

    Rajesh Shakya
    Helping Technopreneurs to excel and lead their life!

  2. Most of the time, I get a clue about my site by the comments posted by my readers. And rest on intuitions.

    I will check the sites you referred.

    Rajesh Shakya
    Helping Technopreneurs to excel and lead their life!

  3. Most of the time, I get a clue about my site by the comments posted by my readers. And rest on intuitions.

    I will check the sites you referred.

    Rajesh Shakya
    Helping Technopreneurs to excel and lead their life!

  4. Most of the time, I get a clue about my site by the comments posted by my readers. And rest on intuitions.

    I will check the sites you referred.

    Rajesh Shakya
    Helping Technopreneurs to excel and lead their life!

  5. Hmmm…homework eh?!

    I think its all about matching user experience to user expectation. The context of how someone found your site is important – since it is setting the scene…and the site’s first impression had better deliver on the user’s expectation or you’re history.

    I’ll examine the 3 (4!) sites you mention with interest.

  6. Hmmm…homework eh?!

    I think its all about matching user experience to user expectation. The context of how someone found your site is important – since it is setting the scene…and the site’s first impression had better deliver on the user’s expectation or you’re history.

    I’ll examine the 3 (4!) sites you mention with interest.

  7. Hi Chris.

    All three blogs carry a very personal touch, to begin with. They are a great resource: 99.9% times. I don’t visit Problogger a lot so I cannot say how much Darren talks to his readers, but Brian of Copyblogger sure does, and most of the time when he needs to reply, he does, and I think that’s what makes his blog a regular haunt for many of his readers. Both Problogger and Copyblogger nurture great communities and even going through the comments is often a great learning experience. The only thing I know about Steve Pavlina’s blog is that he teaches how to handle life, and does it very well. All his thoughts are so practical and they can be applied immediately.

    OK, I think “immediacy” is the strength of all the blogs you have mentioned here. They don’t discuss oblique, esoteric topics. All their wisdom can applied immediately. Each time you visit these blogs you learn something new.

  8. Hi Chris.

    All three blogs carry a very personal touch, to begin with. They are a great resource: 99.9% times. I don’t visit Problogger a lot so I cannot say how much Darren talks to his readers, but Brian of Copyblogger sure does, and most of the time when he needs to reply, he does, and I think that’s what makes his blog a regular haunt for many of his readers. Both Problogger and Copyblogger nurture great communities and even going through the comments is often a great learning experience. The only thing I know about Steve Pavlina’s blog is that he teaches how to handle life, and does it very well. All his thoughts are so practical and they can be applied immediately.

    OK, I think “immediacy” is the strength of all the blogs you have mentioned here. They don’t discuss oblique, esoteric topics. All their wisdom can applied immediately. Each time you visit these blogs you learn something new.

  9. Too many ads put me off, but it doesn’t frighten me away, but it’s a point to make. I introduced a ‘introduce yourself’ post where people can do exactly that.

    I feel it makes people feel more at home and gives them the opportunity of introducing themselves to myself and other readers.

  10. Too many ads put me off, but it doesn’t frighten me away, but it’s a point to make. I introduced a ‘introduce yourself’ post where people can do exactly that.

    I feel it makes people feel more at home and gives them the opportunity of introducing themselves to myself and other readers.

  11. Good things they all do: have a prominent title and tagline that describes what they do. (Though I often find myself wondering what exactly constitutes “new media.”) All have prominent links to about pages and you all make sure we can get to the text of the most recent post ATF.

    Even though there’s a lot going on, most of the designs don’t seem overly cluttered (IMO, you’re the best here, Chris). You all highlight the areas of your site with top nav and category nav. And you feature contact pages prominently in your nav.

    Of those four, Copyblogger and you are the best at promoting subscriptions. ProBlogger has a text link near the fold, from what I saw StevePavlina has a series of chicklets BTF.

    Darren may best highlight the main benefits of his sites ATF: listing popular, useful posts from the past as well as jobs on his blogger job board. He also features a picture of himself, which I know some people (like Yaro Starak) really encourage to help the personability of a blog. (Which one is you in that picture, Chris?)

    I’m always underwhelmed by Pavlina’s design, though at least it’s pretty clean. AdSense ad blocks in text really bug me, as if he’s trying to trick his readers into clicking. : It seems less-than-professional on a homepage as well.

    One thing that bugs me about all your sites: I’m constantly frustrated by typing in queries to email subscription boxes and then having to search high and low for the real search box. I like that you have the option to subscribe by email, but if I remember correctly, studies show that people expect the first text box on a page to be a search box. I like having my search boxes easy to find. If I can’t find it in 1-2 seconds, I’m leaving (perhaps only to do a site: search on Google, perhaps giving up).

    Thanks for the homework; I just started my personal blog consulting services and can always use the practice.

  12. Good things they all do: have a prominent title and tagline that describes what they do. (Though I often find myself wondering what exactly constitutes “new media.”) All have prominent links to about pages and you all make sure we can get to the text of the most recent post ATF.

    Even though there’s a lot going on, most of the designs don’t seem overly cluttered (IMO, you’re the best here, Chris). You all highlight the areas of your site with top nav and category nav. And you feature contact pages prominently in your nav.

    Of those four, Copyblogger and you are the best at promoting subscriptions. ProBlogger has a text link near the fold, from what I saw StevePavlina has a series of chicklets BTF.

    Darren may best highlight the main benefits of his sites ATF: listing popular, useful posts from the past as well as jobs on his blogger job board. He also features a picture of himself, which I know some people (like Yaro Starak) really encourage to help the personability of a blog. (Which one is you in that picture, Chris?)

    I’m always underwhelmed by Pavlina’s design, though at least it’s pretty clean. AdSense ad blocks in text really bug me, as if he’s trying to trick his readers into clicking. :\ It seems less-than-professional on a homepage as well.

    One thing that bugs me about all your sites: I’m constantly frustrated by typing in queries to email subscription boxes and then having to search high and low for the real search box. I like that you have the option to subscribe by email, but if I remember correctly, studies show that people expect the first text box on a page to be a search box. I like having my search boxes easy to find. If I can’t find it in 1-2 seconds, I’m leaving (perhaps only to do a site: search on Google, perhaps giving up).

    Thanks for the homework; I just started my personal blog consulting services and can always use the practice.

  13. No offence Chris, but your site made me almost click away immediately. I use Firefox on a large monitor with 1600×1200 resolution. I almost always hit the Ctrl+ key twice to increase the font size and make it more readable. With this font size setting, the entire content of your blog shifts right by over half the screen, making it unreadable unless I reduce the font size.

    I persevered and reduced the font size just to leave this comment. So yes, sites certainly do scare readers and potential readers away, and sometimes it’s a very minor thing.

  14. No offence Chris, but your site made me almost click away immediately. I use Firefox on a large monitor with 1600×1200 resolution. I almost always hit the Ctrl+ key twice to increase the font size and make it more readable. With this font size setting, the entire content of your blog shifts right by over half the screen, making it unreadable unless I reduce the font size.

    I persevered and reduced the font size just to leave this comment. So yes, sites certainly do scare readers and potential readers away, and sometimes it’s a very minor thing.

  15. Hi Chris,

    I found you via a link from Problogger. Good exercise; sometimes you’re so close to your blog that it’s hard to view it objectively, but comparing it with some A-listers makes it easier.

    What I love about ProBlogger, apart from the awesome advice, is that his blog feels like a very warm and welcoming place. Even though he doesn’t have much time to respond to comments, his readers all provide thoughtful responses and help each other out. There’s a real community there and that’s inspiring.

    Copyblogger’s site feels less welcoming in my opinion so I tend to just read via RSS but I like his use of images, it’s really effective. I know he responds to his comments too.

    Steve Pavlina writes wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent posts but there seems to be little interaction with readers. I can’t remember ever seeing any ‘link love’ posts. He does have an active forum but I’m not sure if he participates in that.

    I am new to your blog, but with 3,511 subscribers to your feed you must be growing an awesome community! :)

  16. Hi Chris,

    I found you via a link from Problogger. Good exercise; sometimes you’re so close to your blog that it’s hard to view it objectively, but comparing it with some A-listers makes it easier.

    What I love about ProBlogger, apart from the awesome advice, is that his blog feels like a very warm and welcoming place. Even though he doesn’t have much time to respond to comments, his readers all provide thoughtful responses and help each other out. There’s a real community there and that’s inspiring.

    Copyblogger’s site feels less welcoming in my opinion so I tend to just read via RSS but I like his use of images, it’s really effective. I know he responds to his comments too.

    Steve Pavlina writes wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent posts but there seems to be little interaction with readers. I can’t remember ever seeing any ‘link love’ posts. He does have an active forum but I’m not sure if he participates in that.

    I am new to your blog, but with 3,511 subscribers to your feed you must be growing an awesome community! :)

  17. I believe running polls on the site is the best way to identify how users feel about the site. To me the most annoying things in a web site are
    1) Too many ads.
    2) Confusing content which contains ads as embedded content
    3) Internal site links opening in a new window.
    Gopinath M

  18. I believe running polls on the site is the best way to identify how users feel about the site. To me the most annoying things in a web site are

    1) Too many ads.
    2) Confusing content which contains ads as embedded content
    3) Internal site links opening in a new window.

    Gopinath M

  19. @Rajesh – Reader feedback is very important but what about those who do not comment?

    @mcrilf – How a visitor finds you is an important factor, we don’t all arrive at the front door …

    @Amrit – Immediacy is a good point, consider how that is delivered …

    @Darren – Introduce yourself is a nice idea if you can get people to do it.

    @Jordan – Some excellent points, well worth everyone else reading those. All of the people in the photographs are me :)

    @Bill – One of the reasons I brought up this topic is I have been planning a redesign for a while and had to look at my blog objectively. Fonts and fluid layout will be two of the priorities for the next design update. Thanks for letting me know :)

    @Rich – Thanks, I hope you subscribe and stick around :)

    @Gopinath – Yes if a site looks like a nascar then it can put me off too

  20. @Rajesh – Reader feedback is very important but what about those who do not comment?

    @mcrilf – How a visitor finds you is an important factor, we don’t all arrive at the front door …

    @Amrit – Immediacy is a good point, consider how that is delivered …

    @Darren – Introduce yourself is a nice idea if you can get people to do it.

    @Jordan – Some excellent points, well worth everyone else reading those. All of the people in the photographs are me :)

    @Bill – One of the reasons I brought up this topic is I have been planning a redesign for a while and had to look at my blog objectively. Fonts and fluid layout will be two of the priorities for the next design update. Thanks for letting me know :)

    @Rich – Thanks, I hope you subscribe and stick around :)

    @Gopinath – Yes if a site looks like a nascar then it can put me off too

  21. Yes true about “can get people to do it” and it’s worked better for my travel blog than it has for blogged out. It is a good way to get to know your readers, rather than looking at Google Analytics and RSS stats.

  22. Yes true about “can get people to do it” and it’s worked better for my travel blog than it has for blogged out. It is a good way to get to know your readers, rather than looking at Google Analytics and RSS stats.

  23. Hi Chris

    Great Idea, looking forward to seeing the answers.

  24. Hi Chris

    Great Idea, looking forward to seeing the answers.

  25. I arrived here by way of Problogger (whose design does not scare me into hitting the back button on my browser. )

    Your site does not cause the “instant back button” response either.

    However, I’d be surprised that any new visitor who has not heard of this Pavlina fellow could arrive at that blog and not hit the backbutton on the browser.

    My reaction when I first arrived was: “Where am I? Splog or personal advertorial site.” What is there to see or do? Either hit the back button or buy stuff from yet another random person I’ve never heard of. Why should I care? I don’t.”

    Copyblogger wasn’t quite as bad. However, the portion of the article that shows before you scroll down says “this guy is boring and long winded”. I scrolled down only because people here in comments seem to think he gives good advice. What I found is that he puffs 3 words of advice into 60 words plus a graphic.

    The advice he puffed up? “Omit needless words.”

    He doesn’t follow his own advice; maybe he doesn’t believe it. Why should I?

    Maybe if I’d visited when different articles appeared, I wouldn’t have found both sites a waste of time. However, both were sites layouts are so flawed and I couldn’t help taking screen shots and blogging.

    Nearly every blog in the world could be improved in some way. Still, your blog and Darren’s have pretty decent template designs.

  26. I arrived here by way of Problogger (whose design does not scare me into hitting the back button on my browser. )

    Your site does not cause the “instant back button” response either.

    However, I’d be surprised that any new visitor who has not heard of this Pavlina fellow could arrive at that blog and not hit the backbutton on the browser.

    My reaction when I first arrived was: “Where am I? Splog or personal advertorial site.” What is there to see or do? Either hit the back button or buy stuff from yet another random person I’ve never heard of. Why should I care? I don’t.”

    Copyblogger wasn’t quite as bad. However, the portion of the article that shows before you scroll down says “this guy is boring and long winded”. I scrolled down only because people here in comments seem to think he gives good advice. What I found is that he puffs 3 words of advice into 60 words plus a graphic.

    The advice he puffed up? “Omit needless words.”

    He doesn’t follow his own advice; maybe he doesn’t believe it. Why should I?

    Maybe if I’d visited when different articles appeared, I wouldn’t have found both sites a waste of time. However, both were sites layouts are so flawed and I couldn’t help taking screen shots and blogging.

    Nearly every blog in the world could be improved in some way. Still, your blog and Darren’s have pretty decent template designs.

  27. @Darren – Yes, it is helping me get to know people on my forum, I never thought of doing it on my blog

    @Fatgadget – the answers are up today, hope you like them :)

    @lucia – I think the copyblogger post you mention was a guest post? You do make a good point though, the content needs to get the point across in a compelling way. So often I make the mistake of yabbering on. As you say, every site can always be improved :)

  28. @Darren – Yes, it is helping me get to know people on my forum, I never thought of doing it on my blog

    @Fatgadget – the answers are up today, hope you like them :)

    @lucia – I think the copyblogger post you mention was a guest post? You do make a good point though, the content needs to get the point across in a compelling way. So often I make the mistake of yabbering on. As you say, every site can always be improved :)