7 ways to make your blog more user friendly fast

Food blogging... who knew it would ever reach the popularity high that it's on right now? Food blogs are everywhere and they cover every food topic imaginable, from recipes to restaurant reviews, to canning and food photography (with lots in between).  So, with so much choice available to readers, what are you doing to make sure they stay awhile on your blog?

For a long time I made my living as a web and graphic designer who mainly worked with bloggers.  One of my responsibilities as a designer is to make sure my clients' sites are what's known as user accessible - tech talk for "easy to use", among other things.  Good web design is about SO much more than pretty design.  It's about understanding how people interact with websites and making it an enjoyable experience for them.

Here at FBC I vet every single member blog that joins.  That's right... I've checked out and browsed every single one of the 2200+ food blogs that have joined our fun community.  That's a lot of blogs!

When I check out a new member's blog I do several things:

  • I read some posts to get a feel for the blog
  • I browse the site to see what else they have going on
  • I look for some information on the blogger - who is this person? I want to know about you!
  • I try to connect with them on social media

Now, I'm going to say this as nicely as possible: some of y'all make this really hard to do!!!

So here we go! 7 tips you can implement right now to make your blog a more reader friendly place to be!

1. Optimize Your Photos For the Web

You do not need to upload your full sized 3000 x 2000 pixel photo with a 300dpi.  First of all, this makes your photos a target for theft.   Second of all, it makes your posts slow to load - especially if you have more than 2-4  images.

Now I know most of us have some pretty skookum internet speeds in our homes but... not everyone is reading blog posts in their living room.  Ever tried surfing the net in a hotel? A Starbucks? Or an airport/train station? Anywhere where internet access is shared?  Or on your mobile device?  Sometimes speed isn't great.  One of the keys to good user accessibility is remembering that not everyone has the same setup as you do.

Resize your images to 72dpi and and a manageable pixel width/height before you upload them.  Everything will load and run much quicker!

2. Don't Make Your Users Scroll...

and scroll and scroll and scroll...Does your homepage have 10 full length posts on it?  Why?  Combine that with the gigantic photo files you're uploading in tip 1 and you've got one slow to load home page.

More than that, once a user starts to scroll, it can be easy for them to miss when one post ends and the next one starts.  Say you wrote a great post on Monday about banana cream pie (who doesn't love banana cream pie??).  I go back to find it on Saturday but in the meantime, you've written two new, picture heavy posts.  I just want to find that banana cream pie post because I'm about ready to start making it but I have to scroll through tons of photos and words to get there.

Learn how to create post excerpts in your blogging platform of choice.  This is where only a portion of your post appears on the home page, with a "Read More" link.

Most WordPress themes will have this as an option for you to use so if your theme does, try it out.  If not, you can learn about the "More" button in the WordPress editor.  This will work for both WordPress.com sites and those using self-hosted WordPress sites

If you are using Blogger, you can easily create "Jump Breaks" without any coding.

Try it - no more scrolling! Yay!

popular social media icons

3. Make it Easy For Your Readers To Connect With You

There are very few bloggers out there who aren't using at least one Social Media platform to connect with their readers and help drive traffic.  If you're on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube, make it as easy as possible for your readers to click on a button and follow you. (Don't forget the new kind on the block - Snapchat)

Gather up all your social media profiles and group them all in one easy to find spot on your blog's home page - preferably near the top in the sidebar.  Make them big enough to easily spot (but not so big that they overwhelm things).  If you have advertising commitments, you may need to put them below your first ad.  Also be sure to give your readers a way to subscribe to your feed by email - or better yet get them to subscribe to your email list (you have one, right?).

This is very easy for WordPress users - you can install them in a sidebar widget manually or, you can try a very easy to use plug-in.

Blogger makes it a little trickier but it can still be done.  Adventures As A Small Town Mom has put together a great tutorial on how to do just this.

Not long ago, I worked with a client using Blogger.  All we did was create a set of custom social media icons (she didn't have any prior to that - her social media was spread out all over her homepage) and put them in a group at the top of her sidebar.  She emailed me a few days later to let me know her twitter and facebook followers had increased by volumes in just a few days as had her email subscribers.  One simple change that took an hour, including design, and it paid off big time.

RELATED:  PR Desk: Three Ways Bloggers Can Maximize LinkedIn

4. You Want Comments? Make It Easy!

Ditch the Captcha.  If you're worried about spam then moderate comments before they're posted.  If you're using WordPress, install Akismet to catch your spam (I find it's about 99% effective at catching spam). You can use it for free or donate.  If your blog is an actual business, you will need the business licence.  At $5/month it's a bargain. WP also allows you to moderate the first comment by a new visitor and lets all subsequent comments by that person be posted without moderation.

If you're on Blogger, make sure you enable the Name/URL  option for commenting.  So often I have typed out a comment on a Blogger blog only to discover there is no Name/URL option and so I leave.  I'm not logging into any third party accounts to comment and neither are a lot of other people.

Some blog plugins for commenting require the commenter to put the the "http://" before their URL name.  Most people don't expect to have to do that so it becomes another impediment to easy commenting.  Be wary of third party plugins for commenting.  They often make the process more complicated than the built in comment system.  You're looking for ease of use.

to many ads on a web page

5. Are You An Advertisement or A Blog?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with adding ads to your blog.

BUT...your blog's advertising should NEVER overshadow or interfere with your content.

Content is king.  It's the reason people come to your site.  I never read a blog because they run great ads.  But I've left lots of blogs where the ads are so prominent that they distract from my ability to read your words or enjoy your photos.  And I'm not the only one.  Take a look at your blog with fresh eyes - would you stick around?  Maybe you need to tone it down a bit or remove some of those Google ads in the middle of your posts.

6. Clean Up the Clutter

Sidebar bling, header bling, baubles, bells, whistles... they're just a distraction.  Lately, I've worked with a lot of bloggers who want to take their blogs to the next level and every single one of them has asked for a cleaned up, streamlined site.  Double sidebars are on the way out, as are numerous widgets and badges.  Clean home pages are the trend.

The problem is, the more of that stuff you have in your sidebar, the less people pay attention to it.  Edit yourself.  Do you have one or two causes or projects you're involved in that are really important to you that you want people to notice?  Put those in your sidebar and get rid of everything else.  Create a new page and menu link and put your blogroll on that.  Create another page where you post links or badges to all your other work on the web or places people can find you, like your tastespotting, foodgawker, yummily, etc profiles.

And remember - those sidebars are valuable real estate - use them to direct people to other parts of your blog.  Don't send them to somebody else's site!

hello, my name is...

7. Tell People Who You Are

Create an About, Start Here or Bio page telling people who you are.  Why do you write what you write?  What can we expect to find on your site?  Where are you blogging from?  You don't need to delve into the depths of your private life but at least let your readers know a bit about why you blog and what they can expect from you.

Are you interested in working with PR firms or sponsors?  Create a page outlining the types of things you're willing to do or write about, your food philosophy (if you only believe in eating locally or in avoiding processed foods, you may not want to work with packaged food companies, etc, if you're a restaurant review blog, you might not be interested in coming up with a recipe for ABC Food Company's fruit or veggie), whether you're willing to attend events (and what kind of events) and anything else a PR person might be interested in.  Don't forget to make your contact information easy to find.

Taking It to the Next Level

As a web designer, one thing I've found in recent years is that the line between a small business website and a traditional blog has blurred.  Quite frankly, they've become the same thing in most cases.  Most small businesses are including blogs and social media connections on their site and more and more blogs are including full menus and magazine style home pages.

But what I've also noticed is that not very many bloggers have realized that what they are, in fact, running, is a small business website.  If you are making money or compensation from your site, if you are trying to increase your traffic, build your brand, and grow your social network reach, you are running a small business.  And that means treating it as one and investing in it.  You have an obligation to your readers to make your blog as user friendly as possible.  For some of you, that may mean moving to WordPress, for others it may mean upgrading to a paid theme, and for still others, it may mean hiring a web professional to help you out.

Blogging 101: 7 Tips to Instantly Make Your Blog More Reader Friendly, was written and designed by FBC Managing Editor, Melissa Hartfiel.  Melissa is a designer, writer and photographer and writes the blog Eyes Bigger Than My StomachBeing from Vancouver, she does indeed like walking on the beach and puppy dogs.  And who doesn't like warm cookies? 

Connect with Melissa on Twitter or Instagram at @mhchipmunk or on Facebook: Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach

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57 Comments

Calantha @ piecurious
Reply

Thanks Melissa, this is great! I always wondered how people had all of their social media links in one clearly defined area – now I know! I will be putting many of these suggestions to work!

Genevieve
Reply

Out of all the “blogging tips” type posts I’ve read, this one is probably the most helpful! I’ve already implemented your suggestions for comments, and I’m going to look into a couple of your other tips as well. I finally just upgraded all of my social media links to one spot with icons a few days ago, which made my blog look so much cleaner and its easier for people to connect with me now (although you’re right, it was difficult to figure out how to set this up on my own in Blogger!)

Melissa
Reply

Blogger really needs to make that easier! It’s become such an important part of blogging. Glad you got some useful info from the post.

Natalie
Reply

I spent quite a long time trying to figure out how to add social media buttons to the top of my page in Blogger last night, and finally came across the exact tutorial you mentioned! I had to start a Photobucket account to upload the images I wanted to use, but that was quite easy, as was the rest of the process. Even that one small change has already made my blog look so much better. I just wish I’d waited one more day to read this post and I could have saved myself a lot of time! 🙂

Katrina @ kitchentrials
Reply

I second Calantha, thanks Melissa! This was some great information and perspective. I was glad to see that I had some of these suggestions already, and even more happy to find some ideas that I hadn’t thought of.

Janie
Reply

Some great tips there, thank you! I would like to second this;

“If you’re on Blogger, make sure you enable the Name/URL option for commenting. So often I have typed out a comment on a Blogger blog only to discover there is no Name/URL option and so I leave. I’m not logging into any third party accounts to comment and neither are a lot of other people.”

The times I have written posts on someones blog and then I am unable to publish it. Grrr! I can’t be the only one this is happening to!

I now stop following those blogs because it winds me up so much, and there’s no point is I can’t interact with them!

Janie x

Melissa
Reply

I think a lot of bloggers underestimate just how much their readers want to connect with them. The easier you can make it, the better!

Isabelle Boucher
Reply

Some really great tips here, Melissa. I wish someone had given me this list when I first started blogging… I had to learn some of these the hard way. 🙂

I’m going to have to check out that Social Media Widget, because it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for (my current widget does the trick, but it’s not as eye-catching as I’d like).

Redawna
Reply

Great post. I may need to go in and shrkin a few pictures. I do try and go smaller with them but know I need to redo some.

For my Social Media button on my blog I use the Cute Profiles plugin and they are placed nicely on the side.

Also need to check in to the comments section.

I try and keep the blog clean and somewhat streamlined.

Thanks Melissa

Melissa
Reply

Thanks for mentioning another social media plug-in. I will check that one out.
The photos – I’m guilty of uploading full images on days where I’m in a big hurry but it’s such a no-no. I go back later and fix them!

Liliana
Reply

Thanks for writing this informative post! I use blogger and have problems including Social Media Widgets on my blog. I am dfinitely going to check out the tutorial you mentioned!

I have thought of switching over to WordPress but it seems such a huge undertaking.

Janie
Reply

Hi Liliana, I moved from Blogger to WordPress a few years ago and it was so simple. They even ship in all your readers comments!
I’m on wordpress.com (free, brilliant but basic blogging) but am planning to upgrade to wordpress.org (self hosted but with way more options) soon as I’m beginning to feel held back by the basic site.

Meghan
Reply

Thank you so much! For a beginner blogger this is a very useful article. So many of these points I know I’ve needed to do but got frustrated trying to figure out where to find the commands to do it! I’m sitting down at my desk now!

Rhonda
Reply

yep, I’ve been learning this all along the way…mostly through my experience with other sites. I still have a little clean-up to do myself. I recently (Jan 1st) changed my home page to not be full length posts, I like it better. I totally agree with the Captcha, it is irritating and I don’t want to leave a comment; sometimes I make one and then it comes up and I just exit, who has time? I use askimet and another hidden captcha plug-in, I rarely get spam. As always, you’re posts are great.

Redawna
Reply

I also wanted to note for WordPres users who are having spam issues.

I know Akismet was not catching all the spam, about 150 were sneaking through a day.

Along with Akismet I am also using the plugin called simply: Spam Free WordPress and i have been 100% spam free.

Melissa
Reply

You had that many getting through with Akismet? I get maybe one sneaking through a month. I’m actually quite shocked by that number. Akismet does let them through but puts them in a spam folder for you to view. I get a couple hundred in that every day. It does that on purpose so you can vet that it’s not catching legitimate comments (which it will do from time to time).

Redawna
Reply

It was, and it was taking a lot of time going in every morning and deleting them all.
In reality it was only minutes but it was getting frustrating.

I watched a class with Justin Seeley on Creative Live about WP and learnt a few neat things.

So glad I found that plugin.

Melissa
Reply

i saw the same webcast. Justin had some good tips for people starting out. I personally prefer to limit plug-ins and Akismet has done the job for all of my sites and my client sites so I’m quite happy to stick to just that until I start seeing a problem. But as long as it’s working for you and making your life and your reader’s lives easier, that’s what important!

Jessica
Reply

Thanks for the great tips! I finally got motivated to clean up my sidebar and added the social media icons that I had been meaning to for a while.

A Canadian Foodie
Reply

What a thoughtful post. I have skimmed it and can see that this will take a serious moment to really get through as there is some really meaty thoughtful stuff here that I can see I need to consider. I will be back later! Good work and thank you!
Valerie

Melissa
Reply

it’s a great tutorial – one of the easiest out there to understand. I send a lot of my clients to it because I sure couldn’t write it any better for them!

Meg
Reply

Awesome. It was a lot of fun for me to write it – especially the Mario Lopez part ;} Maybe I should write some more tutorials. The Social Media icon tutorial seems to be a big hit.

Any suggestions for additional tutorials people ask for?!

Beth R.
Reply

I tired adding break spaces in blogger.. and never got the Read More thing, or the rest of my post to show up.. what am I doing wrong???

Melissa
Reply

Hi Beth, it’s hard for me to say without seeing exactly what you’re doing. I’ve tested it in blogger though and it does work. Write your post, click your cursor where you want the break to be, click the icon – you should see a small break appear in your editor. Publish or update your post and then go to your home page – you should see the post with the Read More link

Beth R.
Reply

It seems it was because I was using an old template (pre-2008). I updated it, for a fresher look) and we are good to go! Now I just need a better header at the top. TIme to get creative.

Lisa
Reply

Hi Melissa, thanks for the great post. Since reading it, I have systematically gone back and tried to implement each suggestion. Very helpful, and I think the site is much bette for it.

Thanks again.

Dawn
Reply

These are great tips for all bloggers! I am guilty of a little bit of clutter on my side bar. It really isn’t much advertising, more or less sites I belong to and a showcase of articles I wrote on other sites. I am going to be going through it to see what I can do to organize. Commenting I have on moderation but in Blogger I had to. I was getting too many of the spam auto comments. I should take the captcha off, but I still get many spam comments even with the captcha and moderation!! It is really the niche of my blog tho.

Thank you for sharing these tips!

Trish
Reply

Thanks for the information here – I found this really useful. I’m using wordpress.com so I’m a bit limited with what I can do. But I’m going to implement what I can. Thanks!

Sarah
Reply

Thank you! That really helped me organize my thoughts and my site. I think I will have to get Mr Ask (aka web guru) to make some changes xx

Myrtle J.
Reply

This is awesome advice! I’ve cleaned up my blog a little since first starting, but after reading this, I realized that my comments were still restricted to only registered users. Thanks for this!

Nicole
Reply

Thank you so much for this valuable information! Some of us newbies just jumped in and missed many of these great points. I had no idea that readers would want to connect or know who I am but then realized that I always check out the “about” page of my favorite bloggers.

Many thanks for sharing!
Nicole
What Matters Most Now blog

Georgina Carr
Reply

Great post! This may finally get my butt in gear to move the site to a self-hosted one so I have more control of the layout of my blog. Thanks Melissa!

Cindy
Reply

Great article, but I do have a question. My blog seems to be a great target for spam comments from anyone under the sun. Which is why I had put the captcha in place. After reading this article yesterday, I decided to try and remove my captcha, since I really find it a pain in the rear to have to enter one, when I visit other blogs. Well in 12 hrs, since removing my captcha requirement on Blogger, I’ve been inundated with dozens of spam comment in my inbox. I still have my settings set so I have to approve comments before they are published, but do not want to spend my whole day going through spam comments.

So my question is, is there are alternative on blogger, for a captcha? Is there a “prove you are a human” widget we can add, so that my inbox is not flooded with non relevant spam comments which were made on my blog? HELP!!

Melissa (FBC Admin)
Reply

Great question and I’m not sure if there is for Blogger. Akisment for WordPress is very effective at this but I’ll throw the question out on our facebook page and see if anyone has suggestions. I wasn’t able to find anything helpful in a google search.

Kim
Reply

Fabulous tips. Akismet was our lifesaver for spam control! The before and after time commitment to controlling comments was worth figuring out how to install it. Thanks for the New Year’s check for our page – wonderful article!

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