Let’s say you’re just starting your blog… you’ve signed up with WordPress, you’re figuring out which theme to apply, what colors and fonts to use, and finally, how to organize your content. As a graphic designer in a previous life/career, I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to take some time to think about the design of your site and how it impacts usability.
How are your visitors going to interact with your content? Do you want to prompt them to do specific things — like buy stuff or click to a specific page or link? It’s a good idea to have these goals in mind before you launch your site, so that you can either have it designed to address them or pick a theme that addresses them.
What if you’ve been blogging for awhile and did not go through that exercise at the beginning. All is not lost. In fact, I think you have a fabulous opportunity to improve your current site’s performance. Just think of it as yoursite.com’s Release I. Before you launch a future release, understand how your real life visitors interact with what you’ve got.
The big guns at the big PR and web development agencies have research teams that will provide endless amounts of data including eye tracking technology that will tell you what areas of your site are most “sticky.” They’ll run focus groups to test your site’s usability, to see if visitors are intuitively accessing the areas you want them to focus on.
Fortunately for us start-up bloggers, there are affordable tools that will replicate these systems and give us access to this knowledge. For example starting at $9/month, Crazy Egg Web Analytics will generate heat maps of your site so you can better understand what your visitors are doing. Even Google Analytics, which is free has an overlay that let’s you know what links get what percentage of clicks.
All of this is invaluable information, especially if you intend to monetize your site. Even if you don’t “sell” physical products or services, the best site’s prompt a visitor to take action in some way — to sign up for a newsletter or RSS or to download a PDF or to watch a video. Taking advantage of the data, can make your site work harder for you.
photo credit: crazy egg