The following is a paid review and is completely of my own opinion and is not influenced by being paid. If you’re interested in having me review your site or product, you can purchase a review from me through PayPerPost by clicking on the PayPerPost Direct button located at the top left of my blog.
My favourite sites to review are the ones where the owners are looking for constructive critisism and my honest opinion, rather than to just have me review their site and generate buzz. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with the latter, I simply enjoy critiquing a site and offering advice on possible ways to improve it, much more.
So, I was happy to find a paid review offer this morning for Studio Rockstar. It’s a blog, which is even more fun to review, and I was instructed to “take a look, read the content and give your honest opinion about the site.” While I always give my honest opinion regardless, the fact that he wrote this earned him some Brownie points in my book. Not many people these days are really open to criticism and opinion, even if it’s constructive. His open mindset shows me that no matter what I say, that he’s going to improve his site.
I’m thus going to make this review into more of a list of constructive criticism I can share, because I want to help this guy as much as I can, and I think that critiquing his site will benefit him a lot more than just generating buzz. That being said, let’s get started!
Studio Rockstar is a blog run by a man only known by the moniker ‘K’, and is located at http://blog.studiorockstar.com/. This is the first point I’d like to talk about. There’s nothing wrong with subdomains, and it’s very common to see blog.company.com, but that’s usually the distinction; this usually occurs when the blog is not the main focus of the site, and just one of the side areas. But StudioRockstar is another blog about an entrepreneur making money on the net, it’s not a company blog. Therefore, I think it warrants having it’s own domain name. StudioRockstar.com is an empty directory, which leaves me thinking that K has other plans for it, possibly turning it into a little company or freelance site.
I really think that if you want to grow your blog and grow it’s traffic that you shouldn’t use a subdomain. For example, blog.studiorockstar.com is a lot harder to remember than just StudioRockstar.com. I know a lot of people subscribe to RSS feeds or bookmark site, but I rarely don’t… I just type in sites by memory, as I’m sure at least some of you do as well. Aside from just memory purposes, the subdomain implies that the blog is not really the main focus of the site. And, to me, it seems like he’s not as dedicated it.. all because of the subdomain.
Next I’d like to talk about the design. I could write forever on this, but will try to keep it as brief as possible. Simply put, I really dislike the theme he’s using. Here are just a few reasons why:
Too much text
There is simply too much text, and the three columns (which I’m known for hating) only worsens the situation. You’re presented with an information overload and don’t know where to start. Even though the most logical spot would be at the top left with the first post, your eyes can’t help but wander around helplessly.
There’s several reasons for this. The three columns is one. Another is that the middle column is much too prominent. For example, the “Regular Reads” section is nearly as wide as the supposedly ‘main’ (first) column. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people are more inclined to visit the sites on his blogroll than to stay on his site! While I appreciate being added to his blogroll, it shouldn’t be this prominent.
I’m not a fan of the site’s navigation system as it doesn’t allow you to see at a glance everything that is available on the site. Instead, you have to awkwardly scan the site for what’s available. It’s also partially repeated at the bottom which only adds to the confusion.
To be frank, the theme is really boring. And a boring design leads me to believe the content will be boring as well. I also don’t want to see anything too flashy or over-the-top, but I need something inbetween, and something unique. Something original. Even if it’s a premade theme, you can still customize it just a little and make it your own. Take my blog my example. It’s a freely available theme, but it’s original enough that it really looks unique. Same with John Chow – his theme has been widely copied by many bloggers, but by customizing it here and there, you immediately know you’re at John’s site. Shoemoney.com and ContestBlogger.com are two other examples of blogs that are well-personalized.
Here’s my test to know if your site is well designed/branded/themed. If you can stand back 20 feet and instantly identify who’s blog it is, you’ve at least got the uniqeness going.
Okay, enough about design. I’d keep going, but don’t want to waste K’s money all on the design since I’m sure he’ll change it now.
Next I’d like to talk about content. First, Studio Rockstar has it’s content truncated. This is an option in WordPress that will display a certain amount of text before cutting off and linking to the full post. This is probably open for debate, but I’m personally against implementing this option. Sure, it lets readers view an overview of the posts better, but isn’t that what an Archives is for or “Recent Threads” sidebar for? I understand that part of the methodology of truncating posts is to encourage readers to read the full post, but what’s really the logic behind that? If you display the full post to begin with, they’re more likely to read it than the other way around. Also, when truncating posts it’s much more important to grab the reader’s interest within the first paragraph or else they won’t even bother clicking to read the rest.
However, if the entire post is there to begin with, even if the first paragraph doesn’t capture them, they may quickly scroll down, see some keywords that hit their eyes or some pictures and continue reading.
Anyhow, if K decides to keep the truncating, I’d recommend that he add a little “Read More” button or text after the elipses, as it’s a bit awkward finding how to read the rest of the post, only to find that you have to click the title.
Moving on… I do appreciate how he hasn’t added any ads on the site. Maybe he’s read my “You’re Not a Rock Star” post.
He does not have a Contact page or form, but only an e-mail address listed. This is a small change/improvement he can and should easily implement.
I could go on and write for hours on ways to improve his blog, but this post has already gotten far too long. So, I’ll wrap up with one last suggestion. The right right column displays an “About Me” and “Goal” section, and appears on every page. But he does not have an actual About Me page. I’d recommend that he add such a page, and write a nice detailed introduction and then remove that column, because it does not need to be viewed on every page – especially not for repeat visitors.
However, his blog does need a better method of explaining what his blog is all about, as well as to compensate for removing the 3rd column. He could do this by changing his site’s tagline from ‘rocking the web since two to the zero zero zero’ to something actually descriptive such as “The entrepreneurial efforts of a webmaster trying to quit his dayjob” as a quick example.
His posts are actually pretty good and written pretty well. I actually didn’t even read them until just this second because I was so preoccupied with everything else. Yeah.. the truncated posts were really hiding his content.. so he should definitely remove that option, because he does have images of stats and charts in there after all!
His blog just started, so he only has a few posts so far. However in his An inventory of my sites he states “It’s just about that time to sit back and take inventory of all of my sites, where they are, and where they’re going. Due to identity issues, I won’t disclose the exact site names, but I’ll refer to them by code names laid out in this post from now on.”
While his reasons for not diclosing may certainly be valid, I think that this will only greatly hinder his progress. People don’t really care if “Project W” gained traffic and is now making $100 more a month. There’s no face to put to the story, and much less to be learned. It’s much less inspiring and motivating, and also leaves people wondering if it’s even real.
Compare it to a celebrity gossip show saying “Celebrity Z was caught shoplifting earlier this evening in a New York Walmart. Reportedly Celebrity Z had attempted to steal a pair of boots. When caught, she tore open her blouse and ran around the store topless. We have the pictures, but aren’t able to disclose them. Celebrity Z then shot four police officers before finally being contained.” Now… wouldn’t you like to know who Celebrity Z was?
Okay, I’ll have to leave it there since I’m already over 1600 words!
K – implement my suggestions and your blog will improve 10-fold