the blog critique | The Native New Yawker

The Blog Critique #09: Improving Your Blog’s Design For Longer Page Visits

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Happy Halloween! It’s Thursdayyyyyy, ya’ll. This week I’ve been all off with posting. Between having a wisdom tooth removed and battling a cold, I’ve just been out of it for the past week or so. However, this week I was determined not to miss a Blog Critique. So let’s jump right into it!
Teen Jazz Musician Blog

Saxophonist (you gooo, girl!) Shannon’s blog is a community for up and coming jazz musicians. Her blog features everything from music and career advice to equipment reviews to interviews with other jazz artist. Even though she has some older readers, her current demographic is high school students. Shannon submitted her blog for a critique because she wanted to get some tips to help improve the flow of the site’s design to invite readers to not only stay longer but to engage as well. She’s also unsure of her blog’s current design. Which demographic should she gear it towards? Her younger audience or older? Well, Shannon.. you’ve come to the right place.

The Good

When first landing on your page, there’s quite a lot of information to take in but being that there’s ample amount of white space, it’s not too bad. Your slider features pivotal information that can get users started with your blog, including your awesome video explaining what your site has to offer. You have all your important links from About to Contribute to Contact all above the fold and your navigation is broken down nicely, making it easy to find exactly what I’m looking for whether it be an interview or a podcast. Since the goal of your blog is to build a community of musicians, you have clear copy and great call to actions making it easy for users to engage one way or another. So for all those things, kudos.

The Concerns

I’d love tips on improving the flow of the site’s design to invite readers to engage more and stay longer.

At the current time you have a lot of information on your landing page. Though informative, it can be pretty overwhelming to a first time user like myself. Despite everything organized wonderfully, my eyes don’t really know what it really wants to read first. You need to create an hierarchy of importance on the landing page so that you can control the viewer’s eyes. If the video is the first thing you want your viewer to see, then forget the slideshow for a minute & just have that as the main focus. Since you already have a blog link within your navigation bar, I would worry about paying more attention to promoting your other stuff such as your blog or the teen jazz radio.

To build a hierarchy on your landing page, I would remove the slider and have your introduction video as the main focal point along with your description of what you’d find on the site. I would completely remove Latest Articles & Featured Teen Jazz Artist as you can display these on the main pages of the respective links. I would move your Call To Actions for your users above the fold so that after watching the introduction video they can decide how they want to engage on your site whether those blocks or your navigation bar. The last thing I would have on your landing page would be your product promotions including your book, the Teen Jazz plugin and Teen Jazz radio. The reason I removed blog posts from the front page is because the moment a user actually clicks on the Blog link they will be able to see your latest post and interviews. By placing all your goodies on your landing page, it can be overwhelming to some readers. Since your layout is not that of a traditional blog, it’s vital that you give them the most important information first. Once that information is received, the user can then choose how they wish to navigate further into your blog. But don’t put all your goodies out there! Let them explore pages!

I’m afraid to go with a design or look that specifically targets my younger audience.

Since high schoolers are not that far removed from adults I think you don’t have to do much with design. At the current time, your site is mostly white, black and bronze. That’s totally fine. But do remember when marketing to teens, or anyone for that matter.. its all about images. The bigger and bolder the images, the easier it will be to grab the attention of your demographic. Not to mention, the bigger and bold the images, the more ‘pin-ready‘ it becomes.

The Solutions

+ I’m unsure of what CMS you’re using right now, but I would recommend in the future to maybe switch to as it will make things easier to organize in the future. Not to mention, you can use some awesome themes for I would highly recommend checking out

+ Restructure your landing page. There’s a lot of information to take in when landing on your page. I keep the most important information needed to get a first time reader started with understanding your site. If you throw everything up on the landing page, you’re not really giving the reader room to explore. The more the reader explores the longer they stay on your site. As long as it’s easier it is to navigate, the longer they’ll stay as well.

+ Make sure all your images pop! With things like Twitter around now, the attention span of a teen is probably equal to that of like.. a fish. If you want to grab and keep their attention, make sure you have plenty of images that draw them.

The Overall Critique

Overall, you have a wonderful blog and I think it’s wonderful what you’re doing for up and coming jazz musicians. Your site is loaded with great, informative content but the landing page can overwhelm some readers from ever reaching it. Cut back slightly. The main thing I would recommend doing at this time is really rearranging the way you present you information on the landing page. I think the video and ‘What Will You Find Here At Teen Jazz’ section should be the first thing a reader sees when arriving as it literally talks about everything your site as to offer. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your design as far as targeting either young or older readers. I just recommend you make your images pop to grab the attention of your younger readers. Well, Shannon I hope I was able to address some of your concerns today. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with your blog in the future.

If you would like to submit your blog for critique, please send an email to with your name, blog URL, type of blog and why you think you need a blog critique.

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  • I’d love to know what CMS she is running because I’m not seeing any processes for any of the major ones. If she isn’t, kudos to her for putting this all together. Great tips as well!

    • Hi Angel, I’m not really using one. I work on the site in Dreamweaver and I manage my articles in Evernote, but I don’t use anything like WordPress. I’m afraid to let go of some of the options I have doing it all myself. And thank you!

      • Shannon, wow that’s commendable. WordPress actually overs almost full customization with the proper setup and it is really easy to use. I’m sure it would help cut down some of your maintenance time. I managed my site for a few months with no CMS so I know what it takes to put in time to upkeep maintenance. For security, it’s much safe to use a CMS. I’m sure Laura would love to work with you in getting something setup that might be a little easier if you wanted. 🙂

        • Hi Angel! Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve considered it – I’d love to be able to schedule articles in advance and not have to post them manually, but I’ve had issues working with WordPress in the past. It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, but I’m also somewhat worried about having to start over (again) if WordPress ever disappears (which seems like a longshot at this point, but is always a possibility).

          • If WP ever disappears all you’d need to have is the exported XML file, and you just go from there. I doubt WP would vanish anytime soon, and even if it did, that XML file and other options that you can export right from your admin panel, is a lifesaver. Came in great when I had to restart my blog, and backup.

          • You’re probably right. I’ve tried WordPress with other sites and I always end up migrating back to Dreamweaver. I know it’s probably not the most practical option, but it’s what I’m the most comfortable with at the moment. I also kind of dread having to start over if I make the switch…

        • L.

          I don’t know how you ladies managed sites with no CMS. I could only imagine how time consuming it was to do minor tweaks & updates. A lot of my clients have come from using no CMS, but then I introduce them to WordPress & their whole lives have changed. Glad you’re finally about that WP life. It makes blogging 1000x easier!

          • LOL! This was a long time ago when WP was in early release beta. I was using Cutenews to manage the blog because it was only a blogging system at the time. The other CMS options were very limited and since I was being hosted on another blogger’s site, I didn’t have access to the MySQL database directly. Safe to say as soon as I got my own domain, I made the switch to WP, even in early beta and I’ve never looked back.

      • L.

        Wowww, I definitely commend you. Constantly having to update your site via DreamWeaver is quite the commitment. I promise you in the future WordPress will make all of that easier!

      • exactly do you use Evernote with the articles @e1282b727e12e2a5e9997ded8a5c0246:disqus? I’d love to learn that method, that might be helpful for other things with a wordpress blog too. Care to share?

        • Hi Shae, I use it to draft my articles, store ideas and organize them for posting. I have separate folders for each stage in the process and it helps me keep my editorial calendar diverse.

  • Thank you so much! Your critique is immensely helpful. I’m going to really think about my homepage over the next few days to see what I am going to cut and how I’ll lay it out. I really appreciate the input. Thank you again!

    • L.

      Yay! I’m glad my tips could help! Once again! Thank you so much for submitting! 🙂

      • I’m really glad that I did! Thank you!

      • Also, I completely forgot to mention that I loved the fish metaphor.

      • You were so right. I just gave a really hard look at my homepage and I had a lot of things on there more than once. I gave it a bit of an update (but I just couldn’t bring myself to lose the latest articles/artists).

  • This was an excellent read!! And just so you know @d7174e6f1e3237cd620d2441dab2d1d5:disqus you’ve got mail, I’d love to be critiqued caz Lord knows I need someone else’s opinion. 🙂