The Blog Critique #07: Expanding Beyond WordPress.com

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the blog critique | 07 | The Native New Yawker

it’s been two weeks since i’ve done a blog critique and i apologize.

i have to constantly remind myself — designer first, blogger second. had a lot of design work within these past two weeks so by the time i would come home and finish some freelance work, i wasn’t trying to blog about anything. work is still hectic, but i’m trying to pace myself a bit more realistically when it comes to getting shit done. while i was taking a two week break from blog critiques more ladies submitted their blogs — so yay, got more critiques coming your way. once again, if you know any bloggers that would be interested in finding out ways to pump up their blog design. send them my way. i’ll be running critiques for the remainder of the fall. let’s get into today’s critique.

naturallyme35.com
lifestyle blog

heather is a newbie blogger currently trying to find her way around this blogosphere. she started naturallyme35.com back in december of 2012 as a platform to document her natural hair and fitness/weightloss journey. nowadays, she covers everything from natural hair to to fitness to fashion turning her blog into a lifestyle blog. heather feels she’s in serious need of help with her blog since she’s using wordpress.com as a platform instead of the self-hosted wordpress.org so her flexibility is quite limited when it comes to what she can and can’t do for her blog. since wordpress.com will be her home for the next few months she’d love to here some advice on how she could spruce up her blog. well, heather.. as always, you’ve come to the right spot.

the good

when i first arrive on your page, i instantly know what type of content i’ll be able to find on your blog from your header tagline (fros, fitness and fashion), i know what you look like and how to reach you if needed. all of these things are above the fold, so kudos. i like your usage of large post titles as it grabs my attention to want to read all your post and i’ve even noticed in some of your post you’ve allowed your photos to take up the same width of your content — i can’t stress enough how this makes a big difference in the appearance of your blog. it makes everything look cleaner so once again, kudos.

the concerns
i am currently using wordpress.com as a platform so my control and flexibility is quite limited.

if you’re unaware of the difference between wordpress.com vs. wordpress.org, i wrote a lovely article a while back explaining the difference between the two. with wordpress.com you are limited to only using free themes and you can’t add any plugins, luckily we won’t need any of those things to spruce up your blog. i will definitely recommend that eventually you switch over to self-hosting when you’re ready to so that you can eventually use plugins that will help you with your blogging. but please note that just because you’re using wordpress.com doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. so let’s discuss some ways you can spruce up your blog.

the solutions

+ spice up your header. although apple is attempting to bring gradients back, i personally feel that sometimes the use of gradients can make things look a bit dated. i would rework the header to make it feel a little more modern and easier to ready when viewing your site from a mobile device. more use of white space than anything. kind of like what i did below:

the blog critique | 07 | The Native New Yawker

+ use graphics to spice up your sidebar. one thing i’m constantly suggesting to ladies is to sexy up that sidebar with the simple use of graphics. try creating buttons for your series post like ‘what i’m wearing wednesday’ or ‘healthy monday’. this way while readers are scrolling down your page reading content they can always access more content right from your sidebar. and nothing grabs a reader’s attention quicker than some fun graphics. you can even download photoshop cs2 for free and start giving it a shot at design graphic elements for your blog.

+ use webfonts for your blog titles. now only if you want, i’d recommending upgrading your wordpress.com account to custom design. custom design is a paid upgrade that cost $30 per blog, per year (so if you plan to still on wordpress.com for a year — definitely something to consider) that allows you to personalize the look and feel of your blog with intelligent color tools, custom fonts and a CSS editor that can be used to make more advanced design updates. you can preview the custom design upgrade tools for free to see if it’s something you’d be interested in using in the future.

+ make sure your photos are full width and pin-able. like you’ve done with a few of your ‘what i’m wearing wednesday’ post, make sure your photos take up the full width of your blog posts for a neater, cleaner look. the width of your content is 604 pixels so you’ll want to make sure your picture’s width is at least that size if not bigger. another thing you’ll want to do is add a little watermark to bottom lower portion of your pictures as well as maybe one picture that you add the title of your post on so that way it makes it easier for users to pin your photos and for people to know exactly where the photos came from.

the overall critique

overall, don’t let the limitations of wordpress.com hold you back from being great, heather. you have wonderful content & beautiful pictures. throw a watermark on it, add a title and throw it on pinterest for the rest of the world to see. the main areas i would work on fixing up first would definitely be the header and adding some graphical elements to your sidebar. i suggested making buttons for your weekly series post, but you can always make category buttons for your sidebar as well. i’d also recommend to maybe upgrade to wordpress.com’s custom design option, especially if you plan to stay with them for a year or so, as you’ll be given options to change things on your blog such as the typefaces. i hope i was able to help today. can’t wait to see what you do with your blog in the future.

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  • Heather Williams

    Your critique was been extremely valuable. I really appreciate the helpful and constructive tips and suggestions. Thank you so much! ~NaturallyMe35.com~

  • Heather Williams

    Your critique was extremely valuable. I appreciate and value the constructive tips and suggestions. Thank you again! ~NaturallyMe35.com~

    • L.

      I’m so glad you appreciated the critique!

  • Love this series!

    • L.

      Thanks Krystal! 🙂

  • Great tips! I love the yellow she uses. I don’t think many designs go for a bold yellow so it’s good to see it outside of the mustard tone that is trendy.

    • L.

      Yess. I love me some mustard but it’s always fun to play with just yellow sometimes. It makes for some great contrast amongst black & white!

  • Toia B.

    Great tips!

    • L.

      Thank you Toia! 🙂

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