Blog Critique: Brooklyn Active Mama

Welcome to our Blog Critique series!

Every week, I will go through a site that a reader has submitted to highlight the things they are doing well and the things that can be improved, all in hopes of learning the finer points of blog design and optimization.

Are you interested in getting on the list for a Blog Critique? Check out the post explaining all the details.

Here’s the items covered in today’s Blog Critique so you can read the whole thing or jump to what interests you:

  1. Header
  2. Colors and Fonts
  3. Navigation
  4. Sidebars
  5. Content Area
  6. Comments
  7. Social Sharing Options
  8. Facebook Design & Strategy

Blog Critique: Brooklyn Active Mama

Owner: Nellie

Blog: Brooklyn Active Mama

Platform: Blogger

Blog Age: 15 Months

Nellie’s blog has been around awhile and it was fun reviewing this one since I’ve known of Nellie’s blog for quite some time. Nellie’s funny and fun and you can tell from the moment you start reading that she’s super relate-able as a busy mom. She blogs about fitness, balancing motherhood, work and taking care of herself.

When the blog started, Nellie was in her 5th month of pregnancy so she and her blog have been through a lot of changes since it all started! There is a weekly meme that Nellie recently started called Friday Fitness Check-In where she does a weekly recap of the week’s health related events to help motivate, inspire and maybe even gain a little inspiration herself when she gets stuck.

Nellie’s main goals for her blog are to create a greater sense of community and grow the site with increased interaction both on the blog and in her social media accounts. She’s struggling with Facebook interaction and growing the numbers there so I’ll also provide some items to help out on her Facebook page at the end.

Header

The header has a great first impact. You know immediately what the site is about and what your main topics will be. We know you’re a mom, we know where you live and we know that you’re into fitness. Something that may not be as obvious is that from first impression, a reader will also get the idea that you’re a working mom but it’s implied, rather than stated outright, by the suit.

The size of your header is alright, I definitely won’t go any bigger, on my laptop I get the header and maybe an inch or so of your top post show up before the fold (where I have to scroll) but on my larger monitors I can see farther. Keeping screen size in mind when deciding how large to make a header is important. You want to be able to grab a readers attention with your content & post titles and not have it overshadowed by a huge header in most cases.

I love the font you used for the main title, I think it’s fun and quirky, great choice! The shadow version of the cityscape is also a great element, it’s subtle without grabbing too much attention yet really pulls all the other individual elements together.

I might give your fabulous cartoon self and the title some more separation, they are a bit close together and both the title font and the character are strong visual elements.  They could use some room to breathe, so to speak. The cartoon is making eye contact and pointing toward the title visually and literally so all that’s all good too. You want characters and pictures to be drawing the eye toward the middle of the screen or other important elements, not looking off the page, so bravo!

You have a tag line worked into the header, “A busy mommy that can’t help but stay active.”  I think you could do a few things to improve yours a bit. You have repetition between your title and your tag line. Both refer to motherhood and being active. I would maybe change the tag line to clarify the suit (working mom) piece a bit so it’s not just implied through the picture. Using the tagline to further clarify the blog’s topic might make a bit more sense than repeating the same thing in a different way. Being very specific helps readers know if they are in the right place when the land on your site.

You own your own URL and have it redirected to your blogger site, that’s great, it’s also easy to type and remember. A big plus for readers!  You also have the blogger toolbar active only on hover which is preferable to having it there constantly. Your branding should always be front and center, not Google’s! Good job there.

Last for your header, it matches the overall color, theme and feel of the rest of the site. It doesn’t feel “dropped in” but rather part of the overall feel.

Colors and Fonts

Your main color is pink, which naturally gives your site a very feminine vibe but the shade of pink is very vibrant and lively! Great choice for your niche.  You’ve coordinated the pink with a vibrant blue that is used in your tagline, hyperlinks and article titles.

The color choice definitely makes your hyperlinks stand out which as I mentioned last week is great! Having all clickable items the same color is a great way to condition readers to click that color whenever they see it.

The main thing I would look at would be the font selection throughout the site. You’ve got some strong, unique fonts in the header and then the titles of your posts are a different, handwriting type font called “The Girl Next Door” and the navigation is another font, then the body is different again as is the sidebar titles.  I think I got up to 7 different fonts on the site.

Streamlining fonts makes everything a lot easier on the eyes and easier to draw attention where you want it. The titles of the posts I would switch out to something simple or if your tagline font is a webfont, I would switch it to that to unify the header with the posts more.

For your navigation you could switch that out to the same as the body font and capitalize it or up the font size to make it stand out.  Essentially, you’ll want 2 or 3 fonts total on the whole site.

Your body font is a good size, easily readable and the spaces between the lines of text allow for some white space on the page and help make the paragraphs easy to scan.

Navigation

Other than the font issue I mentioned in the last paragraph, and possibly upping the size a bit or capitalizing the words, the navigation is great. It’s in the place readers expect to find it and contains the information they usually look for first like an about and contact page.

I might suggest switching the title of “Links” to be a bit more specific as to what those links are going to be about, like “Favorite Articles” or if you’re not actively updating it, to remove it entirely. It’s high value real estate up there and since that page takes people away from your site you could always move it to the lower sidebar instead and create a link to some other categories up there like your did with the baby weight page.

Sidebars

The top of your sidebar is your social media items, you currently have 8 there and then along the length of your sidebar you have some of those items like Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin, Pinterest and Instagram repeated again. The best way to increase something on your blog like readers, subscribers or followers is to focus attention on that metric and don’t provide too much choice. Right now, with 8 social media items, you’re likely not getting a lot of clicks there.

I would streamline those to include only the ones that make the most sense for you to concentrate on and remove the rest.  Often, a different way of displaying social networks can be more engaging. For example, a facebook social box with facepile like you have lower in your sidebar often draws more interaction than the button.  I do like the ease of the buttons, and some people look for them but play around with placement and see what gets you the best results. They can always hang out in the footer too!

For your goal of growing community, targeting certain social networks and also blog subscribers can help. Ideally, I would love to see your Welcome box with that gorgeous photo of you up above the fold with the feedburner subscription box higher and then maybe your targeted social media networks below that.

With your Blogher ads you are restricted with placement since they need to be above the fold. Depending on your preferences,  you can go to a 3 column layout with 2 sidebars to give the ads their own sidebar then concentrate on your social media items for the other one.  If you want to keep one sidebar then I would look at the ad revenue and decide whether that’s enough to balance the fact that they take up some of your best blog real estate. You could use it to place your own stuff higher to help you with your goals but that’s a very personal choice.

I noticed you have the Fitbloggin ’12 buttons in your sidebar, I thought that was done in September and if it has then that may need to come down to make everything look up to date. Otherwise, I like the idea of having that displayed lower down in the sidebar. It shows participation in the overall community and can help you connect with other attendees.

For the Find us on Google+ and the twitter button, I might look at making those both graphics or both text links. I get a bit of a scattered impression of the social media in the sidebar, minus those first buttons at the top. There’s some pinterest, intagram, google + at the bottom of the page, then twice again in the sidebar. It sort of feels like you’re not sure about where you want me to click. I would suggest a streamlined focus there too. If you want facebook and twitter, just have those and then on your about me page add in all the various social media places where you can be found so that those interested can find you if they want without the sidebar feeling scattered.

Love your Popular Posts! I would put that one up as high as you can too, it’s one of the few items in the sidebar that encourages visitors to stay on your site and explore!

The archive is great, it shows off your longevity at blogging which helps set your blog apart but I would move that one lower than the popular posts.

Your affiliations banners are nicely laid out and look fairly similar to the site which is a bonus! I like their similar shape too, they fit well together. The Clever Network badge is cut off on the side but you can fix that by restricting the horizontal width of an image by adding some code to the html:

<img src=”image.jpg” width=”180″>

By leaving out a height value, the image will scale proportionately without being squashed. Your sidebars are on the narrower side and you may need to play around to get the right value there.

Content Area

On the homepage your post titles really stand out, they are a great size and color, but as mentioned earlier the font being made to match would be great. When you click on the title and go to the post screen, the titles become quite small.

Post titles on homepage

Post titles on post page

These are usually Heading 1 tags (H1) and the size can be changed in the template by looking for the H1 rules and the font size associated with it which is listed in pixels (px).

You will often see it listed like this H1 {font-size: 14px} and just by upping that number, you’ll get better impact on your post pages.

I really like the way you format all your content. It’s a nice mix of bright, vibrant images, numbered lists and recipes, italics and short paragraphs with good spacing. It’s all very easy on the eyes and laid out well for easy reading.

I’d love to see more of your content on your home page. Right now, you only have 2 posts before people have to click and the “older posts” link and it is a bit dull and hard to see and people might miss it down there!

To keep your home page shorter while showing off more posts, you could use the Blogger “jump break” feature to create excerpts of the bottom posts.

You have a nice list of share icons at the end of the post, just 4 visible, not be too overwhelming. The pink of the Share & Save is different from your signature right above it so I would match those or make them a totally different color.

For the Pin It button at the end of the posts, if you could add it right under the best image of the post to encourage sharing immediately, I would try and see if that won’t do better for you. With the button being under the related posts plugin way at the end, it’s a bit removed from the amazing pics you have in there. Also, with it right justified, it’s sort of out in space there and having it below an image will help it make a bit more sense to a reader.

Comments

I know it’s a blogger thing but having your comments link easier to find, bigger and brighter would be great. You have an active discussion going on at your site with nearly every post and that’s a huge asset!

In order to leave a comment, the reader has to first find out where to leave it and that is a bit tough with the link right now especially when you have a lot of labels listed:

Social Sharing Options

With social sharing options, I think it’s a great idea to have them where people expect them, like at the beginning and/or end of posts but you can also try playing around with the look of them, having counts showcased or not and see what works best for your blog.

You don’t have to restrict your social sharing to just buttons at the end of your post either, if you want to increase Facebook interaction, by all means reference a discussion you’ve had on your Facebook page and work it into a blog post in a natural way. Curiosity will naturally draw people over to check it out. The more creative you get about your social sharing, the more it will stand out and get your readers attention!

Facebook

Since you were having some trouble with Facebook, I thought we could focus on that instead of the content for critique!  I think there are some really quick items you can fix and little things you can start doing that will help remedy some of the difficulties you’re having.

The first thing I noticed when landing on your Facebook page was the branding: your fun, light, vibrant site isn’t the same feel at all with your cover image.  The fonts, colors and everything feel almost opposite to your blog. Changing out the cover image, even to a cropped version of your header would do wonders for your first impression.

Another thing I noticed is that your timeline is getting double posts of your content from 2 different apps: one from NetworkedBlogs and one from RSS for Pages. I like the Involver apps personally and since that one powers your news page with your blog posts, it might make sense just to have that one.

Before coming up with a Facebook strategy, I would suggest getting really clear on the “why” of you Facebook page. What do you want to accomplish on it, have a thriving discussion about topics x, y, z, bring people back to the site, inspire others about the topics you talk about or showcase articles and posts of other bloggers or news outlets.

I know it’s a big list, but having a clear focus is super important. Numbers are great but focusing on what you want to achieve through the building of the page will help you do it better and ultimately be more successful.

Here’s a few strategies to try:

  1. Certain content works best on Facebook: highly visual items like embedded video and pictures are great attention grabbers. Instead of just showing your posts as an excerpt, try uploading the best photo from the post and including a link and a blurb instead. Try great quotes that people can share with their friends that are relevant to your topic area. Easy to answer questions and polls are a great engagement tool as is sharing helpful resources in your niche that could help your readers.
  2. Target Facebook on your blog. Make up a graphic that calls special attention to your facebook page and downplay the other social networks while you’re really concentrating on this one.  Mention Facebook discussions in your blog posts to lead people over there.  You’ve likely got a lot of “likes” left on the table with people who already know you. Can you include a link in your email signature to boost likes from people who already like you but just haven’t made it to Facebook yet.
  3. Engage Other Pages as Your Page(using your Page Profile and not your Personal Profile). This helps to expand your newsfeed  (by liking other pages) and gives you more content to share on your page.  Sharing insightful comments, suggestions and answering questions as your Page Profile, especially when it’s on discussions your target audience frequents, increases everyone’s awareness of your Page and ultimately, your blog.

    Write comments as your page profile, be insightful, helpful and answer questions you see being asked that pertain to your topic areas.

  4. Create a schedule. I know this sounds unpleasant but it might take maybe 10-15 minutes a day once you get up and going. Decide how many days a week you’ll post on Facebook and decide what type of content you’ll put up. Maybe Monday is inspirational quote day, Tuesday is a great Workout Video you found on youtube, Wednesday is a new recipe, etc. You get the idea. Knowing what you’re looking to put up ahead of time makes it a million times easier. You and your readers know what to expect. You do have some automation options here too, you can schedule posts through Hootsuite and through Facebook itself and then follow up with commenters each day during your designated “Facebook Time” or on the go with many of the apps available for smartphones.

I hope that was helpful and we’re glad you made it through Sandy safe and sound too!

If you find the blog critiques helpful, let us know in the comments or tweet about it to let your fellow bloggers in on the advice. We love hearing the feedback and it helps us improve the critiques to be more useful for you!

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