This is a free review and is completely of my own opinion. To see my review prices check out my ‘New Reviews System’ post.
Connor Wilson was kind enough to review my blog. So I thought that I’d return the favor.
Connor’s blog is very well designed, and he produces great content. His skills as a designer definitely show through.
I’ll start by highlighting my favorite parts of the design.
The attention to styling is very impressive. I love how his posts use elegant typography and lots of padding. Rather than simply using a constant font/color Connor uses a variety of font sizes, colors and and stylings that make his content a pleasure to read. He uses bold text styling to great effect, as you can easily pick out key phrases in the article. I’m sure that consequently Connor’s average visitor view time is significantly higher than the average blog.
The RSS area is very obvious but doesn’t impose on the content. It’s refreshing to see a specific area for the RSS rather than a large icon slapped on the page where there’s a free space. Little details like this add a lot to the design. It seems as if Connor has taken just as much care with his inner pages as his homepage, which is great to see. The care taken with every icon, quote, and comments form is remarkable. The one thing that I don’t like about this is the comments icon (an exclamation mark in a circle). It doesn’t make me think ‘comments’ as I see it, and would suggest going with something more conventional - perhaps use your notepad image used above the comments form.
Connor’s content is fantastic. He regularly writes on a variety of topics suited for web designers. Often he will discuss how to produce great designs, and goes into considerable detail (building on some essential design basics). If he discusses code he will insert sections of code into his post to be used by his visitors. One of my favorite posts of his is ‘Write Pretty Content for a Simple Design’ where he discusses his preferred content styling and why it’s so effective.
The essential part of any review is looking at areas for improvement. Connor’s design may be very good, but I certainly see room for improvement.
His sidebar just seems wrongly ordered to me. He has his about blurb at the bottom of the sidebar, far below the fold and this isn’t helpful for new visitors who want to quickly see who runs the blog. Similarly his search form is right at the bottom of the sidebar, and this makes it difficult to see. The second highest area in his sidebar is his Top Commenters, but this isn’t really providing anything of use to his readers. His Blogroll section is above Blog Categories, and these should be switched around. Try to think what matters to readers. They will care more about browsing blog categories than a list of friend’s blogs. Connor has his blog’s navigation in his sidebar, and whilst it is at the top I would expect to see it at the top of his page (under his logo). Currently there is a twitter feed there, and whilst it’s a nice feature, I would prefer to see navigation there.
One thing that really bugs me about the header is how the logo doesn’t link to his homepage. This is a tried and tested method of easily returning to the main page, and it seems wrong not to utilize this. I would also consider a slogan under his logo to let visitors instantly know what the blog is about. Currently you have to begin reading his content to gauge what it’s all about, and many people won’t bother to look at his page’s title ‘Blogging about web design, seo and wordpress’. Page titles for me are simply used for search engines. Your visitors will be looking initially in your logo area and so this is the place to let them know what you blog about.
Finally, I tend to prefer blogs with a more graphical design. This clearly isn’t what Connor was going for, but I find that having a website that consists mostly of just text (no matter how nicely styled) isn’t the best way to set yourself apart from the competition and create a unique brand. This point may be contentious, and his blog is very quick loading etc… I guess it’s just a matter of personal preference.
Overall the design and content are great. I would fix the issues of the sidebar, work on creating a more obvious brand and let visitors instantly know what the blog is about.