An honest blog critique

You may have noticed that I spiffed the place up around here. My blog has a new design—and a new approach. I’m not done with the “remodel”, so you can expect continued changes to come, but I thought I’d give you a little glimpse behind the scenes. I started with a blog critique. I sat down and looked a few of my favorite bloggers  and I analyzed why I like their blogs so much and how my blog compared.

Yes, that’s right, I compared.

But not as a way out of my own work—“I wish I could do that” or “I wish I could BE that” (while waving an imaginary little wand). But as a way in and a way to learn. Not “I wish”, but, “Oh, maybe I can try that in my way to be more of who I am.”

Note: if you’re not interested in this kind of blogging shop talk, feel free to stop here. On the other hand, I do think what I discovered about my blog applies to creating anything, so you may find yourself applying these lessons to your own creative work, even if you don’t blog.

Content, Presentation and Connection

I think I can fairly say that there are three elements of any blog that require (a lot) of care—and my blog, I decided, definitely needed attention in all three areas: Content, Presentation and Connection.

Since I don't blog to generate income like many bloggers these days, monetization is not on the list. This is a hobby blog, something I create for others because I love to write and share.

I hope you find what I share here useful and interesting and that you will make something awesome of your own. That in a nutshell is my goal.

Besides, I don't believe monetization should have anything to do with the quality of a blog. There's nothing wrong with bloggers who run businesses, but the only interesting blogs are those that share and help others, regardless of whether earning a living is also a goal.

When it comes to creating anything, I've always believed that if you’re making it for other people, make it for them.

Um, I know that's what I believe...but that's not what I've done—yet.

I admit, Hello Heart hasn’t really hasn’t been for other people.

If you look back at the early stages of my blog in 2011, you will see someone in the early stages of creative recovery. Shaky. Unsure. Seeking direction.

Much of my blogging since has been about exploring as I worked to find my way. I put out those early steps in my journey of recovery for others to see, but let me just be brutally honest (with myself).  This blog has been about me.

But now I think I learned enough, I’m strong and clear and sure enough in my own creative recovery that I now have something to give to others. Wow! I can't tell you how good that feels. I’m ready to share what I have learned and what I will learn,  and I can now make this blog about its readers.

This is why I conducted a blog critique—to see how I might create a better space for readers. So here's what I found:

Content

Like I said before, it's critical to create content for your audience.

Clearly, from length of posts to topics they choose to photos that engage, my favorite bloggers keep the needs of their audience in mind. They’re respectful of audience limited time and attention. They all keep most of their posts short and to the point. And when posts are longer, there’s good reason for it: they know their audience will be interested in the details.

They share relevant, useful and interesting content. Let me just say that again: Relevant. Useful. Interesting. Truly the secret sauce.

My favorite bloggers are dependable and consistent—whether they blog once a week or all seven days, we know we can expect the next post soon—and we look forward to it.

Finally—they are fun to read. They each have a distinct, authentic voice and as a result, their personalities shine through everything they create.

How I will apply what I learned

Because I was mainly creating for myself,  I would have to say my content was not audience-focused. So that’s the first revision I am making to my blog: going forward, this blog is for you.

I will be working on improving length (shorten, shorten).

I will be working on creating great content for you. I have a whole line up of ideas, techniques, tips and tutorials.

I’m also upping my game with much greater dependability: I am committing to blogging at least 3x a week. This is a commitment I know I can keep because I've been testing a new writing/publishing routine that works for me (and it does).

As for personality and voice, well, I am committed to giving you the real me.

Often I worry (in real life and on screen) that I can be too serious and philosophical, and I’m always balancing the fine line between sharing and preaching.

But you know what? I’m also curious and enthusiastic and even funny now and then in a dorky way. When I get excited, I am passionate and obsessive—and this is who I am.

While bad behavior can always be improved, our personal qualities are innate and singular and not up for self improvement. If anything, we just need to be more of who we are and stop hiding qualities we fear others won’t get.  And definitely don’t try to be someone else (fortunately, I quit that game decades ago).

So there you have it: you 'll be seeing more of the real me.

Presentation

I took a long hard look at the blogs I most enjoy and I saw that my blog's design could do more to help readers enjoy my content and to make it more useful to their lives. Again, it’s all about what best serves readers.

We are becoming such a visually-sophisticated world, aren't we?  On all our screens and in print, too, we communicate with image and visual design. I studied techniques these bloggers used, especially looking for common threads, and I did my best to improve the presentation around here. However, this is just the beginning.

How I will apply what I learned

The fact is, I need to up my skills and learn more about coding for Wordpress (my blog platform), iphonegraphy and graphic design.

Lucky for me, I love to learn! I’ve committed to a learning adventure over the next few months to build these skills—and I hope you will see and enjoy any improvements in use of images and graphic design in the coming months.

connection

I look at my daughters who all use their phones like their own social mobile bat caves and I know I am so Out. Of. It. My lifestyle is not mobile. I’m either home working, creating—or driving. I don’t commute. I don’t “hang out” much, which seems to be prime i-screen time.

I blog—so that's one social media platform I've chosen. But my favorite bloggers blog and they ALL show up on other platforms, too. They share and engage with people.

How I will apply what I learned

Connecting with others online has been my greatest fail to date. Like most introverts, I always need to push myself to be proactive and reach out to people, both in “real” and “virtual” life—and I haven't yet online. I know that I need to go the extra mile and do it because geez, I’m here to connect!

So I'll be connecting more.  On my blog, on other blogger's blogs, and on my two favorite social media platforms, Instagram and Pinterest. (I don’t love Facebook—but eventually I suspect Hello Heart will have a FB page, too.)

 So that's my blog critique

As can see, big changes are underfoot around here and it should be interesting and useful (content), better looking (presentation) and more engaging (connection). Won't you connect with me? (See, I'm proactively reaching out!) You can subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram and/or Pinterest—and then I can follow you, too!

Finally, I'd also love your feedback. If you have any suggestions or questions or curiosities, let me know in the comments below. And you can always email me, too.

I am here for you.

Until next time...