Improving the Reader Experience

Mechanic

To improve the user experience on this guitar blog, I made several changes to reduce clutter, speed up web page loading and increase the focus on site content.

Banished from the Front Page

  • Google Ads
  • Related Articles listings
  • Social Bookmarking links

These were contributing to an overly long and busy home page thus detracting from the content. Now, these elements only appear on the individual article pages where they are far less intrusive especially to my regular readers.

Sweeping Away Some Cobwebs

I’ve performed further housekeeping by disabling a number of WordPress plugins which weren’t adding anything significant to the blog or its administration. Plugins, while providing all sorts of additional functionality, don’t always improve things. What seemed an interesting new feature at the time, can often turn into performance robbing code.

Finally, I rearranged the sidebar content to clean up this area. For example, the Subscription section has been reworked to make RSS and email subscription options clearer. I also removed the Top Commentators list (generated by a WordPress plugin) having found that it was contributing to slow site loading.

Comments?

Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment or contacting me privately. If you have suggestions, let’s hear them!

Note: This brief article is included in Problogger.net’s What Everybody Ought to Know About Blogging – 97 Blog Tips – an article in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog series.

With the amount of image content frequently included in posts, I’ve shortened the number of articles on the front page to four. Meanwhile, readers still have ready access to content through Search, the Topics and Recommended tabs in the sidebar the prominently featured Archives link in the navigation menu.

03.01.2008 Another major update. This one has taken the new logo and combined it with the Structure theme by Justin Tadlock to really pull the site together and provide even greater focus on content.

Featured prominently in the header area are the navigation menu, Search, subscription feeds and logo.

Gone is the three column format now replaced by a two column theme that is significantly cleaner and more focused. Tabbed content in the sidebar really helps in still providing the necessary functionality without incurring an overly long sidebar.

And once again, I’ve gone through and swept away a number of WordPress plugins as well as hard coded some values in order to improve site loading performance even further. It’s amazing what you can do to improve WordPress without compromising functionality.

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5 Responses to “Improving the Reader Experience”

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  4. Here’s another way to improve reader experience: sign up for Google Analytics–it’s free! Make sure you install the Analytics Code on each page of your Blog. You can then track where readers are spending their time. If a page has a high “bounce rate” (i.e. readers go to it and leave right away) you know you need to fix something on that page. Also, you can see which links they click on to get an idea of what they are interested in. Pages where they spend a lot of time tell you what they are interested in so you can provide more of the same.

    1. Google Analytics is a great tool for trending and determingin what content works best but that’s behind the scenes. In this particular situation my focus was on making changes that had an immediate impact on usability and page loading. Thus my emphasis was on reducing unnecessary code and plugins.