Now and then, it’s a good idea to step back from the blog and take an objective look at its design and usability. Better yet, ask a few friends to do it!
Here’s a checklist of things to look at when reviewing your blog, or a friend’s.
☐ Is the blog hosted on a free or paid platform?
☐ Does the blog exist on its own registered domain?
☐ Does the blog have a Comments Policy (spelled out above Comments or within the Terms of Service)?
☐ If advertising, endorsing, or selling anything from the site, is it secured with SSL? This is not a legal requirement, but with a large percentage of users using Chrome as their browser, failure to secure the site with SSL will result in scary warnings to visitors that the site is not secure. It’s a wonder they haven’t hired the town crier to yell out, “Unclean, unclean! Lepers! Plague!”
☐ Is everything posted the original work of the blogger? Bloggers should take special care to avoid violating the intellectual property rights of others. Copyright crosses boundaries (see “Berne Convention”)! Stealing, plagiarising, “spinning” articles and images is NOT OKAY. If you did not write it, draw it, make it, or take a picture of it with your own camera, did you use it in accordance with the creator’s licensing terms? Just because a thing is posted on the web does NOT make it “public domain.” If in doubt, ASK. Proper attribution does not include lifting the whole work, saying “I don’t claim any rights in this” and mentioning the creator of it. “Fair use” is a DEFENSE if you are charged with copyright violation, but there are some very narrow requirements to claiming “fair use”: for critique, for educational purposes (generally in a classroom, and not for profit!), and for parody (think SNL, and no, making fun of a thing is not necessarily parody).
☐ Is there an “About” page that tells readers who the blogger is and what your blog is about? This is a chance to talk about credentials, interests, and why this blogger is the best person to write this blog.
☐ Is there a photo – a real photo of the blogger or a custom logo if the blog is a business – visible on the front page and/or the About page?
☐ Has schema.org markup been applied?
☐ Is there a sitemap.xml (and has it been submitted to search engines)?
☐ Are new visitors to the site assaulted with pop-ups and demands to subscribe to a mailing list, follow the blogger/blog on other social media sites, buy a book, enroll in a workshop, etc?
☐ Is the page loading fast or slowly?
☐ Is the front page visually attractive?
☐ Is the site easy to navigate?
☐ Does it have a prominent search box?
☐ Are posts organized into Categories, and tagged with relevant keywords? Are there Category and/or Tag menus?
☐ Can visitors click on a category or tags, to find related posts?
☐ Is it easy to follow the blogger and/or blog on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.?
☐ Is there a translation button?
☐ Does each post have a “featured image” and is it appropriately sized and marked up for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+? (See https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-image-sizes-guide/ )
☐ Are all images the blogger’s own? If not, do they have written permission or proof of a Creative Commons license (and are they complying with all terms, such as proper attribution)?
☐ Is the post title is both catchy and informative? (Bloggers should err on the side of meaningful and informative, if writing click-baity headlines is not their thing.)
☐ Is there a custom Excerpt field? If not, the first 55 words of the post work will be used, and the blogger should ensure they provide a good summary if that’s what shows up in search or on a Twitter card or Facebook summary. Don’t give away the conclusion here – make sure it’s a good teaser that leads readers to click for more!
☐ Spelling and grammar count! Anything that interrupts the “flow” of the post and slows the reader down is likely to cause him to click away and go to a more appealing source. “White space” (visible breaks in the text) should be used to give the eyes a rest and the mind a cue – between paragraphs, between body and sidebar, before and after headings, etc.
☐ Anchor text – do both internal and external links go to things like “read more” (useless) or “how to set up a new blog” (lovely!)?
☐ End each post with a call to action. What do you want the reader to do now? ASK THEM (POLITELY) TO DO IT.
☐ Are readers able to easily leave comments? Are they encouraged to do so? Things that get in the way of commenting:
Is there anything you’d add to this checklist? Anything you particularly like to see on a website or blog, or any pet peeves I’ve failed to mention here? Please leave a comment, below.