Blink Your Blog to See What a First Time Visitor Does

Long posts or short posts, I’m sure you’ve encountered the question. Longer means more content to reed the spiders and the deep readers. Shorter means casual readers are more likely to stay longer and read deeper.

Readers, those readers, unlike spiders, can’t be configured to do what we think they are supposed to.

When readers glance or glimpse our blog page, we’ve got a blink to draw them in. A blink isn’t long enough to read, or even sample, the content. A blink is exactly that – a blink. We’re talking a matter of seconds.

Being Blind to the Old

If we’ve been with a blog for more than two weeks, unless we’re in a redesign, we’re used to how it looks. Our brain filters out what is no longer new, so that we can concentrate the changes in our blog environment that are useful to us.

This filtering is critical to survival. It keeps us from being over-stimulated by everyday information that would be disruptive –- it’s counter-productive to be as impressed with our template or our new cotton sweater as we were the moment we first saw it. If we were, we would constantly be being bombarded by information — never able to sort the old from the new.

Unfortunately that also means that we quickly become blind to how the things we see every day actually look.

Blink Test Your Blog

So how do you get a fresh look at your blog? Do a blink test. That’s what I call it. Read all of the directions below before you do the blink test. That’s so that you can concentrate on noticing where your eye goes and what your reactions are.

  1. Open your blog fully on your computer in front of you.
  2. Look away at the ceiling or a neutral color wall –- white is the best if you’ve got it. Try to look for 2 or 3 minutes so that you’re completely clearing your mind of any “cached” images.
  3. When you look back at the screen notice where your eyes go, and notice how easy or hard it is to draw your eyes elsewhere.

Where did your eyes go? Most folks will find that their eyes went to some visual element. Often that element is the big orange feed button. It’s good that people notice your feed, but is it really what you want them to remember most?

I would think the visually strongest pull on your blog should be your blog’s title. Now, don’t necessarily make your feed button smaller, but rather make your title visually more prominent.

Using the blink test. Find the 3 strongest visuals on your blog. Make sure that they are in order that supports your goals. Next Week, I’ll be showing you a blog on which we did just what I’m talking about.

Meanwhile if you blink your blog and have questions, c’mon let’s talk.

Liz Strauss

11 thoughts on “Blink Your Blog to See What a First Time Visitor Does

  1. Hi Troy,
    It seems to me like a good thing that folks would first look at the title to your blog. That sticks it in their memory and they know exactly where they are. The post titles grabbing attention is great too, because that pulls readers to your content. YEA!

    Email me.

  2. Okay, the first thing I was drawn to was the header…. and hence the title and description of my blog. Dunno if this is a good thing or not. (I’m using WP with the ‘Kubrick’ theme, I commend anyone who can not get that huge blue blob to consume their attention.)

    I dunno, the titles (of each post) also seemed to catch my eye, they simply seem to pop out of the page, once you’re over the header thing. WP’s RSS links are small and at the very bottom, which I don’t have an issue with.

    I wouldn’t mind you having a skim over my blog… but it’s so badly laid out that I really don’t expect too much improvement.

  3. Hi Ahmed!
    Write me with your url, your location/timezone, and your skype id.
    We’ll have a conversation.

  4. Liz – you can work on my blogs if you want

    Blaine – if there are any specific topics that you’d like to read more about, do let us know.

  5. Hi Blaine!
    I care about how readers interact with text and visuals. I’ve working with that for a couple of decades and it fascinates me how moving something a few pisels can make difference in how well a page holds togethr as a whole unit, making it easier for reader to see and focus on the content with out distraction.

    Next week, I’ll start using some sisuals to show some before and after shots of the difference small tweaks can make. If you’re interested in being a part, email me.

    Thanks for the words of support.

  6. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for this practical test. I have been thinking through several aspects of my blog and this is useful.

    Additionally, please share with your colleagues that this reader has found increased value from the recent posts. I love PFF, and recently, I appreciate reading this blog for the thoughtful advice on blogging.

  7. Ah yes, Ahmed, page navigation is critical, and there are so many bit that go into well-built blog for it to happen seamlessly for the reader. Every piece needs to have it’s purpose just as you describe — a goal to take the reader intuitively where the next place is.

    In my mind the old saying “Form follows function” is really “form and function flow together.” Both form and fuction support the reader. I’ll be talking lots about how to use typography to do that. I hope help with the monetization — I’m clueless when it comes to hot spots.

  8. Liz,

    excellent advice as usual.

    maybe something on setting blog goals as well? I’d recommend that you have at most one primary goal for your blog (with 1-2 secondary goals if necessary), and also that each page (or in the case of WP, the main page, the post pages, the archive pages, etc) should have a specific function / purpose as well.

    For post pages, you’ve got a series of steps you want the reader to take. From reading the title to reading the first paragraph to reading till the end, and then commenting.

    If you want AdSense clicks, then you want them to click on the AdSense and should make that as natural an action as possible.

    If you want affiliate sales, you’re looking at working hard on your copy to ‘sell’ the product you are pimping.

    And if all this is too much to do at once, take it one step at a time. Setup your goals, then think about specific sections of your site, and then, when writing each post, think of what you want that post to do the most, and keep that in mind while you write it.

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