10 Smart Questions to Ask Yourself Before Designing Your Blog

by Alexa on December 26, 2009

So I got my site up and running on Thesis on WordPress.org, and guess what?

It sucked.

I mistakenly assumed that watching a couple of Thesis tutorial videos would equip me with sufficient competence to conquer the site like I had with my free wordpress.com hosted blog.

Instead, I ended up with site so ugly and bizarrely functioning that I posted a disclaimer stating “THIS SITE IS UNDER * SERIOUS * EXPERIMENTATION”.  I only posted one blog entry because I was terrified to attract traffic.

Oh so ugly

It was definitely * not * how I wanted to present my brand.  I needed help.

It occurred to me that I had a pretty good idea of why I was creating this blog… in my head.  But without writing it out down, how could I be sure it made sense and, more importantly, how could I effectively enlist outside help?

I came up with list of 10 questions to force myself to be more disciplined about my blog.

1. What is the purpose of my blog?

To avoid your blog from becoming another tombstone in the Great Cyber Graveyard, it’s a time commitment requiring a good deal of ongoing nurturing. At the end of the day, why should you bother?

In my case I am an incorrigible collector of information. I subscribe to at least 40 (50?) blogs/etailers/LinkedIn groups who send me tons of really helpful and interesting information regularly.  Rather than bookmarking (even allowing for a bookmarking service like Delicious) and filing, I decided it would be most beneficial to capture and catalogue my favourites for future reference.

I figure there may be other people who might benefit from my collection of interesting content. I may be collecting for myself, but there is always an audience – even if only in my imagination – for whom I am acting as a web content curator.

Finally, it’s a good platform for showing people my interests, my writing, my experience.

So for me, my reasons for this blog are:

  1. Capturing interesting content for me.
  2. Making it accessible to others who might benefit.
  3. Giving my brand some depth.

2. What sort of information will your blog capture?

Granted, this may be difficult to predict; it may take on a life of its own.  Right now I’d say content/links to other sites, original content based on my experiences, audience comments, my Twitter feed, photo and video – all related to social media/networking, ecommerce, fashion and other interesting content I come across.

3. Who is your audience?

Who are you thinking about when you blog?

When I write, I think of someone who is interested in learning how to leverage the web for social networking and ecommerce, but who doesn’t want to wade through an overwhelming volume of data to do so.  By acting as a web content curator, I can filter helpful content for my audience, help explain technical concepts and save my visitors time.

4. How are you different from other blogs?

I’m not trying to be visionary, radically different – necessarily. Remember, my primary purpose is to capture content I find helpful.

  • Are there other content curators interested in my subject matter?  Probably.
  • Are they packaging their information for an audience who isn’t necessarily technically savvy?  Maybe.
  • Do they speak in my voice with my personality? Nope.

5. What is the tone, visually and content wise?

What kind of experience do you want your readers to have when they come to the site? This will drive how your site looks, behaves, sounds, reads.

I want a site that captures my personality – colourful, professional, accessible, logical and fun.

6. Which sites do you like (examples)?

Never go to a designer and say, “I really don’t have anything in mind for a site. You have a blank slate!” You will get your face slapped, like I did. (Not literally, but I might as well have been.)

Guess what – you know what you do and do not like.  So do some research of sites you like and provide these to your designer.

Need inspiration? The Webby Awards are a good place to start.

7. Will you use it to make money? If so, how?

If you plan to sell a product, you will need to consider an ecommerce component. You may not need it now, but you want to ensure your site is flexible enough to accommodate this functionality when the time comes.

You may also consider being an affiliate; that is, having links and/or ads on your site for other products/services. If someone who came from your site goes on to make a purchase (during that session), you get paid a referral fee.  Heck, even I am trying it out – why not?

8. What features do you want to include?

Tough answer to know ahead of time because your blog will evolve. Do you want flash? Social networking links? Drop-down menus? Multimedia? I suggest researching other sites in terms of layout, features and functionality.  You can also research what WordPress plugins are available, but keep in mind that increasing fanciness could result in slower sites.

9. How will you know if your blog is successful?

What are the metrics, the benchmarks with which you are determining whether or not your blog is achieving your goals?

  • Are you judging by numbers of subscriptions, comments, twitter followers, sites linking into you, Alexa rankings, mentions, general traffic, etc?
  • Awards?
  • The frequency and the quality with which you post?
  • The revenue your site generates through direct sales or affiliate arrangements?
  • That six months from now blogging is still pleasurable?
  • That a potential employer or client was influenced enough by it to give you an interview, job, piece of business?
  • That people see you as an expert in your field and invite you to speak, to collaborate?

10. Who will help you with your blog?

Tinkering around with css, php, HTML, design, hosting is not for the faint of heart if you are uninitiated. It is embarrassingly easy to really mess up a site.  Make sure your resources are lined up ahead of time and that your arrangement is clear for all parties.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Derek January 22, 2010 at 11:53 am

another resource on wordpress is lynda’s video tutorial. while many videos require payment, some are free.

http://www.lynda.com/home/ViewCourses.aspx?lpk0=368

2 Alexa January 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Hi Derek – thanks so much for this tip. Great seeing you today. Really curious to hear how your on-line strategy to consolidate and promote your expertise goes. Please keep me posted!

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