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JHSEsq blogs her blessings at Colloquium

You can’t pinpoint its exact location on a map, so you can’t get in your car and drive to it. You can’t take your dog for a walk in it. And you can’t describe it by establishing borders and confining it within those markers.

Nonetheless, be assured that the blogging community is just that. A neighborhood.

And just as in our traditional, physical neighborhoods, our blogging neighbors are frequently willing to lend a helping hand, offering support and assistance when we need it.

Today, I want to draw your attention to two of my blogosphere “good neighbors” who went out of their way to help improve the value of my property, Colloquium.

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Skellie writes about blog design and layout with an emphasis on simplicity and functionality. Among her best articles are her blog usability checklist and 50 tips for uncluttering your site.

For the asking, Skellie will visit your blog and conduct a free “Simplicity Review,” offering specific suggestions about how you can improve your readers’ experience.

Before e-mailing my request, I made a few changes based upon the points emphasized in her articles. Following her Simplicity Review of this site, these were her recommendations:

Rename “Why Colloquium?” to ‘About’. Visitors wanting a quick run-down of what your site is about might not think to look at “Why Colloquium?” — after all, perhaps that seems like a perfectly reasonable title to them :). You could simply rename the page About but keep most of the existing text the same.

Done!

You could remove your ‘Most Recent Posts’ widget because you’re only displaying excerpts on the main page anyway. It would only take readers a second to scroll down and get an instant overview of your most recent posts, which is more useful than only reading headlines.

Done!

I think you could de-clutter your post footers. I’d add a line-break between the social bookmarking links and tags. I think you could do without the smaller links, as they’re not actions many users will want to complete. You might replace them with one message of about the same width to encourage readers to subscribe to your feed, or you could leave it blank for a more simple functionality.

Done!

Consider replacing the ‘Share This!’ plug-in with a more usable option. Share This doesn’t really explain to readers who aren’t familiar with the plug-in what it’s going to do. It could mean emailing the content, or Digging it, or any number of things. I think displaying specific icons for specific actions (a Digg icon to submit to Digg, for example) will encourage more users to interact with the buttons. I’ve been using Sociable.

Actually, I was using the Gregarious plugin. I’ve switched to Sociable, but am not sold on it.

Sarah wrote her first plugin recently, “What Others Are Saying,” that allows you to feature the most recent posts from your favorite bloggers on your site. Sarah explains: “It utilizes the RSS link field from the blogroll for each of your links. If the RSS link exists it attempts to get the last post from it. It then displays the most recent X number of posts depending on your settings. Each blog can have one post in the list.”

I thought it sounded like a great tool for promoting the writing of some of my favorite bloggers.

Problem? Initially, the code itself showed up in the sidebar so Sarah referred me to Lee Doel because he took the plugin one step further, making it functional via a widget. That was an improvement, but the text was too small, the title was in the wrong font, and the line between the title and content was missing. So I left her a comment, thanking her and expressing my disappointment that I was not going to be able to implement the plugin.

To my surprised delight, I received an e-mail from Sarah offering to either rewrite the plugin so that I could use it or provide me with the actual code needed to make the changes myself.

But it gets better . . . before I could respond, I came home, looked at my e-mail and found a revised widgetized plugin waiting for me!

So now you can see it in action in the sidebar: “Current Articles from Other Great Sites.”

Blessings and Gratitude

Both Skellie and Sarah were great blessings to me this week, providing me with advice and assistance geared toward making Colloquium a lean, efficient site that you will enjoy visiting. Neither of them had any obligation to me, of course, but both were willing to devote their time and immense talents in order to help a fellow blogger. I have been reading Skellie’s site for a while now, but these were my first interactions with both women, so it cannot be said that they were simply helping out a friend.

Skellie and Sarah are just two of the many folks who contribute to the blogging community through their collegiality, thus making blogging a pleasurable and fulfilling experience. For me, this is a hobby that I will give up in a heartbeat if it stops being fun. Having great neighbors like Skellie and Sarah assures that I will be sticking around for a while!

What do you think of the changes implemented as a result of their help and guidance? I appreciate feedback so leave a comment and let me know what you think!


6 Comments

  1. I’m always looking for ways to improve my blog! I think I’ll check out these sites, especially the review one. Thanks!

    BTW, I like the changes but then again, I’ve always liked your look.

  2. That is very nice that Skellie is doing that. It looks like the changes are very nice.

  3. It was no problem at all. Your input made me rethink on the plugin and further changes were made because of it so in turn you helped me 🙂

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