Improve Blog L&F

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karen@starryroadstudio.com

Improve Blog L&F

The blog interaction and appearance is weak. Typography is weak with no options to add sub-headers and to edit template design details. There are no options for editing photo sizes, layout position, or captioning. And since I lack any real ability to tweak the code myself, there is little I can do to improve things (beyond requests to IM support for the specific improvements I want - while this is a very nice service, it is an incredibly slow and limiting process to make improvements). Personally, as a creative person (and especially as a UX designer), I find it very frustrating. 

The following are adddtional notes from another user (in the Facebook IndieMade Users Group): 

 

There are several features that are said to be essential for a good blog.
1. Uses Your Business' Own URL (Indiemade = Yes, possible)
2. Enables Subscriptions Via RSS and Email: (Indiemade = I don't see one.)
3. Automatically Integrates With Social Media (Indiemade = yes)
4. Makes Publishing Easy: (Indiemade = yes)
5. Report Email & RSS Subscriber Growth Over Time: (Indiemade= no reports).
6. Track Article Performance = (Indiemade = no reports)
7. Measures Visitors and Leads = (Indiemade = no reports)
8. Has ways to follow, connect to or contact the author: (Indiemade= offers no connections that I can see.)
9. Offers Blog categories: (Indiemade = no categories, just tag words and archive by a month.) 
The ones that irk me are #2, #8 and #9. The reports I can get from Google.

 

Axel McCarthy

Simplicity comes first

Hi Karen,

I know that our founder Jennifer already replied to this on the Facebook group but I wanted to get a response on this forum post too, for those who might be reading this later.

We're all disappointed to read that you find the limitations frusrating. But our primary focus is simplicity. We try to offer our customers the features indie artists need, but in a way that's really really easy for them to use -- so they can concentrate on their art and not on futzing with their website. Obviously this is a hard balance to strike, because everybody is different. One person's simple tweak is another person's incomprehensible process. But when we have a decision to make, we try to err on the side of simple.

That said, many of the things you're asking for can be done with the rich text editor -- and if not, our more technically minded users can always click on SOURCE and edit the HTML directly. If you have site-wde CSS changes to make, our customer support team is happy to upload them for you. But we don't offer arbitrary changes of the theme or layout through the dashboard because we think that's just too complicated, and we want to stay simple.

The numbered issues at the end of your post involve RSS feeds, subscriptions, and analytical reports. Our general philosophy is rather than implement lots of features that only some customers want, instead we will integrate with the best services out there. So all IndieMade sites have RSS feeds created automatically -- because there is nothing for you to do. But to offer subscriptions by email, you can integrate your RSS with MailChimp or other subscription services. Google Analytics is awesome, and free, and it's easy to add to your IndieMade site. Every site comes with its own contact form... and if you want a different kind of form that collects other information from your visitors, you can add a form from WuFoo quite easily. And so on. We're always delighted when we see customers ask for new integrations of stuff we haven't even thought of.

Finally, Karen, thanks so much for taking the time to post this. We really do listen to our customers' feedback. This is really helpful to hear your perspective, and I can promise you that we take it seriously. So thanks. :-)

Axel

karen@starryroadstudio.com

Suggested visual improvements...

Yup - I'm just throwing in my 2 cents (the first paragraph of my input above is mine, the numbered list was from another user). The gist of my suggestions are mostly along the lines of visual improvements. I think that a few imrprovements of this type might be made to the templates without sacrificing simplicity for the user. If users don't get direct conrol of styles (supporting the rationale of simplicity, which I agree with btw), then perhaps the next best option is to investigate layout and typographic improvements, ast some point down the line...

My primary concern is with the Blog Front Page...

1.  Formatting of post previews on the Blog Front Page (the list of posts, each with it's own preview): 
     a. Post titles are very close in style (font size, weight) to that of the preview text. Consider a layout or typographic change to improve better readability and at-a-glance scanning of titles and content preview.
     b. There is a very large gap between each post preview. Perhaps this can be tighted up to ceate a more consistent layout.
     c. The horizontal rule bewteen posts is white. Perhaps use the same style rule as used in the rest of the template. In teh case of Leaf, this is a subtle dotted line. ***

2. There appears to be a rule by which a photo is or is not displayed as part of the preview, but this is not clear to the user; here are my observations (for each post, and how it gets displayed on the Blog Front Page):  
     a. If there is no text ahead of the photo the photo is shown.
     b. If a small amount of text is ahead of the photo, the photos is still shown (I am not sure what the boundary condition is for this; a character limiation?).
     b  If too much text is ahead of the photo, then the photo is not shown. 
The result of the above is that as a content provider I need to plan each post to to have the same leading content in order to avoid inconsistencies in the entry page layout (e.g., some previews with photos, some without). One possible solution is to use a thumbnail (instead of a full size image) of the first post image in the preview, to create consistently sized preview "modules". 

As for the post content design - as you indicated, I have control over formatting of each post using the rich text editor, so I can easily work within the given functionality. A few template-wide controls would be nice, but in this case, they are just that: "nice-to-have". 

I hope the above makes sense! Simplicity is my goal too. My personal feedback (the first paragragh) is based on a desire to improve the look & feel to make it more consistent, readable, and SIMPLE for my customers and readers.

Thanks for your reply - I know you guys are listening and it is appreciated. :)

*** Note: it is possible i am looking at some anomalies in formatting due to some of the custom work I earlier requested for my previous Paper template... I don't know. 
 

Axel McCarthy

Representative images from a post, and setting the teaser break

Hi Karen, sorry for the delay in response! I actually thought I had already posted.

Your idea about selecting the first image from the post and pulling it out into the blog teaser is a good one. I know that there are several new themes in the hopper and did see some screenshots that looked like that was where it was going. So we'll see how that plays out.

As far as control over the preview, that part is in your control. Each theme is able to handle it a bit differently -- some, for example, display the entire body of the latest post but only the teasers of the subsequent ones. But at any time you can set the "teaser break" wherever you want, so for example if you want to make sure that the first paragraph of text plus the image of a post is shown in the teaser mode, just place the cursor at htat point and click on the "teaser break" button. (It looks like a red dashed line between text.) If you want the entire post shown, put the teaser break after the last paragraph.

 

karen@starryroadstudio.com

Clarification...

Hi there - the list was generated by another user and I just passed it along. My main itch is to improve visual presentation: typography, layout, etc. I think these types of style fixes might be considered in an update... just my 2 cents. One other item that is kind odd: the overview page (first page when you open the blog, has some kind of rule about showing the first image from the post as part of the preview. It appears that if a post begins with a certain amount of text the photo is not shown. This results in the overview page having a mixture of post previews wtih images and some without. One idea might be to generate a standard size thumbnail of the first image in post along with the first few lines with a standard amount of characters shown. In other words, create a layout that presents consistent presentation of the post previews. Hope this helps!

Axel McCarthy

Yes it does!

Yes, totally helps! Thanks very much for the feedback. 

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