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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Need Your Help

I'm at the point where I have to figure out whether to make some changes to the format of this blog. Don't worry, it's not one of those blogger delusions of grandeur, as in, I've had a few good months so now I'm all that.

Rather, I want to make this blog more user friendly. I'm going to start running some ads so that I can hire someone to help with the upgrade. I'll have to decide whether to stick with Blogger (probably) or switch to WordPress or TypePad.

Further not to worry, I won't start screaming at you like a carnival barker to "hit the tip jar" or insisting that you buy me a Cafe Latté.

But I need to know what my readers would like to see changed, or not changed.

Background and other colors? Keep two columns or convert to three? Anything else you have noticed elsewhere and would like to see implemented here?

Please post a comment, or send me an e-mail at contact-at-legalinsurrection-dot-com. (Once again, the admonition that if you can't figure out what to change in the address configuration, I'm not sure I really want your comment.)

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  1. I guess my first question would be "What do you not like about your current format?" The only thing I find even mildly annoying is that there's no notice if a comment is replied to. To be honest, I think a three-column format might feel crowded.

    I switched from Typepad to Wordpress' free offering, and I've been very happy with it, so far.

  2. Well, for starters, don't change the quality of the content! :-) just so you know.. But really, I think cosmetic changes may be easier on the eyes (darker colors maybe), and maybe a few visuals might help. Truthfully though, for me anyway, that's pretty secondary.

  3. I've used both Blogger and Wordpress. Wordpress has some nicer templates with cooler backgrounds. But the bottom line is, when I go to a political blog, I'm interested in 3 things. 1. Current articles; 2. Archived articles and 3. Links to other political blogs.

    You have all three of the things I look for in an easy to find and easy to read format. While a different color scheme or neater background pictures might make your blog more .... I don't know .. . "cool" for lack of a better word .... your blog as it is has everything I want to see in an easy to find format.

    Blogger, Wordpress and others have a number of free templates available online. At my blog, I use a free downloaded blogger template (I don't remember which site I downloaded it from). If you really want to go the route of having advertising and paying someone to spruce up the blog, you can probably get more out of it, but if all you really want is a nicer look, there are low cost ways of doing that.

  4. I sometimes think I might know a thing or two about web design (as distinctly opposed to web application programming) - as well as the major open-source or commercial application platforms.

    My major advice to anyone experiencing the growth evident in this blog is never (emphasis on never) to go totally custom for your platform – that is, having a single web developer (either PHP or .NET) write your code from scratch. Why? Because, then you're forever dependent on your specific application developer – a major horror story waiting to provide you with endless nightmares just a few months down the line. That said, Blogger and TypePad are great but, well, more appropriate smaller operations.

    Two environments (applications) I recommend for more robust blogs are: MovableType (not its TypePad version) and better yet, Joomla! 1.5. Joomla! besides being ‘free’ (open source) has an incredible number of excellent add-on and components that manage everything from advertising, RSS and almost every conceivable requirement.

    As far as your design is concerned, I will be very happy to forward an email tomorrow that contains my opinions regarding usability issues and presentation.

  5. Darn. More "change." I don't do well with change.

    If you must, however, please don't do too many columns -- that format is too distracting for us old folks. Kind of like all the "stuff" on CNN. Or going to Chuck E. Cheese.

    I can't help you select the host (or whatever it is called) -- Blogger has been good to me, though.

    Good luck.

  6. Hey, Professor, congrats again on your success. Since you asked for opinions, here are mine:

    -- Keep the yellow-orange colors, because they've become identified with the blog (it's distinctive). BUT lighten up the background yellow a bit so that the text stands out better.

    -- Switch to Wordpress if it suits you. I cross-post some of my posts from my Blogger blog to a Wordpress blog and have always found the latter to be easier to work with (altough it's no big deal).

    -- Keep two columns instead of three -- unless you need the third to present ads without moving features that readers like way down the scroll. The three-column format is too busy, and the text of posts is more accessible in two columns.

    -- Think about using pictures and videos to illustrate at least some of your posts. Your blog is among the best in terms of original, thoughtful writing about politics (right, left or center), and your readers are doubtless among the more serious folks. Still, I suspect that as the audience grows, you're going to get higher proportions of hits from people looking for stuff to watch as well as read.

  7. As long as you keep writing your informative blogs I suggest you make it fun for yourself. This is afterall your creation and not others.

  8. Only one request...

    Please make sure that when someone clicks your link they do not automatically lainch into a video ad.

    I have had this experience on some other blogs and had to eventually unsub. Because it takes forever to open them and when they finally do open there is this audiotrack playing that is attached to some ad somewhere...



  9. One suggestion I have would be to make a slight style change to keep the article column a fixed max width to avoid the long lines on wide screens. Makes reading a lot more tiring for the reader, simply from a usability perspective. There are a couple of ways to accomplish the effect.

    I tried Google Ad Sense for a while on my blog and the traffic never crested over or even near 1/4 the payout threshold. And that was on a dedicated technical blog with a dedicated following. I've since given up updating it - not because of revenues, that's not what it was about, but because I got tired of getting sniped by left wing nut bags when I dare stray off topic. But I digress.

    I recommend private direct sales of ad space for set run durations. A good example that I am familiar with is PlanetLotus.org run by Yancy Lent. Best of luck with the changes you decide on. I enjoy reading your blog a few times a week.

  10. Folks really can't figure out the address configuration? Interesting.

    You have a great blog, and a good readership. Go easy on the changes ... perhaps a new color scheme, and Amazon advertising works well on my blog ... Amazon adds some professional flavor to the look.

  11. Well, *I* can highly recommend TypePad - I've been here for 5 years, and I LOVE them. My teeny little blog is never down (for which my 1.365 readers are very grateful), their customer service and support is fast and friendly, and I literally NEVER see spam, unless I deliberately look in the spam folder. They also have lots of easy-switch templates for when you get bored with your blog design, as well as ways (at the higher subscriptions) to completely or semi-completely customize your blog. I know that TypePad isn't free, like Wordpress can be, but I think it's well worth what I pay ($0.33 per day) for what I get.

    For actual design, I don't have any preference between two or three column, but darker type on a lighter background is definitely the way to go (for me, at least) - white type on black just kills my eyes! Neutrals and subdued earth tones are also very eye-friendly.

    Don't forget to back up EVERYTHING before you move, just in case something weird happens ;-)

  12. I would appreciate non-pornographic ads. Then I could continue to link to you in good conscience.

  13. Upgrade, *YES*... but keep it simple ... well, you know what I mean ...

  14. If it matters, I never look at the stuff on the left hand side of the window. I come in, look at the right, and scan the stories.

  15. Keep it simple, simple, simple. 2 columns is plenty. Bells and whistles only distract from the content.

  16. Professor,

    This is a most excellent blog! The only suggestion I have would be to possibly change the color scheme to make it easier on the eye.

    I wish you well :) Melek

    “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” ~ C.S. Lewis

  17. I don't think of anything objectionable abut what you have.

    If you have a need to tinker, or a reason, to change, have at it.

    But I like what I see now.

    Well, the color maybe.....but that is not a biggie.

  18. Can't say I care for the background color. White or something more neutral would be easier on the eyes.

  19. Professor,
    Speaking as someone who does web for a living:
    1. There is NO need for 3 Columns. It will create undue cognitive stress for your readers when the eye has to screen out the two extraneous columns to focus on one.

    2. As a previous poster suggested, a fixed width for the main column will maintain the readibility of text on widescreen monitors. The general rule of thumb in typography is 10 - 13 (avg. length) words per column width.

    3. A widely respected destination like Legal Insurrection deserves an elegantly designed, emblematic Masthead. Call for a design competition among your readers and I guarantee you'll be flooded with a choice of entries.

    That said, it’s really your writing that people depend on, not so much the design, to feed their political resolve. Someone had said that you are like the Thomas Paine of the blogosphere. In which case, something as simple and authoritative-looking as Paine’s pamphlets can be very effective.

  20. One other thing, Professor.

    I second the recommendations from the previous poster 2470144's (aka Chris Kane) advice.

    NEVER adopt a format which has a learning curve on your part and/or cause you to be reliant on a specialist.

    The grassroot movement needs you to stick to writing Legal Insurrection, not waste time struggling with CSS codes.

    Which leads me to say, you can cross WordPress off your list. WP requires a litte more customization than is necessary and is not quickly deployable.

  21. I paid a reasonable amount, twice, to upgrade my blogger blog to a customized template. If you like blogger and don't want to have to learn a new platform, find a designer, pay the $2 (metaphorically), and get a look that's individual to you. In fact, no matter which platform you choose, work with a designer and get your own, unique look.

    Personally, I think your writing is such that the look should equal the content.

  22. Short and sweet, I like the format. Simple, easy to read, "legit"-looking. IMO.

  23. I use both Blogger and Wordpress blogs. I find that Wordpress has better Templates for use. The thing I like about Wordpress is that there are some templates that you can use and change for your own heading style.

    I like your blog the way it is at the moment. Content is important.

  24. When in doubt, borrow from sites that appeal to you. I think HotAir, PowerlineBlog and AmericanThinker have solid layouts without too much clutter. AT screws it up with scroll over in-text ads by vibrantmedia, so PLEASE avoid that. Powerline decided to drop comments, please avoid that too. I think the majority of blogs have solid content on the left, with ads and blogrolls and puff on the right; legalinsurrection bucks that trend and I think suffers as a result.

  25. As a visual artist, I have always been a fan of color, especially on web pages. However, now that I spend so much time on the internet, I've reached the conclusion that it's easier on my eyes when the background is white. Boring, I know, but true for me. Perhaps it's just my eyes getting older.

  26. FWIW, the color scheme and 2-column format make your blog VERY easy to read. Generally speaking, the more "features" a blog has, the more difficult it is to read--or perhaps, the distraction-level goes up with the number of toys and tricks.

    My vote: leave it as is.

  27. No you don't.

    You are doing just fine.

    Go with what you want; I like what you have.


  28. I have blogs hosted on Blogger and I have blogs that are Wordpress blogs. The Blogger ones receive about 10 times more traffic than the Wordpress blogs.

    Also, if you use the free hosted Wordpress system, you can not use ads. Something else to keep in mind for the future.

  29. Hi,
    I enjoy the content and the "edge" that you have to your writing. As far as logistics I do think that a slightly lighter color against your type may be easier on the eyes (as some folks have already pointed out) beyond that I am very happy with your blog and enjoy hearing from someone that actually has a mind that is being utilized for common sense!

  30. I love this blog. I think the colors are already your brand so I think you should keep them. I do, however, prefer a white background so maybe for the actual area of the text of your posts you could use white. Also the idea about a masthead competition is first rate and no doubt you have some talented reader who can whip up something nice in a jiffy. For me, that's all you might improve upon.

    MOST IMPORTANT is please keep blogging.

    Thank you, Professor.

  31. There are only two changes I have longed for to your blog. First, that A Conservative Lesbian woman is very funny and insightful and her blog would make a marvelous addition to your "Blogs I read" widget. Her point of view would balance Gay Patriot, since they often disagree an account of her being so much older and wiser. It is the one modification I pine and pray for every time I visit, which is pretty much every time you add a post that I haven't already read in my e-mail. I have admired your work since your first American Thinker column last year and rejoice in your success.

    Second, other Blogger blogs have the option to allow comments as "name/URL," which is an extremely easy way to comment. If you can figure out how to add that option, that would be great.

    If you change to self-hosted WordPress, the Thesis theme is inexpensive and extremely easy to manage on your own when you use the OpenHook plug-in. You could easily get someone to customize it for you and then manage it in OpenHook. That nice A Conservative Lesbian uses it and has an affiliate link to it in her footer.

    Also, do be sure to consider the cost of your traffic volume if you go to a self-hosted package for WordPress (the free WordPress does not permit advertising).

    I like your color scheme and clean, useful layout just the way it is. However, if you are contemplating a change, as other commenters have noted, black type on a white background is easy to read and can be very elegant. And a fixed column width also is easier to read.

  32. William, if anything I would err on the side of simplicity. I just changed my site and actually increased traffic by trimming down the start page. Email me if you need any help!