As part of a longer term move towards a more minimalist and robust website design (eventually running on a self-hosted WordPress.org install), I’ve changed my blog’s theme to improve user experience. The new theme introduces several changes that I’ll be further adapting in the coming weeks, and offers a more simple and structured design that includes full screen featured images and a sliding panel sidebar.
I am getting many more new visitors than I did 6 months ago, so I am making these changes to improve both experiences: new and returning. I am choosing a fast loading and minimalist theme (Coherent) that displays only titles and excerpts on my front page. Because I tend to write long-form posts (over 2000 words) on varied subjects, many new visitors might feel overwhelmed by the demands I make on them on their first visit – they might hardly be familiar with me yet I’m asking them to invest 10-15 minutes on my site. Changing the layout from full posts to excerpts will enable my newer visitors to better appreciate the breadth of content available on my site, without needing to scroll through a long-form article that might not specifically interest them.
Front page changes
New visitors to my site tend to visit me through direct and search sources. Direct visitors (i.e. those that type my domain name into their browser bar) and search visitors (i.e. those that find my website in search) tend to be looking for more general content – which I’ve made more available on the front page. With this change, I’m hypothesising that these newer visitors will more easily see my varied content, which might spark their interest to return again (or even, subscribe).
Referral visitors (i.e. visitors that visit my website by clicking through from other websites) and social visitors (i.e. visitors that visit my website by clicking through social media stories) form another large group. These visitors are likely more interested in the full story to which their clicking through, so they’ll continue to see a long or short form post – as usual. If they then choose to visit the front page, they will see more of what brought them to the site in the first place.
Mail service and WordPress reader visitors are more accustomed to the breadth of topics I write about, and the depth I go into – because they already subscribe to my blog. They’ll also bypass the front page, so these changes will not affect them either.
Post and page changes
The new theme offers the opportunity to present full screen featured images, which with faster desktop connections is becoming more popular and accessible. I really like the impact a high quality image makes (on a site, page or post), and I’ll be favouring featured images in my future posts and pages wherever possible.
I love using pull quotes and now can align them left, right or centre.
Speed is still very important, so I’ll be optimising my images to reduce their file size. I am also reducing the number of widgets on my site to the absolute minimum. This will lower my page load time, which is especially important as Google favours faster sites, and more and more visitors are visiting web sites on mobile devices. Of course, the theme is 100% mobile adaptive.
I’ve also reduced the size of my typeface to be between 75 and 100 characters per line, which usability experts suggest increases reading speed while keeping scrolling at a minimum.
I’m taking a risk on the sliding sidebar. My experience tells me that most visitors will miss it, which may result in fewer people seeing my evergreen content (e.g. my pages about me and that link to broad categories). With that said, I trust that visitors that take an interest will find what they seek, so I’m prepared to take the risk. What I do like about it, is that it’s ever-present as you scroll down the page. If you want to visit my front page – open the sliding side bar (labelled: “SHOW”) and choose the first option: “Home”.
Ultimately, I’m a writer, and I hope that this more minimalist theme will allow my writing to speak for itself. What do you think of my new theme? Let me know by liking this post and/or leaving your comments below. Thanks!