202.577.3350 will@willmarlow.com

I wanted to share the thought process behind the way I customized this blog.  As with any web project that I’m involved with, I began by setting the goals of the blog (what do I want to accomplish?), then choosing the tactics I would focus on (of all the things I could do in order to advance my goals, which few things can I do really well?), and then articulating a theme that will help me make any tough tie-breaking decisions. 

1.  The goal: (a) maintain high quality traffic growth and (b) maintain high reader loyalty.
2.  The tactics: (a) deliver clear content and (b) make it easy for readers to feel engaged with me. 
3.  The theme: a clean, minimalist layout with no unnecessary flourishes.

Construction

By starting with this outline, it was easy to optimize the blog without wasting time on enhancements that I was likely to change my mind about later.  I created an “anchor” section that stays the same, whether you’re viewing the homepage of the blog or any of the blog posts.  This anchor section includes two informational sections – an “About me” page and “My most popular posts,” both of which are important for new visitors to the blog.

The “anchor” section also includes three ways for readers to easily subscribe to the blog.  You can subscribe to the blog by email, or through Posterous, or you can follow me on Twitter.  These options are available to readers from the home page or from each individual blog post.

Other ways I optimized the blog include: (1) making the header solid black instead of soft grey; (2) displaying the number of page views and favorite count for each post beneath the final “subscribe” option, in order to prevent this information from interrupting the “anchor” section; (3) moving the Posterous “login” prompt to the bottom right of the page, and (4) removing entirely the universal navigation tab from the top left of the page.

If I had started out with different goals (say, for example, the goal of maximizing monetization through advertising), I would have made different choices and ended up with a different blog.  If I hadn’t started out with any goals, I have no idea what choices I would have made, and I have no idea what type of blog I would have ended up with. 

PS – If anyone wants to pay me the compliment of using my blog layout for their own blog, or if you know someone who shares my goals and priorities, and you think they should use this layout, send me an email and I’m happy to send you the code you’ll need.

****  Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity to help his clients reposition their fundraising to benefit from Web 2.0 technology and marketing techniques. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  Email him at will@alumnifidelity.com.