Letters from the Real World: When the mothership needs a tune-up

By Cait Reynolds
Monday morning. Browsing website themes. One cup of coffee into my day.

Monday morning. Browsing website themes. One cup of coffee into my day.

Go to http://caitreynolds.com. Take a look. Then wait a week and go back next Monday. It’ll be different by then.

Why? Because I actually took the time to go look at my own website, and I realized one very important thing: the font is completely unreadable.

Oops.

The layout is clean, the links all work, blah blah blah. The font looks great for titles and headers, and when I was setting up the website, that’s all that mattered. Except now, I have content, and the font for the content is awful. Truly, it makes it impossible to read with any ease.

When I write posts, I click preview mostly to make sure the pictures are up and links are in their proper place. On a whim, I decided yesterday to just go and look at my site from the perspective of a reader, and there is no way I would stay there more than 30 seconds, if that long, because of my font.

I then spent an hour trying to figure out if I could change the font before realizing no mere mortal can do it without being a programmer. Ugh.

Looking at my site again, I realized it was also not using space very well. I’m now on the hunt for a layout that won’t be busy, but will allow a little more content to be seen right up front. The layout also has to have an easy sans-serif font (like Arial) to read.

When I was doing graphic design as part of one of my old dot com marketing jobs, I read that because of pixelation, sans-serif fonts are easiest to read online, while serif fonts are easiest to read on paper. It then clicked with me that this is the reason Amazon and Barnes & Noble spent all that time and money researching the best way to present “print” books graphically in an e-format.

So, my website has a sans-serif font, but I think it went a little extreme with the sans-serifing. Plus, I think the text needs to be black against white. Not grey.

The other problem I found was that some posts didn’t have a lead-in picture, and in order to set the “featured image,” I had to have a picture that conformed to a specific height and width. I’m not a great photographer to begin with, and to have to worry about that while trying to take slightly-better-than-crappy pictures was just not going to happen. I need a format that will feature my photos but will also feature text because writing is my specialty, not photography.

This morning, I spent a dizzying 45 minutes browsing themes, downloading, and live-previewing them. I’m down to three options. I’ll play with them all this week and then hopefully unveil the new look on Monday.

This week’s lesson? Go to your public website every few weeks. Look at it like a reader or random person who has stumbled onto it. Don’t be afraid to tweak your design and layout on an ongoing basis.

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