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Does your site have curb appeal?

Written by Tyme White on September 29, 2006

Curb appeal is the first impression someone has when they see a house from the street. Consider the first time a reader comes to your site curb appeal. What will they think?

Ok, I sense the anxiety. You’re not a designer. You’ve done your homework. You know The Design Master Mike Rundle will be looking at your site. You know sharp-tongued Scrivs will be looking at your site. I know, you read Scrivs called Microsoft, AOL, Netscape, Bloglines, SixApart and (gasp) Technorati losers and to top it off the 9rules Design Community has many of the best designers. I feel you. Have no fear, Tyme is here. I don’t believe I typed that.

Scrivs tells me all the time, “It’s ok Tyme, you’re not a designer” when I work on my site. One time doing an interview with Mike and Scrivs, I made the sad mistake of asking Mike what was the #1 design mistake bloggers made? He said “The header is not a link to the front page”. Scrivs could barely contain himself (laughing) because not only was my header not a link at the time, there was a typo in the header. Yes, that was a tip: make your header a link to the front page.

So essentially, my goof ups are benefiting you. You can thank me later. Yes, it’s okay to use WordPress (insert your writing tool here) themes. Contrary to the myth we do accept sites without custom designs. Here are some tips to spice up your site a bit:

  1. Change the default header graphic so it reflects your personality or if it is a company site, your brand.
  2. Tweak the links, it’s a nice way to bring some color to a site.
  3. Don’t blind your readers with lots of colors. You want the reader to focus on your content, not be crossed-eyed from all the colors.
  4. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a site standout. Leihu is a wonderful example. Every time I go to his site I find something new. Did you know he has a light and dark theme?
  5. Is your site easy to read? Tweak your fonts/colors.

Focus on your strength. If you aren’t a designer, do your best with the design but focus on writing exceptional entries.

This should be obvious: don’t lie

Written by Tyme White on September 28, 2006

Did you just roll your eyes? Before you click a way, writers/bloggers/companies subtly do it all the time. Have you ever said “We take great pride” when there is only one person behind the site? Lie…but that’s so commonly done most people let that slide. What I’m talking about is much more devious: the loophole lie.

Come on, you know what I mean. “Usually we do…”, “generally, we do not”, or “on occasion we will”. When I read this I think one thing:

Make up your mind and stick to it. Of course that would require a plan, which requires a bit of management, which for some reason writers do not think they need, but that’s another entry for another day.

Personal bloggers are thinking “Ha, she’s not talking about me!”. Ha! Wrong. You people do it too.

“I usually don’t take men/women home on the first date, but….”
“On occasion I will go over the speed limit and wouldn’t you know it the one time I did it, I got a ticket!”

I made these up so I apologize if someone blogged about something like this recently but again, if you did it, you do it. What are you ashamed of?

Writers, sometimes unconsciously, try to sugar coat when they step into gray areas. There’s just one problem: once something is online, it’s out there. White, black or gray most times sugar coating doesn’t work.

Why am I bringing this up? Will your site be rejected because you do this? Honestly, I’m probably the only one that would spend that much time on a site and I’m not your mother. I bring this up because joining 9rules means more exposure. More people reading your words. The things you used to get away might not work any more. And it’s quite possible you’ll be called out on your loophole lie.

If you did it once, and you might do it again, you do it. Stop sugarcoating it. Take responsibility for what you, um, are doing and if you’re ashamed of it, why continue to do it? Stop doing it.

9rules in FastCompany

Written by Scrivs on September 28, 2006

While 9rules is known worldwide (at least that’s what we keep on telling ourselves) we have never really received much recognition from the mainstream media probably because we don’t do all the super cool things that the new Web 2.0 companies do, but we like to think we do what we do really well. This time however, we were blessed to grace the pages of FastCompany in an illustration about Citizen Media. You can scope 9rules (Scrivs with the backwards cap) sitting at the Student Council table.

Notice how we are represented as an actual person while everyone else at the table is a robot? In fact, most of the companies in the illustration are robots and just don’t carry that 9rules coolness with them. It’s good to know that when we finally got our props in the mainstream they represented us right! And that’s not bleach or milk 9rules is drinking, that’s Moonshine so don’t get it twisted.

Thanks to all our Members and readers who have gotten us this far and here’s to many more magazine write-ups in the near future. I’ll be heading to Barnes and Noble early in the morning to pick myself up a copy. Mad props go out to Devin Reams for informing me of this because I would have totally missed it.

Entry titles: think about them

Written by Tyme White on September 27, 2006

Here’s the scenario. Tyme’s going through her RSS feeds, sees the entry title “Digging for the Truth podcast joins 9rules!”. Tyme reads this and thinks “whaaa?”, clicks on the link, browser opens up. The entry starts off with:

Ha, now that I got your attention…

Yes, you have my attention all right. Congratulations, you now have an irritated reader. Do you think I’m going to browse your site? Finish reading the article? Subscribe to your site? No. I’m not, but I’ll remember the site so if I forget and click to the site again, I will not be there long.

Another common one is a link that says something like Janet Jackson’s music, and when the person clicks on the link the reader is taken to a web site where the writer mentioned Janet’s music in the last paragraph of the 1000 word entry.

Curious, if you do this, who are you thinking of? Yourself and the temporary traffic or the reader’s experience? I know, you’re going to say “Tyme, you’re being too harsh! Lighten up!”. Um, no…going to tell you why.

1. Open a new tab in your browser.
2. Go to 9rules
3. On the left hand side what do you see? Remember that.
4. Now, click on any community.
5. Scroll down to the site listings. What do you see?

Yes, links. 9rules is made up of a lot of links because we do not show full content here. Can you imagine what our site would look like with that kind of foolishness? We’re trying to get people to visit 9rules member sites, not tick them off. More importantly, when people are ticked off, they do not email Scrivs or Mike, they email Tyme. Can you imagine how exponentially irked I would be?

So give some consideration to your titles and links. Deceiving (I know, you call it having fun) your readers is a risk most blogs can’t afford to take. Keep in mind, some blogs pull this off wonderfully and you can tell because the readers are commenting and interacting with the writer. If you’re doing this and the tumbleweeds are blowing on your site…this might be why.

Be honest, how good are your entries?

Written by Tyme White on September 26, 2006

Yes, I realize it might be hard to be objective and each person has different tastes. Here is a better question: are you writing 5+ crappy quick entries or making 1 or 2 superb ones?

The trend is to make a lot of entries. What the blogger does not realize is their haste shows in their writing. “Look what came out. I like it, go check it out!” Why do you like it? What’s wrong with it? What could be improved? Do you see what I mean? Here is another trend for personal blogs:

Monday: My life sucks
Tuesday: I’m broke
Wednesday: My boss reprimanded me
Thursday: My girl/boyfriend dumped me
Friday: Payday! Going to blow it partying
Monday: I’m broke
Tuesday: My life sucks

Well does anything good happen in your life? I call these Whiny Blogs. A site is a great way to vent but think about the reader hearing bad stuff every single day. Unless you make it funny, it is depressing.

I know, you are one of the Top Most Interesting People but are you presenting yourself as interesting as you are? Step back and look at your entries as a stranger reading your words for the first time. What do you think he or she will gain from reading your site? If readers gain nothing, they will not stick around for long.