A few years ago, I read 31 Days to Build a Better Blog by Darren Rowse (aka Problogger). In it, he suggests that you watch a first-time reader use your blog to see how they navigate, what they click on, what they skip over, etc. That sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice? Looking over someone’s shoulder while they visit your blog? Awkward!
Now, there is a better solution. It’s called Peek, which is an online service that provides you with a 5-minute video of a real person using your blog. I learned about Peek when I was going through Elite Blog Academy. You can use Peek for a free assessment of your blog and then make changes based on the feedback.
I did a Peek test a few days ago. Here is my experience and what I plan to do with what I learned.
I ordered the Peek test one evening around 9:00. I was anxious about what they would say because I had read comments from people who said their feedback was brutal. After you put your heart and soul into designing a blog, you don’t want to get ripped to shreds. But at the same time, you build a blog for people to visit and if visitors can’t find their way around, then what’s the point?
About 10:30, I got the email saying my video was ready. I was surprised that it came that fast. I expected it to take a couple of days. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to open it so late in the day, because if it upset me, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. But I also knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing that the email was sitting unopened in my inbox.
When the video starts, you see your blog on someone else’s screen and the reviewer starts talking about it as she moves around the site, which is a little surreal. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a totally random person, who likely won’t be part of your target audience. Based on comments I’ve read, the reviewer may not be very web-savvy, although that wasn’t the case with my reviewer. She knew her way around a website.
The Peek system prompts reviewers with questions to answer as they go along. I could see them in the corner of her screen as she clicked through, so I made note:
- What is your impression of this web page? What is this page for?
- What is the first thing you would like to do on this page? Please go ahead and try to do that now. Please describe your experience.
- What stood out to you on this website? What, if anything, frustrated you about this site?
My Peek reviewer’s comments:
- She started with the logo font. She thought it was a little difficult to read, but she thought it was friendly and inviting.
- She went straight to the tag line to find out what the blog is about. She immediately picked up that it was a blog about business tips and said that it would be a good place to come to learn about business in an informal way since it’s a blog. (I think it’s interesting that she assumes blogs are informal.)
- She didn’t think the logo font was suitable for a business blog, but she changed her mind about that after she read the About Me section and realized my target audience is women.
- After looking at the logo, she immediately went to the navigation bar and moused over the menu items. She commented later in the review that the site is very easy to navigate. That’s a good thing – you want visitors to be able to find their way around. She clicked on some menu items and moved deeper into the blog.
- The “Coming Soon” language in the Call-to-Action (CTA) bar threw her off. She thought it meant the blog itself was coming soon, not that there is something else coming soon. I don’t think she read anything in the CTA bar past “Coming Soon.”
- She commented that, with the way her screen is set up, she couldn’t see anything below the CTA bar, so she didn’t know if there was more to the blog.
- She found the CTA bar frustrating, because it’s on every page, especially since it says “Coming Soon.” She wanted it to be a pop-up that she could X out of.
Other comments from the Peek reviewer
- She remarked that the Search box could be more apparent, in order to help her find what she needs. She said she liked the style – modern, with no box around it – but it is too hard to see. I agree with this; it has bugged me from the beginning. I have worked on the CSS, but I can’t seem to get it to show up better. I may have to hire out the coding on this.
- The only post that she looked at was 7 Tips for Planning Your Day. She liked the image and subheadings. She said it was a little too “texty” for her. This surprised me because I’m generally good about breaking up my content. However, in looking back at this post, I realized it does have big blocks of text. I need to revise it to break up the blocks into shorter paragraphs.
- In other remarks about “7 Tips for Planning Your Day”, she also liked the free download and the tone of the post. She said, “It seems like this website is very friendly and is really trying to get me to succeed.”
- She went to the About page, as many first-time visitors do. Make sure yours is awesome!
- At the end, she said she really enjoyed the experience. (Big woohoo!).
- She never scrolled down the page, except when she was looking at the post. On the home page and category pages, she always stayed above the fold. (Above the fold is a term from newspapers, meaning the top half of the front page. In web terms, it means the content the reader sees when the page loads, without having to scroll down.) The most important information on the page needs to be above the fold. OR, you have to make the content so compelling that the reader will scroll down.
- I need more content. As she moused over the drop-down menu, I realized I have some categories that are very thin. For example, the Email + Social category currently only has email marketing posts. Eventually, it will have social media posts, but she was disappointed that it only includes email right now.
- I need to work on the header space. There is too much white space above and below the logo. White space is important, but that above-the-fold area is premium and I need to leverage it.
- I really don’t like my category archive pages. The first row is great, but at the 2nd row, it becomes paginated. I don’t know why. I want it to be a gallery page that shows the featured image for every post in the category. Another item to add to my to-do list.
- I have to work on the CTA bar. Ultimately, of course, I will launch the resource library, but in the meantime, I need to edit the copy, so that “Coming Soon” is not the first thing you see.
- I also think the CTA bar has too much top and bottom margin, which is why the bar takes up so much space on the screen.
Using Peek was an interesting and worthwhile experience, even though it was somewhat nerve-wracking. After all, how often do you get a free assessment of your blog from an objective party? I now have a plan to make changes to improve the user experience. I’ve also added a task to order another test in 90 days.
Have you ever tried Peek or watched a first-time user navigate your blog? What was your experience? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
P. S. I’m highly motivated to make these changes, so by the time you read this post, they may have already been done.
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