Want to slag off this blog? Now’s your chance

Want to slag off this blog? Now's your chance

If you’re the sort of person who loves helping people (or issuing snappy takedowns to other opinionated types), then this is the post for YOU! Aren’t you glad you got up today? Or maybe you’re lying down. I don’t mind. I’m not positionist.

Today, as a placeholder – because I have a post I can’t release until something is confirmed which, if it ends up not being confirmed, will pretty much ruin my week and set me into a foul humour (or as we call it here, ‘a fouler’) so granular it’ll keep me in post ideas for the last quarter – I want to ask you for feedback on how I look.

(Not me, silly. The blog. If I wanted mass feedback on how I looked, I’d spend more of my life lying through my teeth.)

It’s All About That Base

I think most bloggers struggle with their themes, because approximately 2 minutes after you choose the site theme which determines your whole look, you just don’t see it any more. I’m currently using the free WordPress ‘Misty Lake’ theme, which is relatively clean, but possibly dated. I chose it because this blog is very wordy, and that theme provides large dark grey text on a white background which is easy to read.

It also allows for much widgeting in the sidebar, which to the uninitiated means I can display loads of links and badges on the side, when viewed on a regular desktop or tablet. And sometimes I display a photograph as a background, although lately I am reconsidering following one excellent comment regarding hayfever.

But there’s not much else to it. Loads of people have endlessly snazzy websites these days, full of bells and whistles and imaging and fancy backgrounds and professional-looking fonts and beauteous customised titles.

So my first question is: do you think I need it? Should I be thinking about purchasing a new theme – something smart and snazzy with a hint of cynical beauty? Or should I just stick to worrying about content?

Hit Me Baby One More Time

My second question is about click necessity – that is, how many times you’re made click, once you get here. Another reason I chose the Misty Lake theme is because the home page lists and scrolls all my posts, one after another, without having to click again in order to read or ‘Like’ any of them. I chose this because I thought if I was forcing people to jump through too many hoops to read something, or to throw me a ‘Like’, they just wouldn’t bother. However, it also means I’ve lost a big pile of hits, because every click counts as a site hit.

So my second question is: do you care whether you’re forced to click a second time in order to read a post? Does it put you off reading on further on a blog? (Or are you a closet click lover, who lives for that tappy sound and yearns for a website that forces you to click twice a second? Because there are pills for that, you know.)

Your opinion is important to us. Please vote, and comment at will. No need to be gentle, but your opinions will be tabulated and designated worthy or unworthy depending on the poll of the majority. No offence.

Did I tell you you’re looking absolutely gorgeous today?

  77 comments for “Want to slag off this blog? Now’s your chance

  1. August 6, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Tara, there are so many Free themes – you can preview them to your hearts content before selecting one – and if you don’t like or get tired of it, change it again and again (have a Blog Theme Change Party, or a Theme of the Day / Week / Month)
    Otherwise, it looks good to me 😀

    Liked by 6 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 11:07 am

      What a darned superb idea, O Simian Sage. My problem when trialling themes is that I’m pathologically unable to make a proper decision. That’s what everyone else is for, right?!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. therailbaron
    August 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

    I have the same problem Tara to a point. I think a lot about themes before realizing only the topic of blogs, the content, matters. Yours matters.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Don’t say that, or I’ll get stage fright. It’s only when I see myself shouting into the void that you’ll get any sense out of me!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ali Isaac
    August 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    Why are you even worrying about these pointless points? You’re so not that girl. I come to your blog for the content. I never even noticed or cared how fancy (or not) your blog was. Simple is always better. And if I’m interested, I’ll click as often as required, because its all about the content, not gimmicks.

    Liked by 6 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      I dunno, Ali, it’s not because I’m worried. It’s because I like pretty things, I think. And also because I have my own preferences for reading other blogs. It’s like picking out stationery (or ‘fancy paper’ as we called it) when you were a kid. Remember that? Some things you never grow out of!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ali Isaac
        August 6, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        Ah I must admit I’m a sucker for beautiful handmade paper! OK go ahead and prettify if you wish, but don’t get hung up on it. The theme is just wrapping after all; people are more interested what’s inside.

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm

          I went into a bookshop yesterday to get a nice journal as a present for a friend and came out with 2 books of retro wrapping paper, 2 journals, old woodcut notecards, and a notebook I hadn’t even realised was still in my hands when I went to the till. I think I might have a problem.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Ali Isaac
            August 6, 2015 at 1:18 pm

            Lol! There’s a solution for that. Move out into the country. No shop out in the country sells such trivia… But you can get worming tablets for cows and milk substitute for sheep in any shop you happen to enter…

            Liked by 1 person

            • August 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm

              If the worming tablets were embossed in bright colours across some glossy paper, I could go for that. Be careful what you wish for!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Ali Isaac
                August 6, 2015 at 1:53 pm

                Sadly no, otherwise I would have bought some and turned them into earrings!

                Liked by 1 person

                • August 6, 2015 at 1:55 pm

                  Hahaha!! Although when you think of it, all you need really is a 3D printer, and an itchy sheep.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Ali Isaac
                    August 6, 2015 at 2:03 pm

                    Ah… We don’t have access to such newfangled technology out in the wilds of Co Cavan… Besides, the priest probably wouldn’t like it.

                    Liked by 1 person

          • August 27, 2015 at 6:12 am

            I really don’t know what you mean. How can that ever happen?
            I mean, I work in a bookshop five days a week, I walk into bookshops (not the one I work in, of course) any time I get the chance. So what? Do you mean I’m weird?

            Liked by 1 person

            • August 27, 2015 at 9:52 am

              My problem was more what I walked out with, rather than the fact that I walked in!

              Liked by 1 person

    • August 6, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      What she said. Your posts pop up in my reader so the theme is immaterial in a way. The only teeny weeny change I’d make is putting oldest comments first below the post. The exchanges and discussions are the business, but sometimes I might have to scroll down fair length to start them. And since I haven’t found a replacement for Morag, I’ve had to do it myself.

      Liked by 2 people

      • August 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm

        Exceedingly excellent points soundly made, Tenderness. I forget about how most people read this stuff. When I’m writing posts I do it on a laptop but I’m reading yours on my phone 50% of the time. So it really is a moooot point (just to keep up with Ali’s cow theme). That’s a good point on the comments too. He who comments first should be visible longest, that’s what I always say. Except when it’s journal.ie or the Irish Times, in which case, he who comments first, needs to get a bloody life.

        I feel your pain. And Morag’s. Is she still wearing the neck brace?

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 6, 2015 at 4:26 pm

          For another four weeks. If she had been wearing the gimp mask properly none of this would’ve happened. Sigh. But thanks for that comment re-jig. It really will help with her rehab.

          Liked by 1 person

      • August 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm

        I’ve just changed the comments over, Tenderness, oldest first. YOU HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS. No pressure.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. August 6, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    If a blog is worth reading then I don’t mind what the layout is like once I don’t have to jump through several hoops to read a post. I prob shouldn’t even say this but I never paid much attention to your layout because I just want to read the content! And now that I’ve looked at it properly I like it.

    I realise that’s of no help to you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 6, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      Good grief, no, that’s a huge help. Every compliment is gaily batted away whilst actually stored carefully for later perusal, remember. This is Ireland. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. August 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I’m having similar thoughts. I like changing things up, and need a theme that makes it simple to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      I like your theme, I think we’re very similar. In fact I think I might even have started with your theme originally. It’s that sort of journalistic style which lends itself to wordiness. I suppose if it ain’t broke…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. August 6, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    I agree with Cookbook and Ali – it’s all about content, content, content and you have that down. The Simian Sage had a great idea about changing it just for the fun of it. I’d be afraid to make an irreversible error and blowing up my blog, but you’re brave. Go for it. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks, Diana… I can see myself spending a merry 3 hours perusing and selecting and trialling and whittling down to the final 5, before idly choosing WP’s “Coward” theme… i.e., the one I started with!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. August 6, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    If I was as mean as you ask me to be, I could say “Your blog is crap. I hate your writing style and you only ever write about boring stuff. Your Tark and Mara characters are pathetic and I never, ever, break into even the smallest smile when I read your posts.”
    However, we both know that is not true. We have soldiered together in the trenches of award ceremonies. It’s tough and you are one of the best. In a nutshell “content, content, content” in the same way as that estate agent git with the permanent smile says Location x 3.

    We love you Tara!

    BTW, Lucy, eldest daughter, was at that comic book signing last evening. I asked her to look out for you. She didn’t see you. Either, she really did not look too hard, you were drunk on the floor and out of view, or you did not make it at the same time as she did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Jeekers. Scarlet, so I am! I didn’t quite know what to do with such kind words, Conor, so I’ve made 200 copies and had them laminated. You’ll see some in your local Spar later. Indeed the battle frontier of the blog awards will stick out in my mind for many years to come. Not least you having to lend me one of yours for a photo!

      As for the comic book signing, it turned out to be a comedy of errors. I had a meeting so couldn’t go. I’d replied on behalf of Himself, who was most definitely supposed to go, not least because one of the progenitors is his very close friend. And then he didn’t make it either, the chancer! And now I’m doubly sorry to have missed Lucy! Tell her it’s all his fault (because it is).

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 6, 2015 at 10:26 pm

        What a long winded excuse for a no show! Strangely enough, I am thinking of hosting future comic book signings in Lucy’s room. She has more comics, catalogued and shelved, than any comic shop in Ireland.

        Liked by 2 people

        • August 6, 2015 at 11:05 pm

          Sounds like a genius move to me, Conor. A kind of meta-launch (the idea is yours but I’m patenting that term). Only problem is, it’s bound to be so successful, they’ll all be doing it, which might make your house a bit busy. Still, a possible by-product of even more food fans for you…

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Jack Tyler
    August 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    If you have something to say, it is its own display. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, then you need a lot of sparkly distractions to keep the hoi polloi from discovering your fraud. I leave you to draw your own conclusions. As to clicks, they are the basis of the www, like breathing is the basis of life. You expect to be clicking all the time, and if you aren’t, it makes you almost suspicious. Your call, but this clean look with great content is what has kept me coming back and recommending you since the day I found you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Janey Mac. I’m beginning to think I should have entitled this post “I Demand You Tell Me Lovely Things This Instant And Compliment Me”. Then I might have got some criticism.

      I’m a fan of clean myself, so if others like the clean look too, I find it hard to argue. And I wouldn’t want to scupper any further recommendations, now, would I?


  9. August 6, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Go with your gut, Tara. There’s a whole lot of bloggers out there regularly changing up their sites until they find what works for them, but, as you said above, they might not know who they want to be. As said above, this site is all about content. When you get here you could make me click a thousand times, and while I’d possibly sigh and roll my eyes a little, I’d always continue until I got to what i was looking for. WordPress have all the options so you will finally find what you’re looking for. In Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self Printed, she gives a great deal of advice on themes and buttons and widgets and tells people not to put certain things up in the sidebar, but good Lord it’s fun to mess with, isn’t it? Am in the process of thinking about changing, and the other night I spent half of the time I should have been using to write looking at different options until I came back to my stupid pink with a sidebar that people have to click into to see anything of me. Stupid, but home.*

    *Disclaimer: I may still choose to change said site int he future

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      I get what you mean – home is home! It’s nice to not have to think about it. I’ve often wondered would I have double the hits if I had it that people had to click through to read every post, but if I was going to get hung up on that sort of thing, it would be a different kind of blog, with a hell of a lot more kittens.

      And I think I’d already changed my theme about 3 times when I was at your stage so you’re doing well!


  10. August 6, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Content: all is content unless you’re like me, who always gives in to the fancy packaging in the shop, and the special edition, and if there’s ninepence difference between two identical products but the more epensive product has groovier packaging, I enter an existential quagmire… You could scratch your blog posts on a galvanised lamp post and they’d still be fascinating. Theme: not bothered.

    Click through issue: I always come here from the Reader, so I never see your home page. But on those blog sites that do have posts in full on the home page I don’t read them. It’s like perusing headlines; much easier to get a gist of the content and then return to the posts that had immediate impact. But if the full post is shown the necessary scrolling plays havoc with the sidebar and my laptop becomes bottom heavy. Can you not use the ‘read more’ teaser/temptation thingy? I do. (And look how many millions read my posts!)

    Older comments at the top: Bit of a lottery really, innit. First to pounce… what about regular commenters who find themselves trapped under something heavy and can’t get in there first? Bet you hadn’t thought of that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Lots of food for thought here, Chris, and I don’t mind telling you, I was ravenous. I agree with you on having headlines… I’m probably losing more than I’m gaining, not only in hits, but in back catalogue views. Very interesting. I’m sure that a good night’s sleep will provide all the possible answers with a full roadmap for action. In triplicate.

      And I am always thinking about my regular commenters, how dare you! Not trapped by something heavy, though. Couldn’t do it to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. August 6, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Like The Opening Sentence, I see your posts on Outlook first. I then follow the link to the post, knowing that you spend the entire day after posting writhing in agony, until I finally deign to make an appearance and dazzle you with my insight.

    Sorry, I made this about me again, didn’t I?

    Anyway, as a professional web designer of 20 years (and a cheapskate – which is why my own blog is free and crappy), I’ll share one of my rules: less is more. Highly original, right? Which is why I’ll throw in another one: anything that’s not information, is noise. And God knows there’s enough of that nowadays.

    So, I’d personally lose the hayfever-inducing-background, charming as it is, in favor of something plainer (white, beige, egg-shell white – pretty much anything subdued), and leave everything else as it is. After all, navigation is clear and reading is easy (nice, clean, large font), which is pretty much the point: the real #1 rule is, don’t let design get in the way of your content.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Thank Blog the agony stopped! I was wondering where you were, Nicholas. *wipes nose on sleeve* I’ll call off the dogs. They’d got as far as Malta.

      I agree wholeheartedly on noise. Nothing hurts me more than a messy website full of flashes and graphics and a million clickable things. It makes me need to lie down and read something quiet, like a washing machine manual. I’m thinking I will lose the photo, or perhaps replace it with a simple grey sky. We have many of those in Ireland. VERY MANY. And I admit soliciting free advice from a professional web designer was a bit cheeky of me, I know – thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. August 6, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Oh, I forgot: I followed the “nominate this blog” badge, and got a 404 on blogawardsireland.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 6, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      I think it’s out of date this week… don’t worry. I’ll be replacing it with a screaming call for votes if I manage to get on the shortlist. If I don’t, I’ll just make it quietly go away 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. August 6, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    I get your posts from the reader. I don’t mind an extra click. About changing your WP theme, I’d say now that you have your following, you can, and perhaps should, do what you want to do. I don’t think anyone would mind.

    You mention “purchasing” another. I assume you mean get a .org site rather than have a free .com site. Would .org posts still be visible in .com readers? I’ve read that .orgs are harder to learn too. Seems like there’s plenty of nice free themes…

    I’m sort of on the opposite side of the pendulum. Rather than spruce it up, I’m wondering about keeping my blog at all (for various reasons). I may just cut it down to those posts that more strictly adhere to the theme of my book, and remove the controversy, or I may take a hiatus. Or I may do nothing. It would help if I were more decisive.

    Anyway, good luck with that certain something you’re waiting for confirmation of!

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 7, 2015 at 8:53 am

      There are indeed loads of nice free WP themes, but there are some very snazzy ones they charge you for, too. I wouldn’t switch to .org as I bought my .com domains and will stick with them… But some of the purchases themes are darned pretty.

      Perhaps have a little look at which of your posts get the most traffic & focus on those topics? Although I don’t think people mind some variation on topic. It’s very hard to blog about one book and expand an audience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 7, 2015 at 11:48 am

        Good advice, Tara. Thanks. My stats have never been high anyway, and it’s hard to know for sure what’s best, but I think I’d like to simplify.

        Though you should have the site you want, I wouldn’t worry too much about the tiny details. Social media is like any addiction, you start out small, but after awhile it sort of takes over if you let it and you lose the original joy. Good luck with whatever change you make. I don’t think you’ll need it though (the luck that is 😉 )

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 7, 2015 at 1:38 pm

          I always need luck, believe me! Every good wish is appreciated. Hoarded. And guarded 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  14. August 7, 2015 at 7:28 am

    I know presentation is all, but life is too, too short for endless refurb of that kind. I keep my blog as is, because WordPress is not artist-friendly, but I play with my Mac-based website whenever I feel like it. I too am sitting on something so hard it hurts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • August 7, 2015 at 8:55 am

      I hope you’re not sitting on your Mac. They don’t like it. But if you’re sitting on one of your hedgehogs, Hilary, you’d better get up this minute.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. August 8, 2015 at 6:34 am

    I didn’t read the other few dozen comments – perhaps I should have. I actually don’t care about the look. If I did, I would say keep it clean and help the reader focus on what you want us to see. I’m here for the content, which is usually worth it. Keep that going and I can promise you 1 reader. (Now, a moment of honesty) I never click on the stuff to the side there, not for any specific reason, I’m just more interested in what’s going on in the middle of the page. I don’t see the other stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 8, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Thanks, Dave! I think you’re in the majority. Lots of people don’t think one way or another about sidebars or backgrounds or links or anything that isn’t actual content. But this has been a good exercise to realise what it is that counts (and what doesn’t).

      Liked by 1 person

  16. August 9, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    I think ‘Tara Sparling Writes’ would look really good in calligraphy…

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 9, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Gosh, you know, you’re right! Now, if only I knew a calligrapher… I may have to stop blogging altogether and begin trawling the globe, looking for a calligraphy expert who would in no way feel violated by giving away their talented work for free. Hmmm.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. August 10, 2015 at 9:12 am

    I haven’t a notion what your blog looks like, nor do I care, as I signed up for the content.
    As for clicking, the less the better for me.
    Reading comments is part of blogging but there is something to be said for not having to scroll through all the comments to make own’s own. However, how much does it matter to you if your readers read each other’s comment? It matters a lot to me.
    Wouldn’t it be great to be let loose in the biggest stationery shop in the world and have someone at the counter just take your look of glee as payment.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 10, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      This was actually a great exercise. I forgot how many ways there are to read blogs, and how little of a site the majority of people see. It doesn’t matter to me whether my readers read all the comments, but I always read them on someone else’s blog before I comment myself, because I don’t want to simply repeat someone else.
      Anyway, each to his/her own, and that’s the main takeaway from this little poll. If only experimenting with themes satisfied the compulsion to buy stationery…

      Liked by 1 person

  18. August 11, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Well you know we come here for the witty repartee, not the scenery. But as you’re asking…
    I like that it’s clean and polished. I hate bells and whistles, moving graphics, polka dots, pink…you get me drift.
    However, this sombre lake view background makes me think I’ve landed on a Christian website or something spiritual or about rehabilitation/recovery, that sort of thing. It misses something of your mischievous sense of humour. Just my tuppence ha’penny.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 11, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      That’s a great point, Jackie. I think I might just go back to boring old beige or something. I like the clean look myself, and what’s the point of having something which distracts from the content anyway? Besides, it would be monumentally stupid to argue with a fashion designer of your calibre. I spend waay too much time trying to look intelligent for that.


  19. August 13, 2015 at 3:02 am

    Hey, this was fun. I like the layout of your blog. Nothing annoys me more than when I can’t see where to like a post or to follow someone’s blog. The header photo could be improved. More vibrant perhaps?

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 13, 2015 at 10:18 am

      Yes indeed, Gina, I had visions when I started of changing that photo along with the seasons, but then I got distracted by, oh, well, pretty much everything. However, now that I’m probably finished arsing around with background photos and frou-frou ideas, I might content myself with playing around with just the header photo from now on!


  20. todduffey
    August 14, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    You are awesome and I think your analysis is refreshing! More people should care about what other people think of them online! Well played!

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 14, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      As long as we don’t care too much and take everything that’s said about us with a pinch of salt I don’t think it’s any harm to do a straw poll now and then! Thanks for your kind words. Kind of made my day awesome 😀


      • todduffey
        August 14, 2015 at 9:40 pm

        Keep up the awesome you do!

        Liked by 2 people

  21. August 27, 2015 at 6:21 am

    Tara, I’ll say this first and formost: I like what you write, this is why I read your blog.
    But then I’ll add, yes, it looks a bit dated.

    Honestly, I do think what a blog looks like makes a difference for the casual visitor. For example, during the AtoZ Challenge, when I visited so many blogs, the way a blog looked like did make an impact on my decision to read or not. If a blog was messy, if it had little fonts hard to read, if there was too much going on and I couldn’t focuse on the post, I was very likely not to read, unless the theme really interested me.
    On the other hand, if a blog was tidy, with large easy-to-read layouts (I particularly like the ones meant to be read on a phone) and easy to navigate, I was likely to give it a shot even if the theme didn’t particulalry appeal to me.

    As we all know, we’re visual aminals. It’s nice to say, content is what really means… but the truth is first impressions matters to the point you may never come to the content if the first impression isn’t appealing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • August 27, 2015 at 9:59 am

      It’s a toughie, Sarah! Under the majority rules principle, it seems that I might put more people off by changing things, than I would please by doing so. It might be dated, but most people have said to me that only the content matters, and so many of them read either on smart devices or through the WP reader that the site layout is almost irrelevant. I don’t do challenges or award chains and as I’m a major fan of what Anne R. Allen calls ‘slow blogging‘, in that I only post once a week usually, I’m not competing in the sort of blogging environment which generates a lot of white noise.

      Fundamentally what this exercise made me realise is that my blog should be laid out in the way I like to read them myself. So that means clean, unfussy, not making me click a million times into separate posts (which drives me barmy), and not posting so many times a week that busy people are put off reading it altogether.

      Liked by 1 person

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