coffee and donut

ack in the days when blogging was still a shiny, new thing, and everyone’s biggest issue was working out just how many animated gifs their sidebars could hold, it was all about the chronological, diary-style homepage: the one with the newest post at the top, the next one directly underneath it, and an archive that would basically have you scrolling to infinity and beyond.

This, of course, was long before the days of social media. We had feed readers (RIP, Google Reader: we will never forget!), but not everyone used them, so mostly we just had these giant bookmark folders filled with links, which we’d diligently work our way through each day, visiting each blog in turn, and reading the latest post, before moving on to the next.

Sometimes I miss those days. I mean, most times I just think, “Thank God no one really uses auto-play music on their websites any more!”, but sometimes I get a bit of a hankering for those bookmark folders of old. Those were the days when the blogosphere felt like much more of a community: when people used to actually comment on blogs, rather than just reading n’ running, and when … well, when people like me didn’t write posts like this one, which is starting to make me sound like some kind of curmudgeonly old-timer, sitting on my front porch complaining about The Youth of Today, and how my lumbago’s playing up. I’ll stop that now.

Anyway: those days are gone, is the point I was trying to make. And I know there are still people out there with bookmarks folders full of blog links, which they visit every day, checking the homepages of their favourite sites to see if there’s  new post to read. (I also know that every one of those people is probably about to comment on this post, just to prove my point…) Those people are in the minority, though. The fact is, I know from my blog analytics that most of my regular readers hardly ever look at the homepage of this site. (Boo!)

No, most of my regular readers are following me in some way: either on social media, using an RSS reader, or by subscribing to my email list. Those followers are all alerted to each new post as soon as it goes live:  so, rather than having to visit my homepage all day, they simply click the link on social media/email/RSS and go directly to the latest post. They do not pass ‘Go’. They do not collect $200. They do not see that cute kitten I have right in the middle of the homepage, just as a thank-you to everyone who takes the time to visit it.* They just go to the post they’re interested in, read it, and leave. Or maybe click on some of the related posts, if I’m lucky. Either way, they’re not on the homepage, so as far as they’re concerned it may as well not exist.

why it might be time to re-think your blog's homepage(*OK I’m kidding, there’s no kitten. Made you look, though!)

As for new readers, meanwhile – the ones who aren’t subscribing to my blog, or following me on social media: well, they don’t always see the homepage either. Most of them, you see, will arrive at the site via a search engine like Google or Pinterest. They’re be on those sites because they’re looking for something specific: and their search will take them directly to whichever post on my blog best fits whatever it was they were searching for. Again, if I’m lucky, they might click around a bit once they’ve read that post, and they might even take a look at the homepage, out of curiosity: it won’t be the first page on the site they see, though – in fact, it might not even be the second. (That’s normally the ‘about’ page, which new visitors will hit up once they’ve read enough posts to pique their interest.)

Who IS looking at my homepage, then? Other than the regular readers who still prefer to visit directly, rather than to subscribe, I mean? Mostly new readers, who are curious enough to check it out: maybe PR agencies, or brands thinking of working with me. And that’s why I think it’s time we started to re-think our homepages: to stop thinking of them purely as chronological “diaries”, and to start using them to showcase our very best work. Think about it: when a brand-new visitor arrives on your site, what do you want them to see first? The posts you’re most proud of, and which best represent you and your blog? Or that random post you wrote about your cat, even although you’re a beauty blogger?

(It’s OK if you answered ‘the cat’, by the way: that just means either the post about the cat was one of your best, or that you’re blogging purely as a hobby… in which case, er, this post isn’t really directed at you, obviously…)

For me, I want new visitors to see my best work first. That doesn’t mean I don’t want them to see my latest posts too –  people do expect to see the most current content somewhere near the top of the page, so it wouldn’t make sense to burry it away somewhere. Lately, though, I’ve been tweaking my design a little to place more emphasis on some of the older-but-still-relevant content, as opposed to the very latest thing I’ve written.

As well as meaning that new visitor instantly get a “flavour” of what my blog is about (rather than landing on a post about my dog’s operation, and thinking it’s a dog blog, or whatever…), it also gives me freedom to write those more random posts, without having to worry about the fact that they’ll be the first thing new readers see  – and potentially judge my site on. For me, I’ve found that this gives me the best of both worlds: the freedom to write about whatever I like, but the knowledge that the best content on the site won’t just sink to the bottom of the archive and die a sad, lonely death. Which would suck, wouldn’t it?

Is this type of layout going to work for all blogs? Definitely not. I think that ‘daily diary’ style websites, news sites and the like will still probably benefit most from the traditional, reverse-chronological style blog layout, which places the most recent posts right at the top of the page. Ultimately, of course, it’s whatever works best for you: and if you’re anything like me, and spend far too much time fiddling around with your blog theme, you’ll probably have a whole lot of fun figuring it out!

16 Comments
  1. This is so true! I changed my traditional blog theme into a magazine style and am very happy with that.
    My latest post are still on top of the side but it’s also possible to see some other stuff from all my different categories on the homepage. I also figured out that most of my readers comment on my social media instead of my blog post which is a little bit sad, but I think I have to accept that…
    However, I still visit you homepage on a regular base, I’m kinda old fashioned I guess. 😉

    Have a lovely Sunday!
    Sandra

    PS: I love your blog tips!

  2. Because I always get to your current post via my email subscription, I didn’t even realize you had a home page! I thought the current post was your homepage.

  3. bahahah I didn’t want to post but I had to, I do both I have my blog list and I try really hard to visit and comment each day because blogger support is so important plus I do the social media visits too. I am a hybrid

  4. I agree about the homepage, I do think a landing page that showcases who you are, what you do and what’s the best part of your site is super important, but I also believe that you shouldn’t make your site hard to navigate from those single post pages that most of your readers are landing on.
    I understand wanting to drive people who read in feed readers (Feedly is almost as good as Google Reader 🙂 ) to your site with truncated posts, but most people read on mobile devices and if your site doesn’t offer a full blog list page with all of the full blog posts or clear navigation from one post to the next (not sure if you know, but your site hides the navigation arrows at mobile width so it’s a giant pain to read multiple posts at a time), it’s likely that would contribute to losing viewers. I worry that we’re all so worried about page views and getting people on to our sites that we forget the most important part – keeping them there and keeping them coming back…

  5. I went to a Blogger event recently and i said I’d been blogging on and off for 16 years. They couldn’t even fathom that blogs had been around that long! I remember not only designing my own blog, but also painstakingly working my way through every blog in my “blog roll” and commenting if there was a new post! Blogs have changed so much, you’re right, it should be about your best work not the newest stuff, still working on finding a design I’m happy with!

  6. You totally got me there: I checked your homepage (twice!) so see if there was a cat .. and I was sadly disappointed when I couldn’t find one. I secretly hoped you’d have put one up with a note saying “Now, was that so hard?” or something like it. I love your blog though, and I myself am trying to go back to those good old days when checking home pages and commenting still counted for something. So here I am, commenting. You made me realize that even though it’s still “expected” to see the newest blog posts first on the home page it is indeed the perfect spot to put a little collection of the work you’re most proud of. So I might just adjust mine in the near future thanks to your tips!

  7. If I click a link to a new (to me) blog article, and I like the article, the very next place I check out is the home page. Like you say, I like to check out what other content the blogger has, and whether I like the rest of their articles or whether that one was just a one-off. If it passes that test, THEN I check out the ‘About’ tab. I absolutely agree with you, it would be nice if bloggers would use their homepage to showcase their blog more. My pet peeve is when the entire homepage is taken up by the latest article, instead of an abbreviated version.

  8. Just as I was thinking I didn’t visit your Home Page and wanted to see the kitten, I decided to have a look. But I could find it, so accessed the menu. It wasn’t there either! I was about to ask you how to access it when I read the other comments, so thank you Miss Kitty for noting that the Home Page contained the linked blog titles, doh! I found it.

  9. This is so good! Your homepage looks lovely, and eye-catching. The reason I don’t have the sliders etc my theme is set up for is simply because I’m not that into blog photography just yet. There’s no point in me showcasing my best work when it just would look messy. Which is the reality of it just now, however I’m hoping to have changed it by the time 2017 rolls around.

    It’s totally true that it’s important to have a nice frontpage for new readers in general – for an example, I came through to your blog via Pinterest. Whenever I go straight through to a post I like, I will always look for new posts I might like on the frontpage. If I don’t like the frontpage, I will click away. If you have a nice frontpage, I’m more likely to click around and read more.

  10. Aaah I’m in love with your new homepage! I also miss those old days you’re talking about. Now I feel like blogs that are interesting and unique (regarding of both content and design) are rare… And the fact that most of the time, blogs homepages are not sophisticated enough to have an idea of what they’re about, makes people skip them faster. It’s a pity…

    I found your blog about 1 year ago while looking for a review of Lindy Bop’s Vanda (and you definitely convinced me of buying it, now I own it in wine!). Since then, I read your blog everytime I stumble upon its link in my favourites menu! (^ ^)

  11. I recently got back into blogging and thought the first thing I had to do was re-design my homepage! I got so used to it being full 3 posts at the beginning and the older post button at the bottom. I remember when everyone first started putting the ‘read more’ links mid way through their posts and I thought it was awful! I just had an irrational hatred of opening too many tabs, but now I’m totally the opposite. I want to be able to search through blogs quickly and open only what I think I’ll be interested in. I blame Buzzfeed personally.

    I just wanted to say, I’ve been a regular reader for a while now but the thing that keeps me coming back is always your writing. I still follow a lot of blogs, but most of them I just skim through pictures for inspiration etc, without reading the words anymore, but your style always captures me. I think it’s because you put a lot of personality into your posts, and a sense of humour – which I enjoy. I feel like my attitude to blogging and reading other blogs changed so much because there’s such a huge amount out there now. I used to read 100s of small-ish ones and now I just pay attention to my old favourites and skim read a lot of new ones.

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