All throughout Publishing 101 (Publication of Self in Everyday Life) I had to design and maintain a weekly blog, and could have it be about anything that best represented my online self. I knew right away that I wanted to do a book review blog because of how much I read, and how much I love getting lost in a story, so I simply wanted to share my love and opinions of books with others. All of my book review posts were focused on novels from the historical fiction, romance and thriller genres, with carefully thought-out descriptions provided to not give too much away, each book’s cover image and a link to Amazon, and humour and personal opinions included. However, I think my favourite two posts I did were the very first one, 96 Books in 365 Days, and the 10th one, The Seven Sisters series. I loved the first one because I challenged myself to keep a log of how many books I read in 2018 and had a lot of fun explaining that process, and The Seven Sisters series is one of my favourite series I have ever read and I really wanted to share just how great the series truly is with viewers. Providing book reviews turned out to be something I really enjoyed doing and I am very glad I chose to share my love of books with the online world.
The design aspect of my blog was one of the most challenging things for me. I have never created my own website before, and I was quite intimidated by this. I knew being visually impaired would provide my blog with a unique perspective in the sense of my content, ways of reading, and take on stories, but I knew adding visuals might be problematic, and perhaps my layout might appear rather simple to some viewers. I didn’t know where to start, so I paid more attention to the design of other blogs I follow, such as wheresyourdog.com, another blind blogger, juliannareads.com, a friends book review blog (actually from Pub 101 herself), and The Spines, another book-related blogger. I realized I love these blogs (of course) for their content, but also because each of their sites are very easy to navigate, which is very important to me, and I knew I wanted to have my blog be the same in regards to easy access and navigation. So that is why I went with the design I did: simple black text on a white background for easy-on-the-eyes contrast, the basic menu, and for each post, the title, publication date, small blurb, and “read more” features all with a easy to scroll/view aspect. One of my favourite parts of designing my blog was the main image of a book waterfall! Using Photoshop, my assistant took my idea of a book waterfall and created it perfectly. I wanted the image to represent the amount of reading I do, and the never-ending books and stories we have at our fingertips. So even though I found designing a web site very difficult, I believe I did quite well, and was able to reach my easy to view/navigational goals.
Even though I thought designing a blog was the most challenging, it turns out collecting and maintaining an audience is equally as difficult. I explained in Process Post 6 that in every presentation I attended about web design, the message was that your audience is one of the most important things to focus on. You should first learn who your audience is and figure out the best way to keep viewers on your site. The best way to know how long people are staying on your site is by looking at your bounce rate, which according to yourdictionary.com is “A measurement of the number of users who leave a website after viewing only one webpage. The rate is the number of the users viewing only one page divided by the total number of users visiting the site.” When reviewing the data on my site, my bounce rate was around 50%, meaning that half the people who looked at my blog left the site after only viewing the first page. This number was a lot higher than I expected, and I didn’t know what I could do to keep people on my site longer to look at more content, which I spent quite a lot of time creating. In Peer Review 1 the reviewer explained that “The blog posts could benefit from some visual contrast… Perhaps a larger font size or bolded title would be sufficient,” and in Peer Review 3 they mentioned “Another thing that I think could be improved would be finding some way to break up some of the text heavy content. Since it is a mostly text based site it would be nice to see some more breaks in-between paragraphs, it could be by highlighting certain quotes, adding images, or just adding simple lines and subheadings in order to keep her audience even more engaged with her content.” In both of these reviews of my blog they talk about visual aspects such as adding more images, or changes in text, such as making items bold. I will be completely honest when I say I never really thought about adding bold or italics into my content, probably because I can’t see the difference, or how it can add perspective to the text. It makes a lot of sense and in future I will consider doing this. As for the images issue which I explained above, I thought adding book covers to whichever book I was reviewing in my posts would be enough, but I always forget that people love visuals! We live in such a visual world, especially online, and I believe this is where I ran into trouble relating to my bounce rate. After the peer reviews and learning about bounce rates, I knew it was a perfect time to create the three part video series on accessible reading formats. It would give people visuals to look at and gain new insight into what its like for visually impaired people to read, and the main formats used. I think it added a new perspective for my blog. I never got a chance to look at my bounce rate/audience after posting the video series, but hope that it did improve viewers visiting and staying on my site.
Overall I really enjoyed designing, maintaining and creating content for my blog, and learning exactly what all goes into making a blog successful. It was rather challenging at times, but with the help of my assistant, it was possible for me to share my love and opinions of the books I read online. At this time I don’t think I will continue working on my blog. I found the process quite overwhelming, as well as the semester itself, and don’t feel like I am able to keep it going, at least for now. Perhaps in the future when things calm down I will revive my book nerd blog. The experience was one I won’t soon forget, and am glad I took part in this course. It provided me with a new perspective and respect for online content creators that I never used to have.