Blog Review – Burke Does

Blog Review Burke Does

When I started blogging years ago I had no idea what I was doing. I taught myself along the way and was always asking my friends and family their opinions on things. They tried their best to help, but most of the time it was obvious that they didn’t care and didn’t know what they were talking about. I longed to find someone, just one person, to give me an honest objective opinion of my blog, someone who was in the industry and could give an informed answer. Was it well designed? Was the writing interesting? Was it obvious what my niche was? Would they come back to read again?

Blog Review Burke Does

Though I made it through my early blogging years on my own, I ended up crossing paths with a few big wigs over the years, and hearing from them (good or bad) meant the world to me. It was amazing hearing what they liked, what they didn’t, and their thoughts on how I could improve. So, long ago I decided that one day I would start doing reviews to help other bloggers get a handle on it as well. I love blogging and could honestly talk about it for hours, so I love looking at other blogs and giving my honest opinion.

Now, almost a year after I launched The White Corner Creative (a blog that really holds my passion and my skills) I finally am moving forward. I’ve decided to give away free reviews to my readers. These reviews will be published in the form of blog posts so that everyone can learn something from them. If you’d like a review – but aren’t ready to go public – I’m also offering private reviews for $25 (email me if you want to set up a free or paid review).

The first blog to be reviewed is Burke Does. Emilie, one of my readers, saw ‘start doing blog reviews’ on my New Year’s goal list and volunteered to be the first guinea pig. So here it goes! I’ve decided to divide the review into three main sections: Design, Direction, and Content.

Burke Does Blog

First Impressions

The first thing I notice on this blog is the logo – and I love it. Very cute and clean. On first glance the blog is well laid out and easy to navigate. The logo gives me the impression that the blog is about crafting or DIY, and from the image on the right I can tell it’s run by two people. When I scroll down the blog starts to get a little more cluttered, but is still intriguing with large images and attractive icons.

Design

First I should disclose that I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to design, and I really do believe that it’s the little things that count. Fixing a bunch of small problems can often be more effective than making one big change. For this reason I’ll be looking at small things throughout the design – not just big picture issues.

When I first looked at this blog the logo was over on the left and the menu was running beside it on the right. There was a lack of division between the header and the rest of the content because the entire area was white, and fixing this was my first piece of advice. But now I see Emilie and Laura have fixed it without even needing my advice by moving the menu down and making it purple. It already looks so much better! I love that this breaks up the page and brings some colour up to the top and I LOVE that it stays static at the top when you scroll.

However, I also see that they’ve added ads to their site. This is a great way to monetize and bring in revenue, but the only problem is that they’re not usually very attractive. Keeping ads in the sidebar and down at the bottom can be a good way to use them without making your blog look bad, but I don’t think ads at the top is a good decision. This makes the ad the first thing people see when they land on the site, especially on a nice white site like this, it draws the eye directly to it. You always want your logo or some other important content to be the first thing that people look at when they land on your site so they know where you are. Having an ad be the first thing to capture the eye will likely be a big turn off, and make the average reader leave. Not to mention the ads change, and you never know what a reader will see there, and putting that kind of unpredictability front and center is dangerous.
Fix – The few cents Emilie and Laura will get from this ad is not worth it! I recommend that they get rid of it, and to balance things out once it’s gone, they should center the header.

What I notice next is that the site lacks a bit of structure. I like to see a layout that is cleanly divided between header, content and sidebar. This guides the readers eye around the page so they know where they should be looking and in what order. Most blogs do this with a large main content section on the left and the sidebar on the right – because it works! Though this blog does have that general layout, it’s not as strong as it could be because the content does not fill the left hand area.
Fix – Justify the text of the main content area so that it always fills the entire section. Being left justified as it is now, the right edge is ragged and there is not a clean line diving the main content and sidebar. Alternatively, if Emilie and Laura didn’t want to justify the text (as some people don’t like the spacing it sometimes creates) I would add a vertical line running in between the sidebar and the main content. I would also justify the paragraph text in the sidebar.
Fix – Again, the feature images should run the full width of the main content area. This will help to solidify that layout structure and create a clean division between content and sidebar. It seems that it is only the feature images that are being shrunk and cropped (as I can see that the images themselves are larger within the posts) so it’s the code that need to be changed so the feature image is not restricted at all.

I love the dividing lines between posts and the added details of the small diamonds at the center of each line. It’s a really nice detail that doesn’t distract but adds personality. However, the text box displaying the number of comments on each post sits too close to the line, in fact it almost overlaps.
Fix – Move the comments text box away from the line, and above the line if possible to show that it is referring to the above post.

I think that each post should have a feature image, and the style of these images should be consistent. I wrote a post recently on How to Create a Feature Image Template and I think this site would look a lot cleaner with consistent imagery. I love the images being used here – the photography is great and that can be a really great supporting feature for a blog.
Fix – I like the style of the feature images with the black box and text at the top. I would create a template of this image style and use it for every post. I’d also suggest to keep the black box at the bottom with the site name, but make that text a lot smaller and the black line thinner. The website or blog name should not stand out – it should just be present in case someone who sees the image wants to investigate further and find the blog name.

I’m not entirely sure what is going on with the excerpt format of this blog roll, as it seems that some excerpts are longer than others, and some even display images within the posts, but the blog roll should be consistent.
Fix – On the archive pages (index, blog roll, categories, tags, etc) each post should be displayed in exactly the same format. This makes it possible to tell immediately and at a glance where one post stops and the next begins. Each post should have a title, a feature image, and an excerpt of equal length, and each excerpt should look the same. Then, more content is revealed when someone actually clicks through to read the post.

I love the text on this blog, and I love that it’s a dark grey. It’s a nice change from the typical black text and it’s easy on the eyes. However, I do think there are a few things that could be changed to tighten up the design and make it a little cleaner.
Fix – Good font formatting (kerning, leading, line height, etc.) means that the eye just flows from letter to letter, from word to word, and from line to line. You should just be able to read without thinking about it, if you’re thinking about it, it means there is something wrong. Here are the values of the paragprahs right now.
Burke Does Text Formatting

p {
font-size: 14px;
line-height: 2em;
letter-spacing: 1px;
text-align: left;
}

.entry-content ol, .entry-content p, .entry-content ul, .quote-caption {
margin-bottom: 26px;
}

I think that the text throughout the site would look better with this formatting. Adding this code to a child theme would make the change.
Burke Does Text Formatting

p {
font-size: 13px;
line-height: 1.8em;
letter-spacing: 0.02em;
text-align: justify;
}

.entry-content ol, .entry-content p, .entry-content ul, .quote-caption {
margin-bottom: 10px;
}

The sidebar is great and well laid out. I like that the search bar, social media icons, and about blurb are all front and center and easy to find. I LOVE that the categories each have a little icon to represent them – it adds great character and isn’t something you see that often. However, below the cateogory icons I feel that the sidebar starts to get a little cluttered.
Fix – Again, it’s best to make sure that everything in the sidebar is even widths so that the structure is carried throughout. For example, the Instagram slider widget is the full width of the sidebar, while the images above it are slightly padded. They should all be exactly the same width.
I’m also not a fan of social media plugins like the Pinterest box seen here, or the Facebook like box that a lot of people use. In my opinion, if someone wants to follow you on a social network they look for your social icons, click through and follow you. A Pinterest box, Facebook like box, or Twitter tweet roll is just messy and clutters the site. I’m more okay with Instagram sliders as they cleanly just show the images on their own, but I still feel that they aren’t necessary. However, that is totally a matter of opinion – as I know a lot of people use them!

Looking at the various pages I like that there is a full width option and that it has been used on the About page where the content is most important. Again, the only thing I don’t like is the lack of division between header and content, which could be fixed with the same dividing horizontal line.

Direction

After scrolling around a bit it is clearer what the blog is about, as I see through the category icons. This is still a wide range of topics. While some people make a broad range like this work (A Beautiful Mess, for example), others struggle to keep things feeling cohesive when discussing so many different things. I think this blog is making it work, and it makes even more sense because there are two bloggers so they can cover a wider range of topics. I think as long as they keep things well categorized and sorted, having a range like this will keep working for them!

Content

The first thing I notice is that the about blurb in the sidebar mentions a store, but I can’t find a link to buy anything anywhere.
Fix – If the store isn’t up and running yet, this line should be taken out of the About blurb because it confuses the reader. If the store is active, there should be a link to it somewhere front and center. I would add a ‘Shop’ link to the navigation bar, and link to it in the about blurb where the shop is mentioned.

The about blurb needs a bit of work. I love that these girls are sisters, and it’s clear that it is a lifestyle blog, but what makes them stand out?
Fix – I think the blurb should be written in third person, though that might just be a matter of personal preference, it’s something that a lot of people are choosing these days. ‘Emilie and Laura are the sisters behind Burke Does.. etc’ This might make more sense because there are two of them. This blurb should tell the reader what they can find on the blog and what Emilie and Laura can do for them. Remember, the reader is selfish, and wants to know what they’re going to get out of being there. I really like the individual about blurbs at the end of each post, and I think the sidebar about blurb should be written more like this – quirky and interesting.

The about blurb and image of the bloggers should always link to the about page, so that if a reader reads that and wants to find out more about you, it is easy.
Fix – Make the image link to the about page rather than to the media file. Add a line at the end of the blurb something like ‘Find out more about us here.’ and link it to the about page as well.

The linking throughout the posts I looked at is not ideal.
Fix – Images should never link to a bigger version of the image, it’s just not necessary. The only situation when this is necessary is if it is a free printable or design you want people to have a big version of.
Fix – In posts where products are discussed like the Valentines post, products don’t need to be linked to separately on their own line. Rather than writing ‘Shoes. Watch. Sunglasses’ and linking to the items there, I would add links in text when the shoes or the watch are mentioned in the content.

I love the As Seen On page and it’s great that they’ve been promoted on so many great sites, readers like this kind of information. However, the page itself is a little boring.
Fix – All I can recommend is to add some images to this page – maybe screenshots of each article that is promoting Burke Does.

It’s great that the social media links are front and center and easy to find. When people read a post and want to follow Burke Does, the first thing they will do is follow on a social network. However, visiting the social accounts leaves something to be desired.
Fix – The Burke Does logo is cute – it should be used across all the social networks so that there is consistency and that they all feel cohesive. Emilie and Laura have done this with the purple colour on some and with their profile image, which is good, but the logo should also be present somewhere on each. And the purple colour should always be the same as on the website. #d5cdda

I could likely go on for hours, and would love to get into the back end of Burke Does and start digging around, but alas, there is only so much time in the day. I hope this information helps Emilie and Laura gain some insights and work together to improve their blog. They’ve got quite the following established already and I’m expecting big things from them! I also hope that everyone who reads through this review will see some tips that they can apply to their own blog – there’s always room to improve.

Do you see anything else on Burke Does that you would change or could be improved?

Let me know in the comments below!

And don’t forget to get in touch if you’d like to schedule a review for your own blog!