I’m back again with another blog review. After I reviewed Burke Does last month, Sahra, one of my readers, emailed and volunteered to be next. Her blog Que Sera Sahra was formerly known as Effortless Cool, and can be found here. She’s been a loyal reader of The White Corner Creative for a long time, so I was happy to oblige. Again, this review will be divided into Design, Direction, and Content. I hope to mention things that will help Sahra grow, as well as generalized things that any blogger can apply to their own blog.
When I land on the blog the first thing I notice are the visuals. The pictures are nice and bright and well taken, which adds a lot to the credibility of any site. I also notice the header right away as it is unique. Another thing I noticed right off the back (before even landing on the site actually) is the domain name. It’s WordPress.com and the domain is different than the blog name, which can be troublesome for many reasons – but I’ll get into that later.
I like the clean design of this blog right off the bat. I’ve always been a big fan of black and white, and lots of white space, and this theme does a good job of showcasing all the great images that Sahra has throughout. With a WordPress.com blog it’s not possible to do much (if anything) to the theme in terms of customization, so that’s a problem. BUT I’m still going to work my way through and review the blog as if it were a WordPress.org blog that could be customized.
The header on this blog is good for a number of reasons. At first glance I get a feel for who Sahra is, what kind of blog this is, and what I can expect from her writing. Before I look any further, I know she is edgy, fashionable, creative, and witty – and it takes a powerful header to be able to convey that much so quickly. However, in terms of design I’m not in love with it – and I’ll tell you why.
In my opinion there is a big difference between a header and a logo. A header is an image like this one, it’s interesting, intricate, large, and makes a great showpiece for a blog, where as a logo establishes a brand and can be used throughout all branding materials, like prints, social media, business cards, etc. A logo has to be simple enough that you can scale it to large or small and it still looks great, and it should be something that you can maintain in your brand for years and years to come.
If you’re a blogger who just plans on blogging, then a header is fine. It does its job and keeps your site looking good. But, if you’re a blogger who is growing, extending across social media, trying to establish their brand, and working to grow their network (like Sahra is, yay!) then you NEED a logo. That’s my first piece of advice for Sahra – ditch the header and get a logo.
Whether you’re going to invest in a professional logo design or create your own, it’s important to spend time establishing a logo that you can carry across all your networks. A logo should be simple with the name of your blog, with maybe an icon or shape added on. For example, Sahra should cut out the background and the shoes, and work to create a logo just from the text alone. If she wanted to maintain the same font, that might be fine – but she should create a fully horizontal version, and a stacked version, so that she can use them everywhere – as a logo as wide as hers would be can sometimes be hard to incorporate across the board. If Sahra really wanted to add an icon to her logo, she could add the flower or the shoe, but not both. And they shouldn’t be images, but rather marks that are drawn and specific to her brand. The spiky shoe is a really interesting image and could potentially be used elsewhere in the blog, but isn’t logo worthy because it’s not simple enough to be part of a true logo. Think of it this way – even if your logo has colour in it, you should be able to make it any one solid colour, and put it on top of any kind of background, and still recognize the brand. If you can’t then the logo is too complicated.
If I were to professional design this logo, I would use just text. I think the name is fun and quirky enough to stand on its own. I also think that because Sahra is a fashion and travel blogger, one icon might not be enough to encompass everything she does, so the words would be best to stand alone. I would also probably not use a cursive font, as I think Sahra’s brand is edgy and interesting, and the cursive makes it a little too ‘girly’ and ‘young’ for the real audience she is striving for. If anything I might use a combination of a cursive font and a standard font.
Scrolling down the page, I LOVE the social icons. They are very cleanly designed and stand out against the rest of the page, which is great, because you always want your readers to start following you somewhere.
I think the black and white clean look of this theme fits well with Sahra’s intended brand, but moving down the page I get a little bored. I like to see more structure throughout the pages of a website. I’d like to see the paragraph text of the posts to be fully justified so that it extends to the edge and creates a real grid-like look throughout the page. I’d also like to see a line running vertically between the content and the sidebar to create some more division. I see Sahra’s brand being very minimalistic, black, white, clean and edgy, and keeping things very simple and uncluttered will do well to create this feeling.
Again, I’m a big fan of keeping everything full width to create an attractive grid-like appearance. All the images and text should be the full width of the content area in every blog post.
Serif fonts have traditionally been the easiest on the eyes, and the best for reading long term because they run together and allow the eye to flow along. But, that changed when computers came around, and sans-serifs became the best on screen font for reading because they did not blur together. I think the body font of Sahra’s site would look a lot better in a sans-serif font like Open Sans, not only because it would be easier to read, but because it would make the text look more modern – on keeping with the brand.
I don’t LOVE those buttons at the very bottom of the page. But, I get that they are a very useful and popular way to show your readers that your a member of blogging communities, which is great. So, I’d say just try to make them a little better by putting them side by side rather than stacked. I’d also stick the sponsors slider down there as well. Right now it is bright and stands out against the rest of the blog content, and since it’s taking people away from the site this isn’t something that should really be showcased. Put it somewhere that is still visible, but doesn’t take away from your content.
When you land on this blog, it’s evident that it’s a lifestyle blog, as the headings vary from style and beauty, to decor and travel. This is fine if you can find a way to tie them together well enough, and It think Sahra does that with her quirky personality and style. Her pictures carry a consistent feeling throughout every post, regardless of the topic, and I think she’s making the ‘lifestyle’ niche work well for her.
I LOVE that each post on Sahra’s blog ends with ‘Don’t Forget to Follow Me!’. It’s a great way to end with a call to action, and tell your readers where to go next, and I’m sure it’s really helping her build her numbers.
It’s great that a picture of Sahra is front and centre when you land on the page. Having an image like this in a sidebar gives readers an immediate idea of who they’re talking to and reading from. ‘Meet Sahra’ gives readers a great place to go if they want to know more. However, I think that under this image there should be a little blurb giving readers a bit of info about Sahra and the blog, incase they don’t want to click through to the actual about page.
In my opinion, WordPress.com is not the platform for someone who wants to find success in the blogging world. Not only does it limit you in terms of customizability, design and functionality, but in my opinion it’s seen as an amateur platform. WordPress.com is a GREAT place to start out, and get your footing. It’s a place to learn about WordPress and establish yourself as a blogger. But, once you actually start trying to build yourself, gaining followers and readers, and establishing a brand, it’s time to leave WordPress.com behind and move to WordPress.org. I understand it’s a big jump because of the yearly hosting investment required for WordPress.org, but it’s a MUST in my opinion. With WordPress.org you can customize the design to exactly how you want it, you can add in plugins to add whatever functionality you want from a store to a Pinterest plugin, and you can make money off it! Yay. Not to mention that on WordPress.org you own everything on your blog, and you are in charge of it – something you don’t have on WordPress.com. I have a whole WordPress.org series that would help!
I think that Sahra has reached the stage where she should be making the move – as it seems that she’s established a good following and blogging style. Not to mention that it is evident that she’s made a name change from Effortless Cool to Que Sera Sahra, because her domain still reads Effortless Cool. This is a BIG no no, because you want to make finding you as easy as possible, and this makes it complicated to understand where you’re going. Moving to WordPress.org would be the perfect opportunity to buy a new domain that coincides with her current name, build a new logo, and establish a great brand on a new platform. Sahra has a sponsorship page on her current blog but WordPress.com has tonnes of restrictions on how you are allowed to make money. I think making the move to WordPress.org would also do her good in terms of her abilities to make money from her site.
I can’t wait to see where Sahra takes her blog next – as I think there are so many ways she could grow. I’m excited to watch her journey and I hope you’ll take a look as well! Enjoy!