I spent several hours this afternoon working on a site redo. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it, so any feedback is welcome.
I took into account the many great comments I got from readers in deciding how to declutter my sidebar. I
- Took out my monthly archives and my tag cloud. Both were used infrequently.
- Created a list of my most frequently visited topics, based on what I saw with the Google site overlay of where people were clicking in my site. This also gives a decent sense of what I'm writing about here, I think. Let me know if you think I should add or remove any topic areas.
- Added my most recent posts widget back in at Cammy's request.
- Added a list of the Challenge participants to the "Join our Challenge" page, as this was getting the most action. I also created a separate page of links to the participants with the heading "Visit our Participants and Win Some Chocolate," hoping that it would make more people want to click through, rather than just seeing a list of the participants.
- Got rid of my blog roll--I discovered (again with the site overlay tool) that no one was really using it. As a few people pointed out in comments, you're more likely to visit other bloggers through the links in a blog post than you are via the blog roll, so I'll just have to make sure that I link a lot to everyone I like!
- Got rid of the least visited "Best of Bamboo" articles. I debated about moving the whole list to a separate page, but saw that there were a fair number of click throughs, so I decided to keep them up front for now.
- Made the sidebar links bigger. I think they were harder to read before, which made it seem more overwhelming--all that tiny print.
Obviously the biggest change I made was going to the three-column right side look. I'm not sure if I'm going to stick with this or not, especially as Laura has kindly offered to help me with a redesign. But I got sort of carried away in my sidebar project and started playing around with things. Kind of like moving furniture. So I thought I'd leave it this way for a while and see what people think and if the look grows on me. As always, comments welcome.
One thing I learned in this project was how useful it is to use data and feedback from users in making choices about what to do with your site. The Google site overlay tool gave me great information to help me deconstruct what happens on my site and how people are using it. And I also got excellent reader feedback because I asked a lot of specific questions about what I should and shouldn't keep. Most of the decisions I made were based on the Google data and my reader feedback. Without that information, I would have really been taking a shot in the dark. Another reason to always use data .