The adverts have gone, the homepage is aspiring to impersonate Twitter, and mobile users can’t find the landing pages. What on earth is going on?…
It’s all part of the biggest and most work-intensive design revision Planet Botch has ever seen. But the reward, both for visitors, and for the site itself, has been instant, and profound.
It’s often remarked among high-level webmasters, that visitor experience is key to a site’s success. We perhaps wouldn’t know that, given the propensity of ad-strewn, popup-blighted Hell-holes still in existence. But the fact is that as site visitors, we don’t like being treated as if our needs and interests are secondary to some grand marketing plan. As this major update to Planet Botch has shown, better accommodating visitors’ needs really does translate into an instant increase in site exploration.
Planet Botch has never been an aggressive site, but it has run third-party adverts for years, and its general layout had fallen woefully behind the times. Given the sharp and concise way in which vastly popular facilities like Facebook and Twitter now serve their content, old-school blog layouts were increasingly drifting out of sync with the general expectations of web users. In short, Planet Botch needed to be faster, better presented and more logical. And in order to push visitor experience to the max, a careful re-assessment of on-blog advertising was required.
SO WHAT’S CHANGED, EXACTLY?
- The most fundamental change comes in the replacement of static ‘landing’ pages with infinite-scrolling post-browsers, which offer a similar feel to popular social media sites. The post-browsers uniformly package posts into bitesized snippets, which load on-the-fly. Scrolling through them is blatantly a more user-friendly experience than negotiating the noise of a large, link-peppered landing page. The landing pages still exist, but they’ve been removed from the navigation options on mobiles, and they’ve become secondary to the new options on larger devices.
- The overall layout has gained compatibility with larger monitors, and now has a more logical, modern feel.
- A left sidebar has been added. This new sidebar displays on any screen larger than a small tablet, and is independent of the posts window. It holds a navigation menu on screen even when visitors scroll through the main content. And it also hosts the site ID logo, meaning that the full-width page-header could be eliminated.
- An ever-present button bar has replaced the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. A stripped down version of the old dropdown (mainly linking to selected posts) has been moved into the right sidebar.
- Social sharing buttons have now been raised in profile, also becoming ever-present on screen.
- The monetised Search function has been dropped in favour of a more user-friendly internal option, with infinite scrolling results pages.
- Since the right sidebar was not performing particularly well, it’s only been retained for desktop systems with monitor resolutions larger than 1200 pixels. Its contents have been heavilly revised, and further revisions will be made in due course.
Perhaps the most glaring ‘elephant in the room’ at first glance is that all the adverts have disappeared from Planet Botch. Yes, I’m losing a stream of passive income, and some bloggers will doubtless regard that as lunacy. But those who’ve visted the blog through the course of the autumn may have noticed that video and image ads had already been banished. For the two months preceding this update, ads on Planet Botch had existed in text format only. That decision heavily dented the site’s revenue, but it clearly improved the visitor experience – especially for those with audio output engaged.
Another part of the decision to remove ads was based on my strong objection to ‘televerting’. This is the practice of big businesses essentially hijacking the pay per click system and turning it into a form of online television. It’s an abuse of the video ad format, in which obscenely rich brands run entire TV commercials, to a blogger’s audience, without the blogger receiving click-through fees.
Pay per click advertisers should only be able to market in depth AFTER a visitor clicks an ad and the publisher is properly paid. But this slimy corruption of the auto-run video format has enabled big brands to serve meaningful promotions, whilst the blogger does not in any respect receive fair compensation. The ploy isn’t new. It’s been going on for years. But it’s become nigh on impossible for bloggers to filter it out without blocking media ads altogether, which devastates revenue. The suggestion is that the ploy not only has the blessing of the ad programme operator – it’s something the operator wants to force bloggers to accept.
Whether the programme operator gets paid by the advertisers for this kind of trick I don’t know, but the publishers (writers like me) have been severely ripped off by it. Televerting is also irritating for visitors.
So there comes a time when you need to issue the ultimatum:
“Pay me to run your annoying, shitty TV ads, or fuck off.”
That moment has arrived here on Planet Botch. Unfortunately, a lot of decent and fair advertisers are penalised when content-rich sites take this kind of action, but the responsibility lies with those running the ad programmes. As I documented in my recent How a Blogger Finds The Real Money post, hosting ads through major commercial programmes is not a good way for most bloggers to earn money anyway. It never has been. Maybe it’s time more bloggers found better ways to monetise their skills.
Anyway, with rant temporarily suspended… Dispensing with adverts has freed up some valuable space in prominent areas of the Planet Botch layout. My plan was to focus site navigation options into those prominent areas, and it’s obvious that the plan has been a considerable success.
In recent times, I’ve neglected Planet Botch. As the site’s sole author, my attention in 2016 has been focused on a mix of other online projects, alongside a bedrock of commercial blogging/IT work.
Planet Botch was actually the first blog I set up, although I originally opened it on the WordPress.com platform, before moving it over here to Blogger in mid 2011. But over time, the site has proved increasingly short of motivation as regards adding new content. There have been multiple reasons for that.
The core problem was that I had no technical knowledge or blogging experience when I embarked upon the project. And when you write a blog with a lack of technical knowledge, the ill effects immediately entrench themselves into the site’s DNA. The further along the road you get, the more prohibitive the process of righting all the wrongs. Add in a recognition that a lot of the earlier posts you wrote were infused with the same lack of experience, and there’s a strong temptation to cut the cord and focus on newer projects.
But I know from the large volume and the quality of unsolicited links to Planet Botch, that the best of its content has brought substantial value to the Internet. That’s a legacy I would like to continue, and this update has mapped out a solid pathway for future posts to tread. Whether some of the less relevant posts from the site’s increasingly distant past should be rewritten, or deleted, is something I’m still considering.
Don’t worrry, I’m not about to deprive the world of The Truth About 1980s Squier Strats, or blitz the site’s free VST software. Everything to do with musical instruments and music production is as safe as the blogging platform itself. I’m really referring to old ‘humour’ posts about hair replacements and securing the future of the chicken nugget, and Internet tutorials/analyses that are so far out of date as to be useless. Whatever happens to these old curios, they’ll still exist somewhere on the Internet. I’m just not sure Planet Botch is now the right place for them.
With the site stripped of its ‘baggage’ and the nagging doubts about certain aspects of its quality gone, the motivation to move it forward as an authoritative music-related resource will be healthier. Where the project goes remains to be seen. But if you want to help motivate more from Planet Botch, SHARE THE LINKS. It's nice when people come and tell me they like the site, but it's not in any way motivational. Telling me you like the site doesn't help me. Telling OTHER people by posting links to forums and social sites definitely DOES. That builds the audience, and a bigger audience, as any blogger will tell you, is greater motivation. The people you have to thank for the bulk of the content on Planet Botch are those who've Facebooked the articles, publicised and YouTubed the virtual instruments, notified the message boards... Those are the people who've given back. Without them the site would have died in 2011.