What I learned about you through 5 redesigns

color wheel

About two years ago, I wrote a blog post that broke down what I learned about you through 4 redesigns. In case you missed the post, here is what I learned from you from the first 4 redesigns:

  1. You don’t really care to find new blog posts through categories. Due to this, there is a “most popular posts widget” in the sidebar, which you tend to prefer.
  2. The most effective way in which I have been able to monetize Quick Sprout was by linking it to my two companies, Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics, in the sidebar. This blog currently drives a few thousand people to my companies every month.
  3. By adding a “top commenters” widget, I was able to increase the number of comments on Quick Sprout by 79%.
  4. When I removed the “subscribe to comments” option, my comments per post went down by 26% (I’ve added it back since then).
  5. The only social media icon that you clicked on was Twitter, so I removed all other social media buttons.
  6. You prefer simple commenting solutions, which is why I am not using anything fancy like Disqus.
  7. Out of the 4 redesigns, the one that increased subscriber growth the most was the first design, which had a subscription option in the top right.
  8. To reduce email spam, I added a contact page, which states what I will and will not blog about.

Now that you’re up to speed, I recently decided to redesign the blog again (this is the 5th redesign). With the help of Digital Telepathy, I’ve redesigned the blog based on these 7 new things I’ve learned about you.

Don’t take colors for granted

Since the blog has a ton of content on each page, especially if you include the comments, it’s really important to make it easy to read. The content has always been formatted for readability, but the colors weren’t.

The background color of the old blog was grey. The new color is a calm yellow.

old color vs new color

If you look at the image above, you’ll notice that the yellow color is much softer and easier on the eyes. Although it is a small change, it is an important one because, on average, you spend more than 4 minutes and 17 seconds reading each blog post.

Emails drive traffic

Do you know what the number one referrer to Quick Sprout is? I know, it’s not a tough one to guess as it’s probably Google, right?

Yes, it is Google, but do you know what the 2nd most popular referrer is? It’s email! That’s right, you prefer to come back to Quick Sprout by email. Because of this, I’ve created a landing page, which helps me collect more emails.

landing page

For example, if you are a first time visitor to Quick Sprout, you’ll see a page that looks like the one above. Although it can be irritating to see that page, with the use of cookies, you should only see it once. And boy, am I glad that I created that page as I am now collecting thousands of more emails each month. That one page has more than doubled my email collection rate.

Let’s be friends

The third most popular way you use to come back to Quick Sprout is through Twitter and Facebook. With my old design, I just linked you to my Twitter and Facebook profile, but the issue was you really didn’t click on it.

With 150,000 visitors coming to Quick Sprout each month, you would think I would have more Twitter followers and Facebook fans, right? Well, once I removed the links to my social profiles and made that section in my sidebar a bit more social, my social profiles have been growing.

lets be friends

Instead of just linking you to my social profiles, I now give you the ability to add me as a friend with one click. Plus, I use social proof by showing you the number of Facebook friends I have, which helps entice you to become one as well.

I now have over 90,000 Twitter followers and 30,000 Facebook fans.

You want to learn more

About a year ago, I detailed my failed attempt at monetizing Quick Sprout. It wasn’t your fault. I just executed it poorly. There were two main issues:

  1. I didn’t have a solid product/service offering.
  2. Most of you didn’t know that I offered a product/service.

I fixed the first issue by spending more time on creating a solid product offering. And as for the second issue, I fixed that by modifying my homepage.

quick sprout homepage

If you now go to the Quick Sprout homepage, you’ll find the product offering. If you want to get to the blog, you have to click on the blog “navigation” menu item. The old homepage is now the homepage of the blog section.

Sharing is caring

As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my traffic comes from Twitter and Facebook. So, to help encourage this, I’ve added social buttons to the side of each blog post. As you scroll down, the buttons move with you.

sharebar

Adding these buttons increased my traffic from these social sites by over 27%.

In addition to having social buttons for Twitter and Facebook, I’ve added a button for Google Plus. It’s yet to be seen if Google Plus votes will increase my Google search traffic, but I feel it is worth a shot as Google is the number one referrer to my site.

Messaging is important

Every day my inbox gets flooded with hundreds of emails. A lot of them are questions from you, and a lot of them are sales pitches. I love the emails from you because I love helping people. I also learned from you a lot over the years. But I hate emails with sales pitches.

In my past redesigns, I created a contact page that clearly stated what I will blog about and what I won’t blog about, which reduced the number of emails I receive each day. But that page didn’t help me get more of the “right” type of emails.

So, with the new contact page, I clearly state what type of emails I want: I love interviews and press inquires. This has helped me get more press for Quick Sprout and my company.

You don’t want to be too social

Over a year ago, I added a questions and answers community to Quick Sprout. I did this to encourage more conversations on the blog. But there was one big issue: it caused more of you to participate in the Questions and Answers area of the site and stop leaving comments.

Because of this, I removed that area of the site as it didn’t fit in with my larger goal. I was hoping that you would use it to ask me questions, instead of emailing them to me, as I get asked the same ones numerous times.

Plus, I wasn’t able to build a big enough bond with you through the questions and answers area as it seemed that we connected better over email. My guess is that it happened to be this way because you got more personal with your questions over email than on the site.

Conclusion

Although I want this redesign to be my last one, I don’t think it’s going to be that way. I am constantly learning from you and will continue to modify the design to best fit your needs.

I hope this blog post has inspired you to redesign your website. When doing so, make sure your changes are based on what your visitors want instead of what you want.

Lastly, when redesigning, you don’t have to do a complete overhaul. You can do what I do, which is making small tweaks.

So, what do you think of the changes to Quick Sprout?

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the insights – helpful for content-driven websites everywhere. I touch up on some of these points in my design consulting service as well.

  2. I’ve learned a lot from Quicksprout over the years and Neil contributed to my inspiration to become an entrepreneur. A redesign every once in a while is not only essential to keep up with the ever changing internet, but it is also smart to get a facelift from time-to-time. It makes people know you’re still there and working to make yourself and your business better. I like the redesigns Neil has shown for his site. I took down my first website because it was too primitive. Now I’ve gone through 4 redesigns. Rather than keeping it down and not spreading the word, I’m going to put it up with the new, video-based content, and start going from there. What redesigns have the rest of you added to your sites?

    • Thank you, nice to know you like it. It is a good idea to change things up everyone once in a while to keep old readers interest and attract new ones. That sounds like an interesting idea, I hope it works out for you.

    • I am glad that Neil shares with us all his thoughts because this way everybody can improve his website. Reading this post I learned that is better to keep it simple and go only with the most productive things. There is no need to have a lot of social media buttons or other stuff if only one of them really makes the difference. Go with the one that can help you the most.

  3. I love the changes. The soft yellow in the background makes it much easier to read. I am going to do this on my personal site!

    Like you, I redesign my site a lot. I believe you should never stop making slight adjustments for visitors.

  4. Great post Neil, I like how you went into detail over even the minute stuff, definitely seems to have made a difference.

  5. I love the angle of this post – what I learned about YOU. And definitely applaud the use of cookies for that first-time visitor screen. I visit a lot of blogs or websites that don’t seem to take advantage of that simple tech tweak and I get annoyed with a pop-up/filter page every time I visit. Great post!

    • Thank you Liz,

      Definitely, it takes time to find what works best for your site, but there are a few things that seem to generally work for most. I feel everyone should take the time to update and improve there blogs to get the most out of them.

  6. Neil, I’m sure this will not be your last update. Hopefully there will be more in the days and years to come.
    You mentioned that you get tons of mails every day with questions and sales pitches. I was wondering if you have purchased anything from someone selling via email and why. This can be your next post if you like the concept. What made me buy form an email sales pitch.

  7. I must say that you did a great study about your readers and visitors plus I liked the changed background color. :)

  8. Hey Neil You really had a lot of experience i am also experimenting with some new designs hope I will also learn something from that…..You really have good analytics skill.

    Eagerly waiting for the next one….

  9. Neil also If you put some button to take visitors to a random post will be helpful to your new readers like me….consider experimenting this one also :)

  10. Neil, does your new course identify traffic growth ideas outside of just blogging?

  11. Neil:

    Great post and a great follow up to the original post you did on this.

    One question – why did you chose yellow for a background?

    It does compliment the green header (one of the problems with using green – not much goes with it.)…but yellow psychologically tests as one of the weakest colors credibility wise in the B2B or B2C marketplace.

    That’s why “Big Blue” is well…Big Blue.

    Your thoughts?

    Patrick

  12. The change in color is good. But I liked the grey one more. Please change it back.

  13. Thanks again ! As a director in a small webmarketing company, I consider your blog as a online university to keep me up to date and train my seo and marketing team !
    I have cleaned my inbox from a lots of subscription lately to avoir information overload, but you will stay on the top Neil !
    BTW, I have installed crazy egg on my site last week and , its impressive !

  14. now that’s gangsta !
    Of all the data, the gray and yellow bg split test results were very eyeopening. :)

  15. Neil-Just wanted to thank you for this blog. I feel like every Blog I have read gives me GREAT things to think about that help me in my business. Massage therapists are generally not the most tech savvy, and the things I have learned from your blogs have really given me some great ways to stay ahead of the game in my market. I am starting a new business next year, and I know your tips will help me greatly. So just showing my gratitude to you today!

  16. The top commenters widget is a great tool to stirring up social conversation and getting more exposure for the readers. I also took color into consideration and it was one of the first things I thought of, I went to highlight the hyperlinks in making them green. These are great tips and thanks for the great content and useful ideas.

    • Definitely, it is always beneficial to interact with your readers. Color may seem like a small thing but it makes the world of difference. With the right color your followers will be able to stay on your site much longer.

  17. What I like most about your blog is that it has a minimalism site design. It is not cluttered with adds and a bunch of other distraction stuff..The site focuses on the content. And because of this I usually come back. You were right about how I get to your site. I always come via email and twitter…..But because of your simplicity and content I am an easy sale, once i finish some stuff for my site I am getting your product. I haven’t bought it yet because I don’t want to get distracted from what I need to accomplish now. But I am excited about the quick sprout pro. I hope it is as good as the content you put on your site. I have seen so many different traffic gimmicks trying to get my money and I have a feeling you wont let me down ..thanks for everything

    • I like to keep everything simple. From my writing to my blog, I feel readers learn more and focus better when there is less to distract them. When you do get the chance, definitely give it a try. There is certainly a ton a useful content included, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

  18. I like the color change a lot. It’s subtle but noticeable. What tool do you use to display the e-mail form to 1st-time visitors?

  19. Quick question you put this in the post

    “You don’t really care to find new blog posts through categories. Do to this there is a “most popular posts widget” in the sidebar, which you tend to prefer”

    But isnt it true that Google likes to see the navbars at the top of your page and that the words in the nav bar should be categories related to keywords you want to rank for?

  20. Thanks for this excellent tutorial. It always amazes how even small changes will make a difference in your traffic. You didn’t mention CommentLuv. I recently added that to my site. I notice that when I leave comments on blogs that have this WordPress plugin, too, that I’m getting more traffic from their sites as people click on my latest blog post title which is listed under my comment.

  21. Thanks Neil and I love the new design a lot.

  22. I am glad you change your comment section I hate the fancy ones. and many of todays bloggers dont get that..

    for example. I notice Shoemoney change his comments to the facebook comments and now only 1-2 people comment compare to 100. big mistake.

    I too was thinking of removing the “subscribe to comments” option, but thanks to your research I dont want to loose 26% of traffic.

    BTW your sales letter is to long you should make it short and sweet.

  23. Nice post,
    Trying to learn from your mistakes and experience :)

  24. I’m in the process of a major overhaul of my site(s) and this post will be a model for my first redesign. Thank you for all of the relevant and very useful information!

  25. Hey Neil! I thought the background color changed… I like these types of posts. It teaches us, which is nice for us. And it emphasizes the importance of feedback/data-driven decision-making, which is nice for you ;).

    I have wondered, though, why don’t you put any sort of opt-in form or call-to-action in the footer?

    • I always try to provide something that my readers can learn from. Which is why I mostly write about what I have personally learned from.

      Maybe I will in the next redesign. ;)

  26. Neil, thanks so much for this detailed post! I had been noticing the changes and wondering how and why you decided to make them and presto! voila! The answers to my question.

    I love the changes and you’ve encouraged me to make some of my own. I have a website that’s too “busy” and another that’s too complex. I’ve also got a business model that I’m re-thinking based on your comment about traffic from QuickSprout to your two businesses.

    I’m wondering: how do you manage opt ins/lists? Many lists (based on where people opt in) or just one? If one, do you code to track origination of the subscription?

    Food for thought and experimentation. Thanks again.

  27. Pretty freaking kewl write up. I liked this post a lot. However, you have to tell me…why/who chose snot yellow? Was that the only “calm” choice? Regardless, I honestly never thought about about the gray color before. The quicksprout “green” bar is what I visually remember the most next to your black and white “About me” picture. Kudos to ya mate on your growth.

  28. This is an excellent post. While my blog doesn’t have the traffic yet for analytics to mean a whole lot, this is the kind of analysis I would eventually love to do. I imagine many of these thoughts are relevant for any blog, but each blog will have different characteristics as well. So I encourage everyone to run similar experiments as Neil!

  29. Hi Neil,

    Thank for a great post. I am curious about the 3rd thing you learned:

    “By adding a top commenters widget I was able to increase the amount of comments on Quick Sprout by 79%.”

    I am wondering whether the impact was more about encouraging repeat interactions or creating new ones?

    Of that 79% how much of that was a commenter returning and making a new comment and how much of it was new commenters?

  30. I love this post, it’s excellent. Yep color, affects the mood of the readers, so it helps to choose the right background color. The buttons stuff is also a very good idea…Thank you more and more, Neil.

    • It may not seem like a big deal, but small things like color have a large impact. If you don’t like the color you are looking at you aren’t likely to stay and continue looking for very long. There are a bunch off little tricks that help. You just have to be creative and take risks. Then learn from your followers what works best and what they still need.

  31. Hi,

    You mentioned nicely what all things we should include on our website and one thing is very true “”first impression is the last impression”” if we will follow these words to our work then i think definitely we will get the success in our work. We should design and add these types of pics which all attract visitor on it.

  32. i like the color and the feel of your website. It is very user friendly and of course has loads of valuable content.

  33. I think the change of background color.

    It is such a tiny change, but it tells me how much you care about your readers.

    • I care a lot about my readers. If they don’t like what I am doing then they won’t come back, so I am constantly taking into consideration what works best for them and potentially new readers as well.

  34. How awesome can you be? @_@

    Not only did you make your redesign pleasing for your avid readers, but did it for potential business partners as well. I am one of your brand advocates for quicksprout, Neil, and this just made me like to visit your blog more.

    • I appreciate the kind words. I try and make the changes so that they benefit my readers but my business as well. Thanks, that is great. Feel free to visit as often a you like. ;)

  35. The new changes are cool ! And please, DON’T stop redesigning. It would be boring.

  36. How to study effectively :

    Hey there, I really enjoyed your post. I’m gonna make a few changes on my site, now that I have read this post, such as implementing twitter and Facebook sidebars. Thanks for the tips!

  37. I love your site!

    Id love to add a squeeze page to my site that redirects to a post page. How do you do that? Thanks!
    Jena

  38. I love how involved you are with the user experience, you really want us to be happy ;) Good choice on the new background colors, my eyes feel great!

  39. Thanks Neil,
    Change is good every once in a while. The changes you made, especially the light yellow background and the homepage were very timely.

    I enjoyed the post and was able to install a new plugin [sharebar] on my site as a result of reading this post.

    • No problem,
      You have to change it up every once in a while or you may risk becoming boring or outdated. Glad you think so.

      Happy to hear you were able to take these tips and make something that is useful on your own site.

  40. Number one takeaway I got is to always be analytical about everything. If you don’t track specific metrics, you are just redesigning based on your desire to have something new and different, instead of trying to improve the quality of the experience for your users.

    Just curious…how strong was the metric for blog commenting skewed towards the stripped down commenting system vs. disqus?

  41. A very informative and nice post Niel. Even I wish to add this landing page to fetch some emails and increase my readership, but I always forget.
    Hope your post will encourage me to take it more seriously this time and put up a landing page for my blog.

  42. There is no hard and fast rule for social media. Because Americans use more Twitter and the rest of the world is only on facebook.

  43. OverStock Coupon Codes :

    I guess adding the top commentators widget is a move that works for all.

  44. The actual genius of this blog, which is actually a part of the standard genius of you and Quick Sprout, is that it’s totally aimed at me. Once again, you do not make anything you do on here about you. You find ways to work yourself and your services in, but first and foremost you’re offering me value and service…

    Step 1) Build a relationship

    You definitely practice what you preach.

    Thanks Neil!

  45. Yeah I heard about the colors and the effects they can have, some colors make you even change decisions and think positively. I’ll try to find out more and email you the results later ;)

    • It is pretty cool how something like color can make all the difference. Try it out and see what sort of results you get. Definitely let me know how it works out for you.

  46. Neil sir, you are really a great writer with a present wit, I appreciate it. Your approach is simple so every new blogger can reach you and learn from you. Keep in touch.

    • Thanks Shailesh,

      I try to keep it simple so that my information is quick and to the point as well as easy to understand. Thank you for letting me know what you think.

  47. Gonna try out these tricks. Thanks for sharing Neil

  48. Hi Neil,

    This is a very helpful post. Ever since i switch to a premium theme, i am trying to unclutter my blog as i noticed some of my readers do not click on the options such as categories. It’s important to fine-tune our designs to cater for better user experiences. Thanks for sharing.

  49. Using of sidebar with proper color and clear text gives some profitable result. Put your liking topics in sidebar is a smart move. Thanks.. for tips.

  50. I’m not trying to piss anyone off, but there are some folks in this forum that are Top Contributor and have really high answer levels like level 9 and 10. How do you guys do it? I know you can only answer a certain number of questions in a day.

  51. I have also clicked on your two companies when I have first visited this blog and liked your writing. Now I came to know why you have found two companies which focus on data analysis even there are popular solution already available in the market.

  52. Good idea Neil! I like to implement the sharing buttons more.

  53. This is remarkable Neil, You do really care about your blog readers. This is like meeting a secret admirer who you also like. Stay cool man.

  54. 5. on your list says you only use Twitter but noticed you have the social floating WP plugin?

    Your site is one of the best aesthetically pleasing blogs which is one of the reasons I keep coming back along with killer precise executable content. Is the Yellow “calm” background doing better? Didn’t even think he needed to be changed it was great before.

  55. Neil, I have one praise and one question.

    First, damn good job on experimentation. Your blog is one of the few blogs that keeps changing in terms of widgets. I keep wondering why you move around things and now I can understand the testing activity behind every change. It is so interesting to see that even small changes like social buttons do wonders in terms of engagement. And real thanks for sharing such a detailed post.

    My question is around the ‘yellow’ background color. Most of the user experience testing predicts that grey and white are the best colors to have in background. I have read it somewhere. I guess that’s the reason why Yahoo and Google have grey and white background respectively. I am surprised that you are changing from grey to yellow. Any specific reason for this? One more question to add – These kind of changes (I mean BG changes) are almost tangible things right. How can one measure effectiveness of such things? To be specific, please explain how do you measure the effectiveness of this particular BG change in QuickSprout in terms of visitor experience, visitor engagement and your goal for this website (let’s assume as clicks to crazyegg website or signup for your traffic system)

    Thanks,
    Sam

  56. A very nice post among the posts you have done so far.
    I like to mention reason why i use to visit your site daily
    Will search for seo post whether you have posted newly.
    The next is your hardwork
    shortly, your blog is one of the model for my blog. please visit my blog and share your thoughts Neil
    blog.satvatinfosol.com

  57. I love the changes and you’ve encouraged me to make some of my own. I have a website that’s too “busy” and another that’s too complex. I’ve also got a business model that I’m re-thinking based on your comment about traffic from QuickSprout to your two businesses.

    • Simple and informative is the best way to go in my opinion. You have to keep what is necessary and loose the rest. Good luck simplifying your sites. Let me know if you have any questions as you go.

  58. Hey Neil,

    I’m curious to know if you noticed a drop off in overall readership with the introduction of the splash page?

  59. I think I need to redesign my website too. It is concentrating on too many things at a time. Thanks for the excellent post.

  60. I always end up doing redesigns. I used to rearrange my room as a kid every 2 weeks!

  61. You have had a lot of success with your revamps by watching and following what and how your readers consume your blog. I like how you were able to figure out more user friendly ways to get people more socially active with your site. With all the new plugins this is something that can be easily done, such as removing the categories and including most read post or “popular posts” You have made a great blog example of what works.

  62. Hi,

    I have my own blog and removed all the tags and categories links when I looked at my analytics and saw that nobody really clicked those links.

    They just added clout to the website and no real benefit, the only links the people use to look for the categories are the ones on the menu and on the breadcrumbs.

    But when I see number 5 you leave me thinking should I also remove some of the social media icons and leave just the ones people use? I think I’ll go back to my analytics to see if they’re worth the space.

  63. Although your post was outstanding but i must say always redesign your web or any product step by step because when you redesign whole product then some of your customers thinks that this company is different because they remembering you with your design rather then name

  64. New design of your blog looks beautiful, because it is the good compare to the previous design. Clams yellow background looks good as a blog’s background. I want to say that you have perfectly and nicely redesigned your blog.

  65. Nicely done! I’m curious where you got that RSS “bar” that appears at the end of every post. Is that part of Quicksprout too?

  66. An old adage says, you know what you are through the people you deal with, and this rings true. Redesigns are similar to creating fresh, relevant and informative blog articles on a periodic basis, the same readers would want to see from the authors. This one’s great Neil.

  67. I read on the other day about how the color used on the websites can affect its success! And guess what… light green is the best colour to use! :P did you know about it Neil?

  68. Hello Neil,

    I have included many of your tips in my blog network…but can’t activate that precious plugin showing Current/All time/Neil’s Favorites….The plugin is outdated and not working with the newer versions of WordPress!

    thanks for sharing your experience…

  69. hey neil,
    yeah aesthetic counts much. you have explained very well all the important point. l really liked this fabulous post.

    Thanks.
    Matt

  70. Hello,
    A redesign every once in a while is not only essential to keep up with the ever changing internet, but it is also smart to get a facelift from time-to-time. It makes people know you’re still there and working to make yourself and your business better.

  71. This one just makes it easier to read. Changes can often be quite subtle, but they help to keep things fresh for your visitors.

  72. I’ve read a few good stuff here. Certainly price bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you set to create such a great informative website.

  73. I’ve been trying everything and unfortunately they won’t work. I tried posting a playlist in my wordpress in the ‘Pages’ section but the playlist won’t show. Can someone please help with this?.

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