Website Critique – The Invisible Office

A couple of weeks ago, we announced our new website critique service to help businesses get better results from their websites. And today, we’re excited to present you with a critique of Erica Cosminsky’s newly launched site, The Invisible Office!

Erica just launched her site a couple of weeks ago (congrats!) and wanted our feedback on how to improve the site and create an engaged community around her new book, The Invisible Office.

But, she doesn’t want to just hear from us – she’d love your feedback too, so be sure to take a look and then share your thoughts in the comments.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in, shall we?

 

First Impressions

The overall look of the site is good – it’s clean and professional. It’s easy to navigate and find information. It has a nice blog and offers ways for readers to engage with you through social media channels – all very good things!

Although you’ve got a lot going for you with the site, I think it can do a better job of conveying your style and communicating your overall message. You have a positive and generous personality, so you need a site that matches that!

The first thing I notice about the site is that it’s very “heavy”. The blockiness of the design and dark colors make it feel very closed in. When I hear the words “Invisible Office”, I would expect to see something a bit lighter and more airy.

I think the red is a bit harsh for the blue that you’re using. I would use the red a bit less or perhaps ditch the red bars for every widget and section header. It really weighs the site down.

I would consider re-working the header a bit. The current font makes the site look a bit amateurish. Also, italic fonts are also a bit hard on the eyes, so I don’t think that’s the best option for pulling your readers in. Why not mirror the font on the front of your book?

The tagline is a little misleading to me. In reading it, I don’t really have a clear picture of what the site is about until I dug deeper into the copy.

Instead of “The Art of Leveraging Unique People in Business”, maybe you could try something like “How I built a successful business in three short months using virtual contractors” or “Your guide to building a successful virtual business.” I think those options are a little stronger and give a better glimpse into what the site is about. Or, at the very least, you should mirror the tagline you have on your book.

Speaking of the book, where do I buy it? I see the sidebar has a place for you to get a free chapter of the book, which is a great thing. But, what if I wanted to buy it right now? I don’t see a place to do that.

Make it easy for people to buy your book and give that prominent placement on the site. I would consider having a “Buy Book” menu in the main navigation and perhaps a button that you could use elsewhere also.

If the book is not yet available, then you need to say that. Include a banner or something in the header that says “Book coming in August 2011!”.

Home Page

 

I think your Author Bio on the homepage is great! In fact, I would consider making that first paragraph more prominent. That paragraph of the Author bio really tells your story and what the site is all about. I would lead with that and then go a little deeper into how you did it. People connect with stories and I think that one is a winner.

That said, I wouldn’t call the copy on the home page the “Author Bio”. Simply use that copy to introduce the book. Maybe call it “About the Book” instead. At the end of that paragraph, I would add a line such as “The Invisible Office gives business owners a close-up look at my journey from employee to entrepreneur and how I used virtual contractors to make it happen.”

Your home page copy does not need to be very long. It just needs to tease readers with a snapshot and then encourage them to read more about you and the book on another page. I think the copy at the top of the page could be eliminated or pushed to the About page.

It appears you want to make the blog a prominent part of the site, so why not make the blog content show up on the home page? I think more of a blog format on the homepage could be beneficial to you. Or, at the very least, have a couple of articles featured on the home page. I know you have this in the sidebar, but it’s buried at the bottom and people will likely miss it.

Back to the sidebar – I would suggest adding a line or two about signing up to get the free chapter. People are skeptical of giving out their email address, even to get something for free. So, tell people what you’re going to do with their email and what they can expect after they download the free chapter. Otherwise, they will likely take their free chapter and then unsubscribe. Give them a reason to stay on the list.

I suggest removing the “Home” bar on the home page. Because that’s the first place you land when visiting the site, people know that it’s the home page without needing to spell it out. You should be able to make that change pretty easily in WordPress.

Navigation

The site is pretty basic and easy to navigate in general, but I think making some small tweaks will clean it up a bit and make it even better.

I would consider making the “About” tab be the next item after the home link in the top navigation. That’s where people tend to go first when they visit a site, so make it easier for them to find it by putting that first.

The white thin font against the light blue in the top navigation bar is a little difficult to see. I would consider making the font a little bolder or using a different color background there.

I don’t think you need the Navigation menu in the right sidebar. I think that space could be better utilized with something else, or perhaps even nothing at all. Sometimes, white space is your friend.

I did notice, however, there are items in that right navigation sidebar that are NOT in the top menu. In fact, I almost missed these pages altogether because of this. You have a nice resources page, so I would promote that to the top navigation menu.

I think the Disclosure link could go in the footer. I’m not sure what the Account Details and Login links are for. Those pages don’t offer up much information, so I would encourage you to better explain those and the link names so people know what they are for.

The post calendar doesn’t serve much purpose to me. I think if people want to look at older posts, they would rather look by topic category or at a monthly archive.

I see you have a Topics box in the footer – I would rather see this in the sidebar instead. The same goes for the blog comments and twitter stream (but why is it called Tweet Blender?). Both of those are more useful than the calendar and second layer of navigation.

A few other things to note:

  • The Skype button doesn’t appear to work in Chrome. I get a strange error message.
  • The facebook link takes you to the Twitter page.
  • I don’t think comments are needed on the homepage. I would consider taking that off and leaving it for the blog.

About Page

I love the photo on your About page – it’s a nice, professional photo that make people want to get to know you. Good work!

I think you can sharpen up the copy on this page a bit by pulling in some of the info from the home page.

I would suggest making the header here say “About the Author”. Otherwise, the reader might not know if this is supposed to be about the site, the book, the author or all of the above. If you want the page to serve as your bio, then make sure readers know that when they arrive at the site.

Blog

First, let me say you are doing a fantastic job of getting out there and posting on a regular basis – kudos on that!

I think it’s nice that you have two full posts on the blog page and have additional post excerpts on the bottom of the page. That looks great.

The blog titles on the blog page appear to have pink text in a red box; but when you click on an individual blog post, the text changes to white. I would recommend using the white text on the blog landing page as well – that would be easier to see and read. Even better would be to eliminate the red block altogether. I don’t think that adds to the design of the site at all.

The Bottom Line

 

You’re off to a good start with the website, Erica. Making some adjustments to the site to freshen it up a bit and make it match your style and personality will go a long way to helping you develop a thriving website that really shines.

Now, It’s Your Turn

 

Alright folks, now it’s your turn to weigh in. What did we miss? What else do you think Erica should do to amp up her site? Show us your marketing chops and share your thoughts in the comments. We welcome your feedback (and so will Erica)!

About Laura Click

Laura Click is founder and CEO of Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based integrated marketing firm. In addition to being the lead blogger on the Blue Kite blog, Laura is a proud Mizzou alum, avid runner and dog lover. You can connect with Laura on Twitter at @lauraclick, on LinkedIn or Google Plus.

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  • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky

    Laura,

    First thank you for taking a look at my website. This is the first website I’ve had professional designed and I know they will enjoy your feedback as well. I’m talking to him about the red today and what we can to do lighten it up.

    The header is a work in progress. I have a logo that is supposed to go there and the tagline was a filler that accidentally got included in the image. That will be first on my list of things to get fixed.

    I’ve been playing with the idea of making the blog the home page. All of my other sites are service based so this is very different for me. What if I moved the home page content to the about page and moved the blog to the homepage? That fixes a number of the things you talked about, correct?

    The social media icons have been something that I’ve been working on too. The Skype Icon works sometimes and not others. It works in Chrome on Linux on my computer but may not in Windows it seems. I may just have to remove it and find something else to balance it out. I fixed the Facebook Icon.

    Lots more to work it seems. Launching a new website seems to be like raising a small child.

    • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

      Hi Erica,

      Thank you so much for sharing your comments! I know it can be hard to open yourself up to feedback like this, so I want to commend you for being brave enough to do so. I think your site will be better for it.

      I really think you’ve got a good start on the site. Making some of these small tweaks will only improve it.

      I’m glad to hear you have a custom header in the works. I think using the book in the header might be a good choice.

      I think using the blog as the home page might be a good idea. If you go that route, I would just make sure you have some copy on the home page that gives a quick overview of what the site is about. It could be incorporated in the header or be a short blurb in the sidebar.

      What’s the benefit of the Skype icon? I’ve not used it, so I’m not sure. Wouldn’t the person have to download Skype anyway? Maybe instead, you simply let people know what your Skype username is. Just a thought.

      You’r right – launching is a new site is a lot of hard work and it never seems done! I remember feeling that way when I launched mine. There will always be tweaks that need to be made. You’ll get there. The good news is that you’re already starting off at a nice place.

      Be sure to let us know if you make any changes and what kind of results you get from it!

      • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky

        One thing I forgot to mention, the book comes with online access to videos, worksheets that you have to log in to see. That’s why the right hand side navigation is there. Perhaps I should just limit that navigation to what you actually have to log in to see.

        • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

          Ah! Very cool. Promote the HECK out of that on the site. Let people know that you’re giving away all sorts of goodies with the book, but make sure people don’t see links to that. Only make that content available after people purchase the book. There are different ways you can do that – put the link to that in the book, or take people to a page with that information after they buy it.

  • http://kennysilva.net Kenny Silva

    Great review here, Laura. You went very, very deep, which is awesome.

    My main points were the overall design, tagline, and the email signup call.

    Design – I’m no designer so take this all at face value. With a name like invisible office, I expect to see a very light design, minimal copy on the front page. Airy colors and lots of white space.

    Tagline – I’m not sure if the current tagline really demonstrates what you are. I think you could tweak it a bit to divulge a little more about what you do.

    Email Call – I wouldn’t ask for the person’s name, as its just one more box and one more barrier to entry. Also, I’d put the box somewhere more visible. Perhaps you could use smaller social media icons so that it would move above the fold?

    All that said, I think you’ve done great. Your blog is fantastic and is really accomplishing the goal of getting you out there and establishing you as an expert. I’m so green when it comes to VAs and that whole space, so I appreciate what you’re doing. I can’t wait to read the book!

    • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky

      Kenny,

      Thanks for your feedback. When this site was first designed it has a cloud background rather than the creme. I’m thinking about having him flip it back.

      I stopped what I was doing and made the social media icons smaller. It seemed like the Skype button wasn’t working for anyone else so I just removed it. And I removed the Name too. I hate that Aweber defaultly adds the name. That got both above the fold and I have to say I think the SM icons look better smaller. Do you think I should move the search box down? The Designer just put it there as a spaceholder I believe.

      Working on the tagline. It’s part of an image so I’ve got to get the psds to change it. :)

      • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

        Great points, Kenny! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

        I think the change in social icons looks great, Erica! Removing the name is good. And yes, I agree moving the search box down would be a good idea. It’s not the most important thing.

        I can’t wait to hear what you come up with regarding the tagline!

  • http://travisrobertson.com Travis Robertson

    Great reviews, everyone! Kudos to Erica for being brave enough to undergo the microscope treatment – not easy, but I’m proud of you. And, Laura, what a fantastically in-depth review!

    I’m not going to rehash what’s already been since I really agree with it. There are a few things that I would personally consider doing to the design in addition to what’s above:

    1. On the home page, I would not show any of your posts in full. It goes back to the “heaviness” feel of the site that others mentioned.

    2. There should be more margin in the main body of content to pull it away from the borders. It’s a super-quick fix for the designer. It’s currently set to “0px” and should be changed to “10px” on the post div.

    3. On the headers, I would remove the shadow effect on the font and change the font. It currently uses a default font that some browsers may have difficulty with which will cause your site to display different on different machines. I’d opt for a more web-safe font and probably one that’s san-serif like arial or verdana since they are “lighter” fonts. Or Lucida Grande. Again, keep it light. Shadows make things appear bulky and heavy.

    4. Reduce the font size of your headers – it’s weighing in at 36px – I’d drop it to 30px. It will also help when you add margin to prevent the header from wrapping too much.

    5. Remove the background entirely from the header. You will have instances where you have longer titles. When you do, it will be very heavy looking since the background will double in size. It gives you more creative freedom with your titles as well since you’re not required to keep them too short.

    6. I would remove all of the “block” headers entirely – even on the side and not just change their color. I would replace it with an underlined feel. You could use a color for the underline to give it some pizzaz and pop. :)

    7. The font in the footer is too dark. I would look at lightening it up and maybe even making it all white or a very light gray.

    8. I would also change the font in the body text to a sans-serif font as well. For the same reason: serif fonts are heavy by nature because they have more bells and whistles. You want lightweight. It’s a super easy fix. Use the same font you choose for the header. :)

    9. Finally (phew!), there are a lot of colors on your site and not all of them coordinate with each other. This can be a distraction to the reader since it’s sends a subliminal message about the quality of the content – “if the colors don’t match, what does that say about the content?” I know you’re content is good – I just want to make sure people focus on it and not the colors. It just feels very busy.

    All-in-all, you’re really heading in the right direction! I love the content and what you’re doing with this. It’s an area of huge fascination for me. Please keep it up!

    The benefit here is that all of these changes will take roughly 10 minutes. :)

    Let me know if you have any questions. I hope I wasn’t too blunt. If I was, I blame my fever. :)

    Cheers,
    Travis

    • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

      Wow, Travis. This is fantastic. Thanks so much for taking the time to give such detailed feedback. You’re right – these are easy fixes that really shouldn’t take long at all.

      I agree whole-heartedly with your comments and appreciate you delivering them in a far more technical way than I could! This is great!

      • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky

        Wow Travis. Thanks for the indepth look and nice check list. I just gave up and printed this whole post off so I can go down the list. :)

  • http://toddlyden.com todd

    I’m with Travis- the blog component needs to be deemphasized. I thought it was a blog at first pass. If you are highlighting the book, highlight the book. A traditional landing page might be better or perhaps a popup? As much as I loath them…

    It was disconcerting that I had to go a few in to really get the sense of what the site is about. Laura suggested having copy moved to the home page to explain and I think it is absolute necessity.
    I like the blog posts, but I get the sense that treating the site as a blog site going to confuse folks. It did for me.

    Design wise, I would not argue with others. My only suggestion is the red- Laura was right… it does not flow well with the blues

    • http://TheInvisibleOffice.com Erica Cosminsky

      Todd,

      After Laura first reviewed the site, I decided to try the blog on the home page for a few days. Obviously no one seems to like that. I’ve put the home page back up and if you’d be so kind I’d love to see what you think about the actual home page. I’m working on some of Laura’s suggestions on the copy.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

        I think with the blog on the homepage idea would be to not include the full posts, but just the headline and a small excerpt. Just a thought.

        And Todd – thanks for weighing in! I can always count on you to share your thoughts. I appreciate it!

  • http://www.joeystrawn.com Joey Strawn

    Okay, let me start off by saying that I had a whole page of notes and tidbits to throw into the rink here, but after reading Kenny’s comment and Travis’ awesome in-depth, I’ve got nothing new to contribute. I will say with no bias whatsoever that the cover of Erica’s book looks amazing and the person who designed it was probably amazingly talented and awesome (not biased at all).

    Laura, you gave a great review and I’ve got to agree with travis on just about everything he said. Erica, I think you’re off to a great start and even if you only follow half of the great advice given here, you’ll do great things.

    Here’s to the future of The Invisible Office!

    • http://flybluekite.com Laura Click

      Thanks for stopping by, Joey! I appreciate it. And yes, Kenny and Travis did a great job of picking up the things I missed.

      I think the book cover looks great and I can tell you are NOT biased at all! ;)

      Speaking of the book cover, Erica, I would consider designing the header to include the book cover in it. That way, it would show up on every page. Just a thought.