Friday, June 3, 2011

Flash Forward: Help me write the future of my blog

I've been thinking a lot about this here blog.  I'll say this upfront: I love writing it and will continue to do so, 5 days a week as consistently as possible and sometimes I'll get back to it on weekends, too.  I'll say this, too: I want to be read by many people.  I can be patient, knowing it takes time to build a following, but I wonder if I can follow the conventional tactics to bring in readers: hosting giveaways, building a twitter following, creating series to invite guest bloggers sharing the same or similar content that has been seen all over the web, and so on.  And then a couple of things coalesced today that pushed my thinking a bit about what to do in this space.  Here's what happened.

1.  A lovely blogger with a huge audience announced yesterday that she will be starting a series called Now...and Then, a series which is very much like the Flashback Fridays I've been doing for months.  I'm sure she's never heard of me and happened upon the same idea that I had when sharing a flashback of her own.   The first post was today, and you can read it here.  Fun, right?  But it begs the question: is this the end of my series?  At least, the end of guest bloggers in my series?

2.  The New York Times ran an article slamming the online design magazine trend, which you can read here.  Okay, maybe "slamming" is a little too strong, but the piece definitely painted the women at the helms of the 4 "top" publications (Lonny, Rue, High Gloss, and Matchbook) as competitive and catty, and the publications themselves as lacking original voices and content while mimicking print publications instead of creating new modes within the new medium.

3.  Grace Bonney, founder of designsponge and one of the "grandmommys" of design blogging, wrote an intelligent, thoughtful, and on-point response to the NY Times article, which you can read here.  I appreciated Grace's honesty, both about the truth of the Times article and about its flaws, and one of her main themes resonated with something I have always understood: that it is the content that counts.  Produce good content, and people will want to read it.  Of course, you need to help them find your content, whether you use the now-commonplace techniques or invent your own, but solid content is the bedrock of any publication, no matter what form it takes.

Fairly early in the life of this blog, I read a post by a very established blogger talking about how to build your blog.  It was very useful, and felt a bit like the friendly senior showing the freshmen the ropes.  But I also remember one tip that struck me as odd: to write at least one original post a week.  I remember thinking, what else would you write?  If I'm writing it, isn't it kind of original content right there?  Now that I read hundreds of design blogs, I understand what she meant: lots of projects and pictures get shared again and again, and there can be a sense that nothing is new; this was also a major criticism in the Times.  I don't totally see a problem with this on the blogs, especially since most people do put their own spin on an image or idea when they share it, but still, I pride myself on never repeating an idea I've seen elsewhere. I've made the mistake of "saving" content, only to find that someone else got to posting a product or an idea before I did, and then I won't post it, feeling it has been done.  Lesson learned.  Whatever the subject matter, I still think that every post should teach you something or reveal something to the reader, and if it doesn't, well, you're better off not posting that day.  My Mother In Law once sent me a little article about blogging, and one of the obvious (but not obvious) tips was that every post should have a point.  (This one does.  I'm getting there).

Now that I have a better sense of this blog and the rhythms of daily blogging, I'm focusing more on my voice and the mission of this blog, and I'd like to make some deliberate decisions about the type of content I share here.  To do this, I'd like your help.  I'd like to give you a little look at how I approach the content here, and I hope you will give me some input.  What would you like to see that isn't currently here? What would you like to see more of? What types of posts do you not finish, or maybe not even open in the first place?  I love having some very dedicated followers (thank you, Kate, for waking up wondering if you would see my ottoman yesterday!), but I know my readership is not currently large enough to warrant a formal survey, so please just share your thoughts in the comments or email me at heather[at]

Each week, I try to offer a balance of different types of posts.  Generally speaking, I try to make sure that I am using enough ideas, enough words, and enough pictures.  Beyond that, the loose categories I try to cover include:

- My own projects (in my house and for clients) and how-to
- DIY ideas and inspiration
- Design process/ questions
- "eye candy" images, but used as reference to a specific design question or challenge
- Musings on the place design holds in our culture

And then there are the series, which are currently loose in schedule, though could be more pinned down if that is something people would like:

- Flashback Fridays (weekly--if it stays)
- Vintage Finds (about bi-weekly)
And roughly monthly:
- Art You Can Afford
- Art You Can Make
- Reader Design Dilemmas

With the goal of providing more of a "service," I have also considered including:
- Design book reviews
- Local resource write ups, like store profiles
- one classic design element in two settings (i.e. cow print in a modern AND traditional room)
- a "green corner," focusing on sustainable materials, projects, and applications

So.  What do you think?  What should go, stay, be newly minted?

Finally, How do you feel about contests?  About sponsors taking up space in the sidebar?

Now, I would also love your help spreading the word.  If you read the blog, please "follow" it.  It's getting its own facebook page soon, and I hope you will "like" that and encourage friends to "like" it.  If you see something that might interest someone you know, please share the link with them.  If you're a blogger and a regular reader, please consider adding me to your blogroll.  I'm not a natural networker, and it's this radical new thought that you readers can't know that I'd like this help if I don't ask for it, after all, it's not like you're out there thinking about my readership.  And any time you have a suggestion for improving the blog in any way, please share your thoughts!

Many thanks,


  1. heather, you produce great content. It's about getting people TO you. Keep the flash-back Fridays. They're fun. But also:

    1) are you guest blogging?
    2) are you commenting on other blogs like yours and linking back here?
    3) are you consistently linking out to other sites like you did in this post?
    4) do you have anyone linking back to you?
    5) can you contact your local paper about doing a monthly column -- will help readership?
    6) have you considered buying ad space on select popular blogs and websites to link back here?
    7) is this blog in networked blogs?
    8) have you considered doing a self-hosted blog, using, so that your URL is just I'm not a blogger user so i don't know if you can register that URL and redirect it here/mask it or not, but that will help your seo
    9) have you taken any courses on seo or read books/blogs about how it improve it?
    10) have you profiled who you WANT to read your blog and figured out what else they are reading so you can read/comment/guest blog there?

    I think you've got a great mix of content, and as you add your service line you'll bring more readers here too, and a lot of this stuff in 1-10 can be considered + about 10 other things I can tell you about via email.

  2. First, let me say that I am one of the big fans. In the past I had dabbled in design-blog-reading, and while there were lots of wonderful, beautiful blogs I found, I also found a bunch of them a little too flashy, a little too fancy, and not personal enough. I'm old fashioned - I like to see, and enjoy, the personality of the individual behind the content. That is why I'm happy to read this one.

    I scrolled through Love Your Space to see what posts I personally enjoyed the most. The step-by-step stuff gets me every time. LOVE the nursery map adventure, and yes, the ottoman. I also love Flashback Fridays, and yes, the other blog is lovely, but that feature is freakishly like Flashback Fridays. I'm annoyed. I think I love anything where I'm getting to see the inner workings of an actual house. How actual people are doing projects and approaching challenges. And how they keep their laundry room. :)

  3. I like the DIY. I might never actually try any of the projects, but I like reading about them and pretending that I'll do it. :)

    I'd also love to read more about local resources.

  4. Heather - wow - you just wrote what I have been thinking for a whole year. I started my blog in February of last year and only had about 20 followers by the end of the year (mostly family and friends). I am super uncomfortable with networking and self promotion, and hate it when bloggers are constantly screaming at their readers that they are available to be hired.
    I love the step by step things and the DIY and seeing in to your home. I love your honest and personal style of writing.
    I did get a few more followers by having a Facebook and Twitter page and by having a couple of great giveaways, but I don't ever want to have sponsors or ads on my blog, and I don't read that many blogs that do. What has worked best for me is forming real relationships and friendships with my whole blogroll, reading their blogs and posting a comment almost every day so they come and comment on mine, and finally (the one that got me the most followers), having my projects blogged about on blogs that have over 6000 readers. Send in your projects or your house pics to Made By Girl, or other blogs that have thousands of readers. You will get at least 20-50 new followers from that each time you are blogged about.
    Otherwise, know that you are not alone! Every time I look at my sad little 123 followers I wonder if I want to keep going. I make goals for myself and then push for it. I will have 200 by September, etc.. It is tough putting out new content 5 days a week, but your peeps are counting on you! Now following you...:)

  5. Hmmmm. Well, I think you are doing a good job- that's why I follow. I read you through my Google reader, though- so be aware of us doing that. We don't see the sidebars, etc.

    I disagree with doing away with posting about any original-to-you idea, just because someone just basically scooped you. The reason? I might not read their blog! Chances are, I don't. So the idea would still be fresh to me, and I hate to think I'm missing out on your good ideas.

    Flashback Fridays don't really do it for me, honestly. But I certainly won't be annoyed or leave if they stay.

    And if you do Art you can make (please do)... please don't find original art online and tell people how to knock it off. As an artist, this always makes me sad for the artist who made that art and has rights to it. Though, granted, there is no such thing as original art. That's the truth.

    If your goal is to get more readership, giveaways seem to be the way to go. I'd only consider sponsored ones, because I don't think money should be spent on a blog. If you know any Etsy artists, etc.- see if they'll throw in a product for a giveaway. Or contact companies.

    But there has to be more content than giveaways, please. :)

  6. It took me a while to find my "voice". I'm still a fairly new blogger, just over a year, but after trying on all sorts of "styles" I finally just started posting about things that make heart beat a little faster, and as a result have found people in the blogging world whose hearts feel the same! The best way to blog, in my opinion, is just to be yourself, share your world, and remember that blogging is about listening as much as about talking. I think your posts are original and thoughtful, and enjoy your projects, and have added you to my blogroll :)

  7. Hi Heather, loved reading this. You are definitely not alone, as Elizabeth mentions. All bloggers struggle with these same questions. We put so much into it, and we question how much we get out of it. But perhaps that's part of it too: we need to write it for ourselves more than necessarily for other people, right?

    For me, I started my blog as a way to stay connected to the design world, to share my ideas, and to force myself to be creative every day. I try to put up original content or at least as you mention frame it in my own perspective. I also try to put up as many DIY/my house pics as possible (but who has time to do it that often, right?). But first and foremost, I want pretty pics on my page, period. That's what I'm about, and it's not (and my style isn't) necessarily for everyone! But I'm surprised that there are so many out there that share my style. We have a little niche, it seems. I think you'll find your following by doing what you love.

    In terms of increasing your audience, the more of your own projects you can put up, the more you can get the big bloggers to pick it up. That's how my audience has steadily increased -- I got a big bump from Made By Girl, and then a few others have followed. Also (I have only done this a few times) if I feel like a post is really relevant to something I've done, I'll include a link in my comment. But it really does get a blogger to come look at your site! Works for me too. ;o)

    Thanks for the thoughtful've given us all a lot to think about.


Let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!


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