Wednesday, 29 May 2013

KOP: Common Mistakes in Website Design

In the last post in the Killer Online Platform series, I looked at the various different media you could try playing around with on your sites. So, have you started your own website yet? If not, why not?

Maybe because you were afraid of making some obvious mistakes?

Well never fear, 100FD's here!

Today I'm going to cover some of the basic mistakes many people make when first setting up their own website. They're easy enough to avoid and will keep your readers coming back.

Feature Overload:

Okay, I fully admit that for my first blog I did have the little widget that was a square of fish that followed your cursor. Why? Well, it was pretty cute. (and I wasn't sure my content was all that exciting).

In the end, these things really just clutter up your site and distract your readers away from the great content you should be providing them.

Writers are suckers for overcrowding. We like to have our books on display (obviously), and all the different writing groups we are part of, and the awards we might have won, and other people's books which we liked, and our other artistic endeavours, and the word counts for our current projects, even if we are working on ten different projects at once, and our blog roll, and, and, and... you get the point.

In website design terms, just think: more is less. More distractions, less people are going to connect and find what they are looking for. Confused reader = website fail.

You don't have to give these things up (okay, maybe some of them), but it's all about positioning and clear sign posting so people can find the good bits without being bombarded.

No Search Box:

People go to the web to get information. And when they're directed to your site, they are definitely looking for what you have to offer. So why stop them from finding it?

If you've been blogging for a while, there will be loads of information on your site, the best of which might no longer be on your first page.

Think of all those times you've read something great on a blog, then gone back but couldn't remember the title of the post just that it had a great quote from Stephen King. This is when you want a search box because it might not be covered by labels or tags.

A search box is a free widget and works without you doing anything, so why wouldn't you add it?

Finally, think about your placement. So make sure that the search box is above the fold of your website (so is on the top part that displays first).  If someone comes wanting to find something, they don't want to have to scroll through all your favourite reads just to find the search box. Give your reader what they want, and they'll keep coming back for more.

Poor Readability and Legibility:

Okay, designing your own webpage is pretty exciting and all the different theme options can go to anyone's head. However, a good interface design should grab attention but also allow your audience to actually read what you have written!

Crazy fonts, bright coloured text, strange flashy things... yes it grabs attention, but no one has a clue what you are saying. Writer fail.

If in doubt, copy the colour scheme of your favourite website. It's the sincerest form of flattery.

Poor Structure and Navigation: 

Searching a website should not be a like an epic adventure through a labyrinth, where no one knows where the required piece of information will be found.

Websites without a clear structure are frustrating. It is impossible to tell exactly how to get to the page you want, and easy to get lost on the way. And what happens when people get lost? They leave your site never to come back. They'll find the information they want somewhere else. (And if the website structure is so bad, how bad must the books be!).

Similarly, imagine trying to follow a road map where you know where you are, and where you want to finish, but everything in between is blacked out and you have to keep guessing which way to turn. What would you do to that map maker?

Even if the structure is good, if it is not clearly sign-posted then your reader isn't going to thank you either. 

Spend time physically drawing out your site map if you have to in order to make sure everything clearly links to the next page, and everything can be found with a minimum number of clicks. More clicks, more chances to click away!

Flash Pages and Heavy Images:

It's true, everyone except the English hate waiting. So if you are writing for anyone outside the British Isles, the longer they have to wait for your site to load, the more likely it is they will close your tab before they have even seen how great your page looks.

Flash intros or pages with large data images can be very catchy, but they are not SEO friendly.  This is especially true if the intro doesn't actually lead anywhere. They take too long to load and often annoy people that they waited for something that had no content.

Skip to the chase and get your page to load as fast as possible.

Just think: 'Candy is Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker'... though for webpages.


When designing a website, don't get overexcited by your own brilliance. Always keep the reader in mind.
Think what a reader coming to your page might like/hate.
Then think what you as a reader enjoy/want to murder on other people's pages.

In the end it's all about the customer experience.


To get you on the right path, go now and spend 10 minutes checking out some of your favourite websites and see what they have got going on that keeps you coming back again.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Interview with Samantha Lilly - Australian Athlete for the World Dwarf Games

Hi Everyone,
Sorry, I haven't actually got a new post for you today. Instead, I want to point you across to my interview with Sam Lilly from my work, posted on my fitness blog Personal Fitness Base Camp.

Sam in 2009 with one of her medals for swimming

Along with being a great work colleague, Sam is also one of the Australian athletes heading to the US in August to compete in the World Dwarf Games which happen every 4 years.

2009 was the first time Australia had sent any athletes, and Sam came home with 5 gold medals and a silver for swimming.

She kindly agreed to answer all my questions about the games, the Australian team, and what is involved in their training regime.

Also, the Australian team receives no funding, and it costs about $5,000 per athlete for them to attend. I'm trying to help raise funds for Sam to go, and she has listed some ideas of how anyone can help. If you have other ideas, please let me know!

Check out the interview:

ROW 80 Check-In:

I've been bad. Full stop.
But I'm going to be better!

(and I did get Sally Hunt completely edited and submit on time for the competition. Yah!).

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Quick Update, OCD Writing Challenge and ROW 80 Check In

Quick Update:
On the weekend I started re-editing Sally Hunt to submit to the Caleb Writing Competition. Does there ever come a stage when you don't look at your own past work and despair? Okay, I have to admit, I have seriously enjoyed some bits, but the beginning was not quite as good as I remembered.
So, if you have been wondering where I've been for the past few days I've been madly trying to edit the entire book when I get home from work. Have re-written a good bit of the first and fourth chapters, and fixing up typos etc all the way through. Currently still only up to chapter 11, but it is definitely getting better as I go through.
So, bear with me as I recede from sight for a few more days to get it finished. It will be great to put in a much more polished work than it was last time (which was quite a few edits ago!).
To keep you entertained while I'm busy and not posting, I've got another challenge for you!
OCD Writing Prompt:
Okay, so I mentioned last week I had signed up for pinterest to develop a photo board for my 1920s romance.
I forgot to add a warning - Pinterest is super addictive!
So, I thought I'd just go through and give you a writing prompt based on one of my favourites that popped up:
(originally pinned at:

What I want you to do is write the introduction scene for this character.
Have fun!
ROW 80 Check - In:
Have been editing lots, but not getting any of my posts done! However, for a week I'm happy with that.
Have just posted on Personal Fitness Base Camp last week's Half Marathon Training and a discussion on recovery.
And I've got one volunteer for the 8 Hour Diet, but it is still open if anyone else wants to give it a try as well! Just go to my 8 Hour Diet post and leave a comment for a free copy of the book.


Friday, 10 May 2013

KOP: Choosing Your Media

Digital Video
If he can do it, you can too! Courtesy of Keenan Milligan at stock.xchng

You're a writer, and you want to start a blog, so obviously it's going to be written, right?

Well, slow down just a bit. Written blogs are just one of many options, and a blog that is just text with nothing else is a little bit boring, even if your writing is great.

So, today I'm going to go through some of the different media options you can include in your personal branding. You can go exclusively one but I'd recommend experimenting and adding a taste of most of them for a more pleasurable and multi-sensory experience of your brand.

Written Blogs:

These are by far and away still the most popular. Why?


- They are very easy to do.
- They don't require complicated equipment, just your computer.
- It is still the medium most people think about the internet in (even if that is changing).
- Very quick and easy to get your message across.
- And as a writer, posting regularly is great practice.

However, there are some down sides to having just text:

- Chunks of text look boring, putting people off before they even start to read.
- In text it can be more difficult to connect with your reader than say with a photograph.
- People who don't speak English won't appreciate it. (And yet nearly everyone loves Gungnam Style, well maybe except me.)
- You're only appealing to readers who are visual learners. A lot of people have better recall and associations with other senses, such as hearing.
- Finally, text blogs rely on search engines such as Google, which is the largest search engine yes, but it totally ignores the other quickly growing engines. YouTube and iTunes are quickly becoming important engines through which people can find you, if you let them!

Therefore, while text is probably going to be the base of your online presence, if you try incorporating some of the following, you will find you will be more easily found and have more engaged readers. Score!


Video blogging is becoming an exciting (and not that new) way to present your information on the web. It allows your readers to really get a feel for your personality and is great for 'how to' posts. Just imagine me trying to describe to you how to do easy ballet exercise compared to just showing you?

Along with being a better way to get some messages across, it can also increase your exposure and reach. While the video can be loaded onto your blog, it is also available on YouTube. YouTube is a giant search engine and the backlink also gives your blog more authority in Google's eyes. 

The downside to vlogging for most people is that it can require spending money on equipment. Though, most people don't realise that they probably have everything they need to make a simple video. It might not be the greatest quality, but it's still a great place to start!

Vlogs can be recorded using your webcam, which is installed already on a lot of laptops these days. I didn't realise that I could use it, but ended up shooting my welcome to the Buffy Group website on mine. (Check it out at, or on my YouTube Channel). Now it is a little dark, and I think it has done weird things to my eyes, but for the first time people can get a feel for me and realise what a funny accent I really have!

You can also record reasonable videos on your smartphone, which allows you to get out and about to shoot. Background noise can be a bit of an issue and the quality is not great. However, people are watching smartphone footage all the time now. So just get out there and experiment. They don't have to be done regularly, they can just be a fun extra that you add in to give more value to your reader.

The other difficulty most people face with vlogging is they are just afraid of seeing themselves on screen. To be honest, it is pretty weird and I shoot my videos about 100 times, each time thinking 'Seriously? When did my voice get so low?' or 'Why on earth do I keep wiggling my shoulders like that?' I've also become super conscious of how much I blink. But once you get into it, it becomes rather fun.

My big suggestion is to help you relax, take a few silly ones first.

Just for your amusement, here's one I shot while I was trying to do my newsletter thank you. (if you want to see the final approved version, then you'll have to sign up for the newsletter at :D):


You probably don't need me to tell you that blog posts become a lot more interesting if you chuck in a few photographs. But I will, just in case :D

A picture tells a 1000 words. So if you are short on time, chuck in a photo!

They are great to have in among your blog text and at the beginning to help people instantly get what you are going to be talking about. However, they can also be the main point of discussion. If you can't think of anything to give your readers that day, why not give them a great image and ask them what they think about it? Or challenge them to write a short story inspired by it.

Moreover, with sites like Pinterest, this is another way to open up your readership. People are searching just for images, so if your image is labelled well, Google Image search will be sending people your way.

Some tips on photos:

I started (and still use) stock images from free websites for a lot of my posts. However, I'm being encouraged to start taking more and more of my own photographs. If you are using other people's images, you do have to be careful about copyright and appropriately sourcing your images. Just stealing them from a Google image search is not the way to go.


To be honest and upfront, this is not something I've gotten into yet. However, the buzz on the street is that this is going to be the next big thing for making a rock solid platform and getting noticed.

iTunes is another really strong search engine, and the field (compared to blogging or YouTube videos) is still rather small so its easier to stand out.

Also, being able to listen to your posts frees your readers to connect with you at times when they aren't just sitting in front of a computer. They can download your session and take you for a walk with them.

My man Pat Flynn has a series of video tutorials taking you through all the steps necessary to set up your own podcast which are well worth checking out if you're interested. (I've just sent the link to my dad who is starting out on blogging and podcasting. Go Dad! If you want to support my dad, check out his blog Life, The Universe and God. He's an Anglican minister, so knows what he's talking about when it comes to God, though I think he's still a bit hazy on the life thing :D). 

Some difficulties with podcasting:
Again, like vlogging, to do it well does take equipment, and I think that people are more forgiving of bad video footage than they are of bad sound quality. Also, unlike videos, it's not so easy to just do one little talk here and one there. People want podcasts to come out regularly and be on a consistent set of topics. Videos, on the other hand, you can make them about anything and people would be happy to watch!

However, if you love to talk, you will find people who love to listen!


I don't want you to feel overwhelmed. For a while I was trying to do absolutely everything and it just made me feel stressed. This is a project for a couple of years, not a couple of days.

And don't forget that these do not always need to be done in addition to your blog posting. Videos and podcasts can be uploaded and linked to from your blog and make up legitimate posts. They just add more interest and get you much better search results. And hey, what more can you really want from the internet than that?

Anyone got any other great tips for using multimedia? 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Quick ROW 80 Check-In

Quick ROW 80 Check in as I will be posting my next Killer Online Platform post later tonight (would post it now, but then you would miss out on the video of me being silly, which I think is worth waiting for, I just don’t have it saved on my work computer :D.)

This week is going better than last week, thank God.

Monday did my Personal Fitness Base Camp post updating on my Half Marathon training (week 3 down and dusted). Included my findings on the hot issue of treadmill vs. trail – should you be running outside.

I also posted my ROW 80 update here on 100FD.

Tuesday I posted on Buffy and God – The Blog, looking at who you can trust, basically, God of course.

Yesterday I finally posted my review of the 8 Hour Diet at PFBC. I’m looking for guinea pigs who want to test the diet for two weeks in exchange for a free copy of the book. I’ve already got one person hooked in. Maybe you’d be interested?

Also, if you head across to, you’ll see my new website design. There are still a few glitches, which are currently being worked out, so just be patient.

That’s it from me for now. Stay tuned for KOP – how to use different media for your online platform.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Caleb Writing Competition and ROW 80 Check In.

reading book
Courtesy of pear83 at stock.xchng

For those of you who don't know, I finished my very first complete first draft a year ago. Wow, only 1 year?

I hurried the completion in order to enter it into the Caleb Writing Competition, a Christian writing comp for unpublished manuscripts.
While I didn't win, I did get some very good feedback on my Sally Hunt book 1, which I implemented.
I had thought of sending the manuscript in again this year, but when I checked a month ago, I couldn't find the page for this year so assumed they weren't running it. I then forgot about it.
Well, last week a good friend emailed me saying 'I thought you might be interested in this:
Yup, the link to the very writing competition I had been meaning to enter!
So, I'm going to try my luck again. Sally Hunt is in much better shape, and I still have 11 days to polish her off a bit further.
If there are any other Australian Christian writers out there looking for a foot in the door, why not give it a go?
ROW 80:
Last week was definitely not one of my better weeks. But I'm blaming that largely on work. I literally did 9 days worth of work in 4 days. Not doing that again, team target or not!
I did write half a post for Personal Fitness Base Camp on the 8 hour diet. I'm still not completely convinced about the validity of the claims of the diet (eat whatever you like 8 hours a day and still lose weight!) but I'm going to be offering two free copies of the book to readers who are willing to test it out for two weeks. So check in at PFBC later this week if you are interested.
I also wrote half a post for 100FD on the next in the KOP series. Will be posting that probably tomorrow.
So, have a long way to catch up. Still planning to do at least 1 post/article per day for 5 days. Might not get to do it at lunch time, now that I have to look like I'm working more, but will try to stop working before I get completely brain dead so I can do my work when I'm at home.
Finally: if anyone has some free time in the next week and wants to proof read a chapter of Sally Hunt and make suggestions, just let me know!