It’s a new year, which means I’m looking under ToolGuyd’s hood and fiddling with how things look, work, and run.
If you’re a returning or long-time reader, then you probably enjoy checking out the new previews, reviews, and other content. My goal is to give you as great of a reader experience as possible. If you’re perfectly happy with the site, that’s great, and I’m happy to know that my hard work over the years has paid off! But I always like to think that ToolGuyd could keep getting better and better.
Here are a couple of questions for you (if you feel like answering any of them), and notes on potential changes.
Mobile Users – Any Complaints?
A lot of readers and visitors are accessing ToolGuyd via smartphones and tablets. If this is how you usually visit the site, do you have any major complaints or requests?
I would at one point like to make the site responsive, but before I do that there are still minor touchscreen niggles that I hope to tackle first.
Please keep in mind that I usually cannot improve on anything if I don’t know there’s a problem, issue, or complaint.
What Would You Like to See in the Sidebar?
For the sake of future reference, here’s what’s in the sidebar now:
- Social media links
- 2 ad units
- Email newsletter subscribe box (you really should subscribe to the newsletter which I hope to finally get going this month)
- Recent comments
- Recent posts
- “New Tools” link
- “Buying Guide” section
- ToolGuyd ad/special promo image
- Knife, multi-tool, and LED flashlight review links
- ToolGuyd videos
- GearGuyd post links
The “Buying Guide” section is new, but I don’t think it’s popular enough to keep there. I’ll give it a couple of weeks before I make a decision, but don’t expect to see these links around for long.
I’m working on a couple of new ideas, but maybe there’s something you’d like to see in the sidebar that I haven’t thought of yet.
Featured Post Slideshow or Other New Front Page Feature?
Every few months, I get the itch to implement a “featured post” slider/slideshow for the top of the ToolGuyd front page. I look over a couple of coding options, and plugins, waste some time, make a face, and decide to keep things as-is.
Such a feature would allow you to flip through a couple of large images and links to hand-picked posts or stories.
I figure that if you’re on the main page, then you most likely want a quick rundown of recent content, and that a slider might be too much of a distraction.
Would you like to see a slider implemented into the front page, or is there any other functionality that you’d like me to consider working on or looking into?
What Don’t You Like?
I have reasons for every single design and layout decision I’ve made over the years, but I understand that not every styling choice will be popular.
The “sticky” top menu, for example, is a feature I thought would come in handy. Not one person has complained about it since I implemented it 2 or maybe 3 years ago. And so I assume everyone either likes it, or isn’t bothered by it. Again, I don’t know there’s a problem or complaint if nobody speaks up.
2015 Site-Wide Audit – Suggestions and Requests are Welcome!
I will be auditing and overhauling parts of ToolGuyd’s coding over the next couple of months, a little bit at a time.
I typically do this on my own, and so I appreciate ANY and ALL input you’re willing to provide. Is a particular heading color difficult to read? Don’t like the font sizes? Image sizes? The search functionality? Please let me know!
Well, I shouldn’t say I work on the look and layout completely on my own. I often make a small tweak and ask my wife for input as to which of X-number of variations she likes best. Sometimes I’ll enlist the help of friends, family, and contributors as well.
Certain parts of the site will be updated, and you might never notice it. Other times, I might ask for your opinions first.
I’ve been experimenting with how to present specs and information in better ways:
- A quick specs box, as in this Milwaukee M18 recip saw preview
A quick ratings box, as in Clayton’s Ego mower review
A highlight box, as in this recent Bosch deal post, which I made available in a bunch of colors
A related/see also/etc info interrupt, also as shown in the M18 recip saw preview post
Do you like or hate any of these features? I periodically update older posts, and can easily splice in some of these features if you think they’re helpful.
There are times when I know something isn’t working well. The “Mega List” news reel isn’t popular enough to remain a permanent feature, but it was a very helpful sandbox for me to learn a couple of coding and styling tricks things. The link in the top menu will be taken down during my next audit of the menu, but the coding and styling lessons might be used for new functionality and ideas.
Potential Changes to Comments
The site crawled to a halt a couple of times in January. I have been working with our host to figure out why, and it seems that the comments functionality is a major contributor to high server loads (mainly CPU) and slow loading times.
There is just soooooo much comment spam and spammers that they’re draining server resources and impacting visits by human readers and visitors.
I checked the server logs, and there are also many thousands of hits to the RSS file by bots and spammers. Again, this takes away from server resources, but I don’t think changing the RSS feed from a full view to a shortened “click to go to ToolGuyd to read the rest” view will help anything.
I am reluctant to make changes to the way the comments sections are handled now, but I might eventually have to consider one of the following options:
- Automatically closing comments to older posts. If I do this, I can set the time limit, which would have to be at least one month but not more than a year for this to be an effective measure.
Implementing Disqus or another third party commenting system where readers could login with various credentials they already have (such as Twitter/Facebook/Google). I might still be able to allow for anonymous comments.
I don’t like either of these options, and have been spending time looking for other ways to reduce the effect of spammers. I might be able to get some more CPU overhead with a server upgrade, but this isn’t a problem that will go away by throwing money at it. Eventually, the way the site handles reader comments might have to change.
Related Products Advertising Links?
Back in late-2014, two companies inquired about whether I would add new ads to the bottom of ToolGuyd posts.
One was ridiculous, and the example they showed me had links to ads about “skinny pills,” Botox, wrinkle tips, carbs, and other stuff that are completely unreasonable for ToolGuyd. Then they said they work with a wide range of advertisers across health and beauty, personal finance, travel, and other such categories. No, thank you. I asked them if they even looked at ToolGuyd before pitching a partnership.
Another is a shopping engine that would try to match product links to the context of a post. For example, if I post about cordless saws, the widget would in theory show a couple of alternative products. A rep for the company keeps calling and trying to convince me to give the widget a trial run.
I’m really on the fence about this second one. On one hand the widget would result in more revenue that the site could definitely use. I already thought about what the potential revenue would go towards – funding 1) promotional ToolGuyd swag (finally!), 2) more ToolGuyd-sponsored giveaways, 3) bigger reviews and features by external contributors, 4) other kinds of things that there currently isn’t much money for.
I should really say that the product ad widget would help fund these things sooner.
On the other hand, it would be one more thing for the site to load (although from their servers and not mine), and one more thing that’s in-your-face. I don’t know if I would like to see this functionality on some of my favorite websites to visit, and don’t know how much of a nuisance it might be for you guys. I also wouldn’t want the widget to feature a product or retailer that I don’t particularly like or could not recommend.
Please look at today’s Ryobi saw post. At the bottom of the post there is a “Share” section, a “Related Posts” section, and then some more stuff before the comments. The products widget would probably go somewhere between the Related Posts and Comments sections of a post.
The “Related Posts” section links to related posts on ToolGuyd. The product ad links would link to related products found at partnered retailers.
What are your thoughts on this?
I think that the product widget would be a good idea, but is it a good idea for ToolGuyd? I’ve been thinking this over for a couple of months, and so far decided that the third party product advertising widget would NOT be a good fit for ToolGuyd.
While I continue to think things over, maybe I could experiment with something of a similar spirit, but perhaps a hand-coded widget that only displayed products I recommend and could vouch for. This would take time to develop, but could feature specific recently-reviewed products that I enthusiastically recommend.