Lately, when one of my stories got popular, I not only have had an insurge of visitors from Digg and other social sites, but also some comments both on the Digg page and under the post itself. Some comments were about the subject, but some revolved around making the article readable.
The whole experience of having a popular article allowed me to gain a better understanding of how I could improve my articles, as well as site and hosting performance.
How this site was improved based on comments
Here's what site visitors from social sites have advised to improve and what I have done on the site:
- reducing the font size (did from 12pt to 10pt Verdana)
- removing boldness from the links (now they aren't as bold as they used to be)
- reducing the width of the content area (added another column)
Of course, as it often happens, while giving out advice on making text readable, I have omited my own site. So, the critique was rather deserved.
The only caveat is that some said that 100% width "suxors", but I still think that fluid expandable site is more usable, than fixed layout. Of course, it doesn't mean that the content area should be way too wide, hence, why it was decreased. If more people complain, I'll add margins and still have a fluid width layout.
Also, it was noted that nothing draws the visitors in on this site. As long as I think that unrelated graphics distract readers from the content and I can't find a decent, visually appealing design/Drupal theme, I can't change this site appearance, sadly.
I will test how effective a graphical layout is against this text-based one on this very site later, when I have time to setup the tracking system, though.
The Digg Effect and site performance
Of course, right during the Digg effect I had to learn
- how to improve Drupal performance
- what hosting is more suitable for sites with bursts of traffic (or just high-traffic)
- how to tune LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) for performance
Right after the traffic levels dropped to reasonable levels and my site was alive again, I tweaked Drupal performance settings a tad more, thus letting it live through an equally large wave of visitors the next day.
I also learned alot about improving site performance - I'll be writing up a review later. While I am currently not able to do all advised, I will do anything as soon as I get a more stable hosting.
Can you use social sites to improve your site?
After all the race of improving the website has ended, it got me thinking. Can social sites be used to improve article content, website usability and site and server performance?
Create value for the social site audience
Before you get anything, you need to create a valuable article/post (that's a whole another story), but if you ask for any feedback about the article (content, style, formatting, etc), you may get some constructive ideas.
Ask for feedback
The key thing here is actually asking for feedback on improving the article, acting accordingly and responding to comments, both on the social site pages and under your article/post. Of course, the comments should be enabled for it, too.
See through rudeness to gain insight
Of course, some may leave rather derogatory, snarky remarks, but I'd suggest also to learn from them, instead of being offended. If you are pretty sensitive, I'd suggest growing thick skin or at least preparing yourself before embarking on this experiment or reading comments at all.
Improve site performance
So, apart from your site content, you can use the so-called "Digg Effect" - the effect of receiving thousands of visitors every hour and thus straining the server - to observe your website speed bottlenecks and improve hosting and website performance.
The thing is, though, that you can't and shouldn't ask your site visitors on how to improve your site performance. The topic is pretty deep and depends on the site software/hosting, not to mention that most of your site visitors may not know a thing on improving web site speed.
Though not everyone can get an article noticed on popular social websites, such as Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Slashdot, etc and, perhaps, extra server/hosting load may not be welcome (especially on a shared hosting, or when you host all or most of your websites on a single server), receiving thousands of visitors in a matter of days, asking for feedback and listening to the people can greatly help you improve your content, style, formatting and also site performance.
Stay tuned for an in-depth review-article on improving your site performance some time next week, too.