• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
Today I’ll be discussing the features I think are important to have on every book blog. I mean features as in elements, not memes.
I’ve been traveling the blogosphere for a while now, and I’ve seen a lot. There are a lot of different ways to design your blog, and if you can make it work, it really doesn’t matter one way or another how you do it. It can be bright and flashy or subdued and calm. Or anything in between. As long as it doesn’t hurt my eyes and I find it easy to read and navigate, you’ve done it right.
But there are some things that I think every book blog should have, some things that I’ve noticed are missing on a few blogs. I won’t name names, but there are some pretty popular blogs out there that kind of bug me because I can’t find certain things.
Firstly, every book blog should have some kind of archive, preferably a collapsing one (see my right sidebar) so you can see all the posts in one month without simply clicking on the month and having to scroll through every single post. That last option is an option on Blogger that I never used because it was extremely annoying. I like seeing the post titles under each month. I don’t want to have to scroll through each and every post, ESPECIALLY if they don’t have a ‘read more’ option and the entire post is displayed.
This one is equally obvious, but every blog should have a review index, preferably on the main navigation menu (which I like seeing at the TOP of the page, by the way, not the sidebar). I’m not really picky on how you organize it (and several blogs have multiple indexes) but as long as you have one, that’s fantastic. I have 6 on my blog, and they automatically update thanks to the UBB plugin. It saves tons of time.
It’s great if your blog has a button (and even better if you have the HTML below it so we can grab it). It’s not necessary, but it makes publicity so much easier. Besides, it’s like your icon, your logo, and if you use it on all of your social media than we can more easily attach a name to a logo. I also like using them in my scrolling sidebar widget to link to their blogs. If you’ll notice, 2 of the blogs I wanted to feature didn’t have buttons so I had to create them myself. I basically took some element of their blog (like their header) and added text with their blog title. I didn’t make it professional because it isn’t really their button. I also had to add a disclaimer because of that. That took me a while and wouldn’t have been necessary if their blog had a button already.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS. If you use social media, then it’s a must to have links clearly visible on your blog, preferably near the top. Major plus for publicity. Same goes for any other ways people can subscribe to you. Email, newsletters, RSS, etc.
A search bar. Need I explain? I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to search something rather than try to look through their entire blog to find it, especially if their archives are enormous or inconveniently organized. Often I’ll use this to see if a blog has had any award nominations before nominating them myself. On that note, it’s also great if you put your awards in the sidebar.
Now, this one isn’t a MUST-HAVE, but I like it when blogs have a ‘currently reading‘ feature or ‘recent reviews‘ and ‘upcoming reviews‘. Thanks to the UBB plugin, these are included on my blog with little effort on my part. It’s also nice to have a ‘popular posts‘ feature.
And that’s just the sidebars. At the top, on the main navigation menu…
Of course you should have a ‘home’ tab. An ‘About‘ page is also important. It can be ‘about me’, ‘about the reviewers’, or even ‘about the blog’. It’s not necessary, again, but it helps readers get to know you better. Also not necessary but great to have would be a challenge page and a features page.
MUST HAVES for book bloggers would be a review policy and a contact page. Both are necessary for authors to get in touch with you about reviewing their book. And a contact page is great if other bloggers want to talk to you as well. Often I’ll have a question and it’s great if I can just email them directly rather than having to go through some form. Forms are fine, but if they link up to something other than your primary email address (such as an email that you don’t check very often) it can be frustrating waiting for a reply. I’ve had this happen on a popular blog that only had the form available. I actually ended up messaging that person through Goodreads to get a prompt reply.
Another not so necessary thing is an explanation of the rating system. Most blogs have some kind of explanation because people’s ratings are so different. Especially if they use a really unusual rating system, like using a scale of 1-10 or a letter rating system. I personally only use 5 stars, not half stars (except on the rating report), and I use it like the Goodreads system.
Now, I know a lot of these features can clutter up your blog and sidebars especially. That’s why it’s wise to choose only what you really need and perhaps a few nice extras. I personally decided a while ago that I don’t care about cluttering up my blog because it looks somewhat organized and doesn’t really make my blog painful to look at (I hope). I also utilized the double sidebar system so I have more room for all my widgets. I tried to keep it easy to navigate, at least. The more important things at the top, etc.