Web pages – check them out before you check them off

When you create a new site, or new content, it might be something you’re eager to tick off your to-do list so you can move on.

But please remember the visitors you’re making it for, and pause awhile to make sure it will actually work for them. I see so many instances where this clearly hasn’t been done.

Try to look at your pages like a new visitor. They don’t know what you know about what’s further down the page or two pages over. They only know what they see at any one time. Can they see what they need to? Is stuff getting in the way and frustrating them?

Below you’ll find a few specifics to watch for.

(Tip: I talk about zoom settings in your web browser – if you haven’t previously found how to adjust the close up/far away setting, hunt it down in the menu. It’s a useful tool, especially if your eyesight sometimes needs a bit of help.)

Page layout and screen format

I’ve been noticing this a lot recently. I still use a 4:3 format monitor, and there seems to have been a shift to assuming everyone is now on the wider 6:9. So page designs made of blocks sometimes break and I have to reduce the screen zoom % to get everything to slot into its proper place.

You don’t have any control over a visitor’s monitor and settings, so try to get your design working with as wide a range as possible. That means checking a page design on two or three devices to see how it behaves: at least a desktop and a phone.   Read more »


A simple structure to take the stress out of your About page

Person in spotlight image

The About page of your website is the place where you talk about yourself, in a way that you probably don’t on other pages. It’s about you – but in a way that serves your visitors.

People get hung up on their About pages, and from what I’ve seen there are two reasons.

  • They don’t know how to structure the information.
  • They have big resistance to showing up. (Especially for introverts, but a lot of people seem to have some of this. I expect it’s partly a British culture thing.)

It’s not that difficult or scary, really. There are lots of ways to write an About page, but let me give you a standard version that will let you get it done and go on to other things.   Read more »

Do you belong to the 21st century growth tribe?

Many hands as leaves on a tree

This is a term that popped into my head the other day. I was pondering ideal clients, niche, etc, as I do every so often.

I’ve always struggled with it, and I know I’d help myself if I were clearer. The thing is, I kind of know who I’m aiming at, even though it’s rather broad and cloudy and – here’s the point – resistant to a short label.

It’s the people who are building the new world, or the new story of the world. The people who are the foam at the edges as the tide comes in.

I keep spotting myself using ’21st century’ as an adjective. It’s a shorthand for the way the world is, with the problems that face us and the trends in society, and for the way we ought to be operating to be in tune with that. So much in society, and particularly in the news, is still running patterns of the late 20th century.

It’s part of what I talk about in my book Crowd/Control, and over at The Upward Path. That idea of living in a time when the human path forks, and we can choose to move into a better potential or a grubby cul-de-sac.

Who are they then?

So, who are the 21st century growth tribe? Creative entrepreneurs, personal development folks like coaches and therapists, thought leaders, social and community enterprises, the ecosystem of creative and ethical microbusinesses, self-realisers, potential uncoverers, compassion leverers, truth tellers, idea makers, tech channellers, crowdsourcers …   Read more »

Communication rule one

Is there one principle, above all others, that you can take on board to gain the foundation of better communication? I think there is, and this is the most boiled-down version I’ve come up with:


It’s about realising that you have a responsibility to meet your audience at least halfway. You can’t just throw some words down that you would understand yourself, presented in a way that you would find pleasant and digestible. Because they ain’t you.

Message Bottle image(You could make various parallel rule versions, like, “Their life is not your life”, or even, “Their computer is not your computer”. But I think the above sums it up pretty well.)

In Yorkshire, where I grew up, we sometimes said “so-and-so can’t see beyond their own nose end” – meaning that all a person thought about was themselves and their own picture of the world. Someone like that can never be a great communicator. They can only appeal to people like themselves, and get frustrated when they come up against barriers.

Getting good at this requires qualities like empathy and adaptability – the ability to step outside your own worldview and habits – alongside skills in use of language and presenting information.   Read more »

What is branding? It’s not ink and cardboard

speech bubble climber image

A lot of people think branding is logos and business cards. But those are just channels and products that reflect your branding.

The oft-repeated quote when people talk about personal branding for small businesses comes, ironically, from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

To put it another way: when people call you to mind, what impressions come along with that?

I often talk about foreground and background messages. Foreground messages are what you tell people explicitly, like an introduction/pitch at a networking event or points you make in a blog post. Background messages are impressions people pick up about you, often with little or no conscious awareness they’re doing it – for instance from the colour scheme and layout of your website, or your writing’s tone of voice.

So branding is the process of getting clearer about what messages you want to attach to yourself in people’s minds, then using tools and channels to implement that.  Read more »

Your message matters

Fingers with faces

The shape of the world around us isn’t great at the moment. A lot of things that should be right are wrong.

That shape comes from how people act, and that comes from how they think, and that comes from their worldview – from deep attitudes to information they just picked up. And that comes from the messages that swirl around them. It’s like the atmosphere for our brains. We breathe it in and out without realising.

There’s a lot of pollution in that atmosphere. A lot of outdated attitudes, fear-driven behaviour and self-interested spin. A lot of people have got caught up in those things, and then they try to spread them and defend them to make themselves right.

We need fresh air to counter that. Messages of compassion, empathy, insight, inspiration, collaboration. Telling us that there really are better possibilities, for ourselves and our fellow humans and our world, and that we really can head that way.  Read more »

Why is it so hard to say what you do?

Hands connecting jigsaw pieces

The introduction or ‘elevator pitch’. Those one or two sentences you prepare for opening networking conversations or adding to your website or materials. On the face of it such a simple thing, but the cause of massive frustration and soul-searching.

I’m on a course at the moment about selling (in an authentic non-pushy way). So many of the people there are really wrestling with their intro. Including me!

I think it’s harder for ‘heart-centred’ businesses, and those where you’re not delivering a well-known function, like plumber or accountant: you’re delivering you, and your individual jigsaw of passion, experience and skill.   Read more »

4 alarm signals that drive website visitors away (video)

Hi folks. This one’s a video I shot spontaneously the other day, prompted by the bees flitting between flowers in my garden.

It made me think of web users flitting between sites. We’re all quite skittish and protective of our time and attention, so if your site gives us alarm signals we won’t hang around. I’ve written about this in one of my products. Here’s a condensed version of what those alarm signals are.

(I’m still very much a video learner. So apologies for not zooming in on the bees, and for the muffled sound quality in the first minute.)



How to get nice spacing round images in WordPress

When you add images to a post or page using ‘Add Media’, WordPress jams them pretty tight up to the text.

image spacing graphicYou can tell it to align the image left, right or centre, but you can’t control the spacing. You can see how that ends up in the image opposite.

I don’t like that as a piece of visual design, and it’s not the best experience for the reader.

So I’ve adopted a standard operating procedure of setting the spacing manually for each image. Read on to find out how.

Quick notes

Note 1. If you’re comfortable with the idea of going into the files for your theme and altering stylesheets, you can set your own default options for WordPress to use. (Info here if that’s you.) But for most people that’s too hard to work out, and there’s a risk of messing things up. I’ve never been motivated to do it myself.

Note 2. Do try it the standard way without fiddling first, especially if you’re using a purchased theme. It may be that the folks who designed your theme have improved the standard spacing.

Note 3. If you want a text caption displayed with your image, eg for a photo, you might find this technique makes it go a bit weird and it’s easier to rely on default formatting.

Putting on the style

First, add your image via ‘Add Media’ and get it in basically the right place. Then we’ll tweak it so it ends up like the version here, which I hope you can see has more breathing space.

image spacing graphicIn the window where you write your post or page, there are two tabs at the top right: ‘Visual’ and ‘Text’. You’ve probably been working in Visual, which shows an approximation of what the page will look like. For this we need to go into Text.

Text mode shows you the guts of your page. Most of it is the text you’ve typed, but you’ll also see formatting instructions in <angle brackets>. Those are a blend of HTML, which tells the reader’s browser software what things go where, and CSS, which tells it the styles to use when it displays those things – size, colour, alignment and so on.   Read more »

The upward path – new site

Sunlit urban pathJust a quick note for anyone flicking through the blog.

I’ve now set up another site at The Upward Path as an experiment to blog about making a finer world, including interconnection, psychology, story, personal development, etc.

Please do check it out, especially if you like my writing.

Posts so far:

It means this site is probably going to have more practical posts but not so often. The resources will still be here though! (And I just added a new guide: How to write a blog post – from ideas to sharing.)