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Interview with Web Coder, Designer and site owner – Michael Martin

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
interview with web coder designer and site owner michael martin
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Web Courses Bangkok, gets some pretty great interviews and sometimes thoes interviews have something special about them… This is possibly one of the best!

Sometimes you come across a site that is not only beautiful, but has some of the most excellent information on it. You can tell that the makers of that site truly believe in the values of a sharable internet, one of which being that all content be worthwhile. Michael Martin is the owner and designer of one such site.

He takes the time to talk to Web Courses Bangkok about his sites, the industry and where the internet is heading in the future.

For those who don’t know you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure thing, I’m 20 years old and live in Northern Ireland (A very, very small little country, but I like it anyway!)

I run a popular WordPress/design/coding blog at ProBlogDesign.com, as well as offering custom design services to clients and selling high-end WordPress templates and our custom-made framework at Pliablepress

What was the inspiration to start problogdesign.com?

I started Pro Blog Design back in Summer of 2007. At the time, the goal was purely to share what I was learning about WordPress. At the start, I didn’t offer design services through it, and I didn’t have ads for the whole first year. The goal was just to really enjoy blogging and building up a following. I think that’s why it took off so well; I was totally 100% focused on writing and promoting it!


Why do you feel that design has so much to do with a successful blog?

Great design is the key to allowing users to have a really great experience on your site. If a site looks appealing and is easy to use, then you’re instantly going to trust it more and be encouraged to spend longer on it than you would otherwise.

On more complex blogs (Ones that publish a lot of content, or cover a wider range of topics etc.), then good design is also the only way to keep your site organized and show users what all you do, e.g. if you go to the trouble of creating a podcast every week, then you need to be highlighting that, not just filing it in with all of your other posts.

Do you think that Google preview will have an effect on the look and feel of blogs?

I’d be surprised if it did to be honest. The previews are large, but still too small to read off or see small details in. Most sites using white backgrounds etc. are going to look very similar in it, so if anything, the only thing I can say is that it will probably favor sites with great imagery (Large photos or character designs that stand out as noticeable in the preview).

That said, it would have to see some major usage before designers started optimizing specifically for that feature though.


How has blogging changed in the last few years and where do you see its future?

The biggest change has come from the sheer number of bloggers there are now. On the one hand, it’s great because there are people writing about every topic imaginable and you can find answers to anything.

On the other hand, there are more rubbish blogs than ever before as well. And I don’t just mean spam blogs that steal content, I mean the thousands of blogs that just want to copy the big guys, e.g. in the web design industry, Smashing Magazine got famous for its great list posts (60+ jQuery Effects etc.), but that was taken way out of proportion by all the me-toos who thought it would make them famous too.

The heart of blogging is still the same; you have to create something valuable, and something that people aren’t getting elsewhere. Of course that’s hard, but that’s the point. It’s not easy to stand out.


How do you feel about blogs on business sites for SEO purposes only?

If their only purpose is SEO, then I think they’ll have a hard time achieving that goal. For a blog to take off, it needs to create insightful content and engage with readers and get them talking. In other words, it needs someone who is passionate about the topic and really wants to see it grow.

The good news though is that if they do that, they’ll get SEO benefits as well as all of the other benefits. All of those links back from your new fans sure won’t hurt your rankings!

How often should someone post to their blog and do more posts equal a more successful blog?

I have to be very careful answering this one because my posting schedule has evaporated these past few months. I’ve experienced the whole range of schedules on my blog (Posting daily at first, to post 1-3 times a week, right down to going a whole month without a post), and I’ve learnt two things from those experiences:

    • 1 – If you stop posting, or start posting way less, you won’t lose readers. My posting has gone from very regular to incredibly sporadic at times, and I’ve never had someone tell me they were unsubscribing because of it. So long as when you do post, it’s worth reading, then you’ll be fine.

Of course, if you go too long without posting, there is a chance they’ll just forget about you altogether.

  • 2 – If you want a real growth spurt, then increased posting does work better. Assuming you keep the same level of quality, then you’re just increasing the number of topics other people can comment on and share, which is great. But of course, that level of posting can be very hard to maintain over the long term (Especially if you start to take on new commitments, like client work).


In your opinion whats better, a blog with lots of comments or a blog that gets lots of traffic?

If all your blog does is sell adverts, then the traffic, but otherwise, I’d look at the number of comments as the better indicator. That shows you how many people are engaging with that blog and the writers.

When it comes to selling a product, that means that that whole audience is already tied to your brand and likely to be interested in what you’ve created. For anyone interested in that thought line, you should check out 1000 True Fans to see why 1 engaged reader is worth far more than 100 readers looking at your latest list of nice web designs.


Is there any tips that you can share when managing comments on a blog?

The best thing you can do is just take part! Writing a post is only the beginning. You then need to keep an eye on the comments and if possible, reply to them all! To this day, I still reply to every comment written on one of my posts within the first few days.

Of course, it’s not possible to keep up with everything in your archives, and for the most part, I don’t reply to too many comments in the archives.

In terms of spam and junk one-liner comments; on a new blog, I don’t mind the one liners too much. They’ll inflate your comment count a bit and as long as there’s only one or two per post, they won’t give you a bad image. Once it gets past that though, then seeing a string of comments like that will just put real people off contributing, so be as harsh as you like with that delete button!

A plugin like AJAX Edit Comments can make deleting them from your site much easier too!


What advice can you give our trainees when thinking about starting a personal or business blog?

Find the area that you love, and zero in solely on that. Blogging is easy for your first 6 months, it’s keeping it going during the 6 after that’s hard, and the 6 after that etc. If you don’t love your topic, you’re going to get fed up and your work will wind up being for nothing.

e.g. If your favorite part of web design is using JavaScript to add cool effects, then why not angle yourself as a JavaScript expert? You can still talk about CSS3 and whatever else you like the odd time, but focus mostly on your JavaScript. You could even go further and focus on a specific library.

If I hadn’t angled myself as a WordPress expert, then my blog would never have stood out against all of the other web design blogs that already existed.


Michael Martin, thank you so very much for your time and we look forward to reading more fantastic articles from Problogdesign.com

No problem, thanks for inviting me to take part! If anyone has any other questions or thoughts, just post them in the comments area and I’ll be happy to chat with you!

If you would like to keep up with Michael check out
, Problogdesign.com or Pliablepress

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