PEER REVIEW No.1

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What can an image-lover learn from, and suggest to, a word-lover? Featuring book review blog Torin In Time!

As you may know, I also utilize this website to write about what I am learning in my publication classes at university. This week, I will be reviewing my classmate Torin’s website, which I must say is truly a gem in the world of book review. Initially, I was hesitant because sometimes I find it difficult to concentrate on text-heavy websites. However, Torin In Time really proves that a good writer can appeal to anyone. Because the main focus of this peer review includes website design and structure, this post will also offer some helpful tips and tricks for anyone with a brand new, text-heavy blog who is looking to improve the look of their website.

THE CONTENT:
Seeing as Torin is a lover of literature, an expectation would follow that he has a way with words. But Torin’s command of the written word has far exceeded that expectation!

As suggested earlier, I do not have the longest attention span, especially when reading online. Surprisingly, I found it not only easy but enjoyable to read each of these meaty posts. This is because of a couple reasons explained below:

Firstly, I desperately aspire to this clear yet eloquent approach to writing! Every paragraph has a very helpful structure and purpose, but the unexpected realizations and thoughtful opinions seem to effortlessly embedded themselves within. Each thought seamlessly bleeds into the next, and when I am reading I feel immersed in the same headspace. Simply put, the writing is masterful.

Torin, you should feel immensely proud of what you have published thus far. I sense that you will have no trouble maintaining a consistent tone and this will be especially helpful as you seek to grow your audience. Readers will be able to expect the same well-considered reviews, each of which still has the perfect dose of your own personality merged through your exceptional tonal qualities. They will respect your assessments, good or bad, because it is clear that you know what you’re talking about. Because the whole atmosphere of your website rests upon a foundation of well-written posts, I feel that you are already off to a fantastic start.

Torin’s initial look.

THE APPEARANCE:
This may come as a surprise––given that my whole schtick is being painfully obsessed with visuality––but I think that there great aspects to the “look” of this blog. I am simply focusing on this area since it is where I feel more confident and also because it is more relevant to my readers. As well, Torin has previously expressed some indecision when selecting a theme, and even concern over visual choices more generally. Let’s jump in to what’s working:

  • Dark and white feels just right. This unique look contributes more than it distracts (see screenshot below). Not only is it an easy way to separate yourself from the crowd, but I do agree that the focus pulls towards where it ought to be; Torin’s lovely words. It is a bit unusual to use a sans-serif typeface for longer paragraphs, but it does seem to work here given the consistent output of perfectly-sized paragraphs. I would suggest making the most of the dark background by cutting down on some of the bold orange links to the right. Ultimately, if Torin does decide to change this theme, that is fine. However, do ensure that any new iterations remain fairly streamlined and contain a unique, yet simple visual draw to aide the viewer.

So fear not, my friend! Still, in the spirit of constructive criticism, I have brainstormed general suggestions for writing-based blogs looking to quickly sprinkle in some eye-candy:

  • The look of the book. Some readers (like myself) feel more likely to remember the cover of a book rather than its title or author. Inserting them as thumbnails is the easiest and most relevant way to potentially include pictures in your posts!
  • Skimmers seek structure. In absence of images, formatting is your friend when it comes to drawing attention. It also comes in handy if you want to hold the attention of a larger variety of readers. Consider either book-ending or breaking up your juicy paragraphs with some hooks, such as quotes, “ratings”, “If You Liked This, You Might Like These”, etc. This is not to say that you need to alter your cornerstone of streamlined paragraphs, just that this focus might be decorated, so to speak, with some other tidbits. Rather than using large icons (which could be too distracting) I recommend selective use of bolding, underlining, and even HTML symbols such as arrows, bullets, or stars. These can go further than you would think to highlighting the most pertinent areas, factual information, and excerpts from the books at a glance.
  • Customization conveys care. There is nothing wrong with using a popular theme for your WordPress site, but it’s important to differentiate yourself from other blogs through customization. One of the most impactful ways to do so is by changing the stock images to something special or specific to you. This immediately conveys that your blog is more considered and “lived in”. This is still possible to do even if you don’t want to browse stock photos, you don’t feel comfortable generating your own imagery and you don’t want to break the bank by commissioning someone. Instead, consider trading a favour––essay-editing, perhaps?––with an artistically-inclined friend.

So although there are certainly still some visual elements for Torin In Time to reckon with, on the whole, I am far more appreciative than I am bothered by any of these minor details. After all, I respect that the real meat and bones of this blog has always been, and will always be, the written word!

THE GIST OF IT:
Despite being in the early stages of development, Torin has already forged a strong path forward! Through articulate yet approachable wording, all of the posts achieve that satisfying balance between legibility and substance. At the end of the day, it is this rare but inviting tonal quality that will lure people in and bring them back for more.

Since I struggle with the written aspect of things, I look forward to hearing Torin’s take on my own blog in the coming days!

Before you go, be sure to check out Torin’s review of “Fierce Fairytales”, whose folksy stories make a point of subverting traditional gender roles.

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