Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Candy Blog Improvements

Legoland Chocolate from ChuaoThis spring will mark the 5th anniversary of Candy Blog. Since the website has been largely unchanged since November 2005, I thought maybe it was time to consider giving the joint a bit of a facelift and some improvements.

So, the big question is, what do you want? After all, I write about this stuff partly in service to my readers. (And of course as a selfish excuse to eat more candy than most people should.) I’m not planning on changing the basic mission: review candy and for the most part any content in addition to that might come at the cost of those new reviews. (So if I review 4-5 times a week but everyone wants to see interviews with chocolatiers, then that would cut into the review tallies. I can write a lot in binges, as you may have noticed, but five reviews a week is about as much as I can do well.)

Boyer Peanut Butter PretzelThings I’m thinking about:

1. Create user accounts. They already exist in the forums, but it’d be nice if you could have your own icon show up on your comments and perhaps track your own comments across all the blog posts and within the forums. (Have a look at how Serious Eats does this as an example.) What do you want to see in the user accounts? More room to show your candy fandom? A place to favorite posts? Add your own ratings?

Chocolate Sea Salt Cashews from Marich2. Magazine Style Home Page - where both new reviews are featured as well as some other things like candy photos, candy stores and other candy adventures. (I’m kind of up in the air on this one. I like how organized things are now, but I recognize that it works best for readers who visit regularly, it doesn’t necessarily grab new or only occasional visitors.)

3. Share This functions - so you can quickly grab a bit of a post & link to put on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

4. More helpful organization - maybe create a master database of candies. Right now the search function returns all mentions of a candy, so it’s a little wonky if you want to just find the candy itself.

KitKat Chunky Peanut Butter5. Grand Database (with API) - For years I’ve done the stats box at the bottom of each candy review. Someday, maybe soon, I’d like to export that into a mashable database that will allow display of things like “Candies with low caloric density” or “Highest rated candy made in Germany.”

Right now, since I’m just thinking about these things, the sky is the limit with development. But the other side of the coin is the content. Do you want more reviews of high end candies (because they’re high risk) or more foreign/regional fare? More candy stores, reviews of shopping experiences? Tours of factories? I used to do a “week in review”, is there any interest in that returning? Or are you simply happy with what the blog is, a regular 4-5 candy reviews a week with some occasional other stuff.

So this is your opportunity to respond, request and even vent.  What do you like, what don’t you like and what do you wish there was more of?

POSTED BY Cybele AT 11:48 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     Behind the ScenesCandyFeatured News

  1. Hi.  I like the daily candy reviews best.  I definitely don’t want you cutting in to those reviews to show us a factory or an interview.  From time to time, sure, but not regularly please.  I really like the format as it stands.  I think a magazine format may be too busy (for my taste).  I really like things simple and clean and well organized.  If you choose to have user accounts, then that would be a great place for us to list the candies that we’re interested in getting for ourselves to try, based on your reviews.  That could actually be a good personal reference so I would have one central place to make note that I really want to try the whatever candy.  Like a wish list or something.  Thanks!

    Comment by Amy on 12/29/09 at 2:43 pm #
  2. It doesn’t need changing, I think it’s great the way it is! Don’t go all modern on us with the magazine look, it will totally take away from the feel of the website.

    Comment by Tasty Japan on 12/29/09 at 3:05 pm #
  3. Share features would be cool.  I also like the idea a place where registered users could add their own ranking after you review something.

    Comment by Susan Whiteside on 12/29/09 at 3:37 pm #
  4. I also love the format as it is.  PLEASE do not change the variety of candies you review.  One of the best parts of your blog is that you have such democratic taste - high-end chocolatiers get just as fair a shake as a cheap gummys from CVS.  It’s fun, intelligent, not pretentious.  I also LOVE the international candy reviews.  The internet has given us all access to candy from around the world, and it saves us all an awful lot of work to have you taste it first!!  wink

    Comment by Julie on 12/29/09 at 3:43 pm #
  5. I’d love to see some face-lift type improvements to the main page. If you tidied up the main page with a new streamlined design, you wouldn’t need a magazine type interface. Also some integrated links to send a review / article to facebook or twitter for sharing would be handy.

    As far as material, I enjoy seeing the reviews of obscure or pricier candy. I don’t treat myself to sweets often, but I have purchased some based on your reviews. A database would be nice, but I doubt you need to have an API for it if you properly tag / index it.

    Comment by Kelly Edwards on 12/29/09 at 3:45 pm #
  6. i like than fan ranking idea a few comments up.  and the database feature.
    maybe if we get user accounts, we could have some sort of a candy box, where we can flag our personal favorites so if someone clicks on my link to my profile, they see my top 1-15 favorite candies that link back to the reviews.

    Comment by vampiress on 12/29/09 at 8:01 pm #
  7. I like the look of Candyblog and I’d still keep coming if you kept it the way it is.  Although, it would take away from your reviews, I would like to read other items.  I did enjoy your posts about the candy expos you’ve been to.  Besides that I really would like to see search improved at Candyblog.  As you mentioned, the results are a little wonky.

    Comment by Marvo on 12/30/09 at 12:37 am #
  8. I believe a simple facelift to make the page less busy would lure readers in. Your twitter page looks very nice and clean. Perhaps reducing the links to just one side of the page would reduce the cluttered look. 

    All your improvement ideas are great, but of course majority should rule on any changes you implement.

    A database would be a lot of work, but it would really make your blog stand out in a uniquely informative way.

    Good luck with your changes!  This is a great blog…

    Comment by Allebach Communications on 12/30/09 at 3:45 am #
  9. Hi Cybele ~

    Wow .... you are offering so many modern and new suggestions. I don’t know .... things are great the way you present them to us every week. Many folks seem to think the same thoughts. On the other hand .... if you feel the need for improvements that will benefit (YOURSELF also) all of us CANDYLOVERS ..... why not? Well, try a few new things. If they work out okay .... great!

    Love reading everything you write Cybele. Overall ..... a sweet-sweet blog! Very, very often we will try and find candies you review and enjoy. It’s a fun thing to do. 

    Instead of booze ..... ya’all have a sweet (chocolate!) treat for 2010! (Less hang-overs AND road accidents.)

    Comment by Marcee on 12/30/09 at 4:45 am #
  10. I think your database / searching / organizational ideas are all terrific. I’d suggest creating a candy-finder page; that way you could move a lot of the links—like the long list of candy companys—off your home page. That would go a long way toward clutter reduction, as some readers requested.

    The “share this” tools would, I think, be good for building traffic to the site.

    I like the idea of a magazine-style front, but I think that’s only necessary and useful if you’re varying your content more. But don’t be put off by people saying “I like things the way they are.” People always say that, and they almost always get used to the changes.

    Comment by The neighbor on 12/30/09 at 6:21 am #
  11. I really enjoy the balance of content in your blog; mostly candy reviews with the added factory tour or store visits. “Share This” and “Grand Database” are great changes to make. I often share links to your reviews and making that even easier would be very helpful.

    I agree with “The neighbor” in suggesting a separate search page for all the information on the right side of the blog. smile The search box would stay and just link you directly to the page when used.

    Comment by Kimberly on 12/30/09 at 7:23 am #
  12. Cybele—

    ... this blog is great. I love the current format. If you wanted to make changes, maybe just few things to clarify site navigation.

    Like the balance of mostly candy, with sometimes a trade show or trip. Would be great be great if you could do more “funky” stuff (not just high end, but more foreign and local things—wherever local happens to be at the time). I love seeing reviews of stuff I wouldn’t necessarily encounter otherwise—because, hey, when I go to the store, I usually buy a Lindt 85 or some Panda licorice. So this is mostly entertainment rather than recommendation—at least for me.

    A happy nascent 2010 to you, and keep up the good work! wink

    Comment by perry on 12/31/09 at 2:47 am #
  13. I too, like the focus on reviews rather than interivews/tours/etc, although it is nice to see those things once in a while!

    Personally I would love to see more reviews of the higher-end goodies, particularly chocolate bars, but that’s because that’s what I love to eat and read about!

    Whatever you do do, though - don’t stop! :D

    Comment by Hannah on 1/01/10 at 10:36 am #
  14. I enjoy reading your reviews in my e-mail everyday. I’ve tried some new things since subscribing and have not been disappointed. Pocket Coffee has been an especial favorite of mine. smile

    It would be nice if you’d write out each candy’s rating in your reviews(in addition to the graphic) so I don’t have to go to the Web site to see you “fnal verdict.”

    Also, I’d love to see a section devoted to your highest-rated sweets and maybe your lowest-rated ones as well. That way readers would have a quick tool to know what candies to especially look for and which ones to avoid at all costs.

    Comment by Emily on 1/01/10 at 6:48 pm #
  15. Cybele—-if it does not itch do not scratch….I love it Just the way it is…..THE HAPPIEST new year to you   david

    Comment by david klein on 1/03/10 at 11:59 am #
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