When considering websites with different content types, there are several places on the web I could have gone to. The internet is, literally, an endless source of content. I tend toward more serious content, such as The New Yorker and The New York Times; but I also read rather frivolous stuff, such as the subreddit for librarians (hilariously titled, “The Secret Guild of the Librarian Sect”) on the popular content-hoarding site Reddit. But, I ended up choosing two food blogs. I read these sites for ideas on what to make for dinner, for inspiration for future meals (think: birthdays, special events, and holidays) and for their witty writing and the personable voice unique to each author. But mostly, I read them to bolster the emotional connection I have built with the blog and its respective author after so many years of reading them and following their stories.
Joy Wilson, of JoytheBaker.com, expresses herself in a light, conversational tone that makes you feel like you’re catching up with your best friend over a glass of wine. She’s been blogging since the “early” days of food blogging - all the way back to 2008, so some of her regular readers really are, well, her friends. Deb, of SmittenKitchen.com, also writes in a fun, conversational tone, but hers is decidedly more “adult-ish”, regaling you with stories of her husband and children, and their adventures in New York City. I keep coming back to these sites, even after all these years and several different life iterations, and even if I don’t particularly feel like cooking that day. They are obviously doing something right. So, let’s examine a few different content types in the context of these two foods blogs.
FINDABLE & READABLE
If there’s one thing Deb does well, and frankly there’s way more than one, it’s her site’s organizational scheme. Each post and image is meticulously tagged with metadata for findability; each recipe can be found by not only whether it falls under the traditional breakfast/lunch/dinner categories, but also by season, or by a thorough taxonomic classification of the recipe’s fruit/vegetable/dessert categorization. Is it a bread? Is it a Christmas-worthy dish? Is there bourbon in it? Do you want to be able to freeze it? Do you want to “put an egg on it”? All of these options exist for the reader to browse the recipe index. If you don’t know what you want, there is also a “Surprise Me!” button that will take you to a random recipe that just might become your new favorite. If you’re searching for the perfect summer dessert, at the end of each recipe page/blog post, there are links that will take you to recipes she made last year (a pleasant way to keep browsing other seasonal dishes); and, if you’re on the “other side of the world” she supplies links for dishes she made this time last season (e.g., if you live in Australia, she hasn’t forgotten you just because it’s 90 degrees in NYC).
SmittenKitchen.com is also incredibly readable. I could spend hours reading her posts, and I have on several occasions - really reading, not skimming past her retelling of her trip to the farmers market to get to the recipe. I believe this has to do not just with her approachable tone, but also by the conciseness of her word choice. You feel satisfied, not overloaded, with information. When necessary, she bullet points her post, such as a recent step-by-step tutorial she created for how to use a stovetop espresso machine.
UNDERSTANDABLE & SHAREABLE
Joy Wilson knows who her audience is. They certainly don’t fall under one user persona, but she keeps her readers in mind every step of the way - every instagram post, every new cake recipe, every inside joke she has cultivated with her audience over the years. Many of her recipes are updated twists on old classics, but that doesn’t mean she assumes knowledge of anyone. She explains every step of the recipe in a knowledgeable, yet fun, (“we’re learning together!”) kind of way. While it’s true of most any food blog (or, it should be) that the recipes provided are accessible and easy to understand, Joy takes it to a new level by creating tutorial videos that go back to the basics - the Basic basics, like how to cream butter into sugar, or the type of flour to use for which recipe. Despite the attention to detail in her recipes, her tutelage never comes across as pandering or holier-than-thou. She’s your friendliest neighbor who just happens to be an amazing baker and will drop off homemade goodies on your doorstep with a brief note on how she managed such brilliance in a tiny apartment kitchen with her massive orange cat in the way.
A trait that I find obvious in bloggers who have been around since before blogging was the industry it is today, is their seemingly effortless ability to engage with their users in ways that encourage action and engagement across platforms. I say “effortless” here because there was distinct shift in tone when the newer bloggers-on-the-block realized they could monopolize social media for maximum traffic; this struggle for an inauthentic “chatty” voice is shockingly apparent - at least to me, and by golly, I have an opinion about that. Joy is able to inspire her readers to want to engage with her - tagging her in instagram photos of recipes they’ve made from her site, and sharing her blog posts with friends on their own social media platforms. The amazing part about all of this is, is that it seems Joy doesn’t have to say a word about this: rarely, if ever, will you see her beg for you to share her content. Joy is able to inspire sheer trust from her readers that results in an authentic emotional response to her work.