The Big Outside: Stories and Images of Outdoor Adventures (http://thebigoutside.com) is an outdoor adventure blog written by Michael Lanza. The first post was published in 2012. Lanza, a writer, photographer, and outdoor adventurer, writes about his trips, gear reviews, and expert advice about trip planning and exploring the great outdoors.
The general layout of The Big Outside: Stories and Images of Outdoor Adventures, is a two-column blog with a header and a footer. It uses neutral colors, with a dark gray background for the page, and a lighter tan background for the blog posts.
The header is simple. It includes a graphic with a photograph, blog title, tag line and the author’s name (Michael Lanza), as well as social media links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts, and the blog’s RSS feed.
Just below the graphic, the main menu directs the audience to several pages, including an “About” page. Finally, there is a “featured” posts slideshow beneath the main menu that scrolls through a series of photographs that include the title and short snippet from each post.
The body of the blog is split into a smaller left-hand column, and the main column, which includes the latest blog posts. The left hand-column includes the following widgets: search bar; subscribe to the blog; links to gear discounts; links to blog sponsors; a call for financial support from readers; a list of blog post categories; a link to the author’s book; a list of the top posts and pages; and a tag cloud.
The main column of the blog displays the most recent blog posts. The entire posts are not included. Instead, each post has a featured image with the date the post was published; the title of the blog post; information about the categories and tags assigned to the post by the author, a link to the comments for the post; Lanza’s name; and the first paragraph of the blog post. There is a link at the end of the paragraph for the reader to click if they would like to continue reading the post.
The blog footer is also simple. In light text over a dark background, it includes the main menu, and just below that, copyright information.
The Tag Cloud widget quickly allows the reader to see the most popular topics on this blog: backpacking, hiking, and gear reviews. According to Lanza, the top posts on The Big Outside: Stories and Images of Outdoor Adventures, include:
- Ask Me: What Should We Do on a Trip to Colorado, Yellowstone, and the Southwest?
- 10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You
- 12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter
- 10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit
Interestingly, “Ask Me: What Should We Do on a Trip to Colorado, Yellowstone, and the Southwest?” was only shared four times on Facebook, and received one comment. Yet, “10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You“, was shared 969 times on Facebook, and 100 times on Pinterest. Overall, the posts have very few comments, and limited social media sharing.
Each blog post has a title and featured image, as well as several photographs included throughout the text. Every photo has a caption, and for the most part, the images are well-composed. Lanza takes all of the photos included in the blog posts, as indicated by the copyright watermark on each image.
At the end of each blog post, Lanza includes a small photo, and a call to action for his readers. He asks them to visit his “About” page to learn more about him; to subscribe to the blog; and to follow him on Facebook or Twitter. Just below this are social media sharing buttons so the reader can easily share the post
Lanza also includes a request for financial support to help fund the blog, three related posts, links to the previous and next blog post, and finally, a call for the reader to comment on their thoughts about the blog post.
The “About” page is very useful. In addition to information about Lanza, it provides the reader with an overview of the blog’s structure, and points them to particularly popular posts. Once again, Lanza asks readers to subscribe to the blog, and/or contribute financially.
The Big Outside: Stories and Images of Outdoor Adventures is a visually pleasing, well-written blog about hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor adventures.
The layout of the blog is very easy to navigate, and clearly informs the reader about the topic of the blog. The truncated blog posts allow the reader to quickly ascertain the types of posts published on the blog. Overall, the layout is quite successful. However, there is no information about Lanza on the home page, other than his name. It would be useful for the reader if Lanza included a widget in the left-hand column that featured a small picture and brief bio.
The content of the blog is very visually appealing, as well as informative. Lanza is clearly an expert in this niche topic. He uses catchy blog titles to draw the interest of the reader, and makes sure to engage the reader by asking them to follow his blog and social media accounts, and to respond to his work. Though there does not seem to be a great deal of reader interaction on the blog itself, Lanaza’s The Big Outside Facebook page has over 9,000 likes, and the Twitter account has over 4,500 followers.