We Took a PEEK at Our Blog – And Didn’t Like What We Saw…

We love following Facebook Pages dedicated to blogging. They provide some great networking opportunities and a lot of sharing goes on.  We learn quite a bit about how to improve our blogging skills and about the technical side of blogging. One day as I was reading through the many posts, I came across one from a fellow travel blogger suggesting a service called Peek.  In a nutshell, Peek offers a free service where you can have your website reviewed to test it’s usability.  Peek’s tag line is – Get a peek into the mind of your users.


As a travel blogger, you typically will see your own site more often than any other one peson ever will.  Between writing new posts and tweaking things when they break, you can sort of stop paying attention to what your blog actually looks like, and how it might look to others.  That was us…  We thought it was nice, provided information to readers, and of course had a lot of great photos.  Until we got a ‘peek”…

Untitled copy

About a week after we submitted our URL to peek, we received an email letting us know the review was done.  I was pretty excited so I found Lisa and we were off to watch it together.  We anxiously watched as an anonymous user went through our site to try to determine the primary function of our blog and overall what they thought of it.  Pen and paper in hand, ready to take notes, we hit PLAY..

At first it wasn’t too bad – the reviewer thought we might be something like a Trip Advisor site, “maybe offering travel tips” she continued.  Then she mentioned the site was sort of busy.  This we knew and had been told that by another travel blogger, so we had planned on making some changes there anyway.  She continued to try to figure our site out.  “What Boundaries Travel?  Strange blog name.  Is it What Boundaries Travel! or What Boundaries? Travel!?  It doesn’t seem grammatically correct”  I am now taking notes, jotting down all we are hearing so we can work on it.  This is great stuff!

Still trying to figure us out, she went to the About Us page.  Good – now she will understand what we are all about!  And then it went downhill very fast…

Oh..  I see you are an advertising company?  Is everything on your site a paid sponsorship?  Now I am not sure I trust this site.  You must be a PR firm.  As a consumer I am skeptical now if this site is a bunch of paid postings.  I would not trust this site now.”

WHAT??  That was not what What Boundaries Travel was about at all!!

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In our minds What Boundaries Travel was a blog providing our readers with travel destination information, travel tips, and yes, a few tour companies provide us with a complimentary tour in return for a review (which we disclose on each of those posts).  Our goal was to try to inspire our readers to live their dream and to really take a look at what boundaries might be putting those dreams off.  Clearly we were not even close to our goal.

We watched the video 3 more times, because after the initial viewing we were still a bit shocked.  I looked at Lisa and said “What should do?”  We talked about why we started the blog in the first place.  It was the way most travel bloggers probably start out – a way to share their stories with friends and family, sort of an online journal.  We recalled how much we actually enjoyed it then.  Not that we don’t enjoy it now, but certainly much less pressure!

We decided it was time for a serious facelift.  Not just in design, but also in content.  We wanted to get back to the basics of blogging, or at least OUR basics.  Next step was outlining a new design and new message for our readers and we think we may have found it in this new format.

New and Improved

We hope you like it!  We would love to hear from you, our readers:  What do you think about the new look?  What message do you get when you visit our page and read some of our posts? What would YOU like to see more of?

After a few weeks we may try our friends at peek again… if we can get our courage up!



About the author

Cheryl MacDonald left the corporate world in 2007 to pursue a dream of living life to the fullest. She and her partner, Lisa Chavis continue to travel the world inspiring others to Live Their Dream!


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  • Hi Cheryl: I think it’s always good to have a fresh look every now and then, but I wouldn’t get too caught up in the Peek review. I had one done for my site a couple of months ago and the reviewer didn’t even know what a blog was. He kept questioning if it was a travel tour company and never even checked my about page. Not to mention that he didn’t even look at the highly prominent black box with my photo and explanation of the site that overlays the huge photos at the top, which would have told him what he wanted to know. It was as if he purposely ignored it, since he mentioned the box in the upper left with the logo and tag line for my blog. In the end, he said he wouldn’t return to my site, as he didn’t like to travel anyway. Really? They assigned my travel blog to a reviewer who didn’t know what a blog was and didn’t like to travel? Pretty ridiculous, IMHO.

    • Thanks Barbara – We had a similar experience with our second blog The Travel Pharmacist. The reviewer spent the entire time on the sidebar looking at our World Nomads Travel Insurance ad. He took the entire time trying to figure out how to use the insurance quote function! Yes, we did take it for what it was worth (free!) but also knew it was time for a change so it was also the kick in the pants we needed too!

  • It is good re-evaluate what you are doing from time to time. It takes courage to accept criticism, no matter how constructive it is. Good luck with the new look.

    • Thanks Donna! We are pretty excited to get back to a more personal blog as well and think this new format, new look, and new vision will help keep us refreshed as well as our blog. Cheers!

  • Aloha Cheryl and Lisa – Congrats on your bravery! I was reminded of those homeowner shows where they have the secret camera during the “before” open house and then they have to sit through perfect strangers dissing their decorating! Having recently done a visual update/graphics rebrand, I could relate to some of the issues. Everybody needs a facelift every now and again, and evaluating the reader experience is the best place to start.

  • I have never heard of Peek and am curious as to why they would do this time consuming review for free. I feel brave enough to try this review too and will let you know how confused my blog can be to someone who lives under a rock since he/she never saw a blog before (snicker).

    • We wondered the same thing regarding Peek. After looking into a little more, they really focus on larger companies paying for a focused demographic usability test. I imagine the 3 to 5 minute review for free probably is used to help Peek weed out good testers from the bad. We were glad to have another set of layperson eyes give us some opinions though!

    • I did this for my blog as well! The one thing she said was something like “there’s not that much on here”, but she went to a category that I didn’t have!

      They use Peek to give you an idea about the benefits of User Testing, which is a new method of optimizing websites and programs for user experience. You’ll start getting plenty of marketing material from them soon enough!

  • I think that we all need to show our sites to impartial people, and I think that it generous that you shared this so openly with everyone. I like your site, it is schmick. However, when you said ‘come inside and be inspired” I kept hitting it expecting it to be a link. But that could be me. The coloured, numbered sidebar is brilliant.

    We also had our site done by Peek ..twice. The first was a 19 year old boy, he said that in the middle and his 1st thoughts were that our site is a mess. We agree, but he later said it was a good mess.. we are still going to make it ‘neater’.

    He also could not really tell immediately that it was travel – I sort of thought Contented Traveller might be a give away. He then read about us and said we were a pair of old hippies who did what we wanted. We were rapt – he got it. He did note that he was pleased not to see ads on it.

    So .. we figured we had got out of it lightly as we actually want someone to rip us apart and give us something to work with. The second results were the same, messy and quirky. We still intend to make our site ‘neater’ but are pleased that it was obvious about what we do .. though I know that others have said that they don’t get our point of view straight away.

    These Peek people were paid to discover what we were about, others are not and unless they know straight away, they will leave.

    Great post

  • I’ve never heard of Peek, but I might give it a try as I would like my blog to look more professional. I do like the look of your new blog and I enjoyed your post. Blessings!

  • I submitted my site to Peek too –
    The most significant outcome was that he viewed it in IE (I tend to use Chrome all the time) and he revealed that my drop downs on the menu weren’t working in that browser (they jittered about but never revealed what lay below) – so I was able to get my techie guy to sort that for me.
    Even if the person isn’t keen for your niche I still think its good to see where their eye is taken on the page at a first glance – While we may think what we’re saying about ourselves is in your face obvious, if they don’t see it – maybe other’s aren’t seeing it either 🙂

  • Love the new look. Makes me realize that I need to give some thought to a makeover — for the blog, that is. 🙂 I dd the Peek free review and it was very general and the reviewer was very kind — probably too kind since it made me feel too comfortable about keeping the status quo. Anyway, great job on the site and happy travels!

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