Why I re-designed my blog, how to know when you’re ready to, and what to do in the meantime.
In September of 2013, I created an account on WordPress.com, not knowing what I was getting myself into. I sifted through the internet to figure out how to get this ‘blog’ thing set up; I was completely lost. I’d been reading blogs for a while, and had developed a circle of favorite food and fitness bloggers. I loved their recipes, their workouts, their voices, and simply how their websites looked. But seeing something and forming a liking to it is completely different from understanding how that person got to that point, and executing to achieve what you’re looking for.
I knew what my taste was, I knew which blogs I’d enjoyed and liked to look at, but I had no idea how to make mine look like that. I can enjoy a Georgia O’Keefe painting all I want, but there’s no way in hell I could replicate it.
Of course, it’s a little more difficult to customize a website when you’re using WordPress.com instead of WordPress.org. WordPress.com doesn’t allow theme customization – so, there I was, scrolling through the free section of WordPress themes, trying to choose which one would be my suitor. By the way – if you’re a new blogger, for the love of God, go with WordPress.org. I was lucky enough to meet a web developer at a UF football game who ended up switching my website to .org from .com for free. When I was trying to do it myself, the migraines that ensued were indescribable.
I chose a theme and went with it. And if I recall, I lost count of how many times I’d changed my theme. At that point, it didn’t really matter because nobody was reading my blog. *sob* But the point was, I was never happy with how my website looked. I was not proud of my design or my theme. Additionally, I felt like it was holding me back.
Then, in October, my beautiful friend Georgie made me a gorgeous, custom logo! It was the first time I’d had anything that was all mine to symbolize my brand and my blog. I’ll never forget being in our hotel in Banff when I received her email containing the logo files; excited is an understatement. Georgie was kind enough to make me that beautiful logo, and it’s been repping the T-B-B for nine months now.
But that logo didn’t foresee the life transition I would experience.
To be frank, it was a little hard for me to let go of it. When discussing this re-design with Jenn, she’d asked me if I was going to go with the logo change, which was a piece of the package she was offering. I hesitated. I told her my reservations. I was transparent in my reluctance.
But, per usual throughout this whole process, Jenn made me feel at ease. She ensured me that, when going through a re-design process, a logo change is recommended. I’m not just changing my design, but I’m changing my brand, my goals, my outlook, and my future. I thought: okay, I’ll do the whole shebang. The words came out of my mouth, and my mind was trying to reel them in like a fisherman catching dinner. But, once I gave her that answer, I realized it was the right decision.
Usually, if something scares me, it ends up being the right choice. In other words, I over think everything all the time everyday in my entire life. So for once, I took a note from Phil Knight and just did it.
So, now that you have the backstory…
Why I Re-designed My Blog
I’m going through some changes.
Monday was my first day dropping down to part-time from my full-time job. Which is so weird for me to post on the internet for the world to see, but it’s true. And I have absolutely no plan. Which has not only been a source of stress in the back of my mind, but it is so unlike me. I’ve quit a job before (I did not quit this time, but you know what I mean) because I loathed that job and had a plan to start a new job. But this is a different story. I don’t hate my job. The people at my job have become like my family. I’ve known them since I was a 21-year old intern. I’ve watched the business from pivot to pivot, changing business models, growing and learning, to now having almost twenty employees and a user base that grows by the minute. Truly – an amazing thing to witness and be a part of. The startup experience is unlike any other. They’ve been great to me, are great to me, and I am forever grateful for their compassion and flexibility.
However, I have passions that I can no longer ignore. The fact that I took this step, especially without a concrete, written-in-stone, signed and notarized plan, is really telling. It may not seem like a huge step to some, but it’s a huge step to me. I am the poster child for Type A personalities. This is the real deal.
With this transition, I felt a re-design was appropriate. I’ve been wanting a custom website design for almost three years, and this felt like the right time. Similar to the power of going from long hair to a chin-length bob, I needed this haircut. Change ya hair, change ya life.
^Anyone who tweets that, you’re the coolest.
I’m ready to take this relationship to the next level.
To piggy-back off of my recent job change, I am ready to take my business to the next level. With that, I did not feel as though my previous design was at the level of professionalism I am looking for. While I classify as a blogger, I feel like I am much more than that (nothing wrong with being a blogger, obviously, since I run a blog and stuff). My website screamed “blogger”, while my heart, my work, the value I believe I bring, my goals, scream “business owner”. Essentially, I wanted to go from blog to business; I wanted something more sophisticated and professional. I needed my training wheels removed, ya girl is ready for the open road.
I needed to zero in on my goals and brand definition.
Since 2013, my blog, brand, and business, has felt a bit foggy. While I have my purpose as my foundation, I’ve felt like my niche was a gray area. I make recipes, I’m a food blogger, but I felt like I’ve lacked focus. I’ve tried and tried, and simply could not figure out what the heck my ‘thing’ was.
This process reminded me of group fitness. Humor me. When I exercise on my own, I am a slaaaaaacker. I simply do not work as hard, I horse around, I straight. up. SLACK. Yet, when I have friends holding me accountable, and someone next to me trying to do more burpees than me, I work my ass off and get a hell of a good sweat in.
This whole time I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m doing. Working with Jenn, going through the branding process, I was almost forced to give her narrowed down information. I had to tell her what I was all about. And all of a sudden, it was more clear than ever. Major face palm, my friends. I think I needed that push. As I’m entering into a world of uncertainty, I needed clarity with The Blissful Balance. This re-design gave it to me.
I believe in business investments.
So far, all of the investments I’ve made for my blog have been worth it (in my opinion). Like I said in this post, I’m not a big spender by any means. However, I’ve proven to myself that these are investments in my future. I was terrified when I purchased my DSLR camera. That was more money than I’d spent in a long time, and doing so made me palpably nervous. However, that was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my blog and business. It took everything to the next level.
I believe in this redesign as an investment in my business, and I feel it’s something that will propel me forward.
When is it Time to Re-Design?
Like I said, I started my blog in September 2013. This is the first time I am investing money into a custom design. Almost three years later.
A re-design isn’t something you do often. It requires a lot of thought, money, and is of the utmost importance. Additionally, changing your branding too much can result in brand inconsistency and a lack of brand identity. With that said, it can be difficult to understand when it might be time for you to do the same, or when you should hold off. In addition to the four things I just listed as reasons why I re-designed, these are a few other questions that came to mind when deciding to take the leap:
Is your website running okay?
My website was running very slow. This was due to ads, to unnecessary plug-ins, to images, etc. When going through my initial design audit, it was something Jenn pointed out right away, and something that I’ve actually been told on various occasions. Weirdly enough, my site has never been slow on my own computer, so it wasn’t something in my face everyday that motivated me to do anything about it. So, I’ve never really taken the time to investigate. However, I felt that a re-design and clean sweep would help this problem.
Is your website user-friendly and intuitive?
If your website is cluttered and difficult for brand new users to navigate, it might be time to re-design, or at least restructure. Nobody wants to have to exert energy to be able to find what they came for; a website that’s complicated or not user-friendly is an equation for low engagement, and people leaving without giving you a chance, and maybe never coming back. I felt that my website lacked the ease of navigation. My sidebar felt cluttered and I simply wanted a cleaner, more sophisticated look.
Does your offering seem unclear?
With my blog, I felt like it was unclear what my purpose was, or what I was offering to visitors. Through a few Peek User Testing sessions, I found that people would arrive to my site, and not really understand what it was. Of course, this blew my mind because to me, *duh* it’s a food blog. But I had to put my mind into that of stranger’s: what do they think when they get to my website?
Are you financially ready?
A big part of the reason I’ve waited so long to re-design my website is the obvious monetary reason. Graphic and web design is expensive. I wanted to make sure that I found right designer, that I understood what I wanted, why I wanted it, and that I was simply making the right choice. I felt almost like I was searching for my wedding dress. I came across countless designers and I just never got that ‘this is the one’ feeling. But once I had Jenn do my design audit, I knew I’d found the person that would design my website.
Does your brand lack consistency?
Mine did. I had too many different colors in my graphics, I had sidebar images and plugins that didn’t match my branding, yadda yadda. It just wasn’t cohesive. Brand consistency is important because it sets you apart. Branding can go so far as to inspire a sense of trust in readers and newcomers alike. I felt like I understood brand consistency, I understood the importance of finding a style on my website, but I wouldn’t achieve exactly what I wanted without a custom website.
These were all things I thought about before making my decision. Something else I recommend? Really doing your research. Don’t just pick any designer. Get recommendations. Read reviews and testimonials. Sift through portfolios.
And if you’re a new blogger, someone not ready to go full custom website and pay a designer to give you a branding package, here are a few steps you can take to enhance your brand cohesiveness and website usability.
Quick Design Tips for New Bloggers
I am guilty of almost all of these, and have learned along the way.
Remove any social media feed plugins from your sidebar.
Each social media platform has its own logo, which is almost always displayed in their feed-type plugins. I recommend removing any Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram ‘feeds’ or ‘sliders’ from your sidebar. It takes away from your brand consistency (are you tired of hearing that yet?) and it’s sort of redundant – if you already have your social media icons on your website, there is no need to have these feeds taking up room. If somebody wants to follow you on social media, they will find you, they will use your buttons.
Page sequence matters.
To increase usability, I recommend auditing the sequence in which your pages are listed. If you’re a food blogger, for instance, place your “About” page first, then your recipes, any other categories, your “Services” or “Work with Me” page, and finally, your contact page. Think about how people would sift through your website naturally.
Use two to three fonts.
The more simple, the better. When creating graphics or simply choosing what fonts to use as your headers, sub-headers, and paragraph fonts, choose two to three fonts for simplicity. Too many fonts leads to a crowded-looking website, and is simply not pleasing to look at.
Relocate your blog network badges.
Your sidebar is important real estate on your blog, and there are many ways to utilize it. Many bloggers (including me) fill up their sidebars with badges for blog networks they are a part of. Some networks require this, and some don’t. I don’t think they should be removed altogether, but maybe placed elsewhere on your blog. I believe it’s a good idea to make a graphic containing all of those badges and place them into your “work with me” or “press” page, indicated as “networks I work with” or “communities I belong to” (still working on this). While us bloggers know what those networks represent, the average blog visitor (say, someone who’s simply looking for a recipe) doesn’t know what those are, and to them, it’s just clutter. If someone wants to know what networks you belong to, they are probably someone who would be clicking to your “work with me” or “press” page, regardless.
There you have it, folks. The who, what, where, when, and why I redesigned my blog, how to know when you’re ready, and what to do in the meantime. While a blog redesign might not seem like a big deal to some, it is to me, as it’s been a decision in the making for a long, long time. Thank you to Jenn who has been such a source of inspiration throughout this process! Who knew I’d gain a friend from redesigning my blog!?
Join the conversation:
Have you ever thought about re-branding/designing your website? What’s holding you back?
What is one website you find totally inspiring?