The new design is live! Look around you at the changes.

Over the past few years I have come to realize the importance of periodically redesigning my blog. When the blog no longer reflects you or your style, it’s time to get going with some changes. How often this will occur varies with each person and blog, keeping in mind that a blog is on the one hand, very personal and on the other, very public.

I’ve just finished this entire redesign process with the absolutely invaluable help of Shari at Little Blue Deer.  In addition to moving from a Blogger platform to the self-hosted WordPress, this redesign involved many decisions, many sceenshots, many emails, a lot of design discussion. I thought you might be interested to follow along in this process.

Some of the elements common to all blog design are color, typeface, graphics and overall layout and appearance and it is these I will show you in my redesign process.

#1. The Header

That header, right up there at the top of the opening page, has to be YOU. You have about three seconds to grab a reader’s attention when they click on your blog and that header image can be a make-or-break item. Do you want a lot of color in your header? Do you want it full of information, or minimalistic? Graphic, romantic, full of photos, lots of white space, colorful? Oh, the choices!

As we began our journey I thought I wanted a total redesign: a new look which would include not only an entirely new image on the header, but new colors, new information and new graphics. It was time for a change and time to totally update. But as we all know, what you first think you want turns out to not be what you want, and this certainly held true for me.

Take a look below and see what happened.
I sent Shari a huge selection of my photographs, partly to give her a feel for what I wanted included and what the blog is all about, and to give her a color story. At this point I thought I wanted to keep the yellow/burnt orange feel that is there now. I wasn’t sure about the gray: yes or no. I thought images with overlay titles of the subjects I write about such as travel, gardening, interiors etc. would work well.

We progressed, generally, from the #1 image below to the #3. But they just were NOT working. There was too much color, too much going on, they were hard to read. All this took several weeks. Remember, these three images are just a small selection of what went back and forth! Remember also that I am proficient in Photoshop so was able to play around with layers and type and layout.

3 Header Ideas

#2. Colors

Depending on the subject and theme of your blog, you may or may not want a lot of color. Do you want your post title to be a color? What color for the sidebar items? How about the background for your sidebar items? Typeface color? Social media icons in a color?
Just to remind you: here is a screenshot of the “old” blog design and the colors:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.22.15 PM

When we realized that none of the three above was working I then looked long and hard at what was existing (above). Yes!
It needed reworking, but I realized I wanted to stay with the basic layout. But the colors needed a total update. I suggested a few color palettes, all involving gray but then another highlight color of either yellow, turquoise, orange, or a deep pink/magenta. Here are the first drafts:

3 new headersa

We’re getting there!
One last option, only available with WordPress, is to have the social media icons right up there on the header. Did I like that? No, not so much. Neither one below seemed right to me; I like those icons over there on the sidebar in the more traditional spot.

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 6.02.56 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 6.03.07 PM

#3. To Float or Not To Float

Most blogs have a thin border around the main area. Take a look. Some have a border separating the main area from the sidebar(s). Some have a texture or color all over the background and some have that color as a background on the entire blog area. One word of advice: black is not recommended as a background: very difficult to read. But there are blogs that simply float. The white background space is uninterrupted over the entire screen area. Sure, go ahead and try it, I said. And I like it!

#4. Nav(igation) Bar

I never had a nav bar until a few years ago. That’s the horizontal space under the header that can be a sort of “index” for your blog. Those titles that you click on up there lead to “pages”. These are static and do not change and do not have a comment area (well, most do not). I really like having this option as it saves valuable real estate over on the sidebar and also gives me a chance to inclu  ???? One of my items up there is “Blogs I Recommend” which is a page devoted to blogs that are the overflow from my Blogroll (see #6) but that are important to me and I hope to you.

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 5.55.18 PM

#5. Sidebar

Most blogs make use of one sidebar, and it’s usually on the right. Somehow this makes better sense than having it on the left, as we read left to right. But then again, there are blogs that don’t have sidebars. Decisions, decisions…I’ve always had mine on the right and that is where it’s staying.

#6. Blogroll

It seems that blogrolls have gone out of style; or that seems to be the word from blogland. They do take up space (a lot) over on the sidebar. And they are tricky: you cannot include all the blogs you follow, you risk alienating some of your blog friends, and you must keep it up to date. But I am a huge fan of blogrolls. For one thing, it is a great way for me to check on these few blogs and when they update so I can visit. Secondly, I feel blogrolls connect us as bloggers and as friends. It’s a community, after all. And, I get many, many people visiting my blog as a result of being on others’ blogrolls and I hope this is reciprocated.

 There you have it: the completed journey to a new blog design.  I’m gradually becoming comfortable with WordPress and, very importantly,  I know how to search for help on their site. I can’t say enough good things about the flexibility and unlimited choices available. I’m so glad I made the switch.

If you have any questions please feel free to email me and, of course, we would all love to hear your experiences in the comments below.