Re-designing a Website: 5 Things to Consider

There comes a time in the life of every web site when a re-design is in order. This can be driven by a new brand image,  making better use of advancing web technologies or simply the need to provide a better organizational structure.

Needing to re-organize was the driving force behind a design shake up of Creative in Chicago, a craft and home decor blog and the outlet for my personal creative endeavors.

When I first started this blog  I opted for a quick and easy Blogger template,  simply adding a custom header and working with the template designer to add a unique background and set the blog layout.  It was fully functional but not the most appealing site in the world, but as I had no idea if it was something I was going to write on a regular basis, I didn’t want to invest a load of time in setting it up.

Creative in Chicago

As it turns out the blog now has over 200 posts with over 30K visitor a month and was in dire need of a shake up, so it underwent a redesign . For regular blogging I generally recommend using WordPress but because I did not want to spend more time than necessary, I decided to stick with Blogger.

redesign website

During the redesign process I wanted to address

    1. Look and Feel
      The overall look and feel of the blog was very bland and I wanted to punch it up a notch but still let the content of the site do most of the talking.
    2. Reorganization/Navigation
      The posts in the blog had all been categorized but I wanted to refine the categorization process and then use it as a navigational structure, making posts and topics of interest much easier to find.
    3. Readability
      To enable visitor to quickly scan new content from the home page or a category page I wanted to move from the full post to a summary post format.
    4. Advertising
      The site receives around 30K visitors a month and I wanted to explore the advertising opportunities available for generate revenue from the site.
    5. Responsive Design
      Around 20% of the traffic comes via mobile devices so it was important that I provided a site that was optimized for those visitors.

 

Look/Feel and Readability

In re-designing a site I wanted to keep some semblance of the original site so not to completely alienate my readers with something totally new and unexpected.  I kept the background patterns and type face of  “Creative in Chicago” the same but completely reworked  the header, creating a little more pop with the use of color and simple design elements and also integrated social media icons and RSS feed subscription.

I also moved away from the full post format on the home and category pages. Instead the reader is now offered a summary of each post with an thumbnail picture. It is much easier to see at a glance the content of the site.

creative in chicago blog

Reorganization/Navigation

Although I had been using  categories to define content there lacked a definite structure which I could use as navigational tool.  I reassessed and ended up with five main categories : Art – Crafts projects – Decorating – Free Stuff – Garden projects and within these categories I defined a number of sub categories. For example the category Decorating has five sub categories: Before and Afters – Painting – Decorative Accents – Wall Art Ideas- Windows .  The navigation bar was reworked to include these main blog categories, with  drop down elements for the subcategories. A search bar  was also prominently placed.  Posts that were buried deep within the blog are now much more accessible.

 

creative in chicago website navigation

Advertising

I decided to incorporate Google Adsense into the site and allotted a spot high on the sidebar for placement.  I wanted a position that would work both well for click throughs but not to be too invasive for my readers.  I am also experimenting with in-line advertising through infolink. Both are working nicely!

Responsive Design

Fortunately Blogger makes this really easy and it is as simple as selecting a pre-made template to display when anyone accesses the site with a mobile device.

What is Responsive Web design

So yesterday I talked about the launch of a new website mrbison.com and how we had taken the opportunity to recode it as a responsive web site.

But what does that mean…what is a responsive web site?

Simply put, it is a site that will give the  visitor an optimal viewing experience regardless of what device they are using to access it- desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. And as I am all about graphics let me show you in pictures exactly what I mean.

Here is the site on a 24″ desk top monitor

Responsive webdesign in action

Here it is on an iPad – both portrait and landscape orientation

Responsive design on ipad

and here it is on an i Phone

responsive design on iphone

The way the site is coded means it automatically “responds”  to what ever device it it viewed from. Here are some of the things that happen

  • Automatic  adjustment the overall width of the site
  • Re sizes all the images – see how the entire width of the header graphic and call to action banner are visible whatever the device
  • Adjusts the placements of page elements – on the phone the elements that were displayed horizontally ( the block of text and video) are now displayed vertically
  • Optimization of the navigational tool. If viewed on a phone a clunky navigational bar would detract from the site content. Instead the user is presented with a menu button, which, if selected, will display a drop down menu.

You don’t have to view the site on all of these different devices to see this responsive nature in action, simply visit the site and re-size your browser window…getting smaller and smaller as you do.. see how the site changes?