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Why I Redesigned This Blog

How do you design a blog? What are the proper “design elements” of a blog? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some basic principles to take hold of. I’ll go through them as I explain why I redesigned this blog.

My inspiration

First, I want to begin with what (or, rather, who) inspired me to make the changes that I did. It began with the header, which I used when I was using emilyjacques.com as the URL. The photos are outdated, and will only become more outdated as time goes on. For instance, our son was four years old in one picture, and younger in another, but he is now eight and a half. Jerry doesn’t look so great in the photo where he’s got Benjamin in his lap, either.

liveyourdreamswithemilyheader_flat

Then, about a week ago, I was browsing around and decided to check out a blog I had not visited for a while. By that point, I had commented on probably ten other blogs over the past few days. When I got to the blog in question, my mind instantly relaxed, and peace settled in my soul.

I’m talking about zenhabits.com. The one thing that I don’t like about his blog is the color of the text. It’s too light for someone with Irlen Syndrome – at least, for my brand of the condition.

But when you go to his blog, here’s what you get:

  • The simplest header ever.
  • No color.
  • One blog post on the home page.
  • A link to read other blog posts.
  • No sidebar, and therefore:
  • No advertisements, and
  • No lists of “recent/favorite posts” or categories or “recommended________.”
  • Quiet, subtle links to follow him at the bottom of the page.
  • Even more subtle links in the footer.

In essence, you get simplicity, and peace and quiet.

Three of the noisiest blogs ever

Around the same time I landed on Leo’s blog, I visited three other blogs that I had visited in the past. It had been at least three years, though.

The first blog obviously was desperately trying to hit up the Pinterest crowd, and had been completely redesigned. You know how normally when you go to the home page of a blog, you see the texts of several blog posts there? Well, on this blog, instead of texts there were large pictures with linked captions to take you to the blog post. They were nice pictures, but they were large.

There were images in the sidebar.

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

I clicked on an image, just to see how a post page looked, and it was almost as busy.

It had been in my bookmarks; I deleted it from my bookmarks. I got dizzy trying to navigate the site!

The other blog had Adwords at the top of each page, and two in the left sidebar. The other sidebar was full of various advertisements, plus the usual Category and Recent Posts lists. It didn’t make me dizzy, but it did put me off.

When there’s so much stuff to look at, where do you start? Besides, the effect was junky.

The third blog had one of those magazine themes. Like I said earlier, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if you like those kinds of themes, you are free to do so. But I don’t like magazine themes. There are multiple columns with images and text links begging to be clicked in each one. Busy, busy, busy.

I deleted that one from my bookmarks, as well.

The typical blog

The typical pro-designed blog looks nice. I’m not saying anything against them. And if you’re just going to read a post from one or two such blogs, it’s not hard on the psyche.

But if you’re doing research, to land on web page after web page filled with different images and colors gets overwhelming.

I decided I wanted to do for my readers as Leo does for his: provide an oasis from all the Internet noise. I decided I wanted something very similar as he has.

Not exactly that minimalist, but I wanted the general color scheme of my site to be calming and integrated. I no longer wanted a header full of different colors and disjointed photos, a noisy e-mail sign-up form, or any text that screamed for attention. For instance, I previously had set up both my post headlines and text links to be red.

The first attempt

The easy part was creating a new header (Jerry made it in Artweaver).  The next step was to try to change the footer for my blog theme, which is Thesis.

I love Thesis for its flexibility and ease of basic design; however, it was invented with professional web developers in mind. As such, to do more advanced functions a person needs to go through a much steeper learning curve.

Looking at the Thesis help guide, and doing a general online search, did not help. All we found were basic instructions that seemed to have a piece missing. Without that missing piece, we couldn’t recode the footer.

Having spent $$$$$$ on my broken arm these past six months, I wasn’t about to hire a web designer.

Okay, I’ll play it straight – I wouldn’t hire a web designer, anyway. I knew I could figure out the look I wanted by myself.

What I did

First, I whittled my categories down to three: Our Journey, Wealth, and Simplicity. I did that because in the future I will be adding two more tabs, and I want the navigation bar to be only one bar long.

Then, I redesigned the nav bar. I muted the background colors and changed the font to look more like the font of the new header.

Next, I went to GetResponse and chose the most basic sign-up form template they have. It has no color of its own, so – as you can see – it blends right in with the background color of the blog.

I removed the title from the row of “follow” icons: “Please like us and follow us! :)” First of all, most people know what those icons are for. And if they don’t, they won’t do anything with them, anyway. Second, the default WordPress widget titles are ugly.

After that, I changed the color of text links so that the linked phrases (About Me, etc.) in the sidebar would be clearly visible, but not distracting. Finally, I changed the color of the headlines from red to dark brown.

Rules I am breaking

  1. You must have an arrow pointing to the sign up form.
  2. You must have a photo of yourself either in the header or in the sidebar.
  3. You must list the blog categories and/or recent posts or whatever in the sidebar to entice people to click to other pages.
  4. You must pay somebody several hundred dollars to design your blog.

But, big deal. I know of people whose blogs break one or more of those rules, and who still get plenty of visitors and regular readers.

I hope you enjoy my new blog design. I want it to be easy on both the eyes and the brain while you enjoy the content. 🙂

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