Of Blog Design Changes and Looking to the Future

Blog design

Sometimes, I feel as if I should stay away from vacations and personal downtime completely. Case in point – I’m on vacation this week and the thing I did first? Redesigned the blog.

But… there is method behind my madness. Here’s the lowdown, for anyone interested in the thought process behind a blog design.

I’ve written about the changing paths of this blog before. Whereas it was originally a straightforward social media-led blog, I’d like to think it’s grown into something more as I’ve grown as a blogger.

Whereas previously the content has (for the most part) been of the written kind, my future plans include more multimedia, videos, presentations, ebooks and more. This leads naturally to the redesign, and the switch from a traditional blog format to a more website-type feel.

Finding Your Feet and Walking Different Paths

I’ve looked at the blogs of people like Adam Singer, Jason Falls, Brian Clark and others, where the content has still been key, but there’s more to the experience for the visitor.

Sure, you can still read their blogs, but now there’s more to keep you interested and involved – digital downloads, resources and more. And it makes sense.

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a “traditional” blog look and feel, the reading patterns and behaviours of web visitors is constantly evolving. And, from speaking with colleagues and watching the analytics of this blog, many bloggers are moving to a site framework versus a blog one.

There are several benefits of this approach:

  • Information hub homepage, where you can inform the visitor what they can expect.
  • Highlight your most important content, from blog posts to subscription details, books and more.
  • Clean call-to-actions, including digital downloads, webinars, partner sites, etc.
  • The visual appeal that a home page can offer, without cluttering your blog index.

These are just a few benefits. There are many more – the ones that matter to you are the ones that should matter on your home page.

Branding and Bigger Voices

Prior to my most recent redesign (yes, it was only a short couple of months ago – sorry!), I’d always had an image of myself in the header. With the design prior to this makeover, I removed that image and went solely for the name.

There are supporters for both arguments – Marcus Sheridan is a fan of the image approach, while Gini Dietrich is more of the name/company look and feel.

For me, there’s nothing wrong with either – a personal blogger may prefer an image to help him or her stand out, while a simple name or icon (without the blogger’s picture) can help extend the blog into something not uniquely attached to the blogger.

For example, both Gini and Jason that I mentioned earlier have regular guest bloggers, and their “name” approach means the blog is suited for that multi-author approach.

Gini’s even mentioned that the blog is bigger than her, and that’s why she doesn’t want it to be known as Gini’s blog. Again, for me, that makes perfect sense.

A blog is whatever the blogger wants it to be, while respecting the community around it that shapes it how they’d like it to be. It’s why I went for the name approach versus the image one.

For me, that’s going to see the blog evolve into what (hopefully) will be a repository for both content and downloads, to help you meet your goals, whether that be in social media, marketing or blogging (at least for starters).

Taking an image away from the header, as well as building on a website-type design, makes that goal easier.

We’re Always Evolving

It’s taken me a few iterations to get the result you’re looking at now (and if you’ve come straight to this post, hit the Home tab on the navigation to see the full design).

Some of my previous designs I was really happy with at the time, while others (in hindsight) were essentially a stop gap while looking for the design that I’d be really happy with.

While there will no doubt be more changes in the future, I don’t think it’ll be anytime soon. Having found the look and feel I’ve been after, it’ll probably just be minor tweaks here and there (a logo versus just the name, for example, though still no image!).

But though the look and feel may change, the goal remains the same – to open up the blog to you, and let you continue to shape it, in the posts from guests as well as the awesome thoughts and questions you continue to share and push with when you comment here.

This blog is as much yours as it is mine, perhaps more so.

Designs may come and go – but the same old me will always be around, waiting to hear your voice. Here’s to continued growth and evolution.

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  1. says

    Leave it to Danny to change his blog design more frequently than ______. Fill in the blank, folks. I can’t keep up.
    I question whether blog design truly matters — unless the goal is to capture and entice new readers. I subscribe to your blog through RSS (and saw this update through your Facebook page). Current readers will only click over and see it they, uhh, click over.
    But I think you need your face, Danny. After all this is a .me domain. All about you.

    • says

       @Ari Herzog I think blog design is key to ensure the goals you want are met (see @EugeneFarber ‘s thoughts). It’s the main reasons I use responsive themes (my traffic is made up of at least a third on mobile browsers and lower screen resolutions).
      A face can be distracting, especially if the blogger’s goal is more than “just blogging”. Besides, there’s always the sidebar for that. 😉

  2. says

    I’m digging the new design Danny. I always play around with layouts and designs when I get bored. It’s a way to feel productive without actually doing anything I suppose :). But it seems as though you put some thought behind it :). I certainly believe that design and layout matters depending on what you are trying to accomplish and what user experience you want to provide. But as far as branding goes…you need your name here. You’ve built up such a personal brand that it resonates with people – and people always want to hear what YOU want to say. 

    • says

       @EugeneFarber It’s the problem with WordPress, mate – it makes it so easy to mess with a theme behind the scenes before you go live, it’s hard to *not* experiment. 😉
      Cheers for the feedback – if I do go the logo route, I think the full name would still be on there, it’d be more from an initial point of view for the main design (as the previous header was).
      Thanks for being here, Eugene!

  3. says

    Sounds like a winner to me; I’m bigger than my blog however……….in case you were wondering……….:).
    Have fun on the vacation. 

  4. lovingthebike says

    Great new design, Danny…..also digging the photo of the cyclist used in this post.  I read somewhere recently that more and more non-cycling websites are incorporating cycling themes into their sites….very interesting and cool to hear it.
    Keep up the great work over here, Danny.

  5. says

    I really, really love this! It looks fantastic. What I love most is the home page. It looks more like a business than a blog and it’s very appealing. I also really like the navigation, which would be categories on other blogs.
    And…I guess the content is OK too.
    Very, very nice!

    • says

       @ginidietrich Thanks, miss. Yeah, I’d been looking to completely change the home page up for a while, and had contemplated it back in the day of Lisa’s design with the red and grey’s. I’m kinda liking this too. :)

    • says

       @ExpatDoctorMom There’s still the little picture in the sidebar, miss – I think more folk prefer that to the big ugly mug staring down from the logo. 😉

  6. says

    Loved this pensive post bud…we’re all developing, you know? One thing I’ve learned is this—what I think I like today may not be the case tomorrow. Your blog changes with your mind, goals, and vision DB, and I love that…and I say keep running.
    You’re great,

    • says

       @Marcus_Sheridan Hey there mate,
      Thanks for the kind words, sir, really appreciated. Completely agree on the mind, goals and vision defining what your blog needs to be at any given time.
      Like your search for the right tagline, and the introduction of videos. People change; blogs change; all we need to make sure of is that we continue to deliver for those that have invested in us so far.
      Cheers, sir!

    • says

       “respected bloggers Marcus Sheridan is a fan of the image approach”
      All you good looking guys are. LOL
      Hi Marcus

      • says

         @wmwebdes  @Marcus_Sheridan I need to amend that copy a little, I wrote it meaning to have Marcus and Gini together and then the preferences after – flows better. Off to do that now! :)

  7. says

    Looks great, Danny! Like you, I recently redesigned my site, and I also went with Genesis. Can’t go wrong with tried and true! I’m loving it so far.
    I also totally get changing often. This is my third design in the eight month history of my site. The purpose, focus and vision have evolved during that time, so it’s only natural that the design will, too.
    Of course, we’ll likely get tired of this design within two months, but it keeps things interesting!

    • says

       @jonloomer Hey there Jon,
      I have to admit, having tried a few of the big frameworks – Thesis, Headway, iThemes, Woo Themes, Catalyst, etc – I keep using Genesis. There’s just something about the design and support that you can’t get anywhere else.
      And yes, interesting is usually traded for nit-picking; but, like you say, that can be all the more fun. Cheers!

  8. says

    Bro… Love the new look although I was a huge fan of the design two designs ago with the arms crossed…
    I go name in header and picture in Sidebar… 
    What I’ve always struggled with is the Tagline.  My tagline changes as I change as a Blogger and I’m working on an eBook and I love the them and want to make that my tagline but I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do…
    Who knows… Killer content trumps all my friend and you do just fine there.
    Ryan H.

    • says

       @Ryan Hanley Hey there mate,
      I hear you on the tagline – it took me a while to find the one I was happy with that, ironically enough, came in with that design you mentioned. The great thing with taglines – they often hit you when you’re least expecting it, and it could be a simple a-ha moment while writing a blog post.
      Or, you could do what @Marcus_Sheridan did and ask your community – that was hugely successful for him and landed a great tagline, as well as involved his community even more in the blog. 
      Good luck, sir!
      PS – Blog post? 😉

  9. says

    4 blogs ago I had a ‘central hub’ format and it got nothing but negative feedback from my friends used to the ‘scroll down and there ya go’ standards. Personally? I say change it as you like – it’s like a suit or dress – needs to fit you *and* the reason you’re wearing it.
    Good luck with the new one. But yeah, I like the picture with the crossed arms from a bit back too.

    • says

       @LucretiaPruitt Haha, that picture has been the topic of discussion many a time, miss. Some saw it as welcoming; others saw it as “sneering”. Go figure. :)

  10. Rhysorwin says

    Nice changes, looks really clean and simple. I think that’s the way we’re headed at the moment.

  11. debdobson62 says

    Hi Danny.  I like the clean design and easy navigation.  Look forward to watching it evolve.

      • says

         @DannyBrown that’s a bit of a sneaky monkey there Danny. By having the sidebar on the left and the column for the title and the post image the actual content is, per design, an optimal line-width for reading. Pair that with an easy-to-read sans-serif font and the content area becomes easily consumable, even with large amounts of content like the 2k+ guide I wrote today.
        But who’s counting? :)
        Site looks great. I especially like the subscribe area in the sidebar. That’s pure gold.

  12. says

    I love the redesign Danny and I’m a big fan of the traditional website type layout with a blog / articles section.
    Also like the name rather than a beaming face… nothing personal Danny.
    I use a great big WM Web Design on my home page – helps a tad with the SEO and the big bold font looks impressive.
    And in conclusion… is this all your own work?
    If it is, I take my hat off to you.

    • says

       @wmwebdes Thank you, sir – yep, switched the Maintenance Mode on Sunday night at 8pm, switched it off at 1am. I’ve only used an outside designer once, which was the one two designs back – I prefer working on my own stuff too much. 😉

  13. says

    Isn’t it interesting? From websites to blogs and then back to websites. If G the BB let us do what we want with our websites each one of us can find it’s preferred layout. (G the Big Bully) :) That is how many websites owners moved to the blog layout because it wanted so? While in reality if I write a good piece it should remain so even if I don’t change a comma on it for years. If it quits dictating what’s good and what’s not then we can focus on writing good stuff. I can’t stand dictators both online and offline. :)
    I prefer a clean-looking website and after having tested tens of themes I’m finally arrived where I wanted to be, with some tweaks always going on.

  14. says

    Love it. I’m in the midst of planning a redesign, because mine is pretty much the same as it has been for 3 years, and I’m tired of the look. Always looking at other sites to see what I like both visually and functionally. I’ve debated on a change of themes, as well as overall look and feel. Might have to pick your brain on some of the plugins you use. Nice clean look, Danny.

    • says

       @KenMueller Cheers, mister – very much appreciated, sir, and feel free to pick away. Maybe I should put up a post on plugins used, and reasons for them?

      • says

         @DannyBrown That would be helpful. I’ve done that before and it got a lot of traffic. People love those sorts of posts, and I always love learning about new plugins, either to add functionality, or to replace something I’m using to make it better.

  15. says

    I’ve thought the same as Gini in that I thought a logo gives a blog it’s own identity rather than attaching it to your own.  I’ve always liked that big picture concept of giving the blog it’s own separate identity, although it’s less personal than having your own picture.

    • says

       @richescorner Exactly, mate – that was definitely the thought process behind the change here, so while it’s still my “property”, it’s (hopefully) much more besides. Cheers for your thoughts!

  16. says

    I love this new design, Danny! It’s clearly that time of year as I’m fresh off a new redesign myself that will give me a lot more flexibility to explore media forms other than rapping out a blog post.  I’m noticing some design elements that I need to incorporate, too. :)

  17. rdopping says

    Wow. All the heavy hitters weighing in. This little guy loves it too. Now if I could only get my freelance web developer to actually finish mine I’d have something to spout off about. Damn.
    Glad your mug is gone……..;-)

  18. says

    Hi Danny,
    This is a great reminder that a blog is a living an evolving thing. What is your opinion on the effects of visual change on loyal readers? Do you lose or gain subscribers when you make changes?
    I feel like a portion of readers “like it” when you make changes and others would rather things stay the same. I guess that reflects the populous’s responses to change in general.
    Have you ever involved (surveyed, questioned, got feedback etc) your readers about the redesigning or evolutionary process?
    Perhaps that could make the change more palatable and increase their buy in.
    Thanks Geoff Talbot Blogging & Commenting in only Seven Sentences

    • says

       @geoffreytalbot Hey there Geoffrey,
      Great question, mate. I have polled readers before on their thoughts about preferences, etc (mostly through my Facebook page, as I find not being on the blog while asking the question ensures there’s no visual bias to tang the answer). 
      But at the end of the day, while I definitely have the views of my readers at the forefront of any design change, I’m the one that has to “live with it” each day, so I tend to have the very final say, if that makes sense?
      Also, I use analytics to define what readers are doing while on the site, and that helps me determine where the user experience needs improving, and how to do that.
      Hope that helps, sir!

  19. says

    Your opening paragraph reminded me of the line in Four Weddings and a Funeral – “I don’t know what the **** I’ve been doing with my time.” How can you possibly just knock a redesign off as an afterthought to your holiday?
    I’m beginning to question my personal levels of productivity.

    I can’t add any more to the chorus of approval.

    • says

       @Steven Hourston Haha, in fairness, mate, I’ve been pottering about with Genesis for a while, so the majority of the backend was a breeze to set up. The main amount of time was spent getting the homepage just so.
      So, not all that impressive after all – but great movie to remind me of! :)

  20. says

     @DannyBrown Heads up, I actually fixed my problem with afterRead and Premise. I’m sure it was a very inefficient solution, but I created a completely new afterread.php file and then manually placed it where I wanted it in the functions.php. Honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t break anything.Thanks again! 

  21. says

    Late to the conversation but thanks for sharing this. I’m always fascinated by the thinking behind redesigns, especially at successful publications.

  22. says

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  23. says

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  24. says

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  25. KRLRose says

    I thought I was in the wrong place, but after reading the content I realized  I was definitely wrong. I like the thinking process. I have noticed the shift. Brian Clark wrote about his thinking behind the redesign of Copyblogger a few months back. I think you are right. The improvements you mention bring more focus and ease of use. Offering other content videos, downloads etc on series of linked pages makes everything clearer. I have been trying to work out the best format for my blog so this was timely advice and of the usual high standard,. Thanks for sharing Danny. 

    • says

       @KRLRose It’s funny, mate – I definitely took a lot from the decision that copyblogger made re. site design. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to become a media empire like Brian’s created – but, it does make sense to think about the bigger picture.
      Cheers, sir, great to see you around here!

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