OH HI THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON MY NEW BLOG!
In case you didn't notice (seriously how) or this is your first time visiting my blog is very different this time around. I thought I'd give you a quick tour and a lil explanation of what I did, why I did it and how, to kick us back into the blogging routine.
I've been thinking about a redesign for a little while now. I've been tweaking my blog here and there a few times but it's not since April last year maybe that I had a massive overhaul and changed the layout completely and I just felt I was due one.
I realise most sensible people keep the format of their blog very much the same for a few years running, maybe just editing small elements but certainly not reconfiguring the whole thing but hey, I've never been most sensible people.
The decision on when to have a rejig actually came pretty spontaneously when I decided last week I was just going to do it whilst I was away. I went to Dorset for a few days at the end of my parents holiday and I hadn't scheduled any blog content and I knew I wouldn't have time to so now seemed as good a time as any to shut my blog down and get a makeover.
And that was pretty much that, one swift email to my August advertisers (those cute beans on the sidebar over there) to let them know what was happening and one graphic hastily made up for Twitter and it was announced - my blog would be offline for the first 5 days of August. Of course, the whole thing wasn't *actually* down, you could still click on links and get access to blog posts from social media but if you went on my blog directly you were met with a snazzy landing page and you couldn't click any further so's not to see any of the changes I was making before they were in the final stages.
Pretty much everything! The main reason for wanting a redesign was wanting a home or a landing page before entering my blog itself. Most bloggers don't want that, you don't want to distract your reader from anything but your blog and you don't want them to get bored and frustrated trying to find the content they're after so most blogs go directly into the posts themselves. I get that. But I just really wanted something else, something a bit different. I've put landing pages on my blog before when it's been down and I just like the sleekness of them, I like the design and the multi functionality but I knew not being able to click on something was a no go for a blog - so a home page it was.
The first time I really seriously thought 'this might work' was all the months Megan from Lazy Thoughts was advertising with me. Megan has a home page on her blog, somewhere full of imagery and links to other content and lots of exciting layout changes and colour and the more time I spent on her site for advertising purposes (oh btw, I am her August advertiser so you should probs check that out) the more I thought a home page for a blog could really work. As a reader of hers and as someone constantly directly accessing the homepage I found as a user it wasn't putting me off. Now granted I'm a fan of hers already so it wouldn't have deterred me but I might have thought what a fucking faff to get to her latest content but no, I always just really enjoyed exploring the different elements.
When it came to redesigning my new blog I knew the home page was key. I did a survey on Twitter and accessed my analytics and really thought about how I read blogs and then I tried to tailor my content to suit. As I have suspected from analytics (later confirmed by people on Twitter) most people read my blog for one post. They click on a link on Twitter or Pinterest and they access one blog post directly and then luckily for me most of them stay and read a few. But that initial click was so important to me. The last thing I wanted to do was create a home page and deter my loyal readers because suddenly finding my content was difficult. But because my regular readers click through a link to a specific post, I knew I was able to create a new home page that they probably wouldn't visit that much and therefore wouldn't lose interest. So my regular readers were catered for and by having a home page, full of extra information and links, my new readers and potential work projects were happy too with somewhere to start.
As well as a swanky new home page my contact me and about me pages had a facelift too, my about me page being completely re written which I am much happier with. There's nothing worse than writing an about me page, awkward introductions and bad praising yourself so I re wrote this when I was coming to the end of my blog makeover, when I was uber motivated, inspired and pleased with what I was creating and I think it reads as much more light hearted and friendly. I simply updated my contact me page with a bit more information on sponsored content or brand work and more links on where to get in touch so it's easier and more profesh.
My advertise me page had a few minor tweaks -literally so minor I doubt you'd notice, just wording and stuff- and the hyperlinks to my bullet journal blog posts and my shop made the cut the second time around. I was also forced to redesign the way my blog itself is laid out because of the template I chose (more on that later) so I changed some of the promo images and fully re edited my sidebar with bigger and clearer and more graphics.
The nitty gritty. The good stuff.
Well firstly I advertised that this redesign and subsequent lack of my blog would last from the 1st of August to the 5th and knowing I was selling cider today I planned for the new look to be revealed (nothing like a bit of am dram) in the early hours of Saturday morning. So when I hadn't chosen a template to go from until 8pm on Friday evening, the deadline was looming a bit fine.
So more on the template. I blog on Squarespace, I have done since January 2016, I already hosted my illustration website through them, I find it easy, I know how it works, it's all good. Squarespace have a million and one very sleek, very professional, very simple templates which you choose as your starting point to design from. Basically each template has a variety of options and limitations when it comes to the way your blog looks but from the choice I'd be pretty confident you'll find one that meets your needs.
My problem was I wanted a homepage that gave me the chance to use lots of different layouts, buttons, quotes, images, featured content, photos, everything but I also had specific requirements for my blog too - a combination which doesn't mix too easily. I suspected my readers viewed my advertisers from my sidebar rather than from my promotional tweets and again, that was confirmed on Twitter. A sidebar was a must for my blog and the other thing I desperately didn't want was a scrolling blog.
Personally when I read blogs if every post is there in full it makes me a lazy blog reader. I firstly don't click on the actual post itself which means you don't get the nice analytics and it means I get increasingly frustrated when I can't find the content I want because I'm scrolling through 778463785673 posts. So because of my own blog laziness and because I knew my readers click through one post I also wanted a grid layout with a sidebar for advertisers. Doesn't exist. Well it does on Squarespace but on the template I was already using, a template that didn't let me do what I wanted to the home page.
In the end it took me till 8pm on Friday evening, approx 4 hours before I wanted it to go live, to decide on a template to start from. In the end I decided homepage and sidebar were the two most important features of my site for me and because of the clicking through a link habit of my blog readers, I decided the blog layout was less important, seen as most of you will only ever click through links not look at the whole thing anyway. The template I've gone with does have a full screen full scroll blog function but I have discovered with thumbnails and excerpts I can also manage that grid feature I so desperately wanted too. At the moment only my July posts are formatted in the right way because lol guess who chose a template meaning she has to go back and reformat EVERY SINGLE blog post but the rest will come in due course.
The beauty of a Squarespace template is they're sleek, they look professional and they're simple - meaning it's easy to change EVERYTHING. I mean sure you can't change the fundamental system of the template (unless you can code, which I cannot) but you can change near enough everything else meaning the final product is unique to you and how you want it.
By the time I was done I had all the features I want, all the graphics and the links and the buttons and apart from a few more tweaks which aren't integral to the running of this blog (think media kit and reformatting old posts) I am done. It took my 4 stressful hours of working out what I wanted where, how to create it and designing a bazillion and one graphics but I genuinely feel so much more inspired and happy with how it's looking - and hopefully you agree!