Evolution of a Blog Design

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Unless you haven’t been visiting my blog for long, you probably noticed that it went through a major makeover recently. After about 16 months of using my original blog theme I decided to change things up.

As much as I just wanted a new look, I really felt that I was outgrowing my previous design. So this week’s blogging tips post discusses my reasons for a redesign and why you might want to eventually consider redesigning your blog.

If you’re new to this series, check out some of the previous blogging tips posts:

Blog Designs Evolving Over Time

One day you decide that you want to start your own blog. Most likely you scoured the web for a free theme that you like. Or as in my case, maybe a designer friend owes you a favor and they hook you up with a blog design. With any luck that theme actually suits the direction you want to take your blog. More often though, your blog ends up evolving before you update your theme.

When that happens it might be time to switch to a new blog theme. Not only does it allow you to find a theme that is more suitable to the stage your blog is at, but it also keeps things fresh for your readers. It might even help keep your passion for blogging going strong….insert joke about me not writing much of my own content these days πŸ˜‰

I admit I wasn’t planning a full redesign yet. In reality I was actually just planning to do a minor upgrade to be able to support expanded navigation. I posted this project on Elance, but designers can usually smell opportunity for a bigger project. Most of the designers bidding on my project wanted to do more drastic changes instead of just a modified sidebar and header.

Luckily I had one particularly skilled designer bid on my project and at a price that I couldn’t pass up. Just like that I decided that since this designer landed in my lap, it was time to overhaul my blog design.

I’m not saying that you need to cough up money for a custom design if you want to upgrade. If on a limited budget, a different free theme could be a satisfying change. Or for a small price you can buy a premium theme that is bound to have plenty of options to make your blog your own.

Because I consider my blog to be a side business, I had no problem investing some money back into it. For one, it acts as a tax write-off as it reduces how much tax I pay on my blog income. Secondly I know that if I invest some money now it will just help accelerate growth.

If you do decide to invest money in your blog, make sure that you are already making some money or have a solid plan to make that happen. You don’t want to turn a hobby into an expense if blog income isn’t coming in.

Custom Design Options

For those people looking to invest in a custom blog theme, there are several routes you can take. Hiring via Elance is a solid option as you can examine each designer’s portfolio and view ratings/reviews for their previous projects. When they have ratings and future work on the line, you can be more confident that they will do their best work. Prices tend to be more reasonable too.

There are plenty of design companies with websites, but I don’t recommend just hiring a random company that way. That is bound to be your most expensive option. Besides, since it is a company, you have no idea if the designs you like in their portfolio are created by an ex-employee or someone higher up in the company. You could get stuck with a designer who just got hired or they might even outsource the design for as cheap as possible. Also don’t be surprised if they try to milk more money out of you as the design progresses.

Besides Elance the other route that I would recommend is a personal recommendation. If someone you know has had a positive experience with a designer, they could probably do just as good a job for you. A decent designer is bound to get a fair amount of additional business through personal referrals. Many bloggers have used Andrea from Nuts and Bolts Media to create their blogs. She does a quality job, but I have heard that she is rather backlogged. If anyone likes the work that my designer did, you’re welcome to shoot me an e-mail and I can pass on his contact info.

My Experience With a Blog Re-Design

So I told you about how I ended up deciding to do a redesign. I should also share a bit about how the process works and my thoughts on the experience.

First off this is far from my first time outsourcing a website design. Early on I created some hideous designs on my own with my limited design skills. I did learn a thing or two…especially that I should be letting the experts handle design work. This time around I did know what to expect with getting a redesign contracted out.

As I’m pretty picky about what kind of design I like, I was careful to spend the time finding the right designer for the job. If I wasn’t sure about his skills, I probably wouldn’t have committed to him handling the entire project.

Once I hired the ideal designer, it was very important to spell out exactly what I wanted. Well I knew what specific elements I needed, but I just didn’t have an exact design vision in my head. This wasn’t a problem for my designer. He browsed through other finance blogs to get a feeling of what I preferred. There were some I liked, but I didn’t want to copy anyone, especially within this niche. So from there the designer passed on some other designs he felt I might like. Gradually my vision started forming as I saw how different elements of these blogs could come together.

Based on my requirements and feedback about certain blog elements, the designer created a rough draft that combined those ideas with my color scheme, logo and other blog features. A blog or website design is very rarely perfect on the first try though. So we worked through some revisions trying to get things just right.

Eventually the final mockup was approved and the designer started programming to turn the concept into a functional theme. Seeing my blog content and everything else on the theme just didn’t look quite right. This is where a less honest designer might try to charge extra to make further revisions after programming. My designer never mentioned anything about additional costs though. He was very understanding and worked with me to tweak things just right.

Summary

In the end I am very satisfied with how my new blog theme turned out. I think it really takes it to the next level and gives it that feeling of professionalism. Aside from appearance it is a lot more functional and can support much wider navigation.

This new theme may or may not result in higher blog income, but I do think it will force people to take me more seriously, whether it be fellow bloggers, readers, advertisers or other contacts. It’s also giving me that push I needed to get going on some long overdue projects that I’ve had in mind.

What do you think of my new blog design? Have you had any experience with getting a custom theme designed?