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Redesign of Problogger.net – Designer Tells All

Problogger-RedesignThe last few days here at ProBlogger have been pretty hectic to say the least. It’s been crazy on two fronts:

1. Complete site redesign
2. We’ve just put our house on the market (yep the one that blogging built) and are building another one (how many freaking types of sinks/light fittings/door handles can a guy look at!?!!

OK – enough about the house (although I’m sure that at some point there will be a post about why building a blog is like building a house or one on why selling one is like selling yourself as a blogger)….

The new design has been live for 48 hours and 97% of the bugs are fixed. We’re still working on a couple more issues and you should see a few fixes for a couple of them in the next 24 hours (for example the ie6 sidebar issues are almost fixed, we have a favicon coming very soon and the newly designed job boards will follow).

The reaction from readers via comments in previous posts, posts around the web and emails has been mixed – although largely positive and encouraging. The critiques have all been read (thank you to everyone who has commented) and once things settle in the coming weeks and after we check how the site is performing Ben and I will sit down on Skype and work out how to shape things next.

In the mean time – Ben Bleikamp the designer of the new look has written a post on some of the reasoning behind the new design at his blog called Redesign of Problogger.net. In it he shares 3 parts of the brief that I gave him and how that unfolded from his perspective.

PS: I’m getting a lot of questions about how the new design has impacted things in terms of traffic and page views. It is to early to really report on this as I’ve found previously that a new design causes an increase in both visitors and page views as people surf in from RSS feeds to check things out and as they then go exploring how different pages look and operate.

As a result both unique visitors and page views are up so far – but I’ll update more on this in the coming weeks.

A Free Tip If You’re Contemplating a Redesign – don’t forget to transfer your blog’s metrics package across to the new template. I learnt this the hard way as I completely forgot to move the Google Metrics Code for 36 hours after the relaunch :-)

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

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Comments

  1. Jon Symons says:

    Darren, a great way to solve the transferring metrics code is to put it into a Widget rather than the footer file. It works justs as well and it will be ready and waiting when you change templates.

  2. ShoeMoney says:

    I dunno how I feel about the new design. I really liked the old one I thought it made you look more original. I think now it looks more like many other blogs buit for 125×125 ads. Maybe I need more time for it to sink in.

  3. Dave Davis says:

    Hi Darren. Ben’s post is fantastic. We are launching our new design next week and the advice (albeit limited) has been great.

    I think the new design is a much needed improvement. I think it has escalated your image to a more professional publisher. The old design was fine but you have to admit, it was a little messy (That link hover annoyed me).

    Good luck with the new layout, I am sure it is just what you need.

  4. I love the overall theme and look of the design. The new logo is very cool as well. The only thing I’m not so sure about is moving all those links to the footer. I’ve seen this before but any thoughts on how that may or may not impact folks clicking through on items in this area?

  5. Josh Buckley says:

    The new design really works well for me. It really strikes me as PROblogger

  6. Darren, i’m in the process of building a house also, and I feel your pain! What kind of house are you building?

  7. Very nice layout.
    Much more professional looking.
    Easier to navigate.
    More informative (footer).
    Simply nice all the way ’round.

    But sometimes the images and text can get a little goofy with the blog title & Comment #s

  8. Sotek says:

    Hello Darren,

    I have to say the new design looks absolutely stunning. I like the layout, fonts and colours. Also the overall usabily and navigation is much better than before.

    But I liked the old logo better ;-)

  9. Glenn Wolsey says:

    Great job on the refreshed site design, looking forward to seeing it 100% complete, especially the new job board.

  10. Jeremy says:

    I like the simplicity of this design, although regardless of page views there is a sacrafice as the TOMA of the colors and layouts you had disappears.

    Problogger net has a name that has its own TOMA and it will do well. Enjoyed the site and the tips.

  11. Dave Starr says:

    I chuckled when I read about missing the stats code … just last week I had a short outage on a blog and my ISP quickly cured a server issue, but backed me up from the day before. No problem … I had the latest posts saved so a click or two and all was well … until I looked at my stats the next day? Zero on everything? Yep, the footed got backed up too … if a visitior visies and no one counts, did he ever even visit? ;-)

    Very interesting tip from Jon, I’m going to look into that, thanks, and like Robert, I share the thought of who isever going to see all those links down there … way down there … and is it really effective to have so many?

  12. boogiemum says:

    I like the new design. I think the other was more original, but this one is way easier to navigate. The old one looked too crowded and overwhelming. The new design is a thumbs up from me.

    Good luck on your new house!

  13. igizmore says:

    hey darren was your design inspired by http://www.rickdavidson.com/ ? dude you should check his site out – its design is similar to your’s , but i feel his colors are better .

  14. Jason says:

    I’ve commented on this already, Darren, but I’d like to say more. Your new design reminds me a lot of Techcrunch and ReadWriteWeb in a few areas, as far as placing certain features go.

    And I think it’s funny that I take most from analyzing these three blogs and applying them to my main blog than anywhere else. It’s funny how much you can learn about blogging from just looking at top blogs.

    I think the new design makes it way easier to navigate, and I’m pretty sure your sponsors are happy about the upper right sidebar, unless they can no longer afford it. Hehe… I like how the site is becoming more dimensional.

    About to read the reasoning behind the design.

    See ya.

  15. Jason says:

    I also like the new pages where you’ve organized a lot of old posts. It’s like a encyclopedia for bloggers. Pretty awesome.

    You’re going to kill me damit, but I’m about to start reading.

  16. Jason says:

    Chitter chatter…

    I see you also did away with AdSense. Smart move I think because you had a lot of crappy ads (good ones too). But it’s almost like your ads represent you in some way I think. That’s why I’m always fighting off ring tones and other garbage every day in my AdSense content filter.

  17. Jeff says:

    New things always take a while to get used to.

    So I’d take it as a very positive sign that most people seem to like the new design right from the start.

  18. Carolyn says:

    I absolutely love the new design, Darren! Great job. Like other readers have been commenting, it’s much more professional and the layout is much easier to navigate. Congratulations on your new look.

  19. Douglas Karr says:

    This is such a clean look. Fantastic.

  20. redwall_hp says:

    I like it both as a user and as a designer.

  21. David Mackey says:

    Forgetting Google Metrics – ouch.

  22. Brad V. says:

    Ouch! Forgetting to move the blogs metrics to the new design can be painful. When I swtiched from the Blogger platform to Typepad, I think I had to start over with my metrics program. So I feel your pain.

    Great new design though! Keep up the good work!!!

  23. Dan says:

    I’ve noticed that virtually every comment on this blog is gushing with “oh thank u so much you r so wonderful” sap. Is everyone here just interested in kissing everyone else’s butt so they can gain “affiliate dollars”? The old website was great. This one is terrible.

  24. Darren Rowse says:

    Hi Dan – not sure that it’s all been positive. Dig back in the last few posts and you’ll see a real mixture of reactions. To be honest I’m not sure how a positive comment would help anyone with ‘affiliate dollars’ and there’s no one making money on this blog as a result of comments in any way.

    I guess it’s natural that loyal readers of a site would want to encourage the development of a site and that their comments would reflect that – however I think there’s been some great constructive criticism too.

    Saying ‘this site is terrible’ doesn’t really tell me anything except that you don’t like it – how about giving some reasons and perhaps a suggestion or two as to how it would be improved.

    I’d be a lot more likely to listen and meet your needs as a reader if you did.

  25. This design also loads quicker on a dial up which is a good thing :)

  26. John says:

    I like the design, i’ve not been here for a few months, but i was a regular reader, just not been online much lately, im interested to know why you have decided against adsense, or maybe you posted on this previously.

    Best of luck with the new house!

  27. Steve Kroll says:

    I like that this design allows for flexibility in the future if you choose to do a host of different things. This design still lets us know it’s a blog, but it also opens things up for whatever the future plans are for Problogger

  28. David says:

    Hey Darren, a friend of mine that is a designer had a look and wasn’t as impressed as he should have been. He tore a strip off the design in a huge post on my blog. Have a look, most of it is typography, something that could be easily fixed.

    Your buddy,
    David

  29. The design doesn’t make me go “wow” but it certainly does the job and that’s as good or better. Can anyone tell me what the new logo font is? I’ve been looking for it for a few days for one of my own projects.

  30. Oyvind says:
  31. milo says:

    Should’ve used a heatmap, so you two could follow your visitors, as of now it a 08/15 type of blog = no more outstanding. e.g.the post titles of the featured post looks like a G adsense code.

  32. Change is always good and eventually will grow on people. There will always be opinions and comments, and I guess I may as well leave my 2 cents too :)

    Front Page:
    - Over the past few days .. I’ve been appreciating what Ben refers as the “DOM scripting” for the archives, and I’ve actually been able to surf the archives without having to think of a search term. I would expand the links to at least 50 in the older categories – as you probably have them ..
    - if possible, it would be a great utility source if there was a 5th tab .. of the group efforts and writing projects (community efforts) … and, for the people out there who like to link back to Problogger, the entire “Best of Problogger” section could be replicated to it’s own page or unique URL.
    - I’d switch the left column with the center column. Because you have to scroll down the left side, your eyes tend to just scan over directly to the slide bar and the right and miss the center altogether.

    SinglePage:
    - I think it’s wasted space to put the commentor’s name to the left of the comment, or at least it hurts the eyes to scroll left/right/left/right to read comments and the person’s name who wrote the comments .. my eyes are trained to scroll down, not sideways. It’s never good to have a screen that scrolls right/left .. there’s a reason – and it’s the same with the comments.
    - I agree with everyone who suggested that the font size and type just isn’t right here .. it’s too small and spread out and tires you to read even an average post. If you used the same type of font and spacing as other b5media templates .. it would kind of tie in with the rest of the network, even though it is different on the front page and the footer.
    - The “Problogger Sponsors” six 125×125 ads are vertical and misaligned down the page in a semi-left adjusted format on my IE v7.0.5730.11 browser

    Archives:
    - It’s missing a step. The posts for the month. You go from month to the posts, yet only 9 posts showed up. How do I know which post to read? I have to scroll down to the bottom, then through previous pages for that month to hope to find something. I would place a complete list of all posts in the month at the top before it shows the 2-paragraph teaser.

    Comments:
    - I was and am sad to see no “live preview” or ability to preview to see how bad a typist I am, or what lousy grammar I have. nudge,nudge,say no more.

    Overall:
    - Ultimately (i.m.h.o.) when the content is good the design doesn’t matter .. and people will get used to this design. As long as I get to a the permalink/single page when I click on the post titles in my Bloglines .. then I really have to ask myself .. “how does it affect me?” The answer is – it doesn’t.

    Take care // HART

  33. Transcriber says:

    You say the IE6 sidebar issue has been fixated but on my IE6, I am viewing this page with the rightside bar pushed down separately from the main contents, huh? Same is the case with your home page.

    Anyway, the image of the blog that you have put here is appealing compared to your earlier version, where the earlier had a spilled-vomit design. (Sorry for that harsh criticism).

  34. Paul says:

    Did linkworth buy all 3 left over advertising slots on the RHS?

    It looks a little odd… hehe :)

  35. Danielle says:

    The design is solid and clean, but it reminds me instantly of Copyblogger.com, and the layout/dimensions of many new designs I’m seeing around. I guess this is the new web style?

    I do like it, it’s very readable… but I think your old design, colors and branding were very recognizable. Perhaps a little less clean, less styled… but distinctive nonetheless. Maybe it’ll grow on me?

  36. Al says:

    Darren, beautiful redesign, very clean and well organized. Looks great on Firefox and Safari. Just one thing…
    It still looks bad on IE 6. The sidebar is still improperly aligned towards the bottom of the page. Good luck!!

  37. Charity says:

    I’m not sure what the big deal is with font size, but I think it suits the new look fine. I’ve had no trouble reading or scanning anything. This, to me, is a very successful redesign. The content is organized and presented in a sensible way and the color scheme and “module” divisions are well served. It’s a dramatic improvement from the former. I love it. :)

    The placement of the extended footer links was a good idea. I’ve read the comments and critiques questioning the footer and bemoaning the loss of the squares previously at the top, but I think that loss was offset nicely by the ‘best of’ for beginners being prominently displayed. Nothing in the footer is really crucial so it makes sense to house the chosen content there. On the other hand, the search, subscribe, and recent posts are all located [mostly] above the fold, for all to see right away. If someone can’t figure out how to scroll down for the the secondary content, well, words fail me.

    The portal-like idea is a good one, and I have a feeling we’ll see more and more bloggers taking this approach with their home pages. Particularly for a blog as mature and content-heavy as ProBlogger, it’s a solid choice, though it may take some time for readers to acclimate.

    My one complaint – the far left sidebar could be cinched up a bit more in the width, as someone said. It would give more weight to the main content, and a little breathing room.

    In my ever so humble opinion, the entire site is much more inviting now, and the content more distinguishable… Job well done Darren and Ben. :)

  38. Andrea says:

    Darren,

    I love the new design of your blog. You have been a great help to me in learning how to become a better blogger.

    Thanks for the post about decluttering your blog. I need to do this real soon!

    God Bless You!

    Andrea proudly wears size 11 shoes. http://www.yourfeetmakeyouunique.com is designed for women who love and wear plus-size shoes.

  39. Kuba says:

    Much better now. Maybe less original but more readable.

  40. SpicePuppy says:

    Honestly Darren, the first time I ever saw problogger.net, I almost clicked the back button right away just because of the color scheme. All that gray and orange just didn’t do it for me. When I saw the redesign I was instantly wowed. I haven’t even taken the time yet to really consider the design, but my gut reaction is that it just looks so much better!

  41. michael says:

    Hi Darren,
    the new Design is nice, clean, very professional and easy to navigate.

    But it looks a little bit like a site of a faceless company or a nonserious SEO firm. And futher more it reminds me of TechCrunch – ‘couse of the 125×125 ads.

    … overall it’s a nice style but a bit to professional ;-)

  42. Andrew says:

    I can see the way you’re taking Problogger, and think that Ben has done a good job of helping you in that direction… but it leaves behind some of the things I’ve most appreciated about the site. More details at:
    http://changingway.org/2007/08/19/redesign-of-probloggernet/

  43. Transcriber says:

    It seems you have fixed the IE6 sidebar issue that I pointed out on 08/14. Looking fine, no probs now.

  44. James Joyner says:

    Did you ever do an audit on how the design impacted pageviews and whatnot in the longer term? (That is, after the initial “let’s look around” phase.)

    I’m especially curious about the vast amount of information in the footer which requires considerable scroll. Is that there mostly for SEO purposes or does it really increase stickiness? How does it compare to having similar information in the sidebars?