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Prepare for a Custom Blog Redesign in 5 Simple Steps

This guest post is by Josh Mullineaux, co-founder of Highlighter.com and Unique Blog Designs.

Over the past four years, my business has completed over 500 custom blog projects and through that experience, we’ve learned the ins and outs of a what contributes to a successful blog design.

Today, I wanted to share the five key factors I believe you should consider before hiring a blog designer. Thinking about these five factors in advance will help you make the most of your experience.

1. What are your goals for the project?

This sounds like an obvious question, but being able to communicate clearly your reasons for wanting a blog design will be extremely helpful for your designer, and will contribute to a more successful project.

I recommend having one or two main goals or objectives. Then, if necessary, create a subset of several more. For example, when I ask potential clients what their goals are for their projects, it isn’t usual for the blogger to respond with a really abstract answer: “I want my blog to look better,” or “I want my blog to be more visible.” Neither of these goals are specific enough to help us create a great blog design, so it’s my job to ask more specific questions at that point.

Get a head start by really thinking about what your goals are for the blog design. If it’s a new blog, you may have specific goals around branding either yourself or your blog business. If you’re redesigning an existing blog, you may have goals such as increasing the number of daily opt-ins to your email list, or changing the layout so your visitors are able to read the content they want more easily.

Again, the more specific you can be with your goals, the more successful your project is going to be.

2. Which sites do you like? What do you like about them?

Having a list of sites and blogs that you like and can reference is a huge help to your designer. This doesn’t mean that you have to have examples of sites that you want to copy, or sites that you like everything about—actually, the contrary is true. The best thing to do is gather sites that you like specific elements of. For example, you could really like the header of one site, the color scheme of another site, and the footer of yet another site.

I recommend having a list of at least three to five sites that you like. As with my first point, the more specific you are with what you like about the sites, the better. If you like the header of a site, think about what it is that you like about the header. There are usually multiple elements within the header of the site; you may like the position of the logo, or the way the navigation looks, or where the RSS icon is located, or that it’s tilted sideways, and so on.

3. What’s your budget?

Have a budget in mind for your project—this may determine who you hire. There are many possibilities for designing a blog interface, and a wide range of pricing options.

The least expensive option is to go with a premium WordPress theme that closely suits your needs. Expect to pay in the range of $50-$150 USD. For improved branding, you can also have a custom logo designed, which will usually cost you around $300 USD.

There are other options, such as 99designs.com, that can be less expensive than engaging a design agency or even a well-known freelance designer. The upside is that you’ll get good value for your money, but you will also have to put a lot more effort into preparing a great design brief, creating a layout description, and giving feedback on designs. A reasonable price to pay on 99designs for a custom blog design is around $1100 USD.

Going with a custom design firm or a well-known freelancer is going to be more expensive, but you will have the experience of working with a professional, and can expect customer service to be top notch. I would recommend speaking with at least three different agencies or designers before you select one. This way, you’ll get to know the process, get an idea of what they charge, and have a feel for who understands your needs and who doesn’t. For a professional custom blog design, I’d expect to pay a minimum of $3,500—more likely, closer to $5,000 USD.

4. What’s your timeline?

The timeline for the creation of a custom blog design comes down the schedule of the person or company doing the creative work. Designers usually have lead times of at least a couple weeks for starting new projects. For example, we estimate that a custom WordPress blog will usually take eight to 12 weeks from start to finish. If you need it quicker than that, you can expect to pay extra for rush delivery.

Some individual freelancers may be able to complete a project faster, and options like 99designs.com can also be quicker. The best advice here is to plan as far in advance as possible, get multiple quotes, and choose the one that works for your timeline.

5. Which sites has the designer created that you like?

There is no doubt that you have selected several possible designers for your project, and that you’ve selected them at least in part because of their past work. It’s important that you can identify which sites they’ve done that you like, and what you like about them, for referencing purposes when you are speaking with the designer.

Conclusion

Whichever route you choose to go through—agency, freelancer, 99designs.com—just remember that the more thought and work you put into the project before approaching designers, the more successful your project is going to be. Getting a custom blog designed can be a headache or a great experience, but fortunately you can do a lot to influence which way the project goes.

Josh Mullineaux is a co-founder of Highlighter.com and Unique Blog Designs.

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Comments

  1. One of the things people do is they try for an arbitrary redesign without any sort of endgame in mind. There is an effort to “freshen things up” as if merely stirring the pot will make things better.

    Without having a goal, you’re looking at change for its own sake, or a reflection of preferences.

    They want something Different Than Anyone Else, but customers may want Safe.

    Then they ignore the content….which is another story.

  2. Wow! This is spot on Darren! These are exactly 5 of the 7 questions I ask every potential client when I’m trying to get a feel for what they want. Sometimes as they go through the questions they decide they don’t truly want a professional redesign after all. That’s ok with me because I don’t want them to pay for something they don’t need. More often though it ends up they get a very clear vision of what they want which is a great relief as a designer.

  3. Excellent writeup. Having recently spent close to 4K for a total blog redesign (not yet launched) I can definitely say that communicating what you *really* want in a new site is critical – ie, photo-realistic, not photo-realistic, the points you want to highlight, etc.etc.etc.

    It also helps to first start with a designer whose prior work just plain knocked your socks off! I was very lucky to find such a glorious being and am *extremely* thrilled with how the project is progressing.

  4. I’m too planning a redesign of my blog shortly for specific reasons. Though the redesign would be done by me :)

  5. Josh,
    Your number two question “Which sites do you like and what do you like about them?” is an excellent question I in fact learned from a lady named Doreen many, many years ago. She told me to choose the top six sites I liked and she said note as well what you don’t like.
    In my work to help promote wellness practitioners this tip is an excellent one to help get initial design and redesign marketing started.
    Thanks for sharing all your ideas.
    Best Wishes,
    David

  6. Great post, at the moment our design fits the purpose of our travel blog perfectly but I’m sure there will be a point when we out grow the site and look to redesign.

  7. Tiffany O says:

    Great post.
    I’m going through this process right now!
    In view of the buget, and because I had three sites to do, we opted for purchasing a premium theme and the wishlist member plugin.
    Of the many things I learned going that route, is that you definitely have to set aside money in the budget for coding, design and installation. All this can be in one package, but if you have some skills, you likely will need one or all of the aforementioned. For example, customizing the theme is one thing, but because I wanted a taller header, I had to pay for extra CSS work.

    Lastly, I wanted to contribute a resource for completely custom made themes: eMasters.info. Great personal customer service, excellent relevant advice on branding. And a wonderful pricepoint.

    Can’t wait to see their finished product!

    Thanks again for the post.

    Tiffany-O (oh-do-toy)

  8. Nurul Azis says:

    Isn’t it easier for client to just fill form that consist of specific questions from which, a web designer can get the whole idea of what a client’s imagination for the design will be?

  9. Sudeep says:

    Blog design is some thing I really feel is important but do not understand what might click and what might not. All the points that has been said have made me think a little and would surely think more on details .
    Thanks for the post

  10. I know that I am not a Web Designer but for my business I like it to be clean and simple but have some features that can make it pop or make it interesting for visitors to stay and browse.

  11. Luckily, I am a web designer so the expense isn’t an issue. But finding time can be a challenge sometimes when there are others things like content creation, or the promotion of a new product that takes precedence.

  12. dotCOMreport says:

    It might sound easier to fill a form with specific questions but you cannot cover everything which is why it makes better practice to ask the client to point to sites they like. Besides, some of the questions you ask in a form might be too technical for the client.

    Great post Josh.

  13. All the steps said in this article makes me to follow or copy others design, but the plus is i can take some particular think which attracts from multiple websites. I don’t know about the efficiency of this method but I will get what i want at last.

  14. Glynis Jolly says:

    I just changed the design of my blog yesterday. Of course it wasn’t a custom design, obviously a free one. Nevertheless, I toyed with the idea for over a week weighing the pros and cons. I didn’t change major colors or layout. The one I chose was just more functional.

    People get to know you by the visual impression of your site as well as your brand. It can make the difference of a visitor being loyal or not.

  15. @Brandon – I’m in the same boat. Other than outsourcing, have you run across any other ways to speed things along?

    Other designers, feel free to join in the conversation as well…

  16. NatalieMac says:

    I have a client questionnaire that I step my clients through when they come to me. I’m pleased to say that these five questions are on that questionnaire, among others. It’s amazing to me how many people want to hire me to build or redesign their website/blog, but have no objective or real reason for doing so.

    I don’t mind walking people through all the things they should consider before a big project – I think it really pays off in the end when they focus and set tangible goals. The results are better, and they’re happier clients in the end.

  17. If you do not have the means to buy a new theme. It may be a good idea to learn how your blogging software works because you can manipulate a blog theme without having to know coding as I have done to my site. Sure it sort of looks like everyone elses that uses that theme but you can add your own little touch to it to make it your own. Kind of like taking a famous song and making it your own. Its the same song but sung in a different way.

  18. Jhay says:

    My goals in ever blog re-design is to improve content visibility, best posts from the archives, ease of navigation and make it easy for the reader to leave a comment.

  19. Mayur says:

    8 to 12 weeks looks more than the price range. If designers happen to work in a team for the normal business hours a day then it should not take that much time. But may be that depends on the team, designer and their process. But i think 8 to 12 weeks is a lot of time, i mean come on around 3 months?

    Also i thought custom design would cost not more than $3500 including a custom logo, may be i was wrong or is the trend changing each month?

  20. Kyle Red says:

    Thank you for writing this.
    I will be sending several people to this site today.
    I wish my past clients thought through all of this stuff.

  21. Nazm says:

    I think that the work of designers is not restricted in logo when you mentioned WP themes and working with pre-installed blog, in addition to the huge budget proposed for them!
    Interesting notes.