Saturday, July 28, 2012

How to redesign your blog with the help of a designer

I don't know of any blogger that doesn't want their blog to look good, to represent them, and to represent what they write about.  When I attended Katrina Chambers' "Blog Design 101" session at Blogopolis this year, I was already in the process of having my blog redesigned.  I was tired of my blog and felt that I'd done as much as I could do to it...or more likely, what I wanted to do with it. Katrina's tips from a designers point of view were invaluable. Now I want to share what it's like from the blog owner's perspective.

Assess your blog...
What works for you? What do you like about it? Chances are, if you've been playing with your blog design for a while, you've got your page set up the way you like it. The design may suck (to you), but your column widths are working, and you've established some links on your sidebar.  Here's what my blog used to look like...
I liked the colours...they look fresh.  I like the posts on the left hand side, and my links on the right. That was about it. After a couple of years with this look, a refresh was long overdue.

Before you contact a blog designer, do your research...
  • Create a pinterest board for yourself, linking things that you like, such as colour schemes, fonts, designs of other blogs.
  • Once you've pinned a few items, you will start to notice that you're pins are consistent in style.
  • Your blog inspiration pinterest board will be a great help to the designer you ultimately choose. They can see at a click what you like.

Shop around for a blog designer...
  • What are the blogs that really appeal to you? If the blog has been created by a blog designer, there will usually be a link to that designer located at the bottom of the blog.  Click through and check them out.
  • Peruse through their design portfolio to see if the designer will suit your style.
  • Read through the designer's terms and conditions, as well as their fees.  If you're happy with what you read, drop them an email.
  • Be prepared to wait. Your blog designer will most likely be working on quite a few blogs at the same time, and your blog design will need to be slotted into their schedule.
Don't be afraid to let your designer know what you want...
For my blog design, there were particular fonts I wanted to use, and a colour scheme I really liked.  Being able to provide that information to my designer was invaluable. Jenna new exactly what to work with.  The colours in this palette are the exact colours used in my blog...and what's more, the colour codes were included right there! Too easy.
Sketch out a design...
If you have an idea of what you'd like for your new blog header, but aren't technologically savvy enough to put it together, sketch it out and email it to your designer. Having something on paper will make the design process easier.  Your blog designer isn't a mind reader, and the visual will help immensely.  Here's the sketch I sent to Jenna...

...and here's what she came up with!
There were a couple of drafts to get to this point, and I'm really happy with the end result. You don't have to accept the first version that is presented to you. Communicate with your designer so that not only are you're happy, but the designer is confident they are delivering what you are paying for. Remember, your blog represents their work too.

Take it one step at a time...
Once you've signed off on your header, you will move onto the other aspects, such as your background, your link buttons, blog button and perhaps some labels and a favicon.  There will be a lot of emails going back and forth.

I was unsure what background to have. I really like chevron, and thought perhaps I would continue using it, but maybe change the colour.  There was a great diagonal stripe design I had seen on another blog, so I emailed the link through.  The designer gave me options, with the header included.  Seeing them all side by side made the decision a lot easier...diagonal stripe it is!

Once all of your elements have been decided, it's time for the install!
This is the most exciting time. All of your ideas and your designer's hard work is coming to fruition.  There will be a flurry of activity on your blog that day...installing your new background, your header, your link buttons...making sure they're all working correctly...updating your fonts...adjusting your column widths...and much more.

As you can see, my new blog design is live, and I couldn't be happier.  There's still a little bit of tweaking to do, but all blogs need regular tweaks.

  • Be patient. This process takes time.  As they say "it won't happen overnight, but it will happen". Expect delays.
  • Don't be frightened to contact your designer if you're not happy with any of the elements. Open communication is key to getting a fabulous end result.
  • Ask your blog designer if there are any copyright issues with you using the images they've designed for your blog for other applications...such as on facebook, twitter, business cards, letterheads etc.
  • Set yourself a budget.  You may need to pay extra for additional items that you hadn't covered in your initial brief...extra labels and link buttons, high resolution images for printing, etc.
  • Your blog designer may offer other services that will enhance your blogging experience. Have you considered having your media kit professionally designed to coordinate with your blog?
  • Enjoy! Your new blog design will be worth the effort.

For more information...
  • Check out Katrina Chambers' blog design tips from Blogopolis.
  • If you like the look of my new design, visit Q.A.Design. Jenna's done a fab job!
All said and done...welcome to the new look Life as we know!  Take a look around, grab yourself a new button, and leave me a message to let me know what you think.

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