When it’s time to redesign your website (or start a new one for scratch):
- Browse sites similar to what you want to create, noting what you’d like to emulate and what you’d like to do differently.
- Draw a flowchart of how your website will be organized.
- Make a list of all the little bits of functionality (e.g., search box, drop-down menus, moon phase widget) you want your site to offer.
- If you’re using WordPress, choose a theme that will allow you to accomplish all of the above (with or without code tweaking).
- If you’re hand-coding and/or will be rewriting theme code, make sure you know how to code each piece before you start?or, prioritize the components of a redesign to be rolled out in stages.
- Backup your current site before you touch anything!
- Plan the testing and go-live for a time when your site is likely to have less traffic.
This post would be a lot more interesting if I had a cautionary tale to offer. But I followed (most of) my own advice above, so the whole process has been almost boring. Sorry about that.
But I will tell you that when it comes to my website design, I have a tendency to get restless.
Whether it’s new tech, a shift or refinement of my site’s focus, or just that itchy feeling I get sometimes, it doesn’t take much for me to find an excuse to redesign my online presence. I used to do a full overhaul of my website at least once each year?completely revamped navigation, content organization, color scheme, graphics, etc.?and that’s when I was still coding everything by hand. I’ve been more tame lately, particularly since switching over to a WordPress framework. But in the past week or so, I started feeling that restlessness beginning to awaken once again, especially when I realized it had been two-and-a-half years since my last redesign.
This time, the impetus was all about responsiveness?what my website looks like when viewed not merely by different web browsers but by different devices, from laptops to tablets and phones. Of course, there’s been an explosion in WordPress themes?free and paid?since the last time I went theme shopping. Even when limiting my search to responsive and flexible themes, the options were pretty overwhelming.
I did have a very clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish with my newly redesigned website?I know some people who just start slapping a site together with no real plan in mind, and I honestly don’t know how they do it (nor how successful the end result might be). But each time I narrowed in on a new WP theme that looked like it would allow me to fairly easily achieve what I was striving for (with some modifications), some new complication would worm its way in: One theme looked fantastic but didn’t offer much in the way of a web-interface for making adjustments, which would require me to do significant CSS coding; another was brilliant when displaying content on mobile devices, but was not as stable across browsers. And so on.
All the while, that itchiness to just do the redesign already was growing.
I finally just gave in and started making the changes I wanted in my current WordPress theme, Atahualpa, which is not currently responsive (though I understand that’s coming soon . . . ?). There have already been changes to content structure and site layout. There’s new functionality on the page, as well as some aesthetic changes. I’m still looking for the perfect header image, which I can see clearly in my mind’s eye but haven’t yet been able to locate in the real/digital world. There’s still some work to be done?especially on the aesthetics?but it’s coming along.
If there’s something you see in the redesign that you like or don’t like, or something that’s disappeared from the old design that you want to have back, let me know. I’m still in the midst of making modifications, and I welcome your feedback. This is site is for you, after all.
Creative Commons photo by jozecuervo.