12 Mar 2012

Spring Cleaning My Website

I had a bout of insomnia the other night and instead of driving myself insane tossing and turning I decided to get up at the crack of dawn and be super productive. Since my major blog overhaul a few months back I've been meaning to iron out a few wrinkles in the design, but it was something I never got around to. The wee hours of the morning seemed like stolen time and perfect for getting such a chore finally finished.

I started out this blog nearly 5 years ago on Blogspot and didn't really have a clue what I was doing. Part of me wishes that I had screen shots over the years to show you the evolution of the design. Last year I made big changes, trying to make the blog fit into a website format as much as possible, making a large amount of information easily accessible to readers. Things like the gallery and badges section continued to annoy me though. So it was a matter of rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in.

First Banner

Second Banner

Newest Banner

After reading this article on Songbird on how to make a banner for your blog I decided that this was my first port of call. I was happy enough with my buttony banner for ages but when I recently designed a cover photo for my Facebook page I knew the the old one was quite short of the mark. Also lesson number one with marketing is to have your look consistent across the board, which is something I was failing miserable at. I opened the unflattened file for my cover photo and played around with the composition until I was happy with how it looked. I like the addition of the copy book paper for my blog tagline. I also wanted my banner to include a picture of me so that it was clear that this is a personal cottage industry blog. The Polaroids of my work also give people a snapshot of my style so they can quickly decide if it's something they are interested in. I feel this look represents my business far more than the generic buttons I had before. I know that when formerly had this image a my landing page of Facebook it increased my rate of new fans exponentially, so hopefully it will have the same effect on my blog.

I wanted to cut down on the amount of tabs that I had at the top, recently it had grown to two lines of tabs, which I felt was clunky and not aesthetically pleasing. I got rid of the Facebook tab and instead made a button for it on the side. I'm well used to making my own buttons, but if you need a hand Musings of a Housewife has a great tutorial. I prefer to make my own buttons for Facebook and twitter instead of a live feed as I really hate the look of them and they clutter up the sidebar; taking away from the overall design. I continued with the polka dot buttons for my sidebar, punctuating the space with these blocks of blue making it's easier to navigate. I also go rid of some of gimmicky gadgets from this section in an effort to clean it up a bit.

I also thinned out the number of tabs by joining my two 'shop' tabs into one, and linking to my Etsy shops through a collage of images. This has the added benefit of opening the shop in a new window rather than drawing people away from my website. I did the same thing with my gallery tabs. I now have one page from which my clothes, graphics and crafts galleries link. I made collages for these galleries in Photoshop using the same polka dot background, again trying to keep the design consistent.

I added images to my Categories page, so that it's nicer to read than just a plain list of text. Another page that I had a lot of trouble with in this area was Party Badges. It was a big long list of information that I found impossible to break up. But I discovered that you can publish hidden pages, allowing me to have live information which I can link to, but that isn't listed in the tabs at the top. This allows me to have separate badge, mirror, opener and magnet pages, effectively cleaning up that whole section. I linked the pages with images, so that the options are easily identifiable, and because they open in a new window people can flick between them easily to compare prices.

These changes took the bones of a day to get through, but I'm much happier with this tidier look. Earlier last year I wanted to invest a sizable amount of money into getting a website built for me, now I'm glad I was too broke to make this investment, with a fair bit of hard graft I've gotten quite near to what I wanted, but it was for free.

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  1. It looks beautiful, and I am really proud that I inspired such an impressive blog redo. I am sure I will come back and look at how you have done things and then see if I can do that too. Because you in turn have inspired me to work on my blog again.
    I guess I just have to wait for a sleepless night ;-)

  2. I was browsing and I think you need to check out the link behind your customised clothes gallery. It leads to your craft album. I like your galleries though.

    1. Thanks a million for the tips, that must have slipped past me!

      Glad you like the overall look :-)

  3. It's lovely. PS - You can get screenshots of your past designs at the wayback machine: http://www.archive.org/web/web.php


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