2010 Redesign Launch

Recent Tweets

The grid system is an aid, not a guarantee. It permits a number of possible uses and each designer can look for a solution appropriate to his personal style. But one must learn how to use the grid; it is an art that requires practice. - Josef Muller-Brockman

In the past, I've tried to redesign my site about once a year and I've been able to stay on this schedule up until 2009. The redesign process started on track and everything was going according to plan until I came across and became enfatuated with grid based designs.

Designing on a grid allowed me to layout my content in a much more structured manner. Typically, when I began a new design, I would layout certain elements where they felt right. I've always been anal about sections being equal widths and counting pixels to make sure everything was perfect. In a way I was designing on a grid without realizing it.

Grid based designs and CSS supporting templates have popped up all over the place the last couple years and while I have been using grids at work for a while now, I was ready for this site to reflect the same skill set.

Content Refresh

Whenever I redesign a site, I also take a long hard look at the content to make sure it's conveying a consistent message with the new look and feel. Thinking about how my site was structured I removed a lot of content and reorganized articles, posts, and pages. In my previous architecture, I had quite a few pages that were technically under my services area, but weren’t actually services. My viral marketing strategies article is one of the most visited pages from the search engines but unless you came from a search engine, you probably wouldn't be able to find it.

Since I was planning on redesigning every page it was also time to rewrite all of the content as well. Over the past couple years my content has become bloated and "pitchy." I didn’t like that and wanted to get back to what was more important. Clear, concise content that simply explained what I do and how I can help or guide you to the next step.

The re-writing process took about 6-8 months. I wrote and rewrote each page about three times trying to cut it down each time and make it more succinct. I wasn’t in any hurry and was more concerned with getting it right versus up and online tomorrow. Once I had all of the content fine-tuned it was time to start the design process.

Not so Fast

Loving and designing on a grid was the easy part. I also wanted my new site to be more of a blogazine. Basically, taking a page from the print world where each article or page has a slightly different layout. You would never buy a magazine where each article looked exactly the same format wise so why should my site be any different.

In an attempt to get away from a templated looking site I really wanted each of my main pages to have a different look. Even though I am a designer first, I still feel that content is why visitors are coming to my site and it’s what deserves to have the center stage.

Content informs design; design without content is decoration. Content has the same relationship to design that product has to advertising.
- Jeffrey Zeldman

Design: Take One

Like some long term projects, the longer you stare at it the less you appreciate it. I started down this design path early on and for the most part was pretty happy with it, but there were a few things that bothered me that kept me from loving it.

website design round 1

It was based on a grid, but it didn’t feel like elements were lining up as well as they could. Since I was so grid happy I wanted there to be consistent lines everywhere. I put up a comp of the design to get some feedback and overall it was liked, but I wasn't convinced it was the best way to go.

Design: Take Two, Three and Four

After massaging the previous comp for quite a few hours I decided to start over. Sometimes the easiest way to solve a problem is to take a step back and approach it again. I started with a new color scheme, layout, and mentality as to how the content was served up.

Once again, trying to keep things as simple and clean as possible I minimized the content in the footer and rewrote the navigation items. I was obsessed with making sure the header and footers were on a grid and before arriving at my final decision I probably redesigned those sections about seven or eight times. I would design it, look at it and think about it for a few days, and then design another version.

Now that the Foundation has been Laid

Once the structure of the site was completed I was ready to start the design process for the interior pages. About, services, design, development, SEO, consulting, portfolio and contact all have different layouts wrapped within the same theme of the site. This was really important to me so that users didn't get an insomnia feeling of clicking around a site while nothing much was really changing.

Having battled so many projects in the past where content was an afterthought, it was very refreshing and exciting to design a page around the content instead of trying to force the content into the design.

Nothing is sadder than a beautiful design that works great with lorem ipsum but doesn't actually support the real content.
- Jeffrey Zeldman

Similar to the content, I designed and redesigned each sub page multiple times trying to make sure that even though every page was custom, they still fell in line with the grid of the header and footer. It was very obvious when I got this process right and when I got it wrong. The layouts that weren’t perfect still looked good, but staring at them left me feeling that something was just a bit off. When all the elements were in line I didn’t have any question that I had found a good layout for that page.

Out with the Old

When it came time to redesign a site I used to design a home page, a sub page, maybe another template or two to catch all the other content possibilities and then dump all the content into its place. This obviously led to a very typical site.

I was determined to make this redesign process different and enjoyed paying the price for over 24 months. I am very happy with the end-result and hopefully it will lead to a richer experience for the user. I can definitely say that the re-written, YOU focused content has certainly helped conversions. I highly recommend subscribing to the High Rankings Newsletter and reading Content Strategy for the Web and Don’t Make Me Think.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.

Look in the archives