Open/Close Navigation

Vandelay Design Has a New Look

I’m happy to unveil the new look here for Vandelay Design! The new design is quite different from the old one, and I hope that it will provide a better home for the content of this blog. If you’re reading this in an RSS reader or in your email I encourage you to visit and see what you think (and of course if you’re already on the site please click around a little bit to check things out).

There were a few main goals with the redesign, which I’ll touch on in a minute, but ultimately I hope that it makes the blog a more comfortable and welcoming place for readers. Please leave your feedback, positive or negative, if you have a moment. Also, I’ve tested things myself, but if you see anything that’s not working please let me know.

The entire site was re-done, not just the blog, although the majority of the site is the blog. I felt that the old homepage (1st image below) was ok, but the blog (2nd image below) left a lot to be desired. When that design was done a year ago, the main portion of the site (the homepage, portfolio, etc.) were designed first and the blog was really just a gutted version of that design. The header was kept, a basic sidebar was used, and that was it.

Old homepage

Old Blog Design

At that time the blog was just getting started. Now, the blog is really the focal point of the site, so that’s where the design started. Once the blog theme was complete, the pages outside the blog were designed accordingly. Hopefully the end result is a more attractive and effective blog theme.

The Goals of the Redesign:

Overall Look

Of course, one of the primary goals was simply to get an upgrade in the appearance of the site, particularly the blog. The old theme was an accurate reflection of where the blog was at a year ago, but since it has grown very much in that time, a new look was necessary to help take the blog to the next level.

Navigation

The old theme’s navigation wasn’t the best, and as a result pageviews per visit were low and the bounce rate was high. One of the major goals was to make the navigation a bit more logical and encourage visitors to stay on the site a little longer. The primary navigation includes links to a few new pages, including a popular posts page and a design inspiration page. The inspiration page is really just a funnel to what is essentially a series of posts, which are collections of exemplary designs, such as 25 Beautifully Colorful Websites. I decided to keep them separate from the popular posts page because they kind of have their own identity.

These inspirational gallery posts tend to do very well with readers, so hopefully this page will make them easier to find. The very bottom of the right sidebar also contains links to these posts. Maybe the links in the sidebar and the page weren’t both necessary, but the goal was to highlight the content that visitors tend to like the most. If that seems to not be effective I can always change something around later.

The popular posts page is pretty much self explanatory. The old theme had some links in the sidebar to popular posts, but they didn’t seem to be used by very many readers. By creating a separate page and putting it in the main navigation it may draw more attention. Also, a smaller selection of popular posts is featured in the sidebar with a thumbnail image and a brief description. Again, that’s an attempt to make the most popular content easier to find. Those links are likely to be changed up from time-to-time since there are only a few posts listed there.

The header also contains a secondary navigation menu (at the very top) that includes links to pages outside of the blog. By breaking up the navigation this way the attempt is to make it clear to visitors how the site is structured. I felt the navigation menu on the old theme was largely ignored because it didn’t do a good job of addressing the needs of blog readers.

Use of Screen Space

You may have also noticed that the theme is now using three columns instead of two. The old theme was only about 760 pixels wide and the new one is 960, so the main content area didn’t lose any width. Looking at the resolutions that are being used by visitors (according to Google Analytics) it made no sense to not widen the layout. Almost no one is using a smaller resolution, so the added sidebar can help achieve the navigational improvements mentioned above. Plus, it wastes less space (hopefully it’s not too cluttered this way).

The old theme was not designed with ads in mind, so when they were included a few months ago they didn’t fit. The new design has been in mind since then, it just took a while to get it done. The ads still are located high on the page, but they still allow room for other items since there are two sidebars.

Formatting of Individual Posts

I wrote last week about how a well-formatted and laid out post can be much more effective than a bland appearance, and I had my own blog in mind when I was writing. I found the posts to be pretty unattractive, so hopefully the typography, sub-headers, and block quotes will help to improve this.

(I noticed that the Design Float buttons are showing up twice on many posts. I’ll have to delete out the extras. Also, I need to change the styling on the contact page).

What Do You Think?

Please lease a comment to let me know what you think and let me know if something’s not working. Thanks!

Looking for hosting? WPEngine offers secure managed WordPress hosting. You’ll get expert WordPress support, automatic backups, and caching for fast page loads.