Freddy Krueger’s Guide To Blog Redesign

It’s time to redesign BloggerJET! I’m going to search for blogs with astonishing visual design or either comprehensive usability design and CUT PIECES that I like to create a mockup of the future BloggerJET!

Did someone just say “CUT”? Seems like there’s a job for my friend Freddy Krueger!

Basically, the happening that is about to take place is nothing else but how I come up with a specification for designer.
 
 

Setting the goals.

I’m not redesigning BloggerJET for no reason. I think there are actually some huge flaws in my current blog layout. Let me try to break them down for you:


Right now I’m using a free WordPress theme by Woothemes, which is quite good actually, but the design itself is not very captivating (at least in my opinion), so I need something way better. Something catchy and professional!

The only customized part in this design is my logo, which was kindly designed by my friend (he started a blog too, btw) and it’s the only element which makes my blog design unique. That’s not enough! I want a cool big header, not just logo!


Let’s take a look at my “welcome message“. This is a very important part of my blog, as this way I can quickly tell my new visitors why BloggerJET is special and worth their attention. I’m in a journey of growing this blog from nothing to 100k visitors in only 6 months and I actually blog about how I do it and share all my statistics.

I have to deliver this message to every person that visits my blog, but unfortunately right now it’s only displayed on my homepage (I’ll share a screenshot of a single post later) so I need to put it in my sidebar, to be visible on every single page of BloggerJET.

Other than that, despite this message is very important to me, it takes too much space and it’s shifting my posts down, so that my readers have to scroll a bit to see the full excerpt of the most recent blogpost. If you look at the gods of blogging: Copyblogger and Problogger – there’s nothing in their blog designs shifting the posts down. That is called usability :)


My challenge of growing this blog to insane traffic numbers in a very short time is quite harsh actually. This means it shouldn’t cost you even a tiny piece of effort to subscribe to my blog. Running this WordPress theme for 7 weeks now I can assert that those subscription options are not converting my visitors into subscribers too well. And again this widget is only available on my homepage, which makes it painful for people that land on some random post to find where to subscribe.


I’m mostly happy with the way post excerpts are being displayed, but there are still couple things that can be improved. And besides, where are my social buttons? I have to let my visitors know that my posts are actually pretty popular. Right now people can only see my social buttons once they open a certain post.


Here goes the sidebar. Have you ever used those “category links“? I may be wrong, but I think they’re totally useless. Well, in my case for sure. I feel like I’m being tortured every time I have to assign a couple categories to my new blog post. Let there be only one category here – “masterpiece“! ( just kidding :) )


Last thing that bothers me in my current design is my newsletter subscription box. It was designed by me personally and as you can see – I’m an awful designer.

Now let’s review my single post layout:


As I’ve mentioned earlier, my sidebar neither has the widget with information about the blog itself nor the subscription options. This is a huge flaw that my blog had from the very beginning, unfortunately.


Once the post comes to an end, there’s nothing but the comments. I could at least use “Related Posts” widget here. As I’ve promised, I am going to explore some of the coolest blogs out there and see how they leverage this part of their blog design.

Btw, if you are intrigued to check the “cute kids” post from my screenshot, here is the link: 5 Childish Reasons No One Is Guestposting At Your Blog

 
 

Following the leaders.

Now, as I know what needs to be fixed I’d like to see how the leaders of the industry have solved all the issues I’m facing right now.

Usability Design Leaders: Which blogs are optimized in a smartest possible way? Obviously the blogs of world famous bloggers and online marketers. And so I asked Google: “top blogs about blogging” & “best blogs on blogging“:

Web Design Leaders: This one is a no brainer. Design blogs like SmashingMagazine, 1stWebDesigner or Hongkiat quite often post showcases of excellent website designs. So I asked Google: “amazing blog designs list“, “best blog designs“:

 
 

Cutting pieces.

So I’ve picked the blogs that I like most and now it’s time for Freddy to cut the pieces that I want to copy here on BloggerJET.

HEADER

I’d like to keep my blog header as slim as possible. BloggerJET is a blog, and it’s most valuable part is the content (hopefully), so it should definitely be in focus. At the same time my header should be stylish and original, with some drawings related to rockets, jet packs, spacemen & stuff. Let’s see the cuts Freddy Krueger did for me at this point:

gruny.net

ozon3.com

noupe.com

cog.nitiondesign.com

BODY

I’m happy with the way my posts are listed on the homepage. I like the huge font for the heading, I like the distance between the lines, I like the white background, etc. I think I’m following most of the rules described here: 5 Simple Font Changes to Boost Readers, Comments, and Shares on Your Blog. So the few tweaks I suggested my designer were:

  • to get rid of those stupid rectangles with categories (remember I hate categories?);
  • to move the date under the headline;
  • to add “Written By:” next to the date (that’s because I have guestposters).

The other important thing is that I don’t have social buttons with the numbers next to each post on my homepage. This way my visitors may think the blog is not popular – I believe this is called social proof.

In my opinion TechCrunch has the best placement for those social buttons on their homepage. Not much work for Freddy here, I’d rather ask Mrs. Krueger to cut this for me.

techcrunch.com

And the last thing. I’ve seen this trick quite a few times on different blogs and I think that we all should leverage it on our blogs. I’m talking about “Popular Posts” widget – but not the one in the sidebar (which quite frequently stays unnoticed), but the one that goes after the list of your blog posts, or maybe even in-between them. Hmmm… now who do I ask to cut this piece? How about Freddie’s ex?

webdesignerdepot.com

SIDEBAR

This is the part where I’ve totally failed with my original design. I need to move my “welcome message” to the top of my sidebar and ensure it stays there whichever page you visit. Plus all the subcribtion options should be placed right under and they should be as prominent as possible. Hey Freddy, there’s some work for you again:

nickycakes.com

newbloggingtipz.com

jacquesvh.com

finchsells.com

briansolis.com

One important thing! I don’t want to use any sort of custom buttons for Twitter and Facebook that just redirect people to Twitter account page and Facebook page. I don’t care if they’re perfectly designed and look awesome. This way there’s an extra step on a person’s way to following me on Twitter or becoming a fan on Facebook. I am going to use the default “Twitter follow” and “Facebook like” buttons, so that people could connect with me by a single click!

Now what else is going to be in my sidebar? The only important widget that comes to my mind is the one called “Popular Posts” or “Hot This Month” or “Most Commented Posts“. I think you cannot “OVERpoint” your visitors towards your best content. Psst, Freddie…

unbounce.com

Last thing that I want upgraded is my “Monday Numbers” newsletter widget. As I’ve already mentioned, I was the one to design it and I’m not proud of myself. “Package design” is very popular among online marketers when it comes to promoting some ebooks, courses, file packs or any other e-goodies. And this is how I want to redesign my newsletter widget:

SINGLE BLOG POST

I will have to repeat myself again. I’m happy with the way my content looks, it’s quite clean and readable. But still… there are some things that I’ve asked my designer to polish:

  • Headings: those h1, h2, h3 tags – you know them. At the present moment the only difference between them is their size. Well… I want to add a bit of extra styling. Maybe h2 should be followed with a horisontal line, to make my posts look more sexy?
  • Lists: I rarely see custom styling of those list points, so I thought maybe I should use some little stars or tiny rockets? This might look cool!
  • Quotations: I think they’re ok in this WordPress theme and I do use them quite often in my posts. Hovewer I’d like to make them just a tiny bit more prominent.

But those things are not too important actually. What bothers me most, it that my blogpost ends with comments and that’s it! There’s no “related posts” or call-to-action to subscribe to BloggerJET. What’s the matter, Fred, are you tired?

1stwebdesigner.com

quicksprout.com

Since I saw that neat subscribe box at Quicksprout that reveals itself as you finish reading the post – I fell in love with it! I need one for myself!

 
 

Ideal Blog Layout.

That is how I’d like to think about it. Let’s see what the combination of all those cuts looks like. I will then give it to my designer and I’m sure that he’ll draw me something exceptionally cool! :)

I’m not including the single post layout here, cause it’s too much of huge pictures here already. But I’m sure you’ve got the idea:

In 7 weeks from launch about 5000 unique visitors landed on BloggerJET(this was a spoiler of my monthly stats) and do you know how much of them became subscribers?

  • Feedburner says 82 – which is 1.6% of total visitors!
  • “Monday Numbers” has 23 subscribers – which is 0.4% of total visitors!
  • Facebook page has 99 fans – which is 1.9% of total visitors!

Those numbers ARE LAME! And this layout, which was constructed out of world’s coolest blogs should drastically change the situation!


Now here’s the deal!


If you were following my logic through the whole post, you may understand that what I was trying to achieve is the best possible layout a blogger may dream of! That said, I am willing to offer a copy to YOU!
 
Yes-yes, you’ve heard me right!
 
At the same time I do understand that you don’t need my branded BloggerJET theme, but you need one of your own! Well I am actually willing to throw in a few extra bucks and ask my designer to create an “Unbranded Version” of this blog layout, so that you could customize it easily and use on your own blog!
 
How cool is that?
 
And all I am asking from you in return is to show me that you like the idea and really want to get an “Unbranded Version” of this blog layout absolutely for free!
 
So what I want from you, is to share this post with the social buttons, so that the sum of numbers will be three times more than on my hottest blog post: 29 Brilliant Posts You Have to Read Before I Call You an Internet Marketer
 
Google +1’s: 49 + Tweets: 222 + Facebook likes: 138 + LinkedIn shares: 49 = 458!
 
Three times more than 458 would be somewhere around 1500 :) This is all I’m asking for in order to develop an awesome free WordPress template for pro bloggers!

UPD: Here is the link to portfolio of my designer on DeviantArt: http://bravedesign.deviantart.com/gallery/ – by looking at it, you can easily guess that the designs are going to be AWESOME!


Thanks for reading this whole thing to the very end! Hope that Freddy Krueger theme didn’t scare or disgust you too much :)

I think it will take my designer about a week to create a new design, based on the layout above, so there’s plenty of time for you to suggest me some edits or fresh ideas!
I am open to your suggestions and critique!

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I used to be a professional DJ when I realised that talent alone won't get me thousands of raving fans. That's how I began studying marketing. So today I'm a marketing consultant, helping people squeeze more money from their online ventures.

46 Comments

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  1. Annabel Candy

    Love that you’re focusing on improving your blog design and upping your social shares at the same time:) Thanks so much for sharing my blog post too. Love that you found it via Google

  2. Annabel Candy

    …. too. I’m off to share this around now to see if I can help you reach your goals:) Great to connect with you and keep up the fab blogging, Annabel

    • Tim Soulo

      Thanks! :) Hope I’ll eventually get the number of shares I’ve requested :)

  3. Tung Tran

    What a creative idea on writing a blog post! Your title really makes me curious and want to click on imediately. And of course, I will share your blog post to my friends :D Thanks for the post!

    • Tim Soulo

      Thanks, Tung :) Hope I’ll get the decent number of “shares” and will develop this cool template to give out! :)

      • Tung Tran

        Hehe I’m waiting for that template. 

  4. Tom

    Very clever idea Tim ;-)

    Just one question at the moment (as I agree with most of what you say) – if categories are going out the window, how are people going to navigate around your blog?

    • Tim Soulo

      lol :) good question actually :) I think “popular posts” and “most commented posts” is enough + you might have noticed that I am always linking to my other posts once I write a new one.

      others, who want more.. will have to navigate the pages with my older posts..

      … and yes, I am going to create a separate page and showcase my coolest posts there. This will be good navigation I think

      • Tom Ewer

        Sounds pretty good to me! Interlinking of posts is huge – it’s definitely a great way to improve your average page views, in my opinion.

        You might consider putting in an “archives” page in your navigation bar. On that page you could include categories, tags, and date archives. Just for people who come across your site and can’t get enough!

        • Tim Soulo

          ok-ok, I give up :) will have to add something like that :) Either categories, or tags, or archives :)

    • Tim Soulo

      …but… in case this will not increase my “pageviews” – I’ll have to bring categories back! :)

  5. Jacques van Heerden

    Looking forward to the new layout Tim. You highlighted some key problems in layouts as well. People are generally too focused on content and that becomes a problem.

    Why do I say it’s a problem? “Content is king. Isn’t it?” Whilst focusing on content people dwell away from connections. Meaning their followers need to go through a lot of trouble to connect with them.

    I will definitely be upgrading some things on my sites over the next week. Thanks for the post mate.

    • Tim Soulo

      thanks, Jacques! Hope the redesign won’t take too long :) I’m fine with a month or so :)

  6. Sri Ganesh.M

    Very interesting and the way your presented , hmm….. lots of work have to workup for myself. ! 
    thank you for sharing good article ! 

    • Tim Soulo

      Thanks, Sri! :) It feels good to get such a feedback from a pro blogger like you :)

  7. Kalyan

    Awesome Stuff!! Looking forward for the new design.

    • Tim Soulo

      Thanks! My friend is already working on it! :)

  8. Doug Smart

    As someone who makes/sells wordpress themes based on a custom framework, I thought I would add my $.02 to this discussion. First of all, I think it’s important to distinguish between a theme and certain styles you may apply to a theme. Any blogging theme worth anything should have the ability to be made to look exactly how you want to look using whatever graphics, widgets, or plug-ins you deem necessary to achieve that goal. I think it’s unrealistic to think you can create a self-contained blogging theme without using extra pieces.  To me, those extra pieces you are talking about in this post are where the real value lies. Granted, not every idea in the post may be suitable for every situation, but it looks like a great formula.

    There are, I think, 2 very important things that few people consider when choosing a theme…

    Speed:

    Themes that are not properly optimized to load quickly or that just have bad code are going to hurt more than help. No matter how good your content might be, if it’s slow to load because the theme is not optimized or you did not optimize your graphics it won’t matter. They probably won’t wait around to see what you have to say.

    Support:

    One of the things that I tell customers who come to me is NOT to choose just any theme (especially the ones that don’t come with support). I’ve had so many people get burned by $35 themes on theme Forest or even free ones from WordPress.org for numerous reasons including…

    1.  The theme doesn’t work in a new version of WordPress
    2. The Theme has security holes that will never be patched. (Anyone recently who had a theme with an old version of timthumb and had that theme hacked knows exactly what I’m talking about here.)
    3. They bought the theme because of how it looked, but the backend is just plain unusable and/or lacking in options.

    • Tim Soulo

      Hey Doug! Thanks a lot for your $0.2 :) I have to say that I’ve been into “templatez buziness” for quite a while and I have a bunch of great developers among my friends, so I’m sure we can figure it out! :) Nevertheless, thanks a lot for your expertise and advice!

      • Doug Smart

        Yeah, not an issue if you have the expertise on hand. But not everyone has developers at their disposal, which is when they get burned.

    • Justin Germino

      Really good points about themes, it took me 3 years and 3 themes to finally decide on the one I chose and I still had to very heavily customize it to fit my needs.

  9. Kris Olin

    Great post Tim! 

    Today I’d like to comment on using Categories before you go and delete them. They are most useful if you divide you posts into highly searchable and SEO optimised categories. As you have noticed Stages, Useful and Other would not serve you right. The other trick is to rename your Categories panel as Popular Topics, which is much more user friendly. While youre’ at it also rename you Recent Posts as Popular Articles.

    • Tim Soulo

      thanks for advice, Kris, but I think renaming my categories to something more user friendly will only increase their CTR slightly.. I don’t think this will have any effect on my SEO as hundreds of websites are using the same category names – everyone cannot rank for them :)

  10. Logo Blog

    Like this new creative designs :) more Good!

  11. Anonymous

    Hmm…I guess you are bang on target with this post. Header, Placement of email subscription, not showing Social Buttons on the homepage are all relevant points. Imagine once the said points are implemented, where will that take the traffic. 

    Archives can also be called Previous Trips to the Moon(Since this a JET)

    All time best posts could be called All Time Hits. 

    Also a suggestion, use the email to inform subscribers whenever there is a new post. 

    Cheers
    Anshul

    • Tim Soulo

      hey bro! thanks for advice :) “Previous Trips to the Moon” sounds funny :)
      yeah.. I do plan to focus on email subscribtion! 

  12. Bryce Christiansen

    Looks awesome Tim.  I’m looking into some changes on my blog as well.  Thanks for the inspiration and involving the whole Krueger family.

    Bryce

    • Tim Soulo

      lol thanks Bryce! …till now I was worried if anyone shares my humour :)

  13. Justin Germino

    Great article and I honestly would have spent more time doing all those Kreuger pics that modifying my theme to fit my needs :)

    • Tim Soulo

      don’t even say that :) I’m awful at photoshop and it took me soooo long to create those pics :)

  14. Justin Germino

    Also the Facebook fanpage widget takes up a lot of real estate, not sure it has a good ROI for you.  You are missing a search field to search your site articles.  What I did with categories is add them as tabs into my top bar, and I also have a “drop down list” for archives in my footer too.  

    • Tim Soulo

      thanks Justin! at the moment this facebook like box brings me a couple fans each week.. but when I switch to like button I’m planning to get rid of it… we’ll see the dynamics then

      • Justin Germino

        I will be testing a new plugin that has potential for enticing more likes from people on your page.  It isn’t ready yet but I am looking forward to the test and the beauty is that you can leverage it in articles too.

  15. Larry Lourcey

    Holy smokes- that is a lot of research you did.  Best of luck with all the changes!

    • Tim Soulo

      my guy said the design will be ready within a week.. so I’m waiting :)

  16. Ava Smith

    Hi Tim,

    Awesome article. I am looking for the new design. I think I should also
    apply the Idea.Thanks for sharing the Idea. Wish you a good luck from
    our Vacation Rentals team.

  17. George Anderson

    Thank you for sharing this guide, I really appreciate it.

  18. Bastien Botella

    Dear god, this post’s great ! Hopefuly you’ll get the perfect design you dream of…
    It was very interesting anyway.

    • Tim Soulo

      I was send the new design today :) It’s great! But I think we need to work more on it :) My friend said that the design is so cool that noone will pay attention to the content :) Will have to make the design a bit less cool :) I’ll post all the progress later :)

      • Bastien Botella

        Please do, I’m veru interested, actually I’m thinking myself of changing the design of my two blogs, one being quite old now (over a year and a half), and the other one is just too “simple”, it needs to be spiced up. Maybe yours will ‘inspire” me ! :)

  19. Jack Usman

    Redesign a blog is also important, The great you design the more visitor’s attract.

  20. Danno Sullivan

    Love the article (and loving the blog). Is there a follow-up post with how the design impacted your numbers?

    • Tim Soulo

      Hey Danno, I’m afraid I can’t do any comparisons, since I’ve closed my blog for like 6 months and when I’ve opened it it’s almost like starting anew :)

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