As you’ve hopefully noticed, this blog was recently redesigned. I love what the design crew did to update the BlogWorld blog. I’ve had blog design on the mind for another reason as well – I recently redesigned After Graduation to make the site more functional.
In both cases, I think that blog redesign was a good idea. Don’t be fooled, though; redesign disasters are very real, and yes, you should be scared.
Redesign disasters typically happens due to one of two reasons:
- The redesign wasn’t actually needed.
- The redesign wasn’t well planned.
Sometimes, both reasons come into play, and you get the perfect storm of resign problems. If your blog needs to be redesigned and you take the time to plan it well, execution shouldn’t be a problem. Even with some bumps along the way, a redesign can be successful if the two points above are met first.
The Unneeded Redesign
Sometimes, imperfection is better than a resign.
I have a friend who runs a moderately successful blog in his niche. He drives me crazy because in the last three years, he’s been through…let me think…six themes at least. That’s not even counting the redesign work he’s done tweaking each of them. He’s never happy with his site, and what starts as a change here and there often ends up as a complete overhaul.
Your blog with never – NEVER – be perfect. Perfect blog design doesn’t exist, so stop chasing it. Try to find the best design for your readers and then (this is important) leave it alone.
It’s my opinion that one of the reasons he’s not more successful with his blog is that he redesigns so often. Readers get confused whenever you go through a redesign. They have to re-learn site navigation. They have to get used to the new look. Your site design is part of your branding, so if you’re constantly changing your design, you’ll leave your readers confused.
Sometimes, a redesign is needed. If your site is starting to become outdated, hard to use, or broken in any way, go ahead – redesign your little heart out. Before you do, though, ask yourself if it is really necessary. You’re likely going to have to make some compromises no matter what theme you choose, how your sidebar looks, etc. Not every reader will be happy. As site owner, you probably never will be, and that’s ok. Pinky swear to me that you’ll step away and let the dust settle when you’re done redesigning. Don’t change the look of your blog every few months.
The Unplanned Redesign
Worse than the unneeded redesign is the unplanned redesign. A blog is a living, breathing animal that can turn into a monster quickly if you aren’t careful. If you don’ t have time for a redesign, don’t do it. Your readers will leave – and not come back – if your site is empty or broken for more than a day or two. It’s hard to win them back once they’re gone. So, plan the redesign when you have a few days to fully devote your time to it. Work in a sandbox if possible, and be prepared for some glitches that you’ll have to spend time fixing.
You also need to plan out what you’re going to change. Don’t just decide that you don’t like your blog and start from scratch. Identify what needs to change and come up with a plan for changing it. You can even poll your readers or email list to find out what they do or do not like about your blog. If you can’t really determine what is wrong, right now is probably not the time for a redesign. Maybe you’re getting burned out or maybe you need some more time to think about what you want to change. Either way, nuking your site and then sitting there staring at a blank page until you feel inspired is not a good idea.
One last tip – if you’re going to redesign your site, warn your readers. It can be a shock to go to a site you read every day and it is suddenly very different. Tweet about your redesign ideas, write a post about it (including mention of potential downtime), and otherwise talk to your readers about the fact that they’re about to see a new and improved version of your website.