As you have probably noticed, my blog design completely changed a few weeks ago. Last year when I went to the Problogger conference, I made a list of things I wanted to achieve in the next 12 months. One of the things I really wanted to do was to move my blog to a self-hosted WordPress site. For the previous 4 years, my blog was hosted on Blogger, which was free. Blogger was super easy to use, but there wasn’t much flexibility in how I could design my blog.
I set myself the goal of doing a total blog redesign before the next Problogger conference, but I put it off for a while because I just couldn’t wrap my head around how I could do it myself successfully.
Why it took me so long to get started
I knew that I wanted to set up the blog properly by myself, but the thought of potentially stuffing up monumentally (and potentially losing everything) scared the heck out of me – so much that I even got a few quotes to get someone else to do it. For me though, the problem with getting someone else to do it all was that I still wouldn’t know how to manage the back end of the blog. I wouldn’t understand how it should be set up, or how to fix problems.
On one of the Facebook blogger groups I belong to, some one suggested that I try Blogger Boss – a new course that another blogger had developed which focused on the technical skills to migrate or set up, and manage a blog on a self-hosted WordPress site. It seemed perfect for me so I joined the Blogger Boss course and loved it.
I loved the step by step instructions that each module provided, together with videos to help me know what to do, but what made the course invaluable for me was the Facebook group that went with the course. Madeleine (who designed and ran the course) made herself available to answer individual questions, help sort out small problems (like when I couldn’t work out how to write a piece of code), and give advice. I also enjoyed the interaction with other group members who would jump in with answers when they knew them. I totally recommend the course if you want to learn more about how to work the back end of your existing blog, or set up a blog. Here’s a link to the Blogger Boss website if you’re interested (that’s an affiliate link – I get a small fee if you were to sign up for the course).
Moving the blog to WordPress
Once I had joined Blogger Boss it was full steam ahead. I found a good webhost, and set up an account. I installed a basic free theme and imported my old blog over from Blogger. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy – though there were a few nervous minutes there. I did a total backup of my old blog first – just in case! Once it was all sitting on my new host server, I began to think about the function and design of the new blog.
Designing my new blog
One of the big decisions I had to make was which theme to go with. The theme guides the structure, layout, and look of your blog. I really didn’t understand how important this was when I started, and it took me a while to find a theme which was both functional and had the aesthetic qualities I was looking for. I spent quite a bit of time looking at other blogs I loved and writing down the bits and pieces I liked about their functionality and style to help me get a clear idea about what I was looking for in my design, and I really recommend anyone planning a redesign do this!
I bought the Pretty Chic theme from Pretty Darn Cute Designs. Once I had installed the theme, I spent quite a while re-coding all the bits I wanted to change, and getting it to function the way I wanted (compare the original theme with my blog now!). It surprised me how hard it was to find a theme that did exactly what I wanted. Even now, am still coming across bits and pieces that need to be fixed up, and I have a list a mile long of little tweaks I’d like to do when I have time. Again the Blogger Boss course was super helpful because I learnt how to write the code myself. I still struggle with some of the trickier bits, but I feel confident to do most of the basic stuff.
If you are looking for a new theme, my advice is to ignore the colour schemes and fonts etc and look at the layout options and how mobile friendly it is. Changing the code for colours and fonts is a lot easier than trying to make new menu bars etc.
Designing my header and logo
When I first started thinking about a redesign, I had a fairly strong idea about what I was looking for in my new header and logo. I knew I wanted a blue/green water colour background for the header, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. I saw a water colour branding kit on Creative Market which had all the elements I needed to make the logo easily, so I bought it. With my sister’s help (she is better at using Photoshop than me) I made my header, social media logo, and category widgets. Settling on the header was probably the hardest design decision of the entire project. Once I got the design to a point I loved, the rest of the aesthetic design just fell into place.
I think that starting with a header is a great way to begin redesigning the whole look of a blog because it sets a strong design tone for the rest of the site. You can see my old header next to my new one, and trust me when I say I love my new one 1000% more!
A cost comparison
The cost of redesigning my blog, including signing up for Blogger Boss, buying a theme, and the watercolour branding kit, worked out to be about a third of the cheapest quote I got to have some one else do it. The trade off for this was that the redesign took a lot longer to do. Perhaps if I had paid someone else it to do it all, the design would have been completed in a shorter time frame, but I would have missed out on getting the custom look I wanted, as well as developing the skills to design and manage my blog by myself. One of the other things I like about Blogger Boss is that I still have access to all the materials and the facebook group should I have any issues with my blog in the future (fingers crossed I don’t).
I still have plans for several more additions to my blog, but it is basically working the way I want it to. Right now I’m feeling pretty darn proud of myself, and with just over a week till I go to the next Problogger conference, I made my deadline…. just!
Have you learnt any great new skills lately? Need any more details about my redesign? What do you think of my new design?