Choosing a great design is one of the best things you can do for your blog. Even though we’ve been told for most of our lives to never judge a book by its cover, many of us (myself included) quickly make judgments about a website purely based on how it looks.
A site with an amazing design but weak content can quickly trump a disorganized looking site with great content. Even if that ugly site reveals the secret to eternal youth – most of us wouldn’t scroll past the fold to find out, because in the blogging world, the way a site looks and the way it’s organized determines whether or not people will take the time to read the content.
With so much emphasis placed on design and navigation, it’s no wonder why some bloggers get “Design Anxiety” and switch designs every time they discover something new. Abruptly changing design too soon can confuse and cause you to lose your audience. Keeping a design long after its style has become dated can leave your audience feeling bored.
So today, I want to address the questions:
How often should you update your web design? How do you transition into a new design without startling your audience?
Before updating your blog’s design, here’s some things to consider:
Is it too soon?
Have you ever visited a cool site and then the next day, you go back to the site and it’s completely unrecognizable?
I have and many times, I’ve never gone back. People get used to the way things look. People get used to the way content is being presented and if the change is so different that they have to relearn how to use your site, many people won’t bother.
Don’t rush when choosing a design
I realize that blogging can be time intensive and that in the excitement to get things up and running quickly, a blogger may be tempted to quickly choose and settle on a theme that they think is really cool and because it has all the bells and whistles. It may look great, but it may not be as functional or as intuitive as needed.
It’s best to take your time to list your needs and then as you review your theme options, you’ll be able to eliminate the ones that don’t line up.
Is the design right for you and your blog?
I love technology and all the cool things you can add to a blog, but there are times when I’ve chosen a blog design only to be disappointed when it doesn’t match the sample – images don’t display right and the slide show looks odd – I’m even more disappointed when I’ve got to wade through confusing user manuals just to rectify the problem.
I’ve also discovered that no matter how much you like a design, some designs just aren’t appropriate for certain niches. You have to choose one that has the look and feel that is appropriate – a cute and whimsical design works just fine for someone who blogs about arts and crafts, but it lends no credibility to a freelancer who’s trying to attract clients.
Less is More
As the Evil Queen from Mirror Mirror said, “Bread is meat… less is more…” – part of that is true; less really is more. I’ve learned that despite how fun I want my site to be, the most important thing is for people to be able to find the content they are looking for – so that means any plugins or design elements that don’t contribute to that goal just aren’t necessary.
Once a year is a good time to update
I would recommend updating the design no sooner than once a year. You can wait longer – two or even three years is okay if your original design wasn’t already dated to begin with. Make sure you choose a design that you and your readers can live with for at least one year.
Maintain your Branding
If you’re going to update your blog’s design, I highly recommend keeping the same logo and color schemes.
Your logo may end up being the only thing that lets a reader know that they are in the right place, so it’s best to update your logo after your design has been around for a while.
Avoid complete overhauls
Design updates don’t have to be a total overhaul; some small changes can go a long way. Keep some elements from the old design and integrate them with the new.
When I updated this blog’s design, I carefully considered the elements I wanted to keep.
The green and black colors were very dominant elements of my design and I wanted to keep that. I also wanted to keep the same font- Rockwell Bold – so that people would still feel at home.
How to transition into a new design
Make an announcement before you begin the new design, but don’t assume everyone will read the announcement (that’s why total overhauls aren’t recommended). Send out an email to your list if you need to.
Create a “How to Navigate this Site” page
To help people become familiar with the new design, create a page that shows them how to use your new design. Point out what’s new and different from the old. Link to key pages that they can use to quickly find what they are looking for.
If you can’t do it, find a professional
If you don’t know how to make design changes or if you simply don’t have enough time, hire someone. Get a web design quote from several different designers. Ask to review their portfolios of completed designs and then compare rates.
These are just a few things to consider when trying to decide when is a good time to update your site. I’m sure there are more tips we can add here, so please feel free to share your ideas and experiences with updating a site’s design in the comments section.