So you’ve had your genealogy blog up and running for about six months or more and you finally reached the point where you want to make some changes. The changes could be as drastic as a whole new template or as simple as adding/removing sidebar items.
While change is good, change also takes planning and preparation. Here are some tips on putting together a redesign plan and then achieving perfect execution of that plan:
- Don’t do anything without a plan. Sudden changes to your blog’s design and layout can not only be unsettling to your readers, but any back end changes could cause your blog posts or blog itself to be inaccessible. Sketch out a plan and timeline in terms of what you want to achieve in a redesign.
- Take inventory. As part of your plan, determine what works and what doesn’t. This can be based on your own perceptions and your own goals for your blog (increased subscriptions, more hits, better content, etc.). Also contact some trusted blogging colleagues and ask them to give their honest opinions about your blog.
- Consider consolidation. Cluttered blogs can be cumbersome to navigate for many visitors. Think about consolidating labels and categories or combining pages.
- Take a “before” poll. Ask your visitors about your current blog design by posting a short poll. Use specific questions (i.e., “Do you prefer a dark or light background”) to get better feedback.
- Find out what attracts visitors. Besides using a poll, check your statistics to see which pages are the most visited. And if your stats permit, see which “exit pages” are used most often – these could be the pages from which your readers leave your blog.
- A touch up, face lift or total overhaul? Perhaps you only need to tweak a few sidebar items? Or perhaps you need to change your blog background and your banner? Or, more drastically, perhaps you need a totally new blog template and layout. Using your reader feedback determine which course is best.
- Communicate to your users. Your loyal visitors don’t like surprises. Part of your redesign plan should be to post about 1) plans to redesign the blog, 2) any testing periods where blog layout might change temporarily, and 3) when the final design will be implemented.
- Backup your blog. Before you start any changes, make sure you backup not only blog posts, but also your current blog template. See Resources for Backing Up Your Data.
- Set up test periods. Choose days and times when your stats show not many people visit your site. Note what works and what doesn’t.
- Set up a switch-over date. Once you’ve determined the changes needed to your blog, set a date and time when the changes will go into effect. Remember to communicate this to your visitors in a blog post.
- Take an “after” poll. Allow a few days for visitors to get used to your “new look” and then include a poll soliciting their feedback. Another option is to create a post asking readers to note their likes and dislikes about your new design in the comments section.
Once you’ve got a plan in place, take a look at our list of Resource for Blog Design which will be periodically updated.
© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee