How We Redesigned The Future Buzz
The Future Buzz is now sporting an all-new look. My name is Michael Martin, and I’ve been working with Adam on this for the past few months. I’d love to share some insight into the thoughts behind the redesign, and get your feedback on it all too!
Just to sidestep first and give you a quick overview of who we are; I work in a small web design team called Pro Blog Design. We specialize in all things WordPress and we worked with Adam on his last design too, so it was an honor when he got in touch with us again for version 4!
Moving straight on though…
This is a question that all site owners ask themselves every now and again. Why redesign? Building a new design from scratch is a big undertaking, so it’s not a choice that anyone makes lightly.
In Adam’s case, the main reason was to take The Future Buzz to the next level. Until now, The Future Buzz has been very much Adam’s personal blog, and this has worked wonderfully.
With the traffic that The Future Buzz now gets though, it was time to re-evaluate. Should this come across as a personal blog? Will there always be just one main writer? Is it time to put more emphasis on advertising?
With those thoughts in mind, we decided on a fundamental change to the layout. It was time to go from a personal blog to publication.
There are two main approaches you can take to get to a “publication” look. Let’s give them a more informal name here:
- The New York Times / BBC approach.
- The Smashing Magazine / Mashable approach.
The NY Times/BBC approach works well for sites with a team of authors and a lot of content published. The Future Buzz isn’t making a drastic leap to that, Adam is still going to be the #1 writer here and we still want to put full focus on the articles, so we chose the latter.
What About the Style?
We’ve talked about the functional reasons to redesign, but what about the visual ones? In the previous design, the major goal for the design was to look cool and professional. Blue and grey; color schemes don’t get much more professional than that.
In the new design though, Adam wanted to bring a lot more color into the site. The biggest complaint with the existing design was that it had simply gone too minimal and plain; it needed a little more zest to it.
This probably worked out as the biggest challenge with the design. As my partner eloquently put it, there’s a fine line between a vibrant colorful site, and a site selling children’s toys. We experimented a lot with this:
Our initial approach was a smaller step than Adam was looking for:
So we came back with plenty of variations, including some that went too far as well:
The end result was somewhere between the two extremes here (Which is a good sign we considered the range of options I think!)
When it comes to an intangible decision like this, then experimenting as much as possible is the only way to really make your choice. Forget planning it all out, just get stuck in and see what works.
In every project we do, we ask the client to list their priorities, in order. They can’t just give us a collection of things they want, it is numbered and there can only be one number 1.
This is crucial for us, because it forces everyone to see exactly where the priorities lie. Is the number 1 goal increasing subscribers, selling ads, building social profiles, selling products, or one of the hundred other goals a site might have?
With The Future Buzz, number one is still the community. There are a few more ads than before, but never in preference to the community. Let me give you an example of that:
This is a shot of the new sidebar. Community options first, ad second.
The site now includes a job board, which I’m sure Adam will be telling you all much more about. There are a lot of options about nowadays for setting up a job board, but Adam had discovered Simply Hired, who offered an extremely simple solution to set up.
Sometimes, the easiest solution really is the best. We could have invested a lot of time into building the perfect setup for the new site, only to find a few months later that a job board isn’t right for The Future Buzz.
That’s what makes Simply Hired the better choice; we have no investment upfront. If it doesn’t work out, we just remove it and no harm done. If it’s a big success, we can always come back later and build the ideal solution.
Aside from that, Adam came up with a nifty idea for comments. Beside each of your comments, you will see your total number of comments displayed (like in the previous design), but now your link color depends on your comments number as well. 100+ is gold, so that’s your target to aim for!
For anyone curious though, the code to display the total number of comments from a particular commenter is simple enough:
$count = $wpdb->get_var( $wpdb->prepare( “SELECT COUNT(*) FROM $wpdb->comments WHERE comment_author_email = %s AND comment_approved = 1″, get_comment_author_email() ) );
Then just echo $count; where you’d like the number displayed. Feel free to read up more on the $wpdb object if you’d like to know more about writing your own MySQL queries in WordPress!
So How Did We Do?
That should give you some oversight into how this new site came to be, so now I’d love to hear your thoughts on it all!
What have we done well? And what could we have done better? Let’s hear it in the comments!