How did you spend your New Year’s Eve? I kicked off 2019 with a long overdue site redesign of the WordPress Building Blocks Site.

I hadn’t really changed the design since I started it back in 2012.

I’d been thinking about an update for a long time — I’m almost ashamed to say how long — but I kept getting sidetracked.

Does that sound familiar to you?

I kept telling myself it was like the cobbler’s kids running around barefoot because the shoemaker was just too busy making shoes for other people’s kids, but really it was because I couldn’t make up my mind.

That’s another common problem.

But, as a wise friend reminded me recently, “done is better than perfect.”

So. . . I plunged in.

Choosing a Theme

First off, I knew I needed a theme that was truly mobile responsive and mobile friendly. That’s an absolute must today, and I’d felt like a bit of a hypocrite for a while. I always tell clients not to consider themes that aren’t truly mobile responsive, and yet here I was. . .

Back in 2012, my chosen theme (Prose, from StudioPress) was state of the art. While it did resize nicely on a phone or tablet, it didn’t create a good mobile experience. It simply sized down.

A couple of the newer StudioPress themes had caught my eye, but in the end, I went with Divi from Elegant Themes.

I decided to go all in – I upgraded to WordPress 5.0 (I did wait until after Christmas to do it!), and deactivated the Classic Editor plugin to get the full Gutenberg experience. 

Redesigning the Front Page

The front page (homepage) on my original site no longer reflected my business goals, so I definitely needed to change it to draw more attention to things like the live WordPress training program that I’ll be offering again in the spring. 

Does your front page reflect your business goals? Think about what’s the most important action you want visitors to take when they arrive, and put that front and center! 

I want people to follow a path that takes them either to WordPress education, or to hiring me to build a site for them. So I’ve got two big buttons right at the top.

The execution isn’t perfect – I’ll be doing some cleanup work over the next few days – but it’s quite different from what you saw before.

screenshot of new WordPress Building Blocks front page
Here’s a screenshot of the new front page

Notice what hasn’t changed, though.

  • Navigation menus
  • Color scheme. I still want the site to give off a cheerful, friendly, non-intimidating vibe.

One thing I did change was the header font. Originally I used Rock Salt for the headers, again, because I wanted visitors to feel that the information was very accessible and not intimidating.

With its handwritten, marker-like appearance, I think it accomplished that goal. However, it always looked a bit clunky, and it took up a lot of space. So I’ve swapped it out for Dosis, which is still a bit non-traditional and approachable, but not as bulky.

I also wanted the front page to show the three most recent articles. Previously, I only featured one and I had to change it manually — this one updates automatically.

I’m sure I’ll be changing things up over the next few days and weeks, but at least the bare bones are in place now.

I’ll also be writing an article about the new Divi / Gutenberg experience, so watch for it!

Redesign Process

If you want to redo your living room, you consider a variety of factors — focal point, colors, textures, layout, and traffic pattern, for example. You need to know how your family will use the room.

It’s the same when you’re redesigning your WordPress site.

Before you even start, you need to identify your most important business goal(s), because your site — especially your homepage — must support it.

In a living room, the focal point can be a painting, a fireplace, or, more commonly, the TV. Decide what the focal point for your site will be. Choose your new theme based on how well it presents this vital element.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can move on to the traffic patterns.

Just as people need to move within and through a room easily, they also need to find their way around your website easily and efficiently. That’s one of the reasons I’m keeping my site navigation the same for now. I have some thoughts about rearranging it, but I’ll wait a while until visitors get used to the new look before I start changing the traffic patterns.

Once you’ve taken care of these two important elements, the rest should pretty much take care of itself.

Takeaways

It’s tempting to throw everything out and start with a blank slate, but your returning visitors will be happier if you keep some of the same elements. I kept the colors and the navigation, along with my happy little stick figure images.

If you’re taking the time and effort to redesign, make sure your front page supports your current business goals.

Have fun with it!

A version of this article was originally published to the WordPress Building Blocks mailing list. If you’d like to be among the first to receive new information, join the mailing list here.


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