Vandelay Design Has a New Look

I’m happy to unveil the new look here for Vandelay Design! The new design is quite different from the old one, and I hope that it will provide a better home for the content of this blog. If you’re reading this in an RSS reader or in your email I encourage you to visit and see what you think (and of course if you’re already on the site please click around a little bit to check things out).

There were a few main goals with the redesign, which I’ll touch on in a minute, but ultimately I hope that it makes the blog a more comfortable and welcoming place for readers. Please leave your feedback, positive or negative, if you have a moment. Also, I’ve tested things myself, but if you see anything that’s not working please let me know.

The entire site was re-done, not just the blog, although the majority of the site is the blog. I felt that the old homepage (1st image below) was ok, but the blog (2nd image below) left a lot to be desired. When that design was done a year ago, the main portion of the site (the homepage, portfolio, etc.) were designed first and the blog was really just a gutted version of that design. The header was kept, a basic sidebar was used, and that was it.

Old homepage

Old Blog Design

At that time the blog was just getting started. Now, the blog is really the focal point of the site, so that’s where the design started. Once the blog theme was complete, the pages outside the blog were designed accordingly. Hopefully the end result is a more attractive and effective blog theme.

The Goals of the Redesign:

Overall Look


Of course, one of the primary goals was simply to get an upgrade in the appearance of the site, particularly the blog. The old theme was an accurate reflection of where the blog was at a year ago, but since it has grown very much in that time, a new look was necessary to help take the blog to the next level.

Navigation

The old theme’s navigation wasn’t the best, and as a result pageviews per visit were low and the bounce rate was high. One of the major goals was to make the navigation a bit more logical and encourage visitors to stay on the site a little longer. The primary navigation includes links to a few new pages, including a popular posts page and a design inspiration page. The inspiration page is really just a funnel to what is essentially a series of posts, which are collections of exemplary designs, such as 25 Beautifully Colorful Websites. I decided to keep them separate from the popular posts page because they kind of have their own identity.

These inspirational gallery posts tend to do very well with readers, so hopefully this page will make them easier to find. The very bottom of the right sidebar also contains links to these posts. Maybe the links in the sidebar and the page weren’t both necessary, but the goal was to highlight the content that visitors tend to like the most. If that seems to not be effective I can always change something around later.

The popular posts page is pretty much self explanatory. The old theme had some links in the sidebar to popular posts, but they didn’t seem to be used by very many readers. By creating a separate page and putting it in the main navigation it may draw more attention. Also, a smaller selection of popular posts is featured in the sidebar with a thumbnail image and a brief description. Again, that’s an attempt to make the most popular content easier to find. Those links are likely to be changed up from time-to-time since there are only a few posts listed there.

The header also contains a secondary navigation menu (at the very top) that includes links to pages outside of the blog. By breaking up the navigation this way the attempt is to make it clear to visitors how the site is structured. I felt the navigation menu on the old theme was largely ignored because it didn’t do a good job of addressing the needs of blog readers.

Use of Screen Space

You may have also noticed that the theme is now using three columns instead of two. The old theme was only about 760 pixels wide and the new one is 960, so the main content area didn’t lose any width. Looking at the resolutions that are being used by visitors (according to Google Analytics) it made no sense to not widen the layout. Almost no one is using a smaller resolution, so the added sidebar can help achieve the navigational improvements mentioned above. Plus, it wastes less space (hopefully it’s not too cluttered this way).

The old theme was not designed with ads in mind, so when they were included a few months ago they didn’t fit. The new design has been in mind since then, it just took a while to get it done. The ads still are located high on the page, but they still allow room for other items since there are two sidebars.

Formatting of Individual Posts

I wrote last week about how a well-formatted and laid out post can be much more effective than a bland appearance, and I had my own blog in mind when I was writing. I found the posts to be pretty unattractive, so hopefully the typography, sub-headers, and block quotes will help to improve this.

(I noticed that the Design Float buttons are showing up twice on many posts. I’ll have to delete out the extras. Also, I need to change the styling on the contact page).

What Do You Think?

Please lease a comment to let me know what you think and let me know if something’s not working. Thanks!

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62 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Tyler, June 21, 2008

    WOW! Nice job

  • Abhijeet from Jeet Blog, June 21, 2008

    It’s like a complete overhaul. Very Nice !

  • Ivan Nikolic, June 21, 2008

    Wow, new design is such an improvement! Keep up the great work, you have very nice articles!

  • Glen Allsopp, June 21, 2008

    Nice one mate, looks a lot better. Just a suggestion and I hope this doesn’t offend you, but do you have better examples to show in your portfolio?

    This look is a lot better than some of those, even if you just do some temporary designs to show there even if they wern’t for a particular client as I don’t think you are showing off your full skills.

    Just a suggestion, keep up the good work buddy.

  • Glen Allsopp, June 21, 2008

    Just to add, can you let me know how you implemented that popular posts feature with the images, would love to do something similar.

  • Jim Knight, June 21, 2008

    I think it would look better with white background in content area.

  • Michael Martin, June 21, 2008

    It looks great Steven! I’m glad you’ve added so much more color in this design. The old design looked good, but it didn’t match up to the quality of the posts you write.

    I love the Popular Posts thumbnails especially! Great touch.

  • Jacob Gube, June 21, 2008

    Awesome design Steven. I’ve been meaning to re-design my blog for a while, but with writing, who has time?

    I really like the popular post block on the sidebar, makes it stand out.

  • Ahhh, that’s a beautiful color choice. The navigation is clear as hell, too. Well done.

  • Vandelay Design, June 21, 2008

    Thanks everyone for your feedback so far.

    Glen,
    No offense taken. Some of those examples are older and not the best work they could be. Others that have been done, for one reason or another can’t be included in the portfolio. There may be some additions in the near future, but for now it will probably stay like it is. To be honest, it would be more concerning if no inquiries were coming through the site, but that’s not the case.

    To answer your question about the popular posts and the images, I just did that manually in the sidebar. Each popular post entry is a paragraph that starts with an image and CSS controls how they are laid out with the image at the left. The size of the thumbnails isn’t controlled through any WP function – I just created and saved the images and used CSS to size them.

    Jim,
    Thanks for the feedback. The background actually was going to be white, but doing some experimenting it wound up this color. Personally, seeing it both ways I like it better like it is, but we’ll see what other people say as well.

    Michael Martin,
    I agree with you. One of the reasons for the redesign was to try to get the blog to the next level. Since it focuses on design, I felt the design itself was holding it back.

    Jacob,
    Yeah, that’s why it took so long to get this done! I’m glad you like the popular post section. That’s one thing I like about the new look, but I was unsure if it was just me or if it would be a good addition.

  • Vandelay Design, June 21, 2008

    James,
    Thanks for the feedback.

  • Bryan P., June 21, 2008

    I agree with Glen, it seems like you were showcasing your lesser sites, I believed that Vandelay was a lesser design company as result.

    I noticed you changed the logo, how do you think change will affect your company, brand and image?

  • Verne, June 21, 2008

    Great refresh! The new color palette is definitely a lot sharper and more vibrant!

    One tiny comment – I found it a bit disruptive to have the comments indented in, mainly because they don’t seem to be aligned with anything else on the page.

    Aside from that, everything looks awesome! :)

  • redwall_hp, June 21, 2008

    It looks good, and it’s certainly more colorful.

    I liked the old design too, it was more simplistic, though it still had a a certain…something to it. It would be a smart move to package it up as a free WordPress theme (linkbait).

  • Anna, June 21, 2008

    Wow. Very nice Steven! I like the new look.

  • Bryan P., June 21, 2008

    I see you are using “Cutline” what is the purpose of it?

  • Vandelay Design, June 21, 2008

    Bryan,
    I’m not sure how the new look will affect branding. I think it will help since it’s an improvement (in my opinion) from the old theme and look. The branding up to this point has only been built on content and really got no benefits from the look or logo, so I don’t think there will be significant losses there. My only concern is that visitors may have been on the site before and not realize it’s the same site.

    To answer your question, yes, this theme is built on Cutline. Personally, I find it to be easier and faster to start with an existing theme as opposed to starting from scratch. In this case I wanted a 3-column layout with content in the middle, so I started with the 3-column version of Cutline and styled it how I wanted it.

    Verne,
    Thanks for the comment. I may change that.

    Redwall,
    Thanks. I’m glad you also liked the old theme, but it was time to go. To release it to the public I’d have to do a good bit of work to get it ready (particularly the sidebar) but that’s an option. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • MyStore, June 21, 2008

    Nice design…easy to read

  • Ellen, June 21, 2008

    I find your company name/logo is a bit “weak”. I do like the color and the glow, but the typography just doesn’t seem very strong. I like the old company/logo better, but see it could be updated, too. Seems like something that combines the two might work, and add continuity between the old site and the new site. In otherwords, it seems you have lost a bit of identity between the two versions. What would it look like if you put in the large V behind the name like you have in your old logo?

  • Bryan P., June 21, 2008

    I really didnt understand what Cutline was for, I read through the site and thought it was an intermediary platform…

  • John Campbell, June 21, 2008

    I love the redesign. Think the site looks great. Keep up the great work.

    Regards,

    John

    http://www.designbump.com

  • bh4k, June 21, 2008

    Congrats Steve! It looks great!!!

    My suggestions would be to use a highlight color in the navigation to indicate which page the user is currently on. And perhaps add a home button and use the full width of the nav bar. And I also found “Blog front page” to be a mouthful.

  • Matthew Griffin, June 21, 2008

    I love the new design, Steven. It’s quite a change from the old site. I think the move to a wider layout is a good idea and the the new navigation is simple , well thought out, and usable. Great job and a keep up the good work.

  • Edwin, June 21, 2008

    I really liked the old design, it just felt good. I think I have to get used to this new design…

  • מיתוג אישי, June 21, 2008

    Wow, Very good job !
    It’s looks very very very professional.

  • Vandelay Design, June 21, 2008

    Ben,
    Thanks. I agree that “Blog Front Page” is kind of long, but I do think it makes it clear where the link will take you if you click on it. If it says Home, does it go to the blog front page or to the website home page? My thought is that if the navigation is clear, pageviews might improve. We’ll see. That can always be changed if it turns out to be a bad idea.

    Matt,
    Thanks for your feedback. Those are some of the things I was going for.

    Ellen,
    Thanks for your comment. I hadn’t really thought about putting a large V behind the name, because I kind of got sick of it on the old design. I see the site so much that it’s hard for me to take the point of view of the average visitor, so I appreciate your feedback.

  • Jon Phillips, June 21, 2008

    Hey Steven! Love it! :)
    Really like the other pages too, looking good!

  • Eli, June 21, 2008

    Much nicer to look at, that’s for sure! I’m gonna go have a proper look around after I leave this comment, but one thing I can see & suggest is the number for comments, you should make it like gray like the dates for the comments.

  • Darren Hoyt, June 22, 2008

    Well done, Steven, I like the new direction. I agree the popular posts module and thumbnails create visual interest and will probably bring new traffic to older posts – always a good strategy.

  • Noura Yehia, June 22, 2008

    Congrats Steven,
    Thats definitely a top notch design. I love the Popular Posts thumbnails, very awesome :)

  • Vandelay Design, June 22, 2008

    Eli,
    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll take that into consideration.

    Darren and Noura,
    Thanks for the compliments.

  • Adam, June 22, 2008

    Definitely an improvement. I think the negative space could use some attention, though. And your logo is crying out for some kerning.

  • nitos, June 22, 2008

    Great design!!..
    Just one thing, the menu :S, I don´t like it..
    But everything else its just awesome!

  • Kevio, June 22, 2008

    Reminds me of the Authentic Style site but not as nice. Honestly it’s kind of boring. Looks like a modified basic WordPress theme.

  • MyStore, June 22, 2008

    Website design is a subjective matter!!!

    You cannot please all.

  • Vandelay Design, June 22, 2008

    Nitos,
    Which menu are you referring to? The main one, or the one at the top of the screen?

    Kevio,
    I honestly don’t see much similarity to Authentic Style. Sorry you think it’s boring, but I appreciate your feedback.

  • nitos, June 22, 2008

    the one that says: “Blog Front Page, About our blog, etc”
    make it with some movement, something like that and it would be great! :P

  • Vandelay Design, June 22, 2008

    Ok, thanks for clarifying. Who knows, maybe that will be changed/improved at some point.

  • MyBlogStore, June 22, 2008

    Whatever design looks fine…just look at my MYblogstore site,…plain and simple and gets lots of traffic and $$$

    It is the idea-business concept that matters.

  • Vandelay Design, June 22, 2008

    I agree that there are more important things than the design, but for a site that focuses on design I should probably try to do well :)

  • MyBlogStore, June 22, 2008

    Dudh!!!! different designs for different business concepts.

    I’ll never pay for design when there are tons of free good themes available.

    even the simple wordpress template works best on one of my 300+ websites
    take a look http://www.BullShitSEO.com or GaySeo.com

  • Vandelay Design, June 22, 2008

    For what you’re doing a free theme or template may work very well, but it’s not really an option for a corporate site.

  • Grace, June 22, 2008

    I would prefer this new one over the old one. It gives off a different vibe, and the gradient done on the title gives a nice effect. Well done! :)

  • Kelly, June 22, 2008

    Steven,

    I like the layout and the new navigation. I especially like the separation of popular posts and gallery posts for your blog, since the galleries do have a life of their own. You get comments on those for ages!

    On my (Mac) monitor, the background and the foreground (content) color are fighting right at the edges and giving my eyes quite a zing. As colors, I like them, but next to each other, I’m having trouble with them.

    The formatting of the posts is my favorite change. The new design breaks things up very clearly and helps my eye along, and the type is as easy to read as ever.

    What a lot of work. Well done!

    Regards,

    Kelly

  • Dustin Brewer, June 22, 2008

    I love the new design, very nicely done.

  • Koozie Guy, June 23, 2008

    That can always be changed if it turns out to be a bad idea.I especially like the separation of popular posts and gallery posts for your blog, since the galleries do have a life of their own. Awsome design steve!

  • Bill Stevens, June 23, 2008

    Love the colors. Love the images next to the popular posts and I clicked on them but didn’t link to the post. Very nice though.

  • Lauren, June 23, 2008

    I’ve been reading your blog a lot more often over the past few months, and I was always a little turned off by the ads and sidebar content on the left side. This layout focuses on the content much more.

    Also, I like the color scheme. It’s much softer on the eyes when reading the text. If anything, I’d add something interesting to the bottom; spice up the footer a little bit. Otherwise, I can see the natural progression from the previous design.

    Cheers!

    Lauren ^__^

  • pearl, June 23, 2008

    This is where I should have written my comment – I love the colors and style of it Steven.. I always want the white background but this one is surprisingly looking very beautiful too coz your images stand out on it..

  • Vandelay Design, June 23, 2008

    Kelly,
    Thanks for the comment about the colors. I’m not working on a Mac, so I’ll have to see what I can do about testing that.

    Bill,
    I can add links to the images. I’ll put that on my list of things to do. Thanks.

    Lauren,
    I completely understand. I was never a fan of that layout and it was meant to be a temporary situation with the ads in that location. Turned out to not be so temporary, but I’m glad this will be better for readers.

    Thanks Pearl. I typically prefer white backgrounds myself, but when I was experimenting this really appealed to me. Hopefully I still like it in a month or two.

  • Janko, June 24, 2008

    Very nice and effective with minimized color scheme.

    I like it!

  • Kit Homes, June 24, 2008

    I love the design.Very nice colours and layout

  • Amursk, June 24, 2008

    Perfectly! All ingenious – is simple…

  • David Airey, June 25, 2008

    Hi Steven,

    I prefer this to your old style, definitely. Of particular use is the categories on the left, as opposed to your ads.

    Here’s a tip: adjust the kerning on your logo. Especially between the ‘V’ and ‘A’, and the ‘A’ and ‘Y’. It’s a little too wide.

    Great work.

  • tkada.com, June 25, 2008

    WoW, the design is awesome, the color made in this design is mild which is more attracting!!!

  • bluesandseo, June 26, 2008

    the site looks nice, the color is nice because it is easy on the eyes, good job.

  • Tibi Puiu, June 26, 2008

    The new design looks excellent, Steven. Awesome work!

  • Globator, June 27, 2008

    Awesome design, Steven! I also see that you changed traffid.com design. Good job!

  • מצבות, September 3, 2009

    Wow, Very good job !
    It’s looks very very very professional.