Embarking on a Redesign

pangea

Sometimes, a restructuring is necessary. Throw out all the old, and bring in the new.

When To Redesign

There is no finite formulae that when used to crunch numbers while wearing white lab coats can tell you exactly when you need to redesign.

On one side there’s the hot-air department who says: “Redesign every sixth month! Next time we need taxonomic navigation!”. On the other side there are the designs that just work and have done so for a long time.

Yet, when combining the idea of a refresh with the experiences of a tried and proven design, we might end up with a third option. No, not a re-align, a redesign based on purpose, past experiences and the need to move forward. What should we call this? I’d like to call it a redesign done well.

In the end, there’s nothing wrong with moving forwards, and so it essentially comes down to two things: do you want to, and can you make it better.

Before embarking on a redesign, it is a good idea to deal with these two issues, before you lift a pen.

Let’s say you want to redesign, and you think you can make it better. Let’s first note that making it better rarely means improving the visuals. After all, we’re doing the christmas-tree here, not the decoration. Still, a christmas-tree is in itself a proven designβ€”can we improve this?

Focus! Identify Goals To Achieve

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you signed up for Google Analytics when they were still accepting signups and you later on read Mr. Cabanillas review of Analytics Overlay. If this is the case, take a look, and see where people click:

analytics-overlay

Ahh. Where people click. As you’ll notice, most of the links shown here are actually being visited. Some are visited more than others. Particularly orphaned sections seem to be Installments, Photography, Wallpapers and Noteworthy entries / illustrations.

One could say this is understandable since those sections are more static and less organic than the journal you’re reading now. Even so, I would like to drive more clicks to those sections. As such, this in itself could be identified as a goal, whether this means improving usability or something else.

You’ll notice that the Archives and Colophon sections are fairly equally visited. Those are sections that serve very specific purposes and there’s no sense in driving more traffic to them. Maybe they don’t deserve to be primary navigation?

Ah, two goals already. Now how about some numbers; Analytics tells me that I get approx. 2 pageviews per every single user. Whether that means the RSS feed and a single article of interest, or if it’s the journal and the comments for a single entry, it’s ever so slightly disappointing. Showing more points of interest may be a goal, or maybe it’s just goal #1 restated?

Three goals for improving the end-user experience. But what about my personal experience? Making it easier for myself always increases my productivity.

  • The practical issues of uploading an installment should be easier for me.
    This probably means automating various aspects of the process.
  • Writing and interlinking should be easier.
    Lots of things to do here, but some of the actionpoints could be improving the post display, readability, page navigation and search.
  • Monthly rebranding should be possible.
    A while back, I asked my visitors whether a monthly rebranding was a nuisance to them or not. Essentially it wasn’t, as long as the main branding of the site shone through.
  • I want more space and less scrolling.
    Does that mean liquid width design?
  • Make it possible to move good content bubbles to the top, even if they’re old bubbles.

Name It!

Add value to your work. Give it a name that sums up the core values of your redesign. If a new idea pops into your head during the design phase, hold it up to its name and see if it fits.

Seeing as I need to unite sections of the whole that have drifted apart, I call it Pangea;

Pangaea (Greek for “all lands”) is the supercontinent that existed during the Mesozoic era, before the process of plate tectonics separated the component continents.

13 thoughts on “Embarking on a Redesign”

  1. Sounds like a plan!

  2. Bilal says:

    Nice! I like the name.

  3. My God man. That’s a fantastic name.

  4. brendan says:

    In a word – brilliant.

    Smart use of the name, too. Well done.

  5. Levi says:

    Here we go again! πŸ™‚

  6. Dave Child says:

    A quick note – if you don’t have Google Analytics, but do have log files available, ClickTracks ( http://www.clicktracks.com ) will show you very similar clickpath data.

    You are, of course, completely right. Redesigns shouldn’t be about the visuals first and how the site is used second. I think if you focus on building something you can rebrand easily and regularly, you will end up automatically focussing on what’s important first.

    Great name for a project.

  7. Jonas Rabbe says:

    It does indeed sound like a plan, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Knowing you, of course, it’ll be brilliant.

  8. Joen says:

    Thanks so much for this surprisingly positive reaction.

    Now I’m just hoping the actual design will live up to the hype!

  9. khaled says:

    Joen said:

    Thanks so much for this surprisingly positive reaction.

    Now I?m just hoping the actual design will live up to the hype!

    Yeah because you always disappoint me, ALWAYS!!!! Make sure you don’t do it anymore :).

    ps please tell me when you’re going to go live so that I stay well clear of that date, for my redesign.

    Pps love the quote button very nice addition.

  10. Joen says:

    khaled said:

    Yeah because you always disappoint me, ALWAYS!!!! Make sure you don?t do it anymore :).

    ps please tell me when you?re going to go live so that I stay well clear of that date, for my redesign.

    Hehe, no pressure there!

    And trust me, I will be teasing more than this in the future. Partly also to release som of the hot air from the balloon πŸ™‚

    Pps love the quote button very nice addition.

    Part of Fauna now πŸ™‚

  11. Joen said:

    khaled said:

    Yeah because you always disappoint me, ALWAYS!!!! Make sure you don?t do it anymore :).

    ps please tell me when you?re going to go live so that I stay well clear of that date, for my redesign.

    Hehe, no pressure there!

    And trust me, I will be teasing more than this in the future. Partly also to release som of the hot air from the balloon πŸ™‚

    Pps love the quote button very nice addition.

    Part of Fauna now πŸ™‚

    Holy crap that works well….!

    (and lovin the commentboxes, btw)

  12. khaled says:

    Joen said:

    Part of Fauna now πŸ™‚

    Very cool, I’ll be nicking that for the next redesign for sure, and then I’ll be hammering you for more coding-fu (just warning you is all, you won’t be doing two redesigns but mine will not be the same without you :)) lol.

  13. Joen says:

    James AkaXakA said:

    Holy crap that works well….!

    (and lovin the commentboxes, btw)

    Thanks. Yeah, I’d like to clean up the text it outputs when clicking the quote button so it becomes a bit more humanly readable, but you can only do so much without wysiwyg.

    khaled said:

    Very cool, I?ll be nicking that for the next redesign for sure, and then I?ll be hammering you for more coding-fu (just warning you is all, you won?t be doing two redesigns but mine will not be the same without you :)) lol.

    Sure! I have to give credit to Michael though, that’s where I got the “inspiration” for the quote functionality. It also works better on his site, btw… he must know some script-fu that’s beyond me.

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