Wow! I’m so excited to say that the redesign for the website is ready to be unveiled! I can’t wait for your feedback, comments, recommendations for further improvements, and general reaction; but first, I need to share some thank yous and some background for all those who have followed this process.
First off, a huge thank you to Matt Cheuvront, the designer who made all of this happen! I am so happy to have had the chance to collaborate with Matt; he was efficient, pleasant, and super smart, but most importantly to me, he was willing to operate in a more public way engaging with all of you who left comments and feedback. Matt was flexible and strategic and helped make decisions that would ultimately put me in a position to not need him any more – just what I was after! Thanks, Matt! You can check him out at Proof, his new full-service branding company (here’s a list of services, too).
A major thank you to all of you is in order as well! There would be no need for a redesign, or a site at all, if it wasn’t for all of you reading, commenting, sharing, linking, and generally driving this space. I am honored to feel like a curator and instigator here, not the one with the sole responsibility of creating value. It’s very inspiring to be part of a community dedicated to sharing and discussing and am thankful for all of you joining me!
About the Redesign
What’s new? My goal with the redesign was to create a website that provided entry points to valuable content and conversations in multiple directions; instead of a normal or default blog that just presented the reader with a list of posts, I knew from your feedback that some people are after presentations while others are looking for thought-provoking posts, some want round-ups and others want a chance to start conversations. So, here are some changes that I want to highlight that I hope deliver on that goal:
- Featured Resources: This rotating box at the top of the home page showcases resources that may have previously been buried in the site. I can also add and modify this section as I write more books (that’s motivation for you!) or come across more valuable items to share. For those that want the techie side, this was done using the vSlider plugin.
- Shortened blurbs: The recent blog posts that appear on the home page have been shortened to no longer include the full post, but just an introduction. This is done to allow visitors who don’t click through to a specific post to be able to browse more easily.
- Footer menu: This is the fun stuff! These three columns let visitors dive straight into content they are most interested in, like presentations (notes, information, links and slides), roundups (compilations of interesting content and conversations), and event popular blog posts (this is decided based on blog posts with the most clicks and visits).
- Streamlined sidebar: Now that content is highlighted in multiple ways—via the top navigation, footer columns, and so on—the sidebar is freed up to serve as an entry way to other spaces for continued conversation like facebook and twitter, and even an option to jump to the latest comments on the site.
- Presentations archive: I’m really excited about this part! I’ve transferred content that was previously on static pages into posts. Clicking on 2010 Presentations, for example, now let’s you browse through individual posts for every presentation and speaking engagement from 2010 (so far). The advantage of doing it this way means that you can easily find the conference or presentation you’re interested in, and also means you can leave comments, ask questions and follow up on specific events. NOTE: I’ve only been able to archive 2010 and 20009 so far, but all presentations will be in this format very soon.
There is one last major change still to come, and that is changing the way comments are managed. I’m hoping to move over to Disqus, but Matt and I have run into some issues and are still working with the Disqus team to fix them. This switch will provide you with many more options for following conversations and will also save me a bit of time! As any one who has commented on this site before knows, I reply to every comment via email as well as on the site. Using Disqus will mean you get my reply in one step instead of two! We are hoping to have this enabled very soon.
About the Process
As part of practicing what I preach, I wanted to recap the process Matt and I used for this redesign to offer to you as just one of the many options for engaging with a designer and a community.
Phase 1: Finding a Designer
For me, I wanted to find a designer that was already part of the community or larger network that I am. This was important to me because I needed someone that was familiar with the kinds of content, types of readers, and so on. I took a very casual approach: called out that I was looking for a designer on Twitter and Facebook. Friends and colleagues pushed my call out to their networks, some responded with personal referrals, and some responded with interest in taking on the work. I checked out the interested designers online, looked at websites they had recently worked on, and looked for someone that seemed to hold the same aesthetic values that I did: clean, honest, content-driven. That’s how I found Matt!
Phase 2: Identifying Goals, Needs, Direction
After Matt and I emailed to get on the same page about timeline, costs, and expectations, we set up a skype call. Why skype? This let us use video (as we were on different continents) and feel a bit like we were getting to know a real person and made the relationship more than just transactional. We discussed my goals, content, community, and approach to the design process. I wanted to have an open process so it was important to me to find a designer that was willing to participate and not just design. I was very happy that Matt was so enthusiastic about the approach.
Phase 3: Community Input
As part of the open, collaborative approach to this redesign, I wanted to engage the readers and contributors in an active way, not just collaborate with the designer. Matt and I discussed the most valuable way to do this, identifying a few themes that would help generate conversation about what works and what doesn’t, but also be helpful in directing to he and I the kinds of changes that may be more important or even necessary. You can check out the blog post series, as well as all the comments, from this process using the links below:
- Introduction: A collaborative approach
- Input #1: The content you want
- Input #2: Focused on conversation
- Input #3: Adding the extras
- Input #4: Recap and reflections
Phase 4: Building, Testing, Tinkering
After gathering all the input from you, Matt and I put our heads together to be sure we had a list of the most important, and then the “would love to if possible” items. That’s when he really got to work coming up with the design. His initial draft was very close to what we ultimately have in place now and that was due to his critical listening, lots of conversations and questions, and both of us engaging in the public input phase to really understand the users’ side of the experience. Once the test site was up, we could play, poke and tinker to get things just right.
Phase 5: Pulling it Together
Once the test site was ready to go, Matt moved everything to the live space. Some things, like Disqus, the rotating banner, and social media links weren’t put in until this stage. The content changes, like the presentations section, weren’t made until this phase either. We did much of this simultaneously, both plugging away at the WordPress admin panel while on skype together. Matt took time to walk me through changes that effected the way posts were created or how I could administer new options, and I worked on content changes. It was a great way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon!
And here we are – ready to launch! I hope you’ll take this as an invitation to poke around the site, explore, and comment. Please let me know what you think, what you wish was better, and even what you like! I’m really excited to have an updated space to share with you 🙂