I decided I was due a blog refresh whilst on the train to London one sunny June morning. I was unfairly hungover. As in HEY BODY! I only had three glasses of wine WITH a big dinner, why you doing this to me pal, what’s up?
I’d only been back from Thailand for a few days and was suffering the sort of hilariously aggressive bloating that makes you feel like you might legit just lift up into the air and fly away like a helium Disney balloon – only to be found mangled in a tree half a mile down the road.
So whilst my body was like nah hun, not going to work, my head was like LET’S TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND DO GREAT THINGS AND LET’S DO IT RIGHT NOW.
And four months later, my new blog design was born.
So I thought I’d run through exactly how it came to look the way it does now, which I *think* is maybe the fourth design?
FINDING A DESIGNER
Admittedly, I’m about as good at HTML and coding and all the blogging back-end stuff as I am at completing heptathlons (I have no idea what’s even in a heptathlon, so you get the idea).
Most blogs in the lifestyle/beauty/fashion sector have a similar vibe to them – super clean, minimal, monochrome, maybe with a big visual slider and an Instagram bar at the bottom. I knew I didn’t want to veer wildly away from the norm – because hey, it’s a style that’s easy to read and brands love it from a commercial perspective, but I wanted something that felt more me. More about the words and the colour, and well, Hannah Gale.
I’ve never gone to a website to drool over dream photography for the same reason I always flicked past the arty fashion shoot pages in magazine – I’m a reader and a writer far more than I am a visual person. Which is why I decided not to go too heavy on things like sliders and full scale images.
I knew I wanted something completely custom. So I headed to Etsy and spent hours flicking through pages of WordPress templates (honestly, it is THE place to find a bargain template AND get it installed for next to nothing), until I stumbled across a seller whose blog design style was just A+++.
And that’s how I found Kotryna Bass. So I messaged her and asked if she took on custom blog design orders and hey presto – she booked me in for August.
Although Kotryna asked me loads of questions via email about which other blogs I loved design-wise and what personality I wanted to inject into my own, I found the biggest help was mocking up my own template.
I used Paint (or Paint X Life on Mac) and literally just screen grabbed things from my existing theme, things from other people’s blogs and mashed it all together.
I knew I wanted a way to bring back old posts that were still relevant but maybe needed freshening up and I wanted to include a shopping widget because I know people aren’t big on using LIKEtoKNOW.it – so wanted something that would make shopping from Instagram easier.
I also wanted to keep it super simple and didn’t want a side bar because I wanted more of a lifestyle destination than a classic blog design.
I also created a mood board full of all my fave headlines and blog/Instagram imagery using Bloglovin, Buzzfeed, Pinterest and magazine websites, to help inspire the kind of content I wanted to focus on once my new design was live.
My first design with Kotryna had a black tool bar and my name in a black font, and it really didn’t feel very Hannah. So I made the switch to pink because basic bitch for life and then set about designing a header.
I can’t use Photoshop for shit, and I really wanted glitter in my header, despite fearing people would think it was a bit tacky and oh hey 2004, how’s it going?
So I invested in some photos from Shutterstock (including my current gold glitter one), found a really simple free font and made my own header on PicMonkey. I’ve also made a few more using different prints and images for different times of the year.
It ended up taking over two months to get everything exactly as I wanted it. Little things like how the headers between sections on the homepage should look (we went for text in the middle and pale pink divider lines to match the tool bar), and making sure we had similar posts at the bottom of every post.
I also tried to think of everything I might like to see on other people’s blogs, the classics like archives and categories and contact me pages, as well as all the social icons. I also decided to move over to Disqus for my commtents after hearing so many other bloggers raving about it.
We put my blog into maintenance mode for 24 hours before I hit live so that we could check everything worked properly and so that I could cram that ‘five to read’ section with some new goodies as well as some old faves.
And I just wanna say YOU DA BEST, because I was completely floored by all your kind words and feedback, and I’m so super happy with the way my little blog looks. It feels the most me it’s ever felt.
And I’ve noticed a definite uplift in traffic thanks to making my existing content more prominent, and changing my homepage so that people actually have to click into a post rather than having the whole thing just hanging out like HEY I’M HERE READ ME, READ ME.
So yeah, hope you like it! Any questions about blog design or anything you wanna see on mine, come tweet me at @hannahfgale!