Sep 26, 2014

Blog Mentoring Network Website - Design Day Friday

Blog Mentoring Logo and Website - Design Day Friday

I know I already talked about this a bit, but I figured I'd give you the process behind the Blog Mentoring Network website redesign.

The Project

You already know all about this, but with the collaboration and new services she was going to start offering, Jana wanted a new look for the Blog Mentoring Network.  She was open to a new logo (which of course meant I jumped at the chance, since logos are my favorite), and she definitely wanted a new look for the site.

The Process - Branding

We agreed to meet in person to discuss things, and I, excited by the potential to do some rebranding, armed myself with a small set of logo ideas.  Jana and I had briefly discussed target market, and brand differentiation, and I knew she was looking for something with a little more personality than her current branding, but still cool and professional enough to appeal to a broad client base.


Jana didn't want to change up the branding too much and risk alienating current contacts, so I tried to keep a similar color scheme and just brighten it up a bit to give it more personality.


The fonts also stayed fairly simple.  All the fonts that I love are pretty girly, and not necessarily very business-like, so I stuck with some basic serifs and sans-serifs.


I considered a few different things, mostly images that made me think of networks and groups of people.  I also included a plainer, crest-type image more evocative of the current logo.

First Draft

Jana knew what she wanted right off the bat.  I had barely pulled the logo sheet out and she said, "That one" and pointed at #1.  I honestly don't know if I've ever worked with someone so decisive, and it was an awesome change of pace!  Also, very important, since our ultimate timeline did not leave a lot of room for revisions or indecision.

The Process - Learning Wordpress

I went into this knowing very little about Wordpress, so this project was a great opportunity for me, and also a good kick in the pants to pick up a skill I already knew I should probably attain.

Website Design

As a blogger, Jana is a bit more tech-savvy than a lot of my clients, and she knew exactly what she wanted.  She showed me the Epik theme for Wordpress, and we talked about the Genesis framework and how to implement it.  Despite not knowing the ins and outs of Wordpress, Genesis, or Epik, I decided to give it a go, and we worked out a timeline to get the project completed in the next week before Jana left for her conference.

Learning New Skills

Google became my best friend that week.  Wordpress was not terribly difficult to figure out.  Like Blogger, you just poke around a bit, and there's a dashboard with all the options, so after some digging, you get a basic idea of where everything and what the capabilities are.  Implementing a theme was a different story.

Implementing a Theme

Actually, implementing it was easy - as long as your account matches the criteria (not a freebie), you can add your own themes pretty easily.  But once you click that "activate theme" button, then the fear sets in!

So my first thought was panic.  "Oh shit, where did everything go?"  That gradually subsided over the next hour as I found the new locations of all the widgets and realized they had not been deleted, merely moved to a different location.

Customizing a Theme

This was much harder.  The theme was structured differently than the old site, so the old information was all over the place!    The logo disappeared, replaced by a header was determined to be a certain size, and left-aligned.  The home page that automatically displayed was nowhere near as attractive as the Epik demo.

Some battles we conceded, like the header.  After getting the logo in there without any terrible cropping, the alignment issue had to be let go.  Others I fought, digging into the CSS, and googling extensively, to figure out why the home page was made entirely of widgets (it just is, but at least you can find a page that explains what each one does and what the names are).  I swapped home pages so the pretty front one was displayed.  I changed the background colors of a couple sections.  Small victories.

But after 7 hours of "small victories," the tides of battle had turned and the site was looking more than presentable.  Of course, it was 2am and my sleep-crazed mind didn't realize this until the next day.  (I call this graphic designer's delusion.  Nothing looks good until you take a break and look at it again.  Then your head inflates and you realize how awesome you are.  If not, you probably need to give it another go.  Or have more confidence in yourself.  Either one.)

Final Product!

So we started with something that looked like this.


And now we have a site that looks like this.


And I picked up all kinds of valuable skills.  Not bad for a week's work.

Bonus: Blogger vs Wordpress

I know people have strong opinions on this.  I think whichever you were exposed to first is probably easier (in my case Blogger).  But I will say this: I think Blogger is much more user friendly in certain ways (the widgets and the layout adjustments), even though it is ultimately a bit less customizable.  In fact, I'd argue that Blogger is more "customizable" for people who know nothing about HTML and CSS, because you can make small edits to the template without using these things at all.  With Wordpress, you're pretty much limited to the constraints of the theme you choose, unless you know some basic coding.

If you're building a new website and just want a pretty layout, then Wordpress is probably better because there are more options.  OR if you're a web expert, but want a shortcut or don't know how to set up a blogging framework, because you'll be able to dig in adapt things to your liking.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on the great blogging platform debate.

Do you prefer Wordpress or Blogger?  What skills have you picked up on the job?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design