cheaters1 Photo by Robinsan

It takes a lot of work to redesign a blog. More time than you might have at the minute.

But your blog is starting to feel stale and the little things that always annoyed you about it are finally getting to you, so what can you do?

Fix just one thing.

At the start of this year, I knew Pro Blog Design was getting in need of some help. I didn’t have the time for a complete redesign though, and the situation wasn’t dire yet. I just needed to tide things over and buy myself some time, so I redesigned the sidebar.

In short, I cheated. But it worked.

Redesign One Thing, Not Everything

When a reader visits a blog day after day, they get used to it. They know how the home page is going to look, they know what they will find in the sidebar and they know what decorations to expect around their comments.

The familiarity does wonders in helping them get around your site quickly, but there are no surprises for them. There’s none of the spark and interest you get when you come across a great looking new site.

It only takes one change to break the monotonous familiarity.

If you logged onto Pro Blog Design tomorrow and found that I’d changed all the blues to pink, you’d be pretty surprised, right?

Something Readers Interact With

Not sure what part of your blog to work on? My advice is to pick a part that your readers interact with regularly. e.g.

  • Sidebar. Most of your secondary content will be in the sidebar, and if you’ve been adding to it over time, it could probably use a good redesign to fix the clutter anyway!
  • Comments and comment forms. All the discussion happens in your comments, but if they’re hard to read or boring and bland to look at, most people aren’t going to go to the trouble of reading them. Some nice changes here will go down great with anyone that leaves comments on your blog, your most loyal readers usually!
  • Header and logo. Everyone sees the header and logo every time they load the page, and probably click your main navigation links up there. It’s easy to jazz it up and it makes a huge difference, e.g. How about a new background photo? Or getting the logo mascot to pull a new pose?

One and Only One

It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to redesign one aspect of your blog. A few days at most usually.

The problem is that it’s very tempting then to redesign 2 aspects of your blog, or 3, or 4, or as many as you can until you get bored.

This might work well (If you’re redesigning to add new features to the site or fix old problems), but you’ve crossed the line between freshening up your current design, and creating a whole new design.

But you didn’t create a whole new design. You just dressed up the original, and your readers can see that. Instead of some subtle, well done improvements, they’ve been given a half-hearted redesign.

If you want to redesign everything, then do it properly, from the ground up. You’ll remove all the limitations of your old design and be able to build a truly great site.

If you just want to fix up the little bits and pieces, then stick to the little bits and pieces. Sometimes a little is enough.

When is Cheating Not Good Enough?

There comes a point when small changes aren’t going to save your blog anymore. They’re great for some things, like removing some clutter or adding a more impressive background design.

But some changes are too big. The underlying layout can’t be changed without affecting everything. The overall color scheme is very hard to change. Post thumbnails on the homepage just might not work with your current look.

If what you want to do doesn’t feel right in your current design, then it’s time to start thinking about a whole new design.

Or if you start redesigning one thing, and get an idea for another, and another and another and so on, then there’s a lot more wrong with your theme than you realized. Working on all of your ideas would be a lot of work. You might be better off putting that work into a brand new theme.

Cheating worked for me in February, but it was nothing compared to redesigning in August. Redesigns are a lot more work, but there’s a lot more reward there too.

Have you ever cheated on your blog? Or is there a part of it now that you just might try it on?

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