A Bold New Look!

A Bold New Website Look
A Bold New Website Look

So my regular readers dropping in for a visit might momentarily think they come to the wrong blog. I can assure you, if you were looking for “The Charest Family on the Web” you dropped in on the correct website. After several years I’ve given my humble blog a bold new look.

I did this for several reasons, partially driven by learning a lot of User Experience (UX) principles over the past year of graduate school. Partially because my former theme had a few quirks I didn’t care for. Partially because, it was time for a style refresh.

Design Analysis

Back when I was still working through my undergraduate degree in Marketing, I had what I still consider to be the most infuriating professor I’ve known. Interestingly, he was probably one of the best college professors I’ve had who really forced us students to think. One of his points on advertising campaigns was the reason for companies to change their advertising campaigns. The number one reason companies changed marketing campaigns was because the company sales and marketing people were getting bored of the existing campaign. They wanted something new and different. Even if the existing campaign was wildly successful. The number two reason for change was that advertising agency convinced their clients it was time for a bold new campaign.

No one made any money off my change in website look. The previous theme didn’t place the author’s name and date under the title of blog posts, a small detail that really irked me. I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with optimizing page loading speeds and didn’t feel I was getting the best possible performance from my old theme. And honestly, I think after learning a lot about UX design, I was anxious to practice on my flagship hobby website.

The Research

I’ve been researching new themes off and on for the past several months. I knew I didn’t want a high-tech look for this site because I’m not a high tech kind of author. So, I wanted something comfortable and easy to read. Not too different than my existing site as I’ve tried to build a blogging brand over the years. One irritant with my brand was that an earlier blog had my Gothic-styled “C” as part of the site logo. WordPress themes until now didn’t permit me to add this “C” into the title, without creating a complete graphic title. This graphic title then caused problems with tablet and mobile devices.

I have also been working to improve my page-loading speeds. This was a hard-learned lesson from several months back when my pages were suddenly taking as long as 30 seconds to load. My helpful webhost helpdesk tech pointed me to a new-to-me service “GTMetrix” which measures website performance. I’ve spent a lot of time since testing, making changes, and testing some more on all my sites. I knew I wanted a new theme that could help improve website performance.

Over the course of my search, several themes kept coming up over and over again. This theme, Neve, was one of them. The software company, Themeisle, also kept coming up in my searches for both themes and new software. Finally, the freeware version of this theme could do everything I wanted. Some other themes I looked at would only support my design with the “Pro” (paid) version. Since my blog doesn’t earn any money, paying for software is not “optimal.”

The Plunge

Today, I decided to take the plunge and migrate over to this bold new look. I know it’s a change and I tend to be resistant to change. But, I think I like it. This design holds the general brand as well as allowing me to add my “C” logo. There is enough control to allow me to tinker with details. My website performance seems to be slightly improved although I’ll need to monitor for a while to be sure. I am continuing to find minor details across different pages that need fine-tuning.

So here we are. My bold new look for a humble blog. I’m open to feedback. Please feel free to drop me a line letting me know what you think.

Update: December 15, 2020

Well, my “Neve” theme lasted about three days. After looking at it, I decided I really didn’t care for the header design. Then I discovered there was a bug in the software causing the page width to change between initial loading and a refresh. I couldn’t get any support from the software group so I decided to change the theme, again.

This time I found a recent post “64 Best Free WordPress Blog Themes for 2020” and tested most of them, using a staging site for testing instead of my live site. I’ve learned over the years that it’s not a good idea to use my live website for testing, and relearn that lesson every few months.

After testing about forty different themes I discovered this particular theme “Ignite,” and immediately loved it. It’s bold and elegant and a different look than previous. It took a while for me to work out the setup, but all the features actually worked. Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for me to test a new theme, only to find some of the most hyped features don’t actually work correctly. I also discovered, during my theme testing, just how many were simply ugly.

I don’t have my image header back up yet, I’ll need to go for the Pro version of this theme to have that option. But it might be worth it. This theme appears to have been developed by folks who understand graphic arts, as opposed to software types showing off cool programming stuff. My website performance is definitely improved, more so than with other themes tested. So I’ll stick with this theme for a while.

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