Finally! A Site Redesign

Under-ConstructionMy techie husband built my old website at least a decade ago in Dreamweaver, an Adobe web design tool. It served me well over the years, but I got frustrated trying to update it. I didn’t understand HTML code, tables or how to repair all the bad things that happened when I pressed the wrong button. My website languished.

Several kind people inferred that my website needed a facelift. I was too terrified to do act. I’d heard horror stories about the time sink. I pushed it off. For years.

Finally, a colleague told me about a good experience she’d had with a designer. Plus I loved the clean, strong design of her blog. I took the plunge. It was time to move to an all WordPress website.

The designer and I worked together on several drafts. That was the fun part. I won’t bore you with what came next. The technical people — my husband and our WordPress guru and friend, Stephanie Stiavetti, worked on my website revision for weeks.

All the things I worried would happen came to pass: It took way longer than I thought; it cost more than I thought; and there were meltdowns (hint: not Stephanie). I have just three tips to pass on, if you’re considering a redesign:

1. Mind the gap. Many designers aren’t technical. Many technical people aren’t designers. There’s a gap in the middle and my blog fell into it. For a while, it felt like quicksand. Apparently this is common. For your own sanity, line up a technical expert in your type of blog software to close the gap.

2. Adapt. Designers don’t know every single WordPress version or theme. They have their favorites and may not know how to work with yours. If you like your blog software and want to keep it, that might be irrelevant.

3. Get files you can edit. Some of my new pages contain images with embedded text. I can’t edit the text without using Photoshop, and I have to buy the font. Fortunately, they’re not not going to change that often, but I don’t recommend this approach. Plus, the designer left behind some HTML code, meaning I will still have issues with editing.

But overall, I’m happy. Thanks to my patient husband and Stephanie, who fixed problems and moved this site over dinners and late nights.

And if you’re procrastinating, I don’t blame you. But I’m here to tell you that you too can redesign your blog or website. You’re looking at living proof that it’s possible.

I’m off to Dubai tomorrow to do a workshop, and then on holiday to Jordan and Israel. I’ll be back here soon.

(Photo courtesy of

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  1. says

    I was lost in “the gap” recently when I changed my host. So thankful that my hubby can write code. Even though he knows me well after almost 25 years of marriage, you are absolutely right about not all techies being designers :) Have a wonderful trip!

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Amanda. It’s not quite over yet. Apparently the photos in the blog posts live on the old site – a WordPress problem, and I need to move them over. There have got to be over 300 of them. Thrilling, eh?

  2. says

    Congratulations DJ! Love the orange and the photos of you. The site is strong and clean.

    So true about the “gap” in talent. I have a good techie guy that did a nice job on my current blog site but he is not a designer. So I soon will be shopping for a new designer as I want to overhaul my site and take it to the next level, and combine an old site with it as well. I’m sure it will be a headache. Needs to be done, but not looking forward to it. Too bad great sites don’t magically just happen without blood, sweat and tears, not to mention late nights, meltdowns and money! This lovely little (cough) project is next on my list.

    Glad you are finally done. Have a great trip! Sounds terrific!

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks, Sally. The designer chose that particular shade and I like it. Very modern.

      I hope the next iteration of your site is not too much of a headache, Sally. Maybe there’s someone out there who’s an incredible designer and tech person, but if so, we probably can’t afford him or her.

  3. says

    I absolutely LOVE It! That shade of orange is perfect (matches your beautiful dress in one of the images) and so vibrant w/o being obnoxious. I love the clean and easy to navigate layout. I hear ya’ that it isn’t at all simple (and I didn’t need to change platforms) but it looks pretty darned great to me: modern, clean, attractive, and most importantly, usable. Congratulations! (And thanks for the shout-out!) Have a safe and fantastic trip. xox jennie

  4. says

    Redesign looks great! I am just starting my own blog and the learning curve and pain – yes pain – is indelible. I haven’t sought outside professional input, but am debating it. Should I just bite the bullet?

    • diannejacob says

      it depends on whether you have technical ability and enjoy the challenge of figuring it out. If not, or if you are procrastinating, then it’s time to hire someone.

  5. says

    As a freelancer, I avidly read your blog, and keep recommending your “Will Write for Food” to friends and random strangers. However, this post struck a chord on a very different level.

    To pay the rent, I am a freelance communications consultant, and the issues you are describing are IDENTICAL to those that plague so many of the people that hire me, or just vent over a cup of coffee when I’m with friends. I cannot emphasize enough the point you made about “minding the gap.” The phrase is spot on, and I hope you don’t mind if I borrow it. :)

    On the other hand, I can also recommend that folks who are heading into a website launch or redesign project spend some time before they hire anyone to start tinkering…just thinking critically AND creatively about what they want. So much angst could be avoided if the person/business/org who needs work done on a website had been coached through a visioning and objectives process first. Mind you, the final folks who do the design and tech work MAY be able to help with this, but often, it really is worth it to spend 30 mintues (or longer) with someone who can ask critical questions, give some productive assignments (ex: find three sites you like, and describe precisely what you like), and help draft a brief for the design and tech team.

    Just to clarify, this is not a pitch. :) I just hate to see people pour time and money into websites they care about, and wind up hating because of what they look like, because they are captive to the HTML wizard that built the site, etc.

    So, thank you for raising that point here. It needs to be acknowledged and planned around more often.

    Finally, I concede that the “HTML wizards” have their value. However, I adamantly believe that most people who are hostage to CSS and HTML mysteries are fully capable of editing their own websites. The website just MUST be built in a way that makes that feasible. Since, as the website owner, you are paying, bartering, or whatever, to get the website of your dreams, you have a right to hold firm on that. Tactfully insist that you want a website you can update yourself. Period. If there are beautiful images and text that are beyond your capacity, just try to make sure they are timeless – no reference to dates or activities that will be out of date next week. Then, you can happily leave them be, looking pretty, while the rest of your site is still within your control.

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Bethann, nice to hear from you. I’m glad you like “Mind the Gap.” I was just trying to inject some humor, but really, the gap is wider than I thought.

      Yes, I think most designers do expect that clients have spent time figuring out what clients want. Otherwise it would be impossible to do the job, trying to guess. My designer had me point out websites I liked, and I had mocked up the new pages I wanted.

      Re HTML and CSS, my designer didn’t know how to make certain features of my site into a page that I could edit. That’s what it came down to.

  6. says

    I believe I’ve been caught in the same gap by the same designer, Dianne! She could only take me so far–which was, frankly, pretty upsetting–and now I need a coder. Should I contact Stephanie??? (I know Stephanie is awesome, but what I mean is, is she a coder?)

    • diannejacob says

      Oh, sorry to hear that Jill. Sure, contact Stephanie. She’s at the start of a cookbook tour, but see what she says.

  7. Mary says

    A late comment for food bloggers who follow your site..
    …I was rereading old posts and came across your comments on web redesign. My husband is also a techie and forwarded me a link you might want to pass on to users of WordPress regarding safety and protection from the forces of darkness who are constantly trying to infect sites. He is an expert in web security, knows I love food blogs and he has pointed out most of the malware problems could have been easily avoided with a vigilant techie.

    Happy New year to you ! Mary

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks so much Mary, for this link. Fortunately I am not using the software that got infected. It sure is a scary story!

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