For a long, long, long, long time I’ve been talking about doing a new custom design for this blog. It was one of my 2008 goals to finish and launch this design, and I’m happy to say that it’s finally here!? If you’re reading this from the RSS feed, come on by and check it out.
This new design was built entirely from the ground up, so there was no modifying a theme, and there is nothing else like it out there. I’m still using WordPress as the software that runs everything in the background. I was the one that designed the site, and had a developer code up the site and integrate it into WordPress (Thanks Mubs!). Let me give you a complete walkthrough:
Featured And Standard Blog Mode
You’ll see on the homepage that there are two blogging modes, featured and standard. By default you come to the site seeing featured blog mode. This is simply the headline for the post, and a quick little intro paragraph about it. At the top of the page the most recent post is featured.
If you go to standard blog mode, you’ll see that it’s just like a regular blog, and shows the full versions of the last 10 posts.
I think the featured mode is more unique and looks cleaner, but I know that some people will still prefer your standard blog, which is why I decided to offer both.
Single Post Page
I spent a lot of time making a regular post page look good and work effectively. At the top of each post page you’ll find the “featured” box which just shows you the headline, a big featured image related to the post, a quick intro, the author, how many comments, what categories it falls in, and the ability to promote the post through a variety of social media sites like Digg and StumbleUpon.
At the bottom of each post is where I really spent most of my time. The first box you’ll find under a post is the “Save/Promote This Post” box. This is simply a box with some social media buttons, as well as a Digg button on the right which shows how many Diggs the post has.
Below that box you’ll find the “Related Posts/Subscribe” box. This is a clean format which provides up to 5 related posts to the one you’re reading, as well as a few links to subscribe to the sites RSS feed. I hope this helps out with increasing the number of RSS subscribers. If you haven’t already subscribed to my feed, make sure to do so.
Below that box you’ll find the comments section. I really cleaned this up a lot. FIrst of all, comments and trackbacks are now separated (you’ll find trackbacks at the bottom of the page). Each comment is now in a separate alternating color comment box to make things much more readable. Each post also cleanly shows the name of the commenter (linked to their website), the date, and their avatar. The avatar information is being pulled in from Gravatar, which is a site that allows you to create an account and show your avatar at many sites, linked by your e-mail address. WordPress 2.5+ has Gravatar functionality built into it, and I think we’ll see more and more sites supporting it, as well as more and more commenters using it. If you haven’t added your Gravatar yet, head over there and open a free account.
Another cool thing I can do is utilize a “promote” feature. If I’m writing a post in WordPress, I can add a custom field called promote, which will automatically add some code next to the headline of a post. Right now it will make a StumbleUpon badge appear, but that can be changed to whatever I want. This will hopefully increase social media submissions on posts that are really worth it.
On the sidebar I’ve cleanly made sections to show the categories of the site, a few my recent posts, as well as 5 of my most recent Twitter updates. I’m hoping the usage of the Twitter updates will increase my followers. Feel free to follow me on Twitter if you aren’t doing so already.
This is something that will most likely be tweaked over time, but I’ve built in advertising in a pretty effective way. First off I want to note that all my ad serving is being done by Google Ad Manager. Ad Manager is a pretty powerful FREE ad server, it’s still in beta, so you’ll need an invite to use it. I come from a background using Doubleclick as an ad server, as well as having used OpenAds, so it may be a little complex to use for some at first, but I felt right at home.
So my concept in advertising right now is when I’m ready to sell an exclusive “package deal” to an advertiser
. What I mean by that is basically a site takeover, one advertiser would get all of the ad spots on the site for a premium price for a set amount of time. This will allow an advertiser to get very effective advertising. There are three set spots for an advertisement on a page right now.
There is a top small banner in the red bar, a 250×250 in the top of the sidebar, and a long thin banner either after the third post on the homepage, or between the save/promote box and related posts box on a single post page. An advertiser would be able to get all three spots, as well as a link in the RSS feed at a flat monthly rate. The spot would be exclusive to that advertiser and no other ads will be run.
I will likely be slightly changing around the sizes and/or positioning of the ads for something for effective (or to meet IAB guidelines). When the blog is generating more traffic, I would change the format to include more ads, and not provide exclusive deals. If you’re interested in doing an exclusive takeover for a month, contact me.
There are a few bugs here and there (Mostly IE6 stuff) that I already know about, and will work on fixing over the next couple weeks. If you happen to find something, please make sure and let me know.
I really hope you guys like the new design. I put a lot of time and work into launching this, and I hope it will be better overall for the growth of this blog. If you have any suggestions or feedback, I’m all ears. You can either contact me directly or post a comment below.