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Behind the Scenes of the Design Informer Redesign


One of the hardest decisions that I had to face with this blog thus far is determining when it is the right time for a redesign. To some people, it is clear that their site is old and outdated and in need of a total makeover. To others, it is a lot harder to realize their need of a redesign since their site is doing well and have received great compliments about their current design. That is my case. The old design/theme of my site have gotten an incredible amount of positive remarks from the community and I’ve even received a few design jobs because of people who liked my blog’s design. I can see it now. Some of you are thinking this question in your head.

Are you crazy? Why are you doing a redesign after only 3 months, especially since your design has gotten lots of positive response thus far?

Well, in this blog post, I’d love to answer that question and take you behind the scenes of the Design Informer redesign.

The Goals and Objectives Link

Redesigning a blog is no easy task and there are many different factors that must be considered before one decides to redesign. With Design Informer’s old design, I started to notice that it was getting cluttered with different features that I was adding due to the fact that a lot of those features were not part of the original design.

Not only that, but the code was getting bloated and the site was starting to slow down due to so many different factors. At first, I thought of just re-aliging the site and just cleaning everything up. Later, I decided against that and instead, I opted for a complete redesign from the ground up.

Before I started the sketching/wireframing process, I went ahead and listed out the goals that I wanted to accomplish with the redesign. I actually came up with a list of about 15 things that I wanted to apply to this redesign, but let me just mention four of them in detail.

  1. Focus on Content – With the old design, the header was attracting too much attention and when a visitor first visited the site, the header was competing for attention with the content.
  2. Simplicity in Design – I wanted to strip the site of the many uneccesary design elements that it had. While not completely minimal, I wanted this redesign to be a lot simpler, which again leads to focusing on the content.
  3. Typography and Readability – As with any blog, these two things are very important. I wanted the readers to have a great experience while reading through the articles and I didn’t want their eyes to get tired and stressed so I really tried my best to make the site as readable as possible.
  4. New Features – If you are still new to blogging, one thing that you are constantly doing is thinking of new features that you would like to add to your site to make it better and more user-friendly. But what happens when you decided to add these features to your blog? More often than not, it ruins and clutters your design because you didn’t originally plan for it and now it doesn’t match your site at all. This is the case with a lot of websites, and it was the case with my website as well.

Sketching and Wireframing Link

Sketch and Wireframes

After writing out the goals and objectives that I wanted to accomplish with the redesign, I started sketching my initial thoughts on the design. I am not an expert at sketching, but one thing that it does is it helps me to see my ideas very quickly. For initial sketches, I just use a thick blue marker as it helps me not to focus on all the little design details but rather on the main frame and structure of the site. Once the inital sketch is complete and I am satisifed with it, then I then move on to the detailed sketches where I jot down notes about the design and features of the site. You can see a few of the sketches that I have drawn above. I have a lot more sketches but I’d rather not show them to you.

The moment that I finished my sketches, I immediately proceeded to create wireframes of the website. During the wireframing process, I do use real content because like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to focus on the content1.

The Design Link

Once I finished the wireframes, I then went ahead and started on creating and refining the little details of the site. I probably spent way too much time in this part of the redesign, as I kept changing the look and feel of the site over and over again.

Logo and Header Link

Logo and Header

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to keep the header of the site as simple as possible. I decided to include a navigation menu and a search bar on the header along with the Design Informer logo. At first, I decided to just have the logo there, but after showing it to a couple of my friends (Vitaly Friedman2 and Doug Neiner3), they suggested that the header was too plain and I needed to spruce it up a bit. That’s when I decided on adding the city buildings, as that was on the original design, but I decided to keep it light and faded, as I didn’t want to draw too much attention to the header.

One thing that you will notice is that I also added the RSS and Twitter feed counts. This was something that I wanted to do to showcase how much the site has grown in the last three months. I’ve also decided to remove the large Design Informer mascot. Don’t worry though, he is still around and if you look for him, he might even say hello!

Content Area Link

Content Area

For the content area, there are two slight changes that I have implemented.

  1. First of all, I’ve decided to add categories at the top of the posts so readers can easily choose which category they would like to view.
  2. I’ve also changed the way the post information is displayed.


While I was designing the sidebar in Photoshop, I wanted to make it stand out a bit more and separate it from the main section. While thinking of different ideas, the photoshop rulers stood out at me, so I decided to implement it on the sidebar design. As far as features, I’ve pretty much kept it the same with one slight change; I’ve decided to remove the Community News section for now. I was just receiving way too much spam through it, even with Akismet already turned on. Some of the articles were great, but I also noticed that some people were abusing it by submitting 12 articles at one time which would then just push other articles out of the sidebar.


While the old footer did the job, this new and improved footer is a lot more helpful and interactive. Here are some of the features of the new footer.

  • Categories
  • Recommended Reading
  • Popular Tags
  • Flickr Showcase
  • Friends of Design Informer

Blog Post and Comments Link

With the blog post, I wanted to make it extend the width of the site and remove the sidebars, but I changed my mind and decided against it. I put much thought into it, but in the end, I wanted to stick to the traditional blog design. The comments section in the old design worked really well so I decided to keep that as well.

Related Links and Article Promotion Link


You will probably notice a change in the design of the article promotion section and the related posts. I’ve decided to include the post header image as well when viewing related links. I’ve also cleaned up the article promotion area. I’ve decided to include the hand of Mr. Informer with the heart, because when you promote one of our articles, then you are "sharing the love."

Visual Hierarchy Link

Along with a great design, you want to have the proper visual hierarchy as well. For this site, I wanted to content to stand out first, so I decided to perform a simple test which I’ve always done. If you want to learn more about this, read this excellent blog post4 by Lee Munroe.

If you take a look at the test below, you will notice that immediately, when you view the page, your eye automatically is attracted to the post image, which was my intended goal.

Visual Hierarchy

The Development Link

I decided to keep WordPress as the backend. The site is coded in XHTML 1.0 Transitional. Does it validate? No, there is one error. The CSS doesn’t validate as well because I am using CSS3 effects5 on the site. I use validation to check for errors, but if it doesn’t validate completely, then that’s not too important.

As long as I fix all of the errors that I can fix, then it’s okay. I also didn’t use a grid-system. I ended up using my own personal framework as I am more effective with it and it meets the needs of this site. I did use the 960 grid-system for the design.

New Additions and Features Link

The site has some new additions and features so let me break it down for you.

  1. Recommended Reading6 – I wanted to be able to share my favorite articles to my readers while at the same time, help promote those who are coming up with great content, so I decided to add this section. You can view it by checking it out on the footer, or by clicking on the category, Recommended Reading.
  2. Archives7 – I’ve finally included an Archives page to the site. It’s organized by month, by popularity, and you can even view every single post we’ve ever written on Design Informer.
  3. About8 and Contact9 – I’ve already had these pages in the old design, but I decided to spruce it up a bit. Go ahead and check it out to read a little bit about Design Informer and you can also see the guest authors as well.
  4. 40410 – With the old site, I didn’t even have a proper 404 page. As you can see here, I customized my 404 page to be more useful.

What’s Coming Next Link

There’s still a lot coming to Design Informer in the future. There are still little things that I will be tweaking on the design, so please bear with me as we continue to strive to make Design Informer better. Also, we are still hard at work on Coding Informer so we will definitely give you updates as things start to progress.

Your Feedback is Greatly Appreciated Link

I learned one very valuable lesson when I did this redesign.

I am my worst critic.

I can’t remember how many times I decided to start over while doing this redesign. While I have my own opinions, thoughts and criticisms of this design, I would love to hear yours as well. Please feel free to share your thoughts about the new design. Your honesty is appreciated! Don’t be shy, tell me what you think, what I can improve, what you like about the design, and what you don’t like. Oh, and if you notice any errors, feel free to message me on Twitter or send me an email11.

Again, I appreciate you taking the time to read this really long post and please do help me promote it with a bump, float, blend, stumble and retweet. Thanks again!

Footnotes Link

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

  1. 1

    Great job Jad! I really like the new design. It feels classy and easy on the eyes. I don’t feel that a large footer is a problem at all. I like the new headings and the font you used for them! The ruler is a nice adition aswell!

    It is always nice to read the work process of a redesign and it seems like you made all the right decisions.

    • 2

      Hi Mikael, thanks for stopping by and leaving your feedback. I don’t think I’ve seen you around in the comments here before. Anyway, I’m glad that you liked the “ginormous” footer.

      Yep, I tried to at least shed light on why I did what I did on the redesign and I hope it was an interesting read for you. :)

  2. 5

    I like the redesign. Much cleaner and the header now feels much more professional.
    Also great subtitle design and multi-collumn usage in the content!

  3. 7

    Hey!!! Great job in redesigning… I’ve really liked the header, its simple and clean. :)

  4. 9

    awesome, thanks for the flow….

  5. 10

    Very simple and clean but still professional. focus on content. i love it

  6. 12

    Firstly, I love the site and the old one as well and always enjoy your twitters and loved this post as well. Not enough insights into live site design or redesign, but this one and the recent twittered BBC redesign piece have provided me with lots of insights and food for thought as i am in the process of designing my site.

    I love the typography and general style to the blog, love the little details like the spread the love arm and ruler.

    The only thing that doesn’t quite sit right with me is the double navigation (above and below the logo header) both fight for my attention and i am still unsure who wins… to me, it just doesn’t seem quite right.

    all in all top stuff and i will keep coming back for more top quality content from the site.

    • 13

      Hi Joe, thanks for all your complementary words about the blog and the design.

      About the navigation, I really didn’t want to include the categories on the header area, but after consulting with different people, they concluded that it was best to have the categories on the top for easier access to more content. I’m still not sold on it though, maybe I can think of another creative way to implement it. We’ll see in the coming days.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  7. 14

    Hi Jad , I ♥ the new design, so Clean and user friendly :)
    1. i’m not sure about the inner glow on the header logo (onOver) , maybe simple background work better.
    2. how about redesigning the “hand of Mr. Informer with the heart” that look more like the Mr. Informers hand that i see it in the footer ?

    Thanks for the RD again :)

    • 15

      Glad you enjoy the new design and reading the article.

      About your suggestions, the reason for the glow was to make the logo look recessed so it looks like Mr. Informer is inside the logo. It’s really meant to be more of a drop shadow. I guess it is a little too strong and I should have softened it up a bit. Regarding the hand, I think it looks fine. :)


  8. 16

    clean layout… but i think the header color should be different

  9. 18

    Great work Jad,

    I have to say this new header is much nicer. The old design had much greater contrast between the header and content where this new look puts the focus on your lead article image using contrast. The new footer is just outstanding.

    I’m sure you’d like to keep the top super clean, but I wonder what the Mr. Informer guy from the footer would look like next to the search box up top. Like everyone else I also LOVE the sidebar ruler. Nice touch.

    • 19

      You’re exactly right about the contrast of the old site. I was really attached to the old header but I knew that it was just way too much so I opted to switch the focus to the post image instead.

      I originally had Mr. Informer up there, but like I mentioned, I wanted him to not be so obvious on the site. Plus, he’s a Spy/Informant so he likes to be behind the scenes so I decided to hide him in the logo. :D

  10. 20

    Hey Jad,

    Congratulations on the redesign! Lots of nice little details, yet you’ve managed to keep things very clean.

    I particularly like the comment design, the subheadings and the post meta information. Each post is well laid out, although the redundant titles (the post heading repeated again in the image) are a little awkward.

    My only real criticism is the category listing at the top. I feel they could be a bit more interesting without sacrificing cleanliness.

    Otherwise, it’s clear you’ve put a lot of work in to it, and you’ve rightfully put the focus on the content. Good stuff :)

    • 21

      Hey Derek, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I agree, the post image duplicate title is kind of awkward, but I think it is necessary.

      About the categories, I definitely agree with you. I’m not a huge fan of it myself, and might change it sometime in the future if I find a better solution.

      Looking forward to your article(s) and to working with you. Thanks again! :)

  11. 22

    Looks good, I first checked this out on my mobile so I missed a lot of the details, looks much better in a web browser. Also cool to see the mascot making little appearences here and there.

  12. 24

    Really nice redesign, but…i was falling in love with yours older version :(
    However, now the blog is more clean, very beauty.
    Great work!


    • 25

      Hi Sarah, I already knew that would be the case with some readers. We always like familiarity and a lot of times, change bothers us. But I completely understand that and I hope you’ll fall in love with this design as the days pass. :)

  13. 26

    Great work. I really like the simplicity of use and feel. The logo :hover is a great idea. I often run across people who don’t know the common rule of having a click-able logo that takes the user back to the home page. Perhaps an implementation such as what you’ve done will help to clarify to those people.

    As always, a great inspiration. Thanks.

  14. 27

    I also forgot to congratulate you on the redesign in the above post. I, also, have been working on a redesign of my portfolio site after only having it live for a short time. The difference is, you actually finished your redesign.

    • 28

      Hey Chris, I know what you mean about the clickable logos. Every site that I have designed from the past year had a clickable logo. I’m definitely used to doing it when I want to go to the homepage and I really get annoyed when I visit a site, click on the logo, and find out that it wasn’t linked.

      BTW, thanks for the compliments and definitely shoot me a link to your portfolio once it has been redesigned.

  15. 29

    I love it Jad, this looks great. I like the cleaner, simpler approach to the design, and I think you’ve achieved that quite well.

    I love the ruler idea in the sidebar – a nice touch!

    Well done, and I look forward to seeing DI keep growing.

  16. 31

    Jad, I did a quick scan of your layout, and there are some improvements. If I could direct your attention to the top most navigation, why not make the icons turn white as you rollover them for consistency? I also think the “Search Here” color is too light against the light background. It should be a darker color so it’s easily seen. A search box, I think is one of the most used features in a website besides the back button.

    The “Submit Comment” at first glance doesn’t appear to be a button but a graphic, so I think it’d be wise to turn that into a button. Read up conventions and behavior patterns of people that use websites because that could help you design better UI by making most of the elements self-evident. I may be off-topic here, but there is a spectrum of users: A) Tech savvy people, B) Not-so tech savvy people, and C) The ones in between. We should design for the ones in-between, in my opinion.

    The footer is huge in my opinion, and I think “Popular Tags”, “Friends” and “Flickr” can go on the sidebar and utilize that space. Play around with that, and then organize what’s remaining in the footer. Do you really need the “Recommended Reading” description there? Just wondering :)

    This is all I have for now, and I’ll message you when I look at the site again. I also like the ruler on the sidebar! Good work!


    • 32

      Yo Mr. Noel, thanks for the constructive criticism. Let me explain some of the reasons behind the issues you brought up.

      First of all, about the search, I didn’t really want it to stick out since according to my stats, not too many people use the search bar on DI, although I do agree that it maybe just a little bit too faded into the background.

      The submit button: I definitely understand what you are saying about designing for the in-between, but the audience of Design Informer is web and graphic designers, and most of them are already computer savvy and have no problem at all on figuring out that it’s a button. I’ve also received lots of compliments about the button and so I wanted to keep it. Plus, I had that button on the old design so I thought it was a good way to create a little bit of a tie to the old design. Hope that explains that! :)

      Lastly, about the footer, I wanted to put all that info in the footer for a reason. I want to have as minimal of a sidebar as possible so that when people are reading the content, then their eyes aren’t drawn to the sidebar and they aren’t distracted. Yes, the footer is quite big but I actually like it that way.

      Anyway, thank you for your comment and I am still doing testing at the moment so I may or may not change some things.

  17. 33

    The new design looks great. Really clean layout that supports the user in reading the articles.

    Always cool to see someone take a site that was good and improve upon it. Kudos on being fearless and fixing something that wasn’t broken in order to make it even better.

    And I love the fat footer.

    Congrats Jad – keep up the great work.

    • 34

      Hello Jeremy, hope your college class is doing well. How was their HTML/CSS project?

      Anyway, thank you for sharing your opinion of the design. I’m stoked that you liked the redesign, as well as my really fat footer. I agree with you, the site wasn’t broken but I really wanted to improve upon it.

  18. 35

    Actually – one criticism – I would return to making the large visuals that support each post being anchors that lead to the full article. Those images are so visually inviting, that they just beg to be clicked to ‘read more’.

    • 36

      That’s a great idea Jeremy. I had that on the old design but forgot to implement it on this new theme. I’ll change that soon!

      • 37

        I seem to remember, originally, the images didn’t link on the old site. I know that because I always used to click them! Then, one day, they suddenly began to link, much to my delight.

        So of course, on the new design, when I wanted to read more I clicked on the big image once again!

        But seriously, those images are so well designed, I can’t be the only one who is inclined to click them instead of the article title or read more link!

      • 38

        You are totally right Jeremy. I actually just asked Derek Herman, the PSDTuts WP guy and he gave the exact same comment. He told me to link the image to the post as well. Thanks, I’m definitely going to do that.

  19. 39

    Nice job Jad. The entire design is clean and I like what you did with the footer. Keep up the great work!

  20. 41

    The new design looks wonderful! I really like the simplistic, content focused design. Well done!

    Although, I agree with nOel in regards to two of his points:
    – Top navigation; why not make the icons turn white as you rollover them for consistency?
    – And the footer feels huge.

  21. 43

    I feel that you completely nailed your objectives. Aside from numbers, the site has grown in other ways in the short 3 months. Your original design got my attention and led me to check out your content. Now, I’m regularly reading your content (and it is in the Smashing Network), so it is good for the design to step out of the way.

    I was completely drawn to the post image and read all the way down through.

    You asked for direct feedback, so here we go:

    Header: The actual header is great, the subtle city adds detail, the spacing is good and the rollover adds a nice touch.

    Nav: Something is off about the nav. The contrast seems off at the top and there needs to be a bit more contrast for the secondary nav below the header. I don’t have a direct recommendation and I know it would be tough to increase their contrast and not pull away from the content.

    Sidebar: The content in the side bar is spot on. I personally don’t have the issue with separating it from the post, but that seems to be popular feedback. You may want to play with a slightly darker background. (The ruler is a great touch).

    Post Footer: I love the look of the author, ad space, looking for more and sharing sections. For flow purposes, I would recommend swapping the “looking for more” and “sharing” sections. Sharing is directly related to the post, while “looking for more” is more related to the blog itself. That argument could actually call for “looking for more” to come underneath the comments, but I think it’s better served above it.

    Blog Footer: It rocks. The contrast is awesome and the dark background is refreshing after the lightly colored content space. My only hang up is still the blue/black contrast for the main nav. It flows much better wedged between the dark blue and the black backgrounds, but it still seems a bit off from the rest of the design to me.

    All in all, it’s a great redesign and I’m impressed that you are adapting the look to the content and attention so quickly.

    • 44

      Hello Dan, I really appreciate you replying to my request about leaving your feedback on the redesign. I really admire the fact that you took your time and wrote what you really think about the redesign in detail.

      I really agree with you on the category navigation. It’s really something that I’m still trying to find a solution for and will continue to do so.

      About the sidebar, I don’t have a problem with it as well, but if I get more people who have issues with it, I’ll definitely have to reconsider it.

      Again, thanks for the compliments. It means a lot! :D

  22. 45

    Excellent redesign. Love it. Content certainly is king in this design and I agree that the old design had too much focus on the header area and now the focus is the content. Awesome job!

  23. 47

    Looks great Jad! Footer is really nice.

    • 48

      Thanks Grant! I can only imagine how busy you are running Colorburned so I appreciate you stopping by. BTW, you are one of the first bloggers who inspired me to start blogging. :D

  24. 49

    Looking pretty awesome, super clean and with a lot less distractions.
    Pure content focus, keep up :)

  25. 51

    Hi Jad, your redesign turned out to be clean, classy and minimal which is one of those art directions that not everyone is going to like. Personally I love it, I don’t like fancy graphics distracting me from what I want to read, the most important is the content. And one thing with your blog, you have great content. More success to your blog and GOD bless :)

  26. 53

    I saw this happen over at Inspired Magazine when their blog first came out. It was amazing to look at, unique creative design. It’s never been the same since they changed it. Sorry, but this time i have to say something. This design is clean and nice, but it removes the personality and uniqueness that was found here. It looks like with a different header, and a huge and not very useful footer. I’m really sorry but i do not see a re-design a see an un-designed.

  27. 55

    I think it looks great. And its subtle enough I think that it’s ok to redesign after only 3 months. It seems like a natural transition using the same colors and “informer” theme. It would be a different story had you changed the “informent” style side of what you have already started to brand.

    I would suggest a new sig box though. It doesn’t seem to flow as well with this design.

    Great job as always though!

  28. 57

    I like this design, I’ve never seen the old one I think but I like this! Thanks for sharing your ideas and visions about the whole redesign, it inspires me to start finally working on my own portfolio site. Really useful post and thanks for a few good links.

    I do think that in your Visual Hierarchy the main and first focus is on the logo instead of the image. This is no problem at all because people need to know at which site they’re reading. Good to see other people use the same techniques as I do.

    • 58

      Really, for some reason, when I look at the visual hierarchy, the post image stands out to me immediately.

      Anyway, hope you get your portfolio site up soon! Thanks for your compliments on this write-up.

  29. 59

    Nice work! I love new light look! Cheers!

  30. 60

    I’m confused by one of your paragraphs, where you say “I also didn’t use a grid-system.” and then “I did use the 960 grid-system for the design.” Not sure what you mean about not using a grid.

    • 61

      Hey Miike!

      Don’t be confused. :)

      What I meant by that was with the design in Photoshop, I used the 960gs as my guide but when I coded it, I used my own framework.


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