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July 18, 2017

Secret Project: A New Website!

Screenshot of Jami Gold's homepage with text: Introducing... A New Website!

A few weeks ago, I hinted that I’ve been busy working on a secret project. If you’re visiting this post online, you can see the evidence of that project right here: a brand-spanking-new website! Shiny!

(And if you’re reading this via newsletter or feed, check out the new digs!)

My old design was woefully out of date, as I’d had the same design with just minor changes and new content for the full seven years that I’ve been blogging. Yeeks!

Not only was the design dated, but the theme I’d been using was becoming less safe, with only a couple of minor updates over the years. I worried it was only a matter of time until it was a security risk.

Worse, the mobile site was a kludge tacked on behind the scenes. And when every theme and their brother was responsive for tablets and phones except for mine, I knew I needed a change.

Although I still liked my unique background, I longed for a site that was better for readability. I wanted my home page to better spotlight my books and have a more professional feel, etc., etc.

The Work behind the Secret Project

At the beginning of May, my TechGuy Jay set up a “sandbox” site for me to experiment with. He cloned my old site, so I could see every change with my current posts, comments, etc.

I then started to play with a new WordPress theme that looked promising. I picked up the Pro and DevKit extensions for it at a super discount through an AppSumo deal. (The deal has since expired, but that site also runs stock photo deals, so if you like those kind of things, you might want to sign up for their newsletter.)

But with my latest book release (for Stone-Cold Heart) just a week later, progress on the project was slow. For every one issue I’d fix, I’d discover 5 more issues to add to my list.

Like with many other aspects of my past year, I stopped trying to set deadlines for myself, as the stress aggravated my health problems. So any potential switch-over seemed far away.

Yet over the next two months, I slowly made progress on building a new site that was:

  • responsive to the different screen sizes of tablets and phones
  • easier to read with a cleaner background
  • greatly expanded for highlighting my published work
  • more up-to-date and professional in design

The Unintentional “Deadline”

By last week, I’d completed design work on an entirely new site from the ground up:

  • new Home page
  • new pages for all my books and reader-focused stuff
  • new footer
  • new header
  • new backgrounds
  • new menus
  • new Comment System!!! (I’m so excited about this, I’m going to do a whole post on Thursday about it!)
  • new behind-the-scenes stuff (custom programming and swapping out a third of my old plugins for new ones)

This past weekend, I was “testing” how I could roll out my new site—at some undetermined future date—without losing any post-cloning posts or comments. The data resulting from merging my new website structure with the new content at my old site (that had been added since the May cloning step) needed a lot of clean up.

By the time I finished with that cleaning, I checked my remaining to-do list and decided that the site was close enough to “done.” I certainly didn’t want to go through that cleaning process a second time a week or so from now when things were done-done. *smile*

So Jay and I switched my sandbox site to live Saturday night, and I’ve been playing whack-a-mole with the last-minute issues ever since. Please let me know through my Contact Form if you encounter any remaining “moles.” *grin*

The Same…But Different

Unintentionally, the colors of my old site became a major part of my online brand. I heard from many readers over the years who recognized when they landed on my site just because of those unique colors (which were simply a color palette built off my old site’s background—nothing I’d meant to do *shh*).

So when working on my redesign, I aimed for a look that was the phrase we often hear from agents and publishers: I wanted the same but different. *smile*

Obviously, just to get away from the dated design, I needed to make a lot of changes. Add to that the new theme platform, which forced me to rebuild everything, and I knew I had the different down pat.

But I also wanted my site to feel like my site. I decided that it wasn’t about the layout, the background, the header, etc. It was about the colors. Those needed to stay the same.

Sunday night, longtime visitor Sieran commented:

“Wow, Jami, the look of your website has changed!? Or is it just displaying differently on my university library’s computer?”

I’m hoping that uncertainty means I did a good job of still making this place feel like “home.” Plus, it’s so pretty! *grin*

Let Me Squee a Minute…

As I said seven years ago, I’m not a website designer, but I love being able to make everything just how I want it. So I wrote custom CSS code to change the styling of the…:

  • headers
  • font sizes and colors
  • links
  • featured images on posts
  • comment section
  • footer
  • blockquotes
  • newsletter “edit your subscription” page, etc.

In other words, just like my old site looked nothing like other places with my same theme, I did the same types of unique customizations this time around.

I’m happy to answer any questions about my theme, how I made different decisions, the custom stuff I programmed, etc.

In the meantime, please make yourself at home! Let me know if you have any comments, suggestions, feedback, criticism, advice, etc. And let’s hope this update will last for a while. *grin*

How much do you focus on your website or blog? Do you care about how it looks or just about whether it gets the job done? Have you ever done a major site overhaul? What was your experience? How does your online home reflect your brand?

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What do you think?

31 Comments on "Secret Project: A New Website!"

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Carradee / Misti

Nice, Jami! 😀 Much more readable and easy to navigate. 🙂

I’ve been planning an overhaul of my site, too, and keep playing hopscotch with the multiple things on the to-do list. I need to write them down and organize them and all. Good on you for organizing and getting it functional! 🙂

How are you feeling?

Yvonne Marjot
Yvonne Marjot

Well, your links work fine. I’d forgotten I was already following you on Pinterest. Good luck – it’s looking good.

Anne Kaelber
Anne Kaelber

Jami,

WOW! It looks fantastic!!! I don’t have the patience for this sort of thing any more…. kudos for a nice job!

I noticed your text isn’t black, which is something I see all over the web these days. Maybe it’s my eyesight, but I find the low-contrast of dark-grey text over light backgrounds difficult to read without ctrl-scroll zooming my browser. In your work on the re-design, did you happen across any reason so many sites are going to non-black text?

Congrats on a job well-done! I happen to love your signature color, since purple is my favorite!

Anne.

Carradee / Misti

Ever-so-slightly gray (where it still looks white / black) reduces eyestrain, so I assume it’s a side effect of Telephone, where folks are focusing on the “You want it gray!” and missing the context and thereby sabotaging the result.

Deborah Makarios

Oo, shiny! Looking good – well done! (What does the spoiler button do?)
I’m looking at building a website later this year. Currently figuring out what I want that website to have/do, before proceeding to the ‘sandbox’ stage.

C C Cedras

Jami! You’ve just done what we need to do and are planning to do on Stilettos, Stoli and Scribbles, but way smarter and more competently. Yikes. *runs off to ask Jay about a sandbox*

Stacy Jerger

Looks awesome, Jami! Websites are such a thing…I update mine frequently. 😀

Sieran Lane
Sieran Lane

Yes!! Finally we get notifications of replies to our comments. 😀 Hmm, I don’t think I can access the Edit option until I actually post this comment, so I’ll look at that afterwards. Btw, I’m once again on my university’s library computer, lol. I’ll check out this post on my phone now.

*On phone*

Oh yes! I love the navigation bar on the top right of the page. It’s so much easier to move around now. In the past, I would have to use the search function to find “blog” if I wanted to go to a different blog post.

Hmm one point I want to bring up, though, is that the text size seems smaller than it was before on my phone…I pay a lot of attention to text size because, as you know, my eyes are still healing. ^^ I saw in some of the earlier comments that you increased the font size, so maybe the size decrease only happens on some phones? :/ I use a Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, if that’s information’s helpful.

But other than that, wow, thanks for putting in all this hard work to make your website even more reader friendly! 🙂

Sieran Lane
Sieran Lane

Hey Jami! Where’s the edit button? I can’t seem to find it…(I do want to edit my previous comment, because I just realized–obviously I can’t edit my comment before I post it, LOL!)

I can see the reply, thumbs up, thumbs down (pressure’s on…haha), and the top right corner link buttons. But that’s it. 🙁

Karen McFarland

Excellent job Jami! Good for you for taking on such a huge DIY project. Congratulations!

Glynis Jolly

I like this new look, Jami. And I am glad you kept the color scheme close to what you had. It suits you so well.

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