Getting Ready for a Change, Not a Redesign

I’ve been planning to change this website’s appearance and theme for over two years.

But like other designers and developers, my client projects took priority.

And my own site fell down the list of things to get done.

Until August 2020, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, when I finally sat down to plan the changes I wanted to make on my site.

While the site isn’t getting a complete redesign, I refer to it more as a refresh, I followed the steps outlined in planning for your website redesign.

Here’s my journey as of the end of June 2021.

Identify Goals, Site Review, and Content Audit

As I do with all new clients with existing sites, my first steps would be to identify goals, conduct a site review, and content audit.

The Lireo Designs website has close to 2,000 blog posts and nine pages, published over the past 12 years.

My goals have changed over the years, from focusing on higher education, web design, and social media to user experience, web design, and accessibility.

My content needed to reflect those goals.

The site review would focus on information architecture and usability as well as known issues with the site.

  1. Is the navigation working?
  2. Are readers finding the information they’re looking for?
  3. What insights can I learn from analytics and site search ?

I knew there were several issues with the site:

  1. Categories and tags had grown organically over the years.
  2. Search functionality doesn’t support searching more than 1,000 posts/pages. And there’s no search available on mobile.

But the biggest step was the content: almost 2,000 blog posts.

Which meant a content audit, to determine which content was:

  1. Redundant
  2. Outdated
  3. Trivial

Not a quick task that could be done quickly.

Especially given I had new clients with critical time deadlines.

And existing clients planning to add new features and functionality to their sites.

What’s Been Finished

Finding time to work on my site proved to be challenging, until I dedicated a day a week to focus on the project.

Information Architecture

Woman drawing page wireframe on wirebound paper sketchpad, a cup of coffee sits nearby.

I’ve spent a good amount of time on the information architecture, which includes the site structure, navigation, search, and category/tags.

I puzzled over the site layout with the sidebar for a long time, knowing it works well for desktop, but not for mobile.

With my analytics showing just under 50 percent of website visitors are on mobile, I knew I needed to provide a better user experience.

For the updated site, the sidebar will no longer appear on the main site pages. Blog pages will retain a sidebar for displaying categories.

The footer will change to display recently published posts, contact information, and navigation.

A new testimonial page will be added to the site, available from the About page as well as within text on the Services and Portfolio pages.

The Services page will become a sub-page of the About page (which is was 10 years ago), reducing the number of items in global navigation.

Site Search and Navigation

For site search, I’ve decided to use the built-in search for WordPress.

Which isn’t ideal, given how many issues have been reported with poor results from native WordPress search in the past.

I may change my mind and consider Relevanssi for search.

Global navigation will be updated to display search for both desktop and mobile.

Categories and Tags

As for categories, I discovered I had almost three dozen categories!

Which doesn’t provide easy findability for people searching for content on the site.

I’ve successfully reduced the number of categories to 10, combining categories (and using subcategories) while focusing on search terms used by people visiting the site. Which longtime readers on the site may have already noticed on the site.

I’m not completely satisfied with the number of categories and plan additional changes this week.

As for tags, that will be an ongoing task as I work toward consolidating them.

Content Audit

One of the biggest tasks for changing the site, the content audit of almost 2,000 blog posts and twice as many images seemed to be an overwhelming task.

By focusing on search terms and site analytics, I was able to learn how the content was being used (or not used).

Finding Authory, the online site that backs up your writing across multiple sites, solved a big issue.

As I was conducting the site audit, I found dozens of posts I knew contained outdated content or past event information.

It didn’t make sense to keep the old content on the site. But I didn’t want to delete them forever.

With Authory, I backed up all my Lireo Design posts.

After reviewing the content for ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial), I deleted close to 500 blog posts or redirected posts to other content on the site.

Knowing I had the backup on Authory gave me peace of mind I would still have access to my older writing.

The page not found message has been updated to tell website visitors of the site reorganization.

And direct them to Authory if they are searching for content removed from this site.

I have more work to do resolving internal linking, which means there may be some hiccups for the next few weeks as I fix bad links.

New Theme

GeneratePress home page, highlighting it as the perfect foundation for your WordPress website.

For the theme, I’ve decided to use GeneratePress with the GP Premium and GenerateBlocks plugins.

I’ve used GeneratePress since 2017 as the default theme for new client sites, as well as for converting existing sites of new clients.

It’s a clean, well-developed theme.

With the recent release of GeneratePress 3.0 along with GenerateBlocks, the theme offers block-based design.

What I like about GeneratePress:

  1. Lightweight, fast theme
  2. Focus on  usability and accessibility
  3. Excellent support
  4. Strong user base
  5. Continuous updates

The site will move to use a flex layout in GeneratePress, which requires a number of CSS changes and updates.

Wrapping Up

While the general layout of the site remains the same, except for the sidebar, the website changes are moving along. Though not as quickly as I wished, as happens frequently with website projects.

I’ve made some early decisions that I needed to backtrack. And I’ve been grateful to my fellow colleagues and friends for their feedback when I asked questions.

If all goes well, I expect readers of this site will notice the full transition to the new appearance and theme within the next few weeks.

Photo of author

About the Author

Deborah Edwards-Onoro helps small businesses, consultants, nonprofits, and higher ed with creative and distinctive websites. Deborah shares her expertise with web design, user experience, and accessibility on her blog, social media, and at meetup events. As organizer of Refresh Detroit, West Metro Detroit WordPress, and Metro Detroit WordPress, she encourages members to share their knowledge and experiences. In her free time, you'll find her birding, shooting photos, reading, or watching tennis.
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