I really can’t believe it took me this long. I first started this site nearly four years ago while bored to death at my desk, pretending to do a job that I hated. It was November 2009, and at the time I knew nothing about WordPress, had never used Twitter and had only recently realised that travel blogging was even a thing. I was in a hurry to start writing so I did a quick search for free themes, installed one that seemed ok and started typing.
As it turned out, the theme that I went for was a terrible choice. It wasn’t really designed for WordPress, and it showed. Pretty much everything needed coding by hand – for the first couple of years, even the home page was static. What does that mean? Well, every time I published a new post, I had to manually modify the page to make sure it showed up. Everything I wanted to show in the sidebar or footer, likewise, required some hand-written PHP code.
On the upside, it meant that I learned a lot about web coding very quickly. On the downside, well, everything else. As time went by and my spaghetti code grew, the site became almost impossible to maintain. It didn’t look great on mobile devices (well, it didn’t look great on anything, but it was even worse on mobile). There was no real branding, colours and fonts were a mess and the whole thing looked and felt like it was held together by chewing gum and chicken wire.
It was time for a change.
While I had a few ideas about what I wanted, I’m absolutely not a web designer. Lucky, then, that my friend Jenny from Never North Labs is – and a very good one at that. We both happened to be in Chiang Mai several months ago, and over the course of a few days and many fruit smoothies, we started to thrash out a design.
After a couple of false starts and plenty of tweaks along the way, I’m really happy with how it’s all turned out! If you’re reading this by email or RSS, go and check it out now. Go on, off you go…
Well to start with, I’ve got a brand new logo. Jenny was great at asking the right questions to come up with something that defined me, and I love it. The laptop/coffee cup motif is used throughout the site, as it’s something that sums up my life these days. It feels like I’ve spent much of the last couple of years working on my laptop in coffee shops around the world… and hopefully there’s still a lot more of that to come!
Along with the logo there’s a new tagline as well, capturing what I’m about much better than the old one. “Living the travel dream” sounded nice but didn’t really mean very much. I like the new one a lot more.
There’s now a distinct set of colours used everywhere on the site, which hopefully makes it look much more consistent (read: less of a mess), and the headings and sub-headings are much nicer as well. I still need to go back through old posts and clean some of that stuff up, but everything will look great in new posts at least.
I’ve reduced the clutter on the main menu, stripping it back to the bare essentials. The Start Here page has a new look, and I’ll be making a few changes to the About page as well. There’s a nice big map on the Contact page which I’ll update as I move around, so you can gaze jealously at my new beachside home… or laugh loudly when I end up lost in some dusty Cambodian village due to yet another planning failure.
I’m crazy happy with how good the new Photos section looks. There are nearly two hundred pictures in there now – back in early 2010 when I started putting up a photo every Friday, I’d never have thought I’d still be going now! Oh, and speaking of photos, I’ve updated the shot of me in the sidebar – a few friends unkindly suggested that it looked like it was taken ten years ago, so there’s now a more accurately-wrinkled version for your viewing displeasure.
Even more importantly, the site now looks equally great whether you’re viewing it on a huge desktop screen, a tiny smartphone or anything in between. It always surprises me how many of you read the site on some sort of mobile device, and now it won’t look horrible when you’re trying to do so. Yay!
There’s still some work to do – updating old posts with the sexy little country icons (take a look beside the title of the latest USA posts to see what they look like), not to mention better formatting and getting rid of the annoying white border around the photos. God knows why I ever thought that was a good idea.
I’ve also got an idea in mind for a fun new way to find posts about specific countries that you’re interested in, as well as a few other things that I’ll get done before the end of the year. Even without those things though, the site is already a massive improvement and I couldn’t be happier with it.
What do you think?