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Case Study: Redesigning the Dougs-Travels.com Website Template

Do you want to know what is involved in upgrading the template for a website?  In this article, I explain how I went about it for Dougs Travels,  and share a few tips based on what I learned in the process.

I have been working hard on my travel website over the past few weeks.  Some of the changes are already visible, other changes will be very visible, very soon!

The visible changes: new content.  I wrote an article about my own back-yard (so to speak) for a start.  I also looked at one of my long, rambling articles about Tlaxiaco, Mexico, determined the interesting story within it, and wrote "Risky Laundry in Mexico".  The re-write is much better: it has a beginning, a middle and an end, it has a point, and it is carefully written to hold your interest.

Coming Soon: Improvements to the Template

I hired a graphic designer to design a banner for my Dougs Travels website. I want the site to look credible to match the high quality of the writing.  I have not fully implemented these changes yet.  I explain the details of implementing the design change in this article about changing a Wordpress template.  The process of editing the template is not as easy as I thought, but I am learning a lot by doing it.  This will come in very handy for some upcoming projects (I'm not ready to publicly discuss them just yet…)

Hiring a graphic designer is not so easy either.  Originally, I wanted to hire a local company that I know.  I like the people, and I love the work they do.  I talked to them about it, and send them a detailed specification.  They suggested I find a free template and just use that.  This was not the solution I was looking for, and I didn't feel they were taking me seriously, so I asked around until I found another graphic designer.

I was referred to Dana Koch of Koch Ink, in  Kamloops BC Canada.  She listened to all I had to say, read my specification, and gave me not so much what I asked for, but certainly what I need.  Along the way I learned more about working with a graphic designer.

NOTE: The design changes have now been implemented.  You can see the new template at www.dougs-travels.com 

Working With a Graphic Designer

Here are a few things to consider when working with a graphic designer. First of all, know what you want out of the process.  What do you want to accomplish by hiring a graphic designer? 

If you know the sort of design you want, and you need someone to produce exactly what you ask for, that is one thing.  Some graphic designers will work well that way, others would rather have the freedom to be creative and might not want detailed instructions.  

I chose to describe what the design was to accomplish (make the website look credible and reflect my writing style), and leave the graphic designer to do what she does best.

Don't be afraid to provide feedback, explaining what you want changed and why.  If this offends your graphic designer, if they take it personally, then they are not professional by my definition.  It is likely that a designer will not produce exactly what you want the first time through.  By providing further direction, they will understand your needs and they should quickly move towards what you want.  If not, there are to likely causes: either they don't understand what you want, or you are not communicating your needs very well.  Often, the two are related.  A really good and experienced designer should be able to ask the right questions to help you determine your needs.

The Results - a New Banner for Dougs-Travels.com

Rather than getting a new colour scheme from my graphic design, I got a banner for my website.  I did not have one up until this time, at least not a graphical one.  The graphic designer determined that this was the minimum effort to make the website look good, and I have to say, I agree with her.  I am impressed with the results!  I send her some of my photos, and she produce amazing results!  My first impression: "where did she get those fantastic photos from?" - I couldn't believe they were mine at first!  Such is the power of good graphic design.

She also provided some colours.  Actually, I have to work on them some more.  She is used to producing websites that act as web-brochures.  I am in the web-publishing business.  The essence of this business is to produce content people want to read, and design a colour scheme that integrates the Google ads in such a way that they do not interfere with the site, but that they perform (i.e. people click on them).  This is a specialization.  I don't see it done very well on a most blogs or websites that I visit.  I don't think many graphic designers have experience with this.  I have decided to develop this as one of my own expertise, since it is core to the commercial success of my websites*.  

* You may wonder why this website is so generic-looking?  So far I have been concentrating on other projects.  This one will be upgraded when the time is right! 


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