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Website Redesign - Finding New Ways to Procrastinate

November 26, 2009 · 11 comments

John is Fit Website

I almost hesitate to write this post because my friend in weight loss Tony is going to rake me over the coals, in ways that only he can, for thinking about something other than exercising and eating properly. I deserve every bit of it Tony!

But I’ve been putting together this redesign for some time and I am pretty happy with how it turned out - and hoping I am close to focusing less on the site and more on weight loss. Yes, I know you are getting sick of hearing that. Trust me, I know.

But here’s the thing, I have to find some way to balance all of my interests and frankly one such interest is building websites. However, I have my limitations. I’m no designer. The original theme I had used on here was getting long in the tooth and I was bored with it. And having discovered the WordPress Thesis theme and how easy that made maintaining websites through theme upgrades (without that you’ll probably end up just never upgrading your theme) I knew that at some point I wanted to convert this website to Thesis and if I was going to do that I wanted the site to be significantly different than what it was before and different than other Thesis sites. And I knew I wanted a “mascot” instead of my actual picture, which I had been using on here but that I wanted to get away from. I value my privacy.

Mascot Design

So, first things first I knew I needed a designer to draft a mascot. After some research I settled on The NetMen Corp. They have a very clear process documented on their website and it pretty much worked exactly as they said. I completed a form describing some details about what I thought I wanted, and then they presented a couple of different artists concepts. I chose the artist that was closest to my vision and then we engaged in back and forth tweaking until I was satisfied with the look. Unfortunately I have lost the original drawings but let me tell you they couldn’t have been any more different - the first artist took a more realistic approach while the second artist took a more cartoony approach. The real drawing scared me so I stayed away from that one!

That’s the “mascot” in the upper right there. It’s supposed to be me after I have lost my weight. See the outline? I thought it was a creative way to show that. The outline is the bigger me. Maybe I’m the only one that sees it though! Anyway, it works for me. I’m standing on a scale and looking sort of sporty. It captured the look I was going for.

There are tons of options out there for getting custom logos and mascots made, but I can recommend The NetMen Corp as a good group to work with. If I ever need one again, however, I’ll probably give one of the contest sites a try where artists compete for prize money you put up. A very novel concept and having many artists work on your project means it is more likely you find exactly what you are looking for.

Website Design

After my mascot was in the bag I needed to get someone creative to design a new look for my website. I knew I couldn’t do it justice. And as luck would have it fellow weight loss blogger Jennette “PastaQueen” Fulda had recently hung out a shingle as a website designer. How perfect! One of my original inspirations could help me design the very website she inspired in the first place. That’s synergy. Or maybe syzygy. Nah, I just wrote that because it gives me an excuse to use one of my favorite words. Syzygy. How great a final Wheel of Fortune puzzle would that make? Anyway, more like synergy.

Jennette was great to work with. She took a similar approach to The NetMen Corp where I filled out a form responding to a bunch of questions, she came up with various looks and we hammered the look out back and forth until I had something I liked.

Looking to redesign your own website, weight loss blog or not? Check out Make My Blog Pretty - and tell her John sent you. You will be in good hands!

Now the original plan was that Jennette would do the coding and then I would take that coding and convert it into Thesis. But guess what? There is a reason most Thesis sites look the same. It can be tricky to code! I had done some minor coding with other Thesis sites but nothing like what I would need to do to take Jennette’s design and plug into the Thesis theme. I needed help. I needed a Thesis Conversion wizard.

Thesis Conversion

To be honest before I started searching I didn’t even know Thesis Conversion wizards existed, but before too long I found that it is becoming a popular niche. I quickly came to the conclusion that Greg Rickaby dESIGN was the Wizard I was looking for and Greg did not disappoint. He bills himself as “The Developer for Designers” which means he usually works directly with the designers, not the end customer like me. The process he goes through is very simple - you send the Photoshop file (PSD) of the design, and he works his magic and does all the coding to turn it into a Thesis skin. And some point he gives you admin access to the test site so that you can see exactly how the Theme is configured. Of course he is using the latest and greatest version of Thesis so that you can edit the custom files directly without having to need an FTP login, which makes it very nice.

Once we were ready for go-live I surprised Greg a bit I think by actually doing the port myself. I don’t think the average designer is going to do that. But it was fun, and frankly it felt good to actually be doing some work on the site, putting in some sweat and tears, after having others do most of the work up until that point. Greg’s coding made it easy because he did a very nice job of laying everything out.

I’m not 100% completed with the redesign yet as there are still some design elements I am working through - some in Jennette’s original design and some not - but rest assured that if you find problems in the look of the site it is no doubt something I have done, and not something The NetMen Corp, Jennette or Greg did - they were a great team to work with.

Now back to weight loss!

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Hanlie November 26, 2009 at 1:16 am

It looks great!

Earlier this year I also wanted a custom site, but since I don’t have any money, I knew I was going to have to do it myself… with no prior experience. Fortunately I had a little HTML book, which helped. I chose the Primepress template, because it’s highly customizable and made sweeping changes. I am very happy with the results.

Greg November 26, 2009 at 6:09 am

Love the look. I struggled with whether to go with Thesis or Frugal when I did my redesign. Don’t think you can go wrong with either one.

The mascot is great, too!

Keith @ My Body Fat November 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Fantastic design and the mascot is brilliant. I remember the old design and it was a little dull, too much white.
This new design looks so professional, I’m using the carl ocab theme on my blog which is easy to operate and good for seo, but is looking a little dated now.

Jennette November 27, 2009 at 2:51 pm

You were a great client to work with John. I’m glad you’ve got a new theme and new motivation to get fit!

JC November 27, 2009 at 9:54 pm

John, looks absolutely incredible. Would’ve never guessed it was Thesis!

john - from fat to fit November 28, 2009 at 5:15 am

@Hanlie - You did a great job with your site! 9 times out of 10 I’ll do my own site too, I just felt on here I wanted to do something different this time and try the outsourced route.

@Greg - Thanks Greg, Frugal gives a nice clean look - all the better to focus on the content.

@Keith - Yeah, it was definitely a little dull, glad you like the changes. I think your site looks great!

@Jennette - Thanks Jennette. I’ve got the new theme, now on to the motivation!

@JC - Thanks JC - the same could be said about your website!

AndrewE November 28, 2009 at 10:54 am

Looks good, although I thought the outline was sweat! :)

Mary :: A Merry Life November 28, 2009 at 8:03 pm

It looks AWESOME! Jennette did a great job!

Now get back to the weight loss focus dude!

Mr. Meltdown November 29, 2009 at 8:35 am

John the new look is OUTSTANDING!! Very clean and has an excellent feel. Good stuff J!

Steve December 1, 2009 at 9:46 am

Oh wow…the site really does look awesome. Nice job!

Steve December 4, 2009 at 7:54 am

Good luck with the Marathon Week Challenge as well!

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