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Insights from Redesigning & Developing BlazRobar.com

Blaz Robar
April 12, 2015

At the time there were some great design resources online for web design related assets, but the one that stood out to me was Premium Pixels. Orman was designing some great pixel perfect resources and I was impressed by the community he was building around what he gave away for free. So in my naivety I thought I might just be able to do the same.

It’s been four great years since starting BlazRobar.com, and what great fun it’s been working on this site! I still remember what inspired me to start the website; I was at a design conference in Melbourne with friends and remember leaving the conference with so much energy and had to channel it somewhere!

Redesigning BlazRobar.com

A new design

Being a web designer, I’m never happy when it comes to my own promotional work online. It’s a pain in the bum. However, i’m extremely happy with the result of the latest design and layout for BlazRobar.com.

‘Flat’ design style

It’s not that surprising that i’ve gone down the ‘flat design’ trend for the new skin of the website—I’m a bit of a fanboy of the trend—but I wanted to ensure it was bright and vibrant through the design process.

The trickiest thing about designing a folio type website that showcases a lot of design work is to display the work, and not have the website design itself interfere with presentation of the screenshots. The flat design style was a great way for me to keep the site skin simple and clean, whilst letting the designs in each post stand out. Plus, this meant there wasn’t much theming involved in the site itself making it much easier to build!

It’s been four great years since starting BlazRobar.com, and what great fun it’s been working on this site! I still remember what inspired me to start the website; I was at a design conference in Melbourne with friends and remember leaving the conference with so much energy and had to channel it somewhere!

Redesigning BlazRobar.com

Improved Layouts

With the site being responsive I had to re-think how to best layout all my content and opted for a left aligned site. Not commonly done, I thought this full width, left aligned content would be something unique from my usual style and it was fun to experiment with.

I felt the old design was very much add-on after add-on, so there was no underling theme running throughout the site design.

Responsive focus

It was going to be a very silly decision not to make this latest iteration responsive. Over the next few months I’m focusing on more video and online learning, so wanted to switch my attention to consumption of content across all devices. Whilst you can’t download resources on mobile or tablets, I did want a focus of the new site to be targeted towards more engagement with my audience and not to just download and run.

Whilst writing this post I’m conscious that the mobile and tablet views of the site still need some final tweaks and bug fixes, but meh, i’ll get to them soon enough.

Why I deleted 153,000 + users

So at last count, before launching the new site, I had 153,268 users that had registered an account on the site to be able to download files. Whilst this number is great, I quickly found that a lot of the users were just signing up to download 1 or 2 items then never coming back. This isn’t the type of site I want to grow or build. The tipping point was seeing that about 5% of users were signing up with 15 minute email accounts and similar types of temporary email services.

I came to the conclusion that with the new launch of the site I was going to change the login mechanism to logins via Facebook + Twitter. I figured the users that were happy to sign in with their social network accounts were more interested in growing the community, over a shadow ninja user.

Social Logins

I’ve opted for all new users to re-subscribe/sign up to the site using their Facebook or Twitter accounts.  This enables super quick sign ups & logins so you’re not having to worry about password resets or any of that fun stuff!

For the record, we don’t, nor will I,  post to any wall or tweet stream on a users behalf; it’s purely to ensure the quality of new users.

Another nice benefit is being able to show a nice shiny avatar pic of the user in the header bar to make the site more personalised and tailored.

The new site launch has been live for just over a week now and I’m happy to report that we’ve had over 1,000 subscribers already, which is very gratifying. To my surprise, over 80% of account sign ups have been via Facebook connect opposed to signing in with Twitter. I had anticipated that being the industry we are in, Twitter sign ups would have been the majority!

Starting from scratch

In a sense i’ve removed a lot of functionality (not that there was much to start with) and to strip everything right back to its essentials.

  1. Create user accounts
  2. Download files

Those 2 functions were my top priorities, everything else was just bells and whistles. By stripping everything back I was able to get much more focus on what I want the site to be. It also provides a great road map for how to grow the site and what functionality should be next.

Some other new stuff & changes

  • Removed the PSD backpack, this was great and have swapped out for a “save” system which will be displayed in your accounts page soon.
  • ‘Delete your account’ function.
  • Download counter for all downloads. This is still a bit buggy but I’ll address this soon.
  • Better Search. This is critical as the site is growing. it needs to be easier to sort through more and more posts and resources.

It’s been four great years since starting BlazRobar.com, and what great fun it’s been working on this site! I still remember what inspired me to start the website; I was at a design conference in Melbourne with friends and remember leaving the conference with so much energy and had to channel it somewhere!

Redesigning BlazRobar.com

Email Communication

A big part of the new BlazRobar.com website is to focus more on email communication. I’m aiming to email users weekly when a new posts is published, to encourage more engagement on new content. I’m also looking into transactional type emails for when we extend functionality on the website.

I’ve always been a great lover of email communication but have honestly never done as much as I should of.

It’s been four great years since starting BlazRobar.com, and what great fun it’s been working on this site! I still remember what inspired me to start the website; I was at a design conference in Melbourne with friends and remember leaving the conference with so much energy and had to channel it somewhere!

Redesigning BlazRobar.com

Future plans

  • Web app, I want the user to feel like the the site is a tool as much as it’s a resource and online learning reference.
  • Focus on creating more engaging video and article content, of course keep designing great PSD resources is still a focus!
  • Introduce a store for more premium of files

Head nods

Of course whilst I spent many hours in Photoshop and WordPress putting the theme together, I did have some outside help, which I was super excited and lucky to have!

My comrade Ben, was my go to WordPress expert and helped with some of the more advanced WordPress integration such as the download counter and general PHP help + troubleshooting. He’s also great to bounce some of my random brain farts to and see if there worth looking into. I’ve busted his balls a few times, but he was always happy to help so I probably owe him a couple of beers and/or to let him win a few matches at Ping Pong.

Also worth a mention is the Brad-a-tron who took my Photoshop files and converted the into responsive HTML and CSS for me. God knows that would of taken me 3 years to do and would of looked terrible.

Another comrade to mention, even tho he didn’t have any input into the site is Josh. He’s always been my creative go-to-guy on all things online and personal branding. He’s always got a positive outlook on things and great to brain storm ideas with, even tho we inevitably always end up talking about food and singing along to super cheesy pop music.

Final Thoughts

It’s been a great ride and really enjoyed refreshing BlazRobar.com, however I think the next steps is where I’ll really enjoy it. I’ve really striped everything right back in order to get a good foundation in order to grow the site for the future.

Most importantly I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and the site in general so I urge you to leave a comment and engage a discussion!

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