morning evening everyone and welcome to the new Design*Sponge! A year ago this month we started working on the redesign of the site with the design team at ALSO. Working with them has been one of the most inspiring and special parts of my job and I trust and admire them immensely. After several ideas and revisions (I’ll share the evolution process this week) we landed on this final look and I knew it was our new home. As much as I have loved, and will always love, our linen background (which ALSO designed in 2007), it was time to grow and change and try something new. I wanted the site to feel like the “older sister” of the current site: something more sophisticated, cleaner and reflective of the change all of us here at D*S have gone through over the past four years. I started this site when I was 23 and now I’m about to turn 30, so I wanted the look and feel to be a better representation of what I love at this age and place in life. In addition, the content had so outgrown the navigation system that it was nearly impossible to find old posts that you were looking for. So we decided to not only overhaul the look, but the way the site works from the bottom up. Rather than assume we knew best, I worked with a fantastic UX expert (hooray for Matt Derby!) to help us come up with a way to make content flow and be easier to use.
Then came the hard part: tagging the site so we could use an improved filtering and search system. Over the past seven years of posting at Design*Sponge we’ve amassed over 11,000 posts- all of which had to be opened, evaluated and re-tagged. Thanks to my dream team of Amy Azzarito, Kate Pruitt and Kristina Gill we got just about all of it done (we’re still feverishly tagging as you read this) so you can now narrow content in each category by a huge range of options. I’ll go into this in greater detail below (and the video above), but I wanted to give a little shout out to the lovely ladies above who gave up many long nights and this past holiday weekend to help make this all happen. They are quite simply the best.
While we were tagging, the designs were handed over to our coder/designer/builder extraordinaire, Joel Oliveira. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Joel as my trusty WordPress expert for a while now and he did a fantastic job of translating ALSO’s designs into a living, breathing website. If you need someone to build, design and thrive in WordPress, Joel is your man. Despite the fact that I had to put the redesign on the back burner for nearly six months because of D*S Book work, Joel hung in there with us and is still hanging in there with us (even on a holiday) today as we launch and work on bugs that pop up and that you guys catch. Thanks, Joel.
Last but not least, I wanted to say an extra special thanks to two amazing women, Deanne Cheuk and Julia Rothman. Deanne designed our new logo based on my request for an updated spin on the original that felt ladylike, but still more grown up and she nailed it. Thanks, Deanne. Julia Rothman helped us put a handmade spin on the logo, contributed some beautiful illustrations for the Columns landing page and joined me on epic trips to M&J Trimming in the city to buy crazy amounts of ribbon- all while working with my insane deadlines. Thanks, Julia.
Now for the fun part: let’s talk about the new layout, design elements and how to use them all! Including all the new filters that let you narrow each category based on the terms you’re most interested in. I’ve broken all this down in a quick video above, but I’ll write it in text form after the jump below if you don’t feel like watching. xo, grace
*P.S.: I forgot to mention, we’re finally home at DesignSponge.com! The site will automatically redirect (as will the RSS feed) but there’s no more pesky “online” at the end.
Let’s start with navigation, since the structure has changed a bit. To begin, ALL of the primary navigation on D*S now takes place at the top part of the page. All the major sections have links here. I’ll break them down below:
This is the primary navigation bar- here you’ll get links to all the new landing pages for sections of content on D*S, from home tours (SPACES) and city guides (PLACES) to biz ladies and videos. Each of these pages opens up a landing page with tons of filtering options (more on how to use those below)
This is the secondary navigation bar- here you can find out more about D*S, our team and how to contact us (and submission guidelines). You can also get info on advertising and the annual D*S scholarship.
This is the third part of the navigation- your search bar, links to the RSS feed and our social networking pages.
Now that you know how to navigate the site, let’s break down where all the content actually lives. There are three main columns on the site now, all of which have content. I’ll break them down below:
Meet your main blog column. This left column is where all the posts will live. It’s where all the “live” content will appear.
In the the left column, above each post, you’ll see a bubble for comments (how many and where to click to leave one) and a linked author name. That name is the person writing the story and you can click their name to see all their recent and archived posts.
The middle column on D*S is brand new. This is where we’ll highlight the most recent posts in our major categories (homes, diy, before & afters, products, recipes). This section will change regularly but will be all about bringing original content written recently back up to the top of the page. Some of our original columns involve months of planning so I hated to see them slip off the home page without ever reappearing. This will solve that problem and give you a new place to check out “heavier” content.
The right hand column used to be reserved only for ads, but no longer! Now we have featured most units here that will allow us to highlight great posts and popular discussions or content. I’ll break down the units below:
Not everyone coming to DS wants to scroll around for hours (though I hope they will every now and then), so we created this pretty widget to get down to business- fast. If you’re looking to do something very specific, these links will take you to search pages that have been organized to suit that need. Whether you’re planning a party or want to cook something, this express navigation widget will help.
This featured post widget lets us highlight especially exciting content or something we want to call more attention to. This will change on a regular basis so keep your eyes peeled for something you may have missed earlier :)
You guys have been asking for a “most read” feature for a while now and we finally have one- a list of posts that are most popular any given week or month. Click away and join in the conversation!
One last content section exists at the very bottom of the site- if you scroll down to the very bottom of each page on D*S you’ll see a new section called “recently on”- it displays recent content, organized by day. There’s a tiny bug in them right now which makes it start with Thursday rather than Monday, but we’ll have that fixed asap.
DRUMROLL, PLEASE: THE SEARCH AND FILTERING CHANGES!!
I’m trying to curb my exclamation point use, but this is such a huge deal for us, guys. We re-tagged all 11k posts so you can search, sort and filter by just about any term you need. That way you can find houses that are say, only small-sized rentals in California. Or only DIY projects that are cheap, easy and use recycled materials and stenciling. You can get as specific as you like in the major categories. The point is- you can finally FINALLY use the archives in a way that’s helpful and lets you narrow to your heart’s content. Alternately, you can just select one filter level and see a wider range of posts. Here’s how it works:
Each landing page (spaces, places, diy, before & after, entertaining, videos, biz ladies) has a center column that’s UNIQUE. It’s specific to the content in that category and the search terms you’d need there. So you won’t see “technique” under houses, but you will see it under DIY projects and B&As.
Here’s how you use it. For the sake of example let’s say you’re moving to California and for inspiration you want to see small spaces that are rentals. The first thing you’d do is click on “Rent” to narrow the home tours down to rentals.
Then you can narrow further by clicking “small” to see small spaces.
Then you can narrow further by state, city or country. Here I chose California because we’ve found people most often look for states (over cities and countries) when looking for home tours. This will give you a much smaller search result of homes that suit ONLY your specifications. You can even narrow further by style if you want!
BUT WHAT IF YOU WANT TO SEE MORE RESULTS?
To “un-filter” something just un-click the X box next to the term you’d like to delete. This will gradually widen your search results to include more things. You can unclick till you’re back up at the top level where nothing is clicked and you’re seeing the full archives. Or you can start by picking one broader filter like just “Modern” under home styles. No matter what, you can always un-click something if you don’t want to search for something very specific.
NEW AREAS ON D*S
As part of our work with Matt the user experience expert, we created some new content areas to help things flow better and/or give you direct access to the most popular parts of the site. Here’s how they work:
The more we’ve grow, the more we realized that we’re covering a wide range of entertaining topics without really grouping them that way. So rather than have a seperate heading for food, drinks, events, etc we decided to create an official Entertaining section. What lives there? Anything you need to entertain: Recipes (food and drink), Event/Party ideas (weddings, picnics, etc) and Flowers. We’ll continue to refine these as the content area grows, but to start out this should be a good home base if you’re looking to have people over and need some inspiration.
One of the things about D*S I’m the proudest of is our depth of original content. I knew that would be the area I wanted us to grow into and over the past four years we’ve created over 20 original columns that appear on a weekly or monthly basis. As much as I love products and trends, I really love being able to invite writers with unique points of view of interests to join us here. And their work is what really makes me be proud to publish the site every day- their original columns are creative, unique and always the result of lots of hard work. I wanted you guys to have a place to find this original column and your favorite writers’ content, so this is their new home base. You can find a link to this landing page in the main navigation bar at the top of the site. (Julia Rothman did the cute illustrations for this page)
Last but never, ever least is our new team page. Here you can meet all of the writers who contribute posts to D*S and read their bios, see their pictures and click on their recent and archived posts. I’m so lucky to call all of these people my friends and colleagues so I hope you’ll get to know and love them as much as I do.
That’s about it for the basics! We’ll continue to refine, de-bug and improve the site as we go along, but if you see any bugs, glitches or otherwise off-looking parts of the site feel free to leave a comment here. We’ll be de-bugging all week until we get it right. xo, grace