Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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My failed blog redesign

May 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

In April I rolled out a new blog design. I sent out a tweet in early April that I was beta testing the new blog design.

I actually spent about 3 months to re-design the blog. Why did it take me so long? I have very little free time. The re-design included changes in front end, back end, as well as database. So, it was a lot of work.

Unfortunately, after two weeks of beta test, I decided to roll back the changes.

Can you guess what is the single biggest reason for my decision to revert back to my old blog design?

During the two weeks of beta test, the conversion for my digital product sales was ZERO. Prior to the redesign, I had pretty healthy conversion rate. The content was the same. The product was the same. But, the change in look and feel had significant impact on how people view the pages, make purchase decisions, and order products.

I went back to my Google Analytics data as well as sales data to understand what had happened. Below are several lessons I learned from my failed blog re-design.

  • Keep it simple. My new blog design was very cluttered because I was trying to do too much. My intention was to throw a lot of interesting headlines and content at readers in order to keep them engaged and come back. But, the layout was quite heavy in text and cluttered. It resulted in bad customer experience.
  • I didn’t do A/B test for my product sales page. I assumed it should work since I had the same content and check-out process. The only difference was the page layout, format and size of the fonts. Unfortunately, page layout, format and size of the fonts had huge impact on conversion.
  • What worked for one blog didn’t necessarily work for another blog. Each blog is different. I modeled my blog re-design after a very successful professional blog. However, what I learned along the way was that blogging is a very authentic activity. It reflects the author’s personality, opinion and style. To be who I’m, I have to design my blog to fit my unique personality, and perspective. There is no common template for successful blog design.
  • I didn’t have specific objectives for my blog redesign. My initial motivation was to make my blog look professionals. However, I never defined what it meant by "professional" — I just want to make it feel like professional. It’s funny — I was a product management professional for most of my career, but I didn’t follow my own best practices — i.e. I didn’t have a "Marketing Requirement Document" for my blog re-design. 🙂
  • Professional look-and-feel is over rated in the blogging world. There are a lot of crappy looking site out there. But, some of them have done incredibly well because they provide genuine, helpful, and engaging content. Blogs are different from mainstream media. People like blogs because they’re real. I was "surprised" to find out that changing the look-and-feel to be more "professional" didn’t help my product sales at all.

What will I do  next? I still want to make another iteration to improve my blogs. Here is what I’m thinking right now.

  • WordPress 3.0 will be released soon. It’s a major upgrade. I will wait until WP 3 to take advantage of many of the new features.
  • I plan to remove all of the display ads currently showing on my blog. I had them on my site because I wanted to test different kind of online ad networks (because I used to work in that industry).  But, I really think display ads are distractions. 
  • I plan to purchase a premium blog theme. There are tons of free themes, but the quality and support are simply not there. 
  • I’ve been playing with a couple of open source software: BuddyPress that turns WordPress blog into a social network, and ClassiPress that add Classified functionality to a WordPress blog. Both are very interesting ways to add features to a blog. I’m intrigued by the possibilities.

What suggestions do you have for this blog? I’d love to hear from you.

My goal is to make this blog to become one of the most useful career development resources for professionals at the intersection of technology and business. Let’s work together to get there!

Tags: Blogging

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