The DanceTabs designs have recently been updated – we do hope you noticed!
The original designs for DanceTabs were nearly nine years old, and it’s long been time for a change. The final catalyst though was that the old designs relied on a version of the computer language PHP that was about to go out of support, and a website that means business can’t be there at all.
I seriously started to look at new designs in late spring. For WordPress, the technology we use, there are hundreds of ready-to-go designs out there, all at different costs and with different support arrangements. But it is buyer beware, and you need to have a firm idea of what you want. It’s not all about if it looks pretty in a demonstration, but does it deliver what’s needed functionally, and I think that’s where many site owners/webmasters don’t always do so well.
The big things I wanted to ensure:
- that the designs catered for many writers.
- that our writers featured everywhere – so in general, we don’t just show the title of an article but the writer as well, and the date of publication etc. Many sites’ home pages leave readers clueless on what we consider vital detail.
- that images in articles could be larger (particularly at the top of the piece), and continue to be captioned adjacent to the image and in good detail.
- that the designs for the home page should be more image-based and exciting – the original designs just seemed too wordy.
- that the design solution properly handled and looked good on tablets and phones as well as laptops and PCs. Our old designs didn’t, and search engines, rightly or wrongly, don’t rate so highly pages that don’t adapt for different user platforms.
- that we could continue to have some hand-rolled standing words on the right of the screen (when viewed on a PC) that listed our regular contributors and Twitter feed etc.
- that our thousands of old pages would be presented well.
- that the design solution was mature enough to be trusted with a large site, was being updated regularly as the underlying products changed, and support seemed to be there when needed.
- and finally, the design had to look calmly professional. We would hate anything that looks homemade or cutting-edge experimental.
It doesn’t seem such a complex list, but when it came down to it, I found four or five designs that looked broadly promising, two of which seemed stronger and got good endorsement from existing users. I bought both and tried them for a first-cut fit in the summer before concentrating on one.
We host with an outfit called Pressable, and the good thing is they allow you to take a copy of your existing site and privately play with changes. And when you are happy you can take the changed site live. It sounds so obvious, but with most hosts you have to work harder to achieve the same, though I guess some techies would argue otherwise!
Anyway, in October it all seemed to come together over 10 days as I scythed through changes, colour variations, logo edits and detail problems etc and took the new designs live. Subsequently, I discovered and fixed the odd gremlin and, touch wood, all seems right now.
To be honest, I was dreading all the work of moving a large established site forward, but a systematic approach and much honest toil has carried us through, and I’m pleased with the results. I started DanceTabs because I believed passionately in serious criticism, well presented, with terrific pictures and I think the site really does deliver on that. Long may we, and all our writers, flourish in such web splendour!