A Blog Redesign and iPhone App in 1 Weekend for < $100

by Brett Pollard on January 12, 2010

How a long weekend led to a whole new AP

When I started AlertPresence the primary goals were simple.  First, focus on the content.  Second, don’t get caught up in the design elements.  With that in mind, I launched the site using the Thesis theme for WordPress due to it’s simplicity and SEO benefits.  Since I’m definitely not a designer, Thesis would enable me to easily redesign the site AFTER I generated a decent amount of content.

When I stumbled across a theme for Thesis late Friday afternoon, there was no immediate plan to redesign the site.  Nevertheless, one thing led to another and I found myself knee deep in site changes.  The following information is a recap of how I redesigned the site in a weekend and also managed to squeeze in the time to submit an iPhone application for approval.  To top it all off, I spent less than $100.

This is how the site looked 3 days ago

Steps Taken

iPhone application created by Appmakr.com

  1. Purchased and installed the Blogussion theme for Thesis ($44.95 on sale).
  2. Updated my web server to Thesis 1.6 (latest version)
  3. Spent considerable time tinkering with the different color and layout options available with the Blogussion theme
  4. Created a logo with Paint.net which is a free but very powerful image editing tool
  5. Downloaded and used the Page Peel social media icons featured at SmashingMagazine.com
  6. Tweaked the “archives” page with the code from Mattflies.com
  7. Changed some simple settings in Thesis so that only one article is featured on the homepage
  8. Added post images to each of my existing articles so Thesis can display thumbnails next to each of the teasers
  9. Used the code from this article to create an appealing footer for each post (Note: I had to fix some of the code.)
  10. Added the option in my Feedburner account to subscribe to the AP RSS feed via email
  11. Created and submitted an AP iPhone application using Appmakr ($49.95 after discount code)
  12. Organized the category methodology and updated past articles to reflect any changes

WordPress Plugins Installed

  1. Used similar posts, popular posts and recent posts from Rob Marsh in order to link back to past articles
  2. Added Smart 404 in order to display alternative articles in the event of a 404 error
  3. Set up Socialable to appear at the bottom of each article to encourage sharing through various media
  4. Decided on Twidger for now as the Twitter feed app on my sidebar (see screenshot)
  5. Added Javascript to footer in order to improve page load times
  6. Chose Contact Form 7 to manage the contact page

Unfinished Business

  1. Fix a problem with IE 8 (go figure) that doesn’t properly display banners in the header
  2. Find a script for more attractive blockquotes
  3. Work on improving the comments section
  4. Add an avatar
  5. Add navigation buttons to the header
  6. Improve the look of the contact form
  7. Add a random QR-Code rotator on the sidebar
  8. Reduce the size of the header

While the new design is still a work-in-process, I believe it’s a nice improvement from the original.  I’m pretty impressed with how easily the Blogussion theme integrated with both WordPress and Thesis.  Unfortunately this process required me to postpone the publishing of  some overdue articles so it’s time to get back to where I started – focusing on the content.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Clark January 17, 2010 at 12:21 am

Looks great Brett!

Brett Pollard January 19, 2010 at 9:09 am

Thanks, Jeff. I’m glad you like it.

free trial May 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm

A good article Thank you!

Amy August 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Thanks so much for writing this awesome info! I am looking forward to seeintg more posts!

Layne Ulery December 6, 2010 at 10:11 am

Very well written information. It will be valuable to anyone who employess it, including yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

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