Recently, I revamped The Quiet Pond and gave my book blog a fresh look. In the past, my revamps were always a haphazard process – I changed things here and there and just hoped for the best. With this revamp, however, I took the time to plan my revamp – and I’ve never felt so happy with how my book blog looks.
To be honest, I am really proud of this recent revamp. I put a lot of thought, care, and effort into this revamp, and I’m hoping that I won’t have to revamp for another two years (Did you know that The Quiet Pond is two years old and has already been through three revamps?!)
I wanted to do a ‘behind the scenes’ sort of post, so today, I’m sharing with you all my process The Quiet Pond‘s latest revamp – one that I’m really proud of! – and also, along the way, offer some advice for those of you out there who want to revamp their blogs as well.
so why did i want to do a revamp anyway?
One of the first things I did – and that you should too, if you want to revamp – is ask why you want to revamp your blog. This question is important because you want to ask yourself what you want to change with your book blog’s look and what you can do differently and better.
what did i want to change? (everything)
So I asked myself this question: what did I want to change? Let’s take a look at my previous book blog design, so you can get an idea of my thought process.
The truth is, I still really like my old blog banner for The Quiet Pond. It did the things that a blog header (that is an image and very visual) should do: (1) it conveyed the feel of my book blog, (2) it set the colour scheme, and (3) it set the theme of the book blog (i.e., pond, evening, flowers, plants, Pond friends).
However, I drew this blog header a year ago and I knew that I had improved my art since then. I wanted The Quiet Pond to reflect my skill as an artist – and since The Quiet Pond is a creative outlet that I want to be proud of, so this was very important to me.
ADVICE TIME! Something you can ask yourself is: what is it about your blog that makes it you? What are two/three things in your blog that you want to be proud of or that you want it to be known for? For me, it’s my art and how it’s a soft and gentle and happy space.
Even if the answer to this question doesn’t come across in your blog design, knowing this and having this as your anchor can be useful and can help guide the process.
the real reason why I decided to revamp…
But let me show you the real motivation for why I wanted to revamp: my ugly blog banners.
I just… I really hated my post banners, friends. They are ugly, unaesthetic, and every time I look at them, I want to scream “ARGHHHHH”. When I was working on my previous revamp, I put a LOT of time and energy into making the big blog header… but really put in no effort into the post banners. At first, I thought it was fine, but then months passed and my dislike for my post banners grew and grew.
Though the minimal design meant that the Pond friend/s featured on the post banner were the main focus, I wanted the post banner to be more… thoughtful, interesting, and eye-catching. Above all, I wanted the post banner to convey the visual themes of the Pond itself – and I really didn’t feel like I was doing that effectively.
So the reasons:
1. I wanted a blog banner that reflected my current skill as an artist.
2. I wanted a post banner that conveyed the visual themes/motifs of the Pond.
3. I wanted my banners/design to be instantly recognisable as part of The Quiet Pond.
(Why didn’t I just revamp the post banner, and leave the blog banner alone?! Because I wanted the fun of suffering over art and redesigning.)
ADVICE TIME! Revamps can be a lot of hard work, so ask yourself these questions: Do you have time to do a revamp? Do you have the mental energy to do a revamp? Do you need a revamp? Is it the right time to do a revamp? (I mean, I said no to all these questions, but please make better choices than me. 😩) If you say yes to all these questions (or you’re like me and have no self-preservation and think a revamp sounds like fun), then onwards!
Research is your friend (who knew?)
When I decided to revamp my book blog, the first thing that I did – but never did in the past – was come up with ideas and research.
If you want your blog to have a new and fresh look – maybe you want to completely overhaul your blog’s look and design – I recommend dedicating an hour or more to coming up with new ideas and getting inspired. Research can be a helpful step because it can help you get a clear idea of what you want your revamp to achieve and what your end-result will be – and how you can possibly get there.
ADVICE TIME! In saying that, the ideation stage and research stage may not be for everyone! If you feel like it will suck the joy or excitement from your process, then that is completely okay – you don’t have to do it!
yes, Pinterest counts as research!
For my revamp, I definitely took some time to do research – and I think that, if I hadn’t taken the time to come up with new ideas and research how these ideas could be implemented, I don’t think I would have come up with the design that I have for Pond’s current design.
And that’s where Pinterest comes in: I had never ever used Pinterest before until Skye mentioned that it can be a useful tool when it comes to generating new ideas. I had heard about Pinterest and didn’t understand what the big deal was, but Skye set up a Pinterest board for us purely to plan our revamp, she taught me how to pin and how to use it, and left for dinner. Forty minutes later, I had pinned 40+ images.
research efficiently to save braincells
I’m a huge sucker for organisation and doing things efficiently. One of the things I discovered about Pinterest is that, within the board, you can create ‘sections’, which can help you organise the images that you have pinned even better.
The sections that we had were:
1. Colour scheme – Self-explanatory! Colour schemes don’t have to be just one colour – it can be one to three dominant colours. I pinned images that had colours that I really liked for the Pond and considered drawing inspiration from for my revamp. It also helped me get a sense of the colour combinations that can be used and the effect/look/feel different colour combinations have.
2. Elements – Something that I wanted to explore and brainstorm was the plants in The Quiet Pond‘s new design. Initially, I called the Pinterest board ‘plants’, but Skye renamed it to ‘elements’ – which makes much more sense, design-wise. If your blog is quite visual and utilises imagery, definitely put together an ‘elements’ board to brainstorm the different ‘elements’ you can incorporate into your blog’s design. For instance, The Quiet Pond‘s main elements would be plants and, of course, the Pond, whereas Shealea’s blog’s main element is sunflowers and Kat’s blog is waffles and stationery.
3. Aesthetic – I also had an ‘Aesthetic’ board, which was where I pinned images that gave me the feeling or vibe that I wanted The Quiet Pond revamp to have. The images that I pinned didn’t have to be pond- or plant-related, but I pinned a variety of images that gave me the vibe that I wanted my new blog design to have. Moreover, once you have pinned enough in your board, you will be able to see what’s in common and incorporate that in your blog’s design.
I won’t lie, I was a little skeptical at first when I started Pinterest, but as I pinned more images and started to organise my Pinterest board, I surprisingly came up with so many cool ideas that I never would have thought of before.
So based on the research that I did on Pinterest, this is what I figured out:
- Based on my Colour Scheme Pinterest section, I wanted colours that were pretty vibrant for a darker colour scheme – so I wanted a darker purple background, but I wanted some brighter accents as well!
- Based on my Elements Pinterest section, I wanted more recognisable Pond plants, I wanted lily pads, and I wanted flowers in the Pond!
- Based on my Aesthetic Pinterest section, I wanted the Pond to be cozy, inviting, peaceful, but also a little mysterious – and to do that, I needed to play with light in the imagery!
ADVICE TIME! Pinterest is your friend! Pin images that inspire you or express what you’d like in your own blog, but also take the extra time to organise your Pinterest board. Organising the research that you do will make it so much easier for you if you ever need to return to or evaluate your research.
i actually researched plants for the pond!
As mentioned before, something that I wanted for in the Pond’s new look was that I wanted the Pond to have more character – and I wanted the elements in the design to have meaning too.
In my last design, the plants that I drew were just plants I made up, or plants that I drew because they, well, they seemed like it would fit. This time though, I actually took time to research plants, because I really wanted to incorporate real plants into the Pond.
I researched different plants that grow well in water, and came up with eight different plants that I wanted in the Pond!
What was important to me, though, was associating different plants with a Pond friend! I looked into the different meanings behind each plant – and if they didn’t have a meaning, then I looked at what conditions they grew – and allocated plants to a Pond friend based on their personality. I also got Joce and Skye to weigh in on what plants they wanted for Cuddle and Sprout respectively.
For instance, whenever you see Xiaolong (me) post, pickerel weed because they’re Xiaolong’s favourite flower; whenever you see Cuddle (Joce) post, you’ll see lavenders (which are unique to Cuddle!); and whenever you see Sprout, you’ll see more trees since they are tied closely to Sprout’s nature magic.
Also, fun fact: whenever you see Xiaolong, Cuddle, or Sprout, you’ll see rosemary! Rosemary symbolises love, remembrance, and memory, and this is the plant at the Pond that binds us – the co-bloggers of The Quiet Pond – together. 🥰
ADVICE TIME! I know that these little things may seem like… very minute details that no one might not notice, but I think part of effective and good design is to make it meaningful to you somehow. This is one way to express your personality in terms of design.
And if you have co-bloggers and you’re planning to revamp together, brainstorm together! It’s fun to see how different ideas can emerge, and when you make your design, it’s not just a revamp, but something you’ve done together and can be proud of together.
I’ll talk more about how I incorporated these visual associations into the design later – and these associations are very subtle! more like, a fun little nod to each Pond friend. Before that, I want to talk about how I made the Pond’s new blog banner.
drawing the pond’s new banner
Making the Pond’s new blog header took the longest time – but I wanted to take my time with it, have fun with drawing it, and make sure that it was something that I was happy with.
To be fair, I actually quite liked my old blog header! For my new banner, I didn’t want to change the composition too much, because I felt like the old header did a decent job at giving visitors an idea of what the Pond would look and feel like.
However, there were some things that I wanted to change:
- The plants in the old header had to go – when I drew this back on September 2019, I just drew whatever plant came to my mind to make the Pond look more ‘full’ of plants. In my new header, I wanted the plants to have some sort of… consistency, uniformity, and I wanted them to mean something too.
- When I drew my old banner, Skye was just about to join as a co-blogger – but I had already completed the then-new header. In my new header, I wanted to make sure that all the Pond friends, including Sprout, were seamlessly integrated somehow and look like they were part of the Pond.
- I wanted the Pond to look more… magical, somehow.
It took me a long time to get the sketch right! Something that I do when I’m planning my drawings is that I utilise layers as much as possible – I will do an initial sketch (which, more often than not looks really bad and ugly), and then I will sketch over it with a better, more refined sketch. I’ll repeat this process of sketching over a sketch until I have something that looks good.
The image below is probably my fifth sketch. There were several things I wasn’t quite happy with, so it took me awhile! A downside to sketching is that you only see the outlines, but not what it looks like in colour. Therefore, the reason why different elements in the header are different colours was because I wanted to make sure that it looked balanced.
It took about two weeks from the first sketch to the final image, but here is what my new header looks like:
Although it’s not a significant departure from the previous header, I do feel like there’s an improvement! For instance:
- Everything in this banner is drawn from scratch – so no more copy and pasting! And I think this gives the banner more character and detail.
- The banner is definitely more balanced now (the text is centered and the Pond friends are spaced out well) and I’d say something clever about how this is good for the banner, but my brain is empty. But yay, balance!
- Xiaolong and Sprout are reading a book! Just to drive in home that The Quiet Pond is a book blog. (Meanwhile, Cuddle is chilling out among her little lavender garden bed. 💜)
- Varian is sewing and Gen is holding a little pot plant! They are underrated characters, so I wanted them to convey some sort of personality too.
- I think I succeeded in making the header more magical?! I gave the lighting a purple hue to show that the Pond was glowing.
designing new post banners (in which i may have screamed into the void a lot)
Although the whole reason why I decided to revamp The Quiet Pond was because I wanted to overhaul the post banners, I did make a conscious decision to do the blog header first! The reason is because, I feel, the blog header often does the heavy-lifting when it comes to setting the tone and theme of your blog’s design. So, whatever I drew for the blog header, I wanted the post banner to follow suit so there would be consistency across all the visual elements.
ADVICE TIME! An easy way to create consistency and cohesion across your blog’s design, to make sure that each part of the design has a shared elements. In other words, use colour, a visual motif or imagery (like sunflowers, or waffles, or even dragons), or a recognisable art style (whether it be graphic design or illustration) so that your blog’s design looks like they are parts of a whole, rather than separate parts. A bog that does all of this very well is PeachnAce.
why did i hate my old post banners so much?
Before I delve into the process, I want to talk a bit about why I thought my post banners were so ugly. My frustration with them stems from literally 4 – 5 years of struggling to come up with a post banner that looks nice. In the last two years, I’ve tried my best to revamp my post banners; here is the brief evolution of them:
To be fair to myself, these post banners weren’t… bad. And the second post banner design is definitely an improvement. But because Twitter is one of my biggest platforms and is what I mostly use to promote The Quiet Pond, the post banner is what most new visitors to the Pond will ever see first – and I wasn’t happy with these designs.
This is what I wanted my post banners to do:
1. Be eye-catching. As a visual person, tweets or blog posts that utilise imagery are so much more engaging and interesting. Therefore, I wanted my post banners to be visually appealing.
❌ I didn’t think my post banners were that eye-catching.
2. Convey the visual themes of The Quiet Pond – or, at least piques a new visitor’s curiosity. Anyone who is new to The Quiet Pond won’t know who the Pond friends are and that the Pond’s theme is magic, plants, and a literal pond. But if the post banner looks interesting, then maybe someone might be more enticed to click and visit the Pond? Also, the typography that I use and how I stylise it is also important, because typography can convey character and personality. (Typography isn’t my strong suit though, so I know that I don’t do this very well.)
❓ My old banners… kind of did this? Like, the Pond’s banners are quite unique, so I would hope that it piqued curiosity (or maybe it’s too niche for people), but I don’t think the old banners did a good job at conveying the visual themes of the Pond. So maybe I’ll give myself a ❌.
3. Communicate the purpose of the post. This is usually done with the text (i.e., “book recommendations” or “discussion post”) – but it can also involve including a book’s cover (“hey, this post is about this book!”), an author’s photo (“this post is about this author!”), or even using the Pond friends to help convey what the post is about.
✔ Okay, I’ll give myself some points. At least my post banners did this.
ADVICE TIME! When it comes to designing post banners, or anything that may have text in the image, try to make your image as readable as possible. Aesthetic is great, but aesthetic is meaningless if it’s not accessible.
On the topic of accessibility, I highly recommend reading through this article about how to make your blog more accessible – in particular, I encourage all book bloggers to get into the practice and habit of using alt text.
So, I set out to make a post banner that’s even better. Above all, a post banner that I’m happy with.
my banner drafts! (miracles happened)
You can only plan and research so much, but at some point, you have to open up Procreate and start drawing.
Usually when I draw Pond stuff, I try and not stress too much about how to start my idea. Creating stuff for The Quiet Pond can feel like such a haphazard process sometimes – I just draw whatever makes me happy and whatever I think looks cute. (And if I started to get grumpy about my art, I’d step away and return to it another day – and that happened often!)
The two ideas above were my two favourite ideas. Something that I wanted was that whenever someone looked at our post banners, they would know instantly that it was a The Quiet Pond banner. Not only did I want our post banners to be recognisable, I wanted them to be immersive too. I wanted people to look at our post banners like they were looking into a window into the Pond.
Not all of my ideas were great though. I had some lacklustre ones too, like this idea:
Of all the ideas that I had, I liked the top (very first) idea the best. (And it was actually Skye’s idea to add in a wooden plank to our banners, like a wooden signboard! How cool was that idea?) When I got feedback from my co-bloggers, I set to develop the idea further.
The challenge I faced was how I’d adapt the post banner in a way that I could use the same banner to either feature a Pond friend or a friend/guest for our guest features. I needed the banner to be flexible. But if I removed Xiaolong from the circle on the right, where would she go?
I really liked the idea of Xiaolong ‘peeping’ at the visitor in the second idea though! I became really attached to the idea – it was just so cute and so fitting of the Pond friends. But, I liked the simplicity and functionality of the first banner better – so why not mix the two ideas?
Thus the idea of the Pond friends ‘peeping’ over the wooden signboard! (Whenever you see a Pond friend ‘peep’ in a post banner, that means they contributed to writing/organising the post!)
I’ll spare you the agony of actually drawing the post banner, but here is the result – and I’m really really happy with this.
Moreover, depending on the Pond friend featured, the banner might look a little different. Here is a recent book recommendation post, in which Varian is the main Pond friend featured:
The plants in Varian’s banner are a little different – because the water taro plants are associated with them!
am i happy with the banners nowww?
The more I work with the post banners, I think I’ll get a feel of what works and what doesn’t. You will inevitably see the post banners look a little different from time to time; that just means that the gears in my brain are (finally) turning and I’m trying to make things a little better.
Will I ever be happy with a revamp? Probably not. Do I like this one for now though? Yeah, I think so… for now?
reorganising the Pond (feat. Skye)
The next big thing in my revamp, one that isn’t visual but is just as important, was re-organising the Pond.
Between the last revamp (beginning of October 2019) and my latest revamp (October 2020), we added a lot of new features. Consequently, the Pond’s navigation menu and how it was organised actually became very disorganised, with new features just tacked on here and there. Finding information or posts on the Pond wasn’t intuitive – and that needed to change.
I won’t go into detail about what we did change, but Skye and I dedicated one evening to reorganising everything in the Pond to ensure that everything was (1) intuitive, (2) easy to find, (3) similar features were grouped properly, and (4) up to date.
This was our logic when we reorganised the Pond, and may be helpful to you as well if you need to reorganise your blog:
- What are the main features on your book blog?
ADVICE TIME! Not sure what your ‘main features’ of your book blog are? (1) What are your most viewed posts? That may be a main feature of your book blog, or (2) What are the features, whether it be book reviews, discussion posts, or guest features, that you post most frequently?, or (3) What is the feature that you are most proud of?
- If you have multiple features, are you able to group them?
- We offer more than book reviews, recommendation posts, and guest features at the Pond, but rather than have all of our features laid out in the navigation menu (visitors would be overwhelmed), I grouped most of our features under ‘Features’.
- If you need another example of a book blog that has organised their blog well, check out Reader Voracious and Love Yo Shelf.
- If you’ve run out of room on your navigation menu, then use your blog’s side bar.
- Pretend you are a publicist who is wanting to contact you because they want to find out how to work with you.
- How easy was it to find your contact form/email address? How many clicks did it take to find that information? (It should only be one click away.)
- Do you provide a list of how authors/publicists/publishers can work with you? What services do you offer?
- Do you have a review policy? Is it easy to find?
ADVICE TIME! It really pays to organise your book blog, so do make some time for it. The last thing you want is to unknowingly miss out on an opportunity simply because someone couldn’t find the information that they were looking for. Ask a friend to lend you a hand; tell them how easy/difficult it was to find specific key pages in your book blog.
thank you for reading!
There were many other small things that went into the revamp – but what I’ve talked about today are the biggest and most significant changes made after the revamp! This post has been long – much longer than I thought it would be – but I hope that you at least enjoyed reading about my revamp process and that, hopefully, some of the things that I learned along the way were helpful to you.
I’ve scattered nuggets of advice across this whole piece, but in case this was too long and you didn’t read it:
1. It may be helpful to ask yourself: what is it about your blog that makes it you? What are two/three things in your blog that you want to be proud of or that you want it to be known for?
2. Revamps can be a lot of hard work, so ask yourself these questions: Do you have time to do a revamp? Do you have the mental energy to do a revamp? Do you need a revamp? Is it the right time to do a revamp? If you answer no to these questions, put it aside for now and return to it when you’re in a better space.
3. Pinterest is your friend! Pin images that inspire you or express what you’d like in your own blog, but also take the extra time to organise your Pinterest board.
4. Take time to organise your research; organising the research that you do will make it so much easier for you if you ever need to return to or re-evaluate all of the information/research that you have collated.
5. Effective and good design may involve making the design meaningful to you somehow. This is one way to express your personality in terms of design.
6. If you have co-bloggers and you’re planning to revamp together, brainstorm together! It’s fun to see how different ideas can emerge, and when you make your design, it’s not just a revamp, but something you’ve done together and can be proud of together.
7. An easy way to create consistency and cohesion across your blog’s design, to make sure that each part of the design has a shared elements. Make sure that your blog’s design looks like they are parts of a whole.
8. Make your images/banners as readable and accessible as possible. I highly recommend reading through this article about how to make your blog more accessible – in particular, I encourage all book bloggers to get into the practice and habit of using alt text.
9. The main features of your book blog should be the easiest things to find and should be only one click away in the homepage. Not sure what your ‘main features’ are? They’re likely (1) the features that get the most views, (2) what you post most frequently, and (3) what you are most proud of.
10. Make time to organise your blog – and if you need help figuring out what works and what’s easy/difficult to find, ask a friend!