When I wrote my first blog post on WordPress back in January of 2008, the default post title they gave me to use was “Hello, World!” After rebuilding my site from the ground up and launching the new design this week, it feels like time to say “Hello, World!” again.
It’s not finished yet — we’re still polishing things up and getting the kinks out — but it’s already running a hundred times better than my old one was.
Blogging with the old site had gotten so frustrating, I decided I either had to do something drastic or give it up altogether.
Then I found Ryan and Cathi Murray, the talented designer/developer team at 3200 Creative, and they convinced me that rebuilding was totally doable. They helped me see the possibilities. They gave me hope that blogging could be fun again.
One of the first things Ryan said was, “Your blog has done amazingly well considering all the things you’re doing wrong with it.” Ha. That pretty much summed it up. So now I’m trying to learn how to do things right.
It kind of feels like I went from driving an old, beat-up bus that kept breaking down on the side of the road to learning how to fly a 747 with lots of new controls, buttons, and operating instructions. It might take me a few weeks to get the hang of it, so I’ll apologize in advance for any “turbulence” you may feel around here. 😉
They rebuilt my site on the Genesis framework, and lot of the improvements are behind the scenes, but some of my favorite changes on the “front end” include:
- It’s mobile friendly. Finally! So Google, you can stop sending me emails telling me to fix that now. Over half of you read my blog on your phones and tablets, and this should make it a little easier to navigate on smaller screens.
- More posts showing on the front page. I hate scrolling, scrolling, scrolling through blogs, trying to get past one post to see what’s next. With the new preview photos in grids on the front page (and no sidebar!), you can quickly scan the front page to see what’s new and find the stories you’re most interested in.
- Portfolio pages for popular categories. The most popular categories are listed in the nav bar at the top of the blog, but you’ll also see a fun “slider” on the front page with more favorites. So much easier to find the kinds of posts you’re looking for now. Visit some of the pages like Beach Houses, Farmhouses, and Funny Real Estate, and you’ll see what I mean:
- Bigger font that’s easier to read. One of my favorite changes, hands down. I hated having to squint to read my own words!
- New way to contact me. Now there’s a contact form to make it easier for you to submit real estate listings and other houses you’d like me to feature.
I also love the new logo they designed for me and many more features. Click around a bit and see what you think. I hope you like it as much as I do. It feels much more me.
This blog has changed a lot over the past 7.5 years. How many of these versions do you remember?
Hooked on Houses Through the Years:
When I started blogging, I chose a WordPress.com theme that was green and yellow with teal headlines. Things were all so simple then! I changed the photo in the header from time to time, struggling to find one that fit and wasn’t (too) blurry. By late 2008 I was using this vintage illustration of a Sears Kit house plan.
When I switched from hookedonhouses.wordpress.com to hookedonhouses.net (my own domain, hooray!) at the end of 2008, I chose a theme that was pink and orange:
Blog Design in Late 2008:
I still didn’t have a logo. And because of the header, which was just a stock photo of houses in San Francisco, a lot of people assumed I lived there. Oops.
In 2009 I paid for the Thesis theme and installed it. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to use it. Which is why it was set to the black and white default look that it came with for a very long time.
Blog (Un)Design 2009:
Finally, I found a blog designer, coughed up some real money (which seemed like a fortune to me to spend on my blog then, but seems like a bargain today!) and had her pretty things up for me. She created my first logo with the little yellow Craftsman house that I loved.
Blog Design 2010:
I liked it, but some readers told me, “I liked it better before!” As in, they preferred the default, black and white, generic, logo-less layout. That was a forehead-smacking moment for me. Ha.
That experience taught me two things, though: 1) some people will always prefer the “before” because it’s what’s familiar and they don’t like change, and 2) you can’t please everyone! 🙂
In 2012, I decided to lighten things up a bit and tried a new header, along with a cool new “tabber widget” that I paid a designer to create for me in the right sidebar. It had tabs where you could search for whatever you were looking for. I was so excited about that. At least until it caused all kinds of problems for my page, especially in Internet Explorer. Boy, am I glad it’s gone now.
New Header 2012:
In 2013 I came up with a smaller logo so you wouldn’t have to scroll down so far to see the content. Have I mentioned how much I hate scrolling?
I cobbled a logo together myself to use until I had a chance to find a professional designer. It was two more years before I got around to hiring 3200 Creative. No one can ever accuse me of making decisions too quickly. 😉
Blog Design 2013-2015:
And that brings us to this week, and today, and the new design. Ryan and Cathi showed amazing patience with me and my need to get things “just right.” They also taught me more about blogging in a few months than I think I learned in the last 7 years on my own. If you need help with your site, I can’t recommend them enough. I mean, seriously, they rock. I couldn’t have pulled this off without them.
Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me over the years, through good design and bad, and for taking this trip down Memory Lane with me today. It’s fun to see how things have changed over the years. And with the new design, I’m much more excited about my blog’s future! 🙂
LOVE the new look and especially the new logo! 🙂
Thanks, Ashley! 🙂
Centsational Girl says
Wow it look’s fab! I loved seeing all the old HOHs from the past, I remember meeting at Blissdom in 2010, has it been that long? It’s been such a delight following all these years, the new look is fantastic! I know how much hard work it is revamping an old site, nicely done !
I guess it has been that long, Kate! Those 5 years flew by. I was looking through my old blogroll from 2010 when I was going through these old screenshots and was sad to see how few of the blogs I used to read are still around. I’m glad yours is! 🙂
Jen @ Restore + Style says
The new site, logo and design look great!
Sheila Delgado says
Looks great Julia. I am getting ready to revamp my blog. Congrats on getting through it!
[email protected] says
Truly a beautiful blog. Well done to you and your team.
I remember the logo switch in 2010….has it been that long?!
My wife and I are just starting out with our joint blog, someday we too may hire professionals to whip it into shape, but right now we are just trying to get it moved over to WordPress, and with no readers we’re not yet ready to take that plunge. If we ever do, I’ll keep 3200 Creative in mind. 🙂
Thanks, Aaron! Hard to believe that was back in 2010, isn’t it? You’ve been a part of this community a long time, and I always appreciate your comments! 🙂
Frances in England says
I like it!
I’ve been trying to figure out when I started coming here – based on my memories of your blog design I’m guessing it was 2009 – where has the time gone?!
Thank you for all the work you put into the blog – I love coming here and would have been very sad if you’d decided to shut up shop!
Here’s to many more years!!!
It probably has been that long, Frances. You’ve been one of those kinds of faithful readers and commenters that keeps me going every time I think of quitting. Thanks! 🙂
It looks great – well worth the time to clean it up and refresh! 🙂 Thank you!
It’s always been the great content of your blog that brings me back again and again. I’d love any logo or design you choose.
What a nice thing to say. Thanks! 🙂
Katherine @ Grass Stains says
I go back to 2009, apparently … I remember that header! Thanks for staying consistent with your content and posting, regardless of what was going on with your design. Ha! HoH has been one of my favorites for years, and I’m happy that you finally found a creative match to get you where you want to be! 🙂
Thanks for sticking with me for so long, Katherine. It’s always nice hearing from you! 🙂
Kelly - Talk of the House says
Looks fabulous!! And like you, I love the larger font (from the girl that wears contacts AND glasses at the same time. 🙂 )From the header I think I was lurking around here in 2008..boy time flies! Blog design is a TON of work and takes not only technical skill but also creative vision. Compliments to both you and your web designers on both. Is the 3200 Creative team local to you, or were you able to accomplish all this beauty through emails and phone calls?
I’ve actually never met Ryan and Cathi in person — we did everything over the phone and online. I’ve heard other bloggers say that redesigns like this took 6 months or more, so I was amazed that they pulled it off in less than 4.
Thanks, Kelly! 🙂
i love the new look! I’m a newbie to your blog but a big fan. Looking forward to new posts
I love the new look of your blog, Julia. It’s fresh and clean and so easy to navigate. Well done!
Ricki Jill Treleaven says
Your blog makeover looks fantastic! I had mine makeover, too, but for some reason it looks better on Chrome than Safari. (?)
I’m forever looking at your cottages file. LOVE those posts!
I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!
You’re another one of my long-time readers! When I was going back through really old posts and cleaning them up to get them ready for the new design, it was fun to find old comments from readers who I still hear from today. I really appreciate those of you who have stuck with me over the years. It makes this feel like a community of friends. 🙂
Polly Doughty says
I guess I have been reading your blog for a while. I used my phone at first, and what a joy it was to see it full size when I got an IPad. I love the new look, and as long as the content stays at its high standard that it is now, I’m going to be a happy girl. Congratulations, looking forward to many more years of tiny cottages ( my favourite)….??
I love the tiny cottages, too, Polly. Nice to hear from you — thanks! 🙂
Looks great! I can’t imagine all that technical stuff that goes on. Hard for me to believe it takes four months. Love the new logo, too. Thanks for your dedication that keeps bringing me and other readers back.
I wouldn’t have thought it would take that long, either, because I always did “superficial” design changes before that I would hammer out in a few weeks. I don’t think we left any stones unturned with this one (and still have more to do!).
You’re always one of my favorite readers to hear from, Carolyn — thanks for helping to make this community what it is today! 🙂
Julia, this is possibly my first comment on your blog. If not, I haven’t commented in years. I feel sometimes we take bloggers who are doing wonderful things for granted. You have great content. I’m constantly showing others your site, yet I fail to comment. I know that’s the cardinal rule in blogging. Comment. The bloggers want to know what you’re thinking. I feel like I’m speaking for a huge amount of people here that look at your blog every day. I’m in the design world, and your blog is read by me at almost every post.
Tonight is an exception. I usually read design/real estate blogs at work to get inspiration. I usually am on the run to get to a meeting or whatever, I just want to know how appreciated you are. Curating things from other sites takes a lot of time. You help a lot of people find relevant stuff quickly.
Your comment was one of the most thoughtful and generous I’ve gotten and it made my day. Thanks, Don! 🙂
Hi Julia! I agree with the other commenter that the content of your site has always been what keeps me coming back.
That said, I realy liked the old format an layout. It felt comfortable to read.
I understand why you wanted to make changes and some of the changes are nice like the bigger font. And I understand how much work goes into websites since I create websites too.
So far I’m not completely loving the new look. For one thing, the ad on the right column is to persistent and I can’t close it and it got in my way of viewing the page. I’m using Safari in the iPad so it has a generous screen size.
One thing that irks me about most websites these days are obnoxious and annoying ads. Please do not let that get in the way of your site.
We’re still figuring the ads out and some other things around here, but I actually have fewer than before. I had that same ad before but removed three others that had been there with it, along with the pesky tabber widget that often made my page freeze up, so I thought it would be less annoying. He set it so that the ad would eventually disappear as you scroll. Sounds like it didn’t go away for you, though.
I wish I could afford to blog without ads, but it would be an expensive hobby. Sorry! 🙁
Updated to add: I just tried it on my tablet and realized that when you try to view it horizontally, the ad does crowd the post, so I see what you mean. I had always looked at it vertically, and when you do that, the ad disappears. I’ll let them know!
Hello Julia, I admire you for keeping up with technology to solve problems and improve your blog, which has retained its central focus on your special love of houses in all their varied forms.
Thanks, Jim! I appreciate that because keeping up with technology is never easy for me. If I didn’t love writing about houses so much, I would’ve given up a long time ago! 🙂
Donna in Australia says
I’m suprised how long I’ve been reading for.
Your consistently good content is what makes me come back, and even consider blogging.
When we watch a movie/TV series, my partner can’t relax until I’ve passed judgement on the house.
Through your blog I’ve met kindred spirits from half a world away.
I do love the new layout.
One of the best things about blogging has been getting to know so many kindred spirits around the world, and you’re one of them, Donna. Thanks! 🙂
Oh Julia, thank you for the easier to read blog…so bright and lovely!
I think I have been reading here since 2009….however long it has been, I have enjoyed every moment! Best of luck in the future and I second the comment about the tiny homes or cottages, those are my favorites, too.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t getting kind and encouraging comments from you. I smile as soon as I see “Comment from jep” come in because you’re always so thoughtful and positive. Thanks! 🙂
Rick S says
Your blog is just what I need to get my fix. Love the new format, but “loved” the new ones before too 🙂 I also keep watching for Maizie to see how she is doing.
looking forward to many more years and lots of houses.
dad to 4 Shih Tzu’s
Hi Rick! The old ones worked for me at the time and I liked them then, too. I got all nostalgic looking back at those.
Nice of you to always think of my pup. She has had a tough year with a torn ligament in her knee and some other medical issues, but she’s feeling better now! And I’m happy I no longer have to carry her around everywhere. 🙂
I love all the changes you have made yet its still so comfortable and easy to use, and its so much faster , I had no idea having a blog was so technical and involved , I have been going on your blog from the start and really love it.
Honestly, I had no idea blogging would become so technical and involved when I started or I would’ve been scared off! Sometimes it’s better not to know what you’re getting into, I guess. Ha. Thanks, Georgina! 🙂
Hmmm…I remember the late 2008 look. Has it really been almost 7 years? As someone else said, it’s your content and editorial that keep me coming back, but the new look and format are great! Congrats! 🙂
I think you have been around that long, Dean! Time flies, doesn’t it? I’m glad you kept coming back! 🙂
Looks great! Still one of my favorite blogs for a fun read.
It looks great, Julia! I love HOH, in fact I knew exactly where to come when I was looking for bungalow house inspiration the other day:)
Ooh, I love a good bungalow. Thanks, Melanie! 🙂
Congratulations, Julia! It looks great! All your favorite changes are mine, too. And I can’t believe (based on your design re-cap), that I’ve been reading since 2010 – hard to believe it’s been that long. I’m sure I’ll remain “hooked” for years to come. 🙂
I think I started to read around 2009. I was late to reading blogs. yours was the first I read consistantly. I googled pretty cottages and there you were! My husband sometimes ask me to get hooked on OUR house but I prefer your blog. ?
Ha! I know, sometimes I spend too much time admiring other houses than doing what I need to do on my own. Houses we live in are so much more work. LOL. Thanks, Corinne! 🙂
Laurel @ SoPo Cottage says
LOVE the new logo Julia!! The little trip down memory lane with the old formats was fun 🙂 But so nice to see you’re always coming up with something new! Well done!
Thanks, Laurel! Hope all is well with you! 🙂
Julia, this redesign is fabulous! I don’t actually recall when I became a fan, but it has been for some time. I think I found your site looking for movie homes. lol
Thanks for posting some of the best and interesting houses. Here are to more successful years. Cheers!
Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving says
Well done, Julia! I LOVE the new logo! There is only so much bloggers can do on their own, and the redesign looks amazing!
Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says
Julia, love your new blog design! It’s looks and functions great! You must feel like you’re driving a Rolls Royce now! 🙂
I should probably consider doing a new one soon…just dreading it. Glad you’re makeover went so well…sounds like you had a great crew working on it!
Alie B says
Looking better than ever, Julia! I’m still with you, and will be until you decide to stop! 🙂
LOVE it! Great job! So fun to follow along for all these years (and many more to come)!
Thanks, Miss Caron! I think you’ve been with me pretty much from the beginning. 🙂
Lea in SC says
LOVE LOVE LOVE the new design!!
LOVE LOVE LOVE your enthusiasm, Lea. Thanks! 🙂
Wow, Julia! I found you in 2010 so I remember that look, but when I saw the 2012 logo I realized I’d never seen it before. It’s the year we moved from Ireland to France and I missed a lot! You very kindly featured our Irish house on your wonderful blog, for which I thank you again. The new look is perfect! Long may you continue with your very enjoyable site.
Hi Katherine! Was that 2012 when you moved? I remember your Irish house and can’t believe it’s been that long already!
It’s looks fantastic! Great job! Been around since 2010, if I go by the headers! I remember thinking ‘Wow! There are other people like me, obsessed with houses!’ After 5 years, you’re still my favorite site to visit every day! 🙂
Isn’t it nice to know we’re not alone? The other day I tried to show a real estate listing I liked to a friend and she was like, “Oh, I’m not interested,” and wouldn’t even look at it. It was a reminder that oh, yeah, not everyone cares about this stuff! So hard to imagine. Ha.
Thanks, Michelle! 🙂
Lynn @mygreenlifeandrealestate says
Julia – congratulations on the new design! It’s a good feeling to change things up every once in a while. Always great to read you – you’re an inspiration and a breath of fresh air. Cheers from Connecticut!
What a nice thing to say — thanks, Lynn! 🙂
House Crazy Sarah says
I love it Julia! I haven’t left a comment in a while but I am still following. I remember most of your blog designs and it is exciting each time you change it up. I also just recently had to change up my blog theme because the old one was so outdated, Google was blacklisting me! It was either change or kill it. Now I feel a renwed sense of creativity! I’m glad you are still going, because you will always be “the gold standard” in the house blogging world! 🙂
Hi Sarah! I still visit your site when I have a chance and love your new look. So nice and clean and easy to read. Scary that you got blacklisted by Google! I was getting emails from them telling me they weren’t sending me any more search traffic from mobile devices until I updated my theme. I hope they’re happy now. 🙂
Lisa Garber says
I’ve been with you through all but one of your incarnations and through THREE name changes for myself! (divorced, widowed, remarried). Constant for me remains your content, which I love to pieces. This design is lovely, personalized, and light and airy.
Wow, we’ve been together through a lot then, haven’t we, Lisa? I’m so glad you like the changes. I kept telling the designers “light and airy, bright and fun!” so I’m glad that’s how you see it. I think they succeeded! 🙂
Angela Smeed says
Looks fab, Julia!!! But I love your blog so would have visited no matter how it looks.
Bravo! Love the new look. It is much easier to read and my eyes thank you and the designers. I always view on my iPad and always read vertically, so I have no ” ad” issues. I am newer to your blog due to wanting to stay “off the grid” haha, but technology beckoned and here I am. I googled cottages all those years ago, found your blog and have been “hooked” ever since! Thanks for all the hard work, you do a great job.
I’m glad I was able to lure you “on the grid” to join us here, Julia. I’m like the bad-influence friend, huh? LOL. Always nice to hear from you! 🙂
Bonnie Morscher says
Oh, Julia! I’ve been reading your blog since about a month after you launched and have enjoyed it all this time. But the new design! It is so lovely! It’s been the content and specifically your writing that has kept me coming back and now the look has finally caught up with the content. Great job!
Thanks, Bonnie! Yes, you were one of my very first commenters when I started blogging. So glad you’re still around! 🙂
Love the content (as always) but I’m not the biggest fan of the grid view of the main page. I guess I’m someone who likes scrolling but as long as the content stays true to the site, I’ll be coming back again and again 😀
Hi Nathan! It’s funny, I’m wondering if maybe this is just my own weird issue, but I like to see “the big picture” and know all my options. Having to scroll down to see them all annoys me. I can’t read blogs on my phone for this reason. On the other hand, you may prefer my blog on mobile because you’ll still be able to scroll through the posts on a smaller screen! 🙂
I remember every single one of those! I can’t believe we’ve known each other that long. Amazing… I still picture the design from 2010 when I think of you though 🙂
It’s gonna take a while for me to get used to this new layout, but I like it.
Christine Bewley says
Love the new look! I’ve been reading since around 2009 and I’ve liked all the changes. I’ve just viewed it as you were redecorating the house a little!
It is a lot like redecorating, you’re right! Thanks, Christine. 🙂
Julie B.[Holland] says
Love your new ‘”look” ! Love your blog…… but you know that! 🙂 Congrats!
Thanks, Julie! 🙂