A Budget-Friendly Website Redesign: Half Banked’s New Look

Disclaimer: This post is out of date, and refers to a much older design refresh than the current one! If you want to know what I’m currently using, right this way.

Guys I redid Half Banked’s design!

Finally.

I made myself a promise when I started Half Banked that I had to wait to switch to a self-hosted WordPress blog until I had at least two months of consistent blogging under my belt. See, I have a bit of a starting-projects problem, in that I’m all in for the first few months… and then nothing.

One time, I started a “lifestyle” blog that quickly devolved into me making fun of how un-Martha-Stewart I actually am. There was a pretty hilarious post about the one time I thought I was a person who could pull off a flower crown.

I am not a person who should ever wear a flower crown.

That blog lasted all of a few weeks, so I was really glad I took the wait-and-see approach, and didn’t invest any money into it. That’s why – with a gentle reminder from The Boyfriend – I took the same approach with Half Banked. I could start a blog, sure, but until I had a few months behind me, a few things were off limits.

  • No moving it to my Bluehost account (which I have for other projects, including my personal site that I’ve had for years.)
  • No buying themes.
  • No buying images.
  • No paying for the WordPress.com upgrades, like custom colours.

I gave myself a pass on buying a domain, especially since my domain purchase came with an added bonus. When you buy a domain, you can’t move it from the place you bought it for 60 days. This might vary between registrars, but that was the stipulation from my registrar. So for the first 60 days, I had to make do with a somewhat-hacked-together WordPress.com blog.

I have been counting the days since early September, and this week I finally, finally hit Domain Transfer Day. I had it in my calendar and everything.

This Thanksgiving, I was thankful to have the day off to spend working on this - among other things, obviously.

This Thanksgiving, I was thankful to have the day off to spend working on this – among other things, obviously.

After only a few minor moments thinking “Holy crap I’m so out of my technical depth here,” mostly due to the face that I have multiple domains on my one hosting account and had to learn some new terminology, Half Banked was officially nowhere.

What?

For a solid few hours, as I waded through those technical challenges, the site was just down. Nothing to see here, folks. Luckily, I was able to get WordPress up and running again on my hosted website, and from there it was somewhat smooth sailing.

I put up a quick landing page letting people know the site was undergoing a minor facelift using WP Maintenance Mode, which I’d recommend to anyone. It is stupid easy to use. After literally five minutes, this is what Half Banked looked like to the world.

So much easier to set up than I possibly could have hoped for. Seriously.

So much easier to set up than I possibly could have hoped for. Seriously.

In the background, I got to work.

Choosing a Theme

Even though I wasn’t allowed to buy a theme or anything for Half Banked, trust me when I say that doesn’t mean I didn’t look. I am a notorious window shopper, and I have a thing for WordPress themes.

It’s more of a problem, really.

Anyways, I browsed, and I browsed hard. My two favourite places to look for themes are Themeforest and Creative Market, and there were three standouts that I considered for the site. Jacqueline, a Bluchic theme available on Creative Market. Boss Lady, also available on Creative Market. And Seashell, a theme from Themeforest.

As I poured over them again and again (and again) I realized I had to be somewhat realistic. Both of the Creative Market themes were best suited to actual businesses, which I’m not ruling out for Half Banked – but I’m also so not there. So Seashell it was, with the big perk that it was also the cheapest of my preferred options at $39.00.

Creating Images

To take care of the images and the “creative stuff” for the site, I splurged on a very well timed Creative Market Big Bundle. They do these monthly, and while one isn’t up now – they’re limited-time-only kind of things – they are definitely worth watching out for. Basically, they gather up a huge number of different creative assets – think pictures, fonts, themes, scene creators, etc. – and offer them for a stunning discount. Seriously, stunning.

I did the math, and as long as I used more than three of the assets, I was coming out ahead in terms of savings. If I used every single asset, I was looking at a 97% savings – although using every single one sounds a bit daunting. A few was more than enough. With this project in mind, and some serendipitously included assets I wanted to buy anyways, I figured it was a steal.

By far the best part of the bundle was the Solid Gold Scene Creator. It’s a Photoshop file that lets you move a bunch of images around, switch between different backgrounds, and create a whole variety of different images. It’s the base for my landing page image, and all of the page headers that are currently up on Half Banked.

Just in case you thought I was fancy and owned gold scissors, now you know. I am not, and I don’t.

This seems pretty self-explanatory.

This seems pretty self-explanatory.

All together, these two purchases – the theme and the Creative Market Big Bundle – cost me $78. For the amount of fun I’ve had redoing the site, and the amount of excitement I currently feel about continuing this project, I’d say it’s money well spent!

And yes, I’m not including my hosting costs in there, for a simple reason. I’ve had a hosting account with Bluehost for years now, to keep my personal site online – and feed my WordPress theme addiction, of course. (Seriously, I’m not even ready to look at how many of them I’ve bought over the years. So not ready.) So for this project, I didn’t have to add any monthly costs – my hosting account was paid for yearly over the summer, and allowed me to have more than one site associated with it.

If you do want to host your own site, you can start with a Bluehost plan for $3.95 a month – which honestly, I recommend if only for the fun and flexibility of choosing from the wide world of themes out there.

I know, I know. I have a problem.

So there you have it – my under-$100 site redesign. It might not seem like the most frugal of things to spend as much as I did when there are perfectly good free options out there, but with the amount of fun I had, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Do you self-host your site? If yes, are you like me with the theme shopping? (It’s so bad, you guys.) I’d love to hear your experiences – especially if you went from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site!