Redesign of and

Assembling a WordPress Website

My mother and I met Daniella Norwood, the owner of ella j designs, and her husband Brian Bigda at a Lean Startup Machine weekend at which I was a judge.  She did a great job redesigning my mother’s site,, so I hired her to do a redesign of and  I’d love your feedback on the site.   I definitely recommend hiring Danni for your WordPress needs.

Enter Danni:

David’s RFP included:

  • upgrading and to the latest version of WordPress,
  • modernising the design of both sites,
  • making both sites mobile and social-media friendly,
  • changing the commenting system from DISQUS to Livefyre (ff Venture Capital portfolio company),
  • migrating from AWeber to MailChimp, and
  • fixing some existing errors.
Here are what the sites used to look like.

Original Site: Teten

Original Site: The Virtual Handshake

A New Website Design

While I am “a creative type”, I am not a graphics designer. I prefer looking at the WordPress Codex than color palettes. Instead of spending hours upon hours searching through all the wonderful themes that are available, I decided to use the eleven40 theme from because of its responsiveness and modern design for both sites. I have been using StudioPress for a long time and love the Genesis framework and the beautifully designed child themes. They also have great support in their forums and an active development community.

We changed the color scheme of to green, in order to match the color scheme of Besides the color change, the biggest change to was the homepage layout and using it to feature the lastest blog posts.

New Website Functionality

The first thing I did was create a development site running the current version of WordPress (the original site was running 2.8) and import the xml file. Next was to set up the theme layout and create the main navigation. Once that was set, I added the plugins and configured the settings.

WordPress continues to improve and a lot has changed since the 2.8 version. Because of added functionality I was able to remove a lot of plugins such as Advanced Permalinks, Page Link To, and Plugin Manager. Since StudioPress has built in SEO, I was able to remove other plugins like SEO Title Tags and All In One SEO.

David wanted to focus on newsletter sign up and social media integration. In addition to the sign-up forms on the sidebar and footer, we added OptinSkin to the ends of the posts to integrate the signup with social media. This was my first time using OptinSkin and I really liked how easy it was to customize and the variety of options that are available.

Being mobile-friendly was also a main consideration and in addition to using a responsive theme, we also added advertismentWPtouchPro to the plugin mix since David had already purchased this. While WPtouch is a great plugin, the Pro version is worth it to really customize the user’s experience.

The Final Product, Two Redesigned Websites

The whole process was made easier since David had very detailed requirements. Some of the problems with the old site, such as inconsistent headers and problematic spacing, were easily fixed just by switching themes and upgrading WP.

We did run into some trouble with the content of the posts and pages. I was not able to copy the original database due to an error with the size of the database, so I used the xml file downloaded from the original site. I found this to be a good option especially since the old database was not UTF-8 encoded.

As a final touch, I introduced David to ManageWP, so he can more easily manage his WordPress sites. I just started using ManageWP and so far it has worked out really well. It is a great service with fantastic customer support.

I would love to hear any feedback.

Daniella Norwood

ella j designs

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