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The Why & How Behind The NEW FTFP Website

Just over 15 months ago, after many months of the idea of FTFP taking over my mind (but not seeing the light of day)…I finally decide to just do it. Yeah, Nike style. Take action. But the problem? You can’t just have an idea and start a new website in a day. I mean, it seems too hard.

Instead, you need to nail down your ideal audience, have a perfect website & branding, know what kind of services or products to sell…yada yada yada.

But I decided to not worry about all that and just do it anyway.

Turns out, not getting too caught up in the details (branding, strategy, ideal audience…and all that jazz) didn’t hinder my success.

Even though I hated the design after a month, and had a lot of strategic problems for some time, I was still able to grow my audience & community to a whole lot of amazing people.

Lesson: Start before you’re ready. 

But it’s been 18 months. This website has grown a ton. I now know a lot more about what I like to talk about, what kind of products I want to create, what kind of people YOU are, and what you’d like from me.

And I can see more clearly how Freelance To Freedom is a part of my overall business/life plan.

So it was time for a website refresh.

It wasn’t really about new colors or graphics, but a more strategic and thoughtful website and business in general.

Behind The Scenes of a website redesign

So what exactly did I do and why?

New Stuff

A non-blog homepage

For the first 18 months of FTFP, the homepage was the blog. The reason? That’s all it was! I didn’t have any products or services or free training. So it made sense for people to land on the exact thing I was providing: content.

I now have two courses, a big archive of posts, a bigger and better optin offer, and lots of new stuff around the corner. So I wanted a homepage that showed that FTF isn’t just a blog.

The Freelancer’s Toolkit

The very first freebie I gave away when I launched, I kept for until. First of all, more than a year is a lot of time to have the same freebie that I honestly hadn’t looked at since I wrote it. But more importantly, my audience has grown so much and evolved.

I started FTFP thinking my audience would just be people trying to escape their day job and start freelancing. Turns out, we’ve got a community full of people all over the entrepreneurial spectrum: from just thinking of starting, to surpassing 6 figures.

What we all have in common though, is the search for more freedom.

So with that in mind, I wanted to create an optin offer that would help you wherever you are at in your journey, and the best way to do that was a with a “toolkit”. Right now I’ve got 3 mini-ebook/workbooks inside:toolkit

The original (but updated) “Last Corporate Day to a Month of 5k”
How to Get to Steady” (Income, that is!)
4 Steps to Creating Your First (or next) Passive Income Stream

What I like about calling it a toolkit is that I can add to it when I want and it will only become more useful. (Don’t have the toolkit yet? Get it here!) I saw a HUGE increase in my newsletter signups on my web design business site when I gave away more than one thing and called it a toolkit. So I’m curious to see if the same thing happens here on FTFP.

LeadBoxes

After seeing study upon study on the psychology and conversion of what LeadPages calls The Two Step Optin, I couldn’t resist to try it out. The Two Step Optin means the visitor has to take two steps to optin (sorry to bore you by stating the obvious): click a button to see a pop-up, then enter their information and click subscribe. You can try it out by clicking here or in the optin bar up top or below this post.

I was so curious about this because it seems to go against normal logic.

Usually we want to make it as easy as possible for people to take action. By making a visitor click twice rather than just directly enter their name and email as I had it before, seems like a lot more work.

But the idea is that you’ve already made a commitment when you clicked the first time, so you are more likely to follow through with that commitment by finishing the process once you see the actual optin fields.

I’m really excited to test this out, and see how my conversions improve by using only this for my main optins.

I also love that I can just plug an optin into post text like this, which allows me to make special optins or freebie giveaways based on the context of what I’m writing.  Plus, with all the optin boxes on this site, it’s less messy in my opinion to not have all those input boxes.

Focus on growing email list

I’ve made an effort to grow my email list since before I fully launched this site (because I’m a firm believer that it’s an important part of a successful online business)…but this year it is a big focus.

Why? I have two really great products that have helped a lot of people (more than I ever imagined, thank you all!) and after two big launches in 2014, I’m confident I can help even more.

I do want to create more useful courses and products, but I also know the ones I have already are pretty amazing….I just need more people to know about them!

So essentially, the more I grow my list, the more people will find out about my existing products that I’ve already put the hard work into.

With that in mind, I wanted to be very strategic about optins in the redesign.

I’ve got a bit ol’ feature box on the homepage as the first thing new visitors see, dedicated resource pages by topic, and I’ve streamlined and simplified the Free Stuff & Start Here pages to make sure people don’t miss out on becoming a subscriber when they get to those pages.

Resource pages for new readers to find old content

Resource PagesOne thing I knew was a big problem with the old site was how difficult (nearly impossible, actually) it was to find old content. Nearing on 100 blog posts, this was a shame.

That, along with the fact that my audience had grown to be people at all different stages of their business, meant I needed to help people find the content that interested them most, depending on where they were at.

I’ve put these resource pages in the sidebar of blog posts, on the Start Here page, as well as in one of my emails that goes out to new subscribers.

I’ve created 3 main categories for these pages:

Start Your Business
Grow Your Business
Streamline Your Business

I really like that I can add to these as I go (I can easily see what kind of content to create by the areas that are lacking) and update them with only my best stuff.

Oh, and I added a search bar to the sidebar as well, after quite a few readers mentioned how annoying it was to not have one 🙂 So go go, search from the sidebar my friends!

Community Page

I did have a community page before, but it wasn’t too pretty or interesting. It still could use some work (I’m fleshing out some fun ideas), but I wanted to make it a lot more clear what “joining the community” actually meant.

Most of all I wanted to put the focus on YOU (members of the community).

Since I’m falling more and more in love with Instagram, I thought it would be fun to feature your Instagram images on the page.

#freelancetofreedom

It will populate with community members posts based on a hashtag and I plan on giving the community prompts of things to post from time to time in our Facebook group.

Hopefully, new visitors will check out the community page, and check you guys out on Instagram and want to join in on the fun because of how awesome you all are.

Move from Aweber to Ontraport

Switch to OntraportThis is a change that is not really visible…but I’ve moved a lot of my systems to Ontraport.

It was a big upgrade financially, and I plan on going into more detail in a separate post on why I made the switch but for now, here’s what now (or soon) functions via Ontraport:

  • My email list (newsletter & autoresponders).
  • Stress Less & Impress member protection
  • Stress Less & Impress affiliate program

I was previously using Aweber for my lists, Wishlist member for SL&I, WP Affiliate for my affiliates, and a bunch of other stuff to pull it all together.

Since I had so many moving parts, I felt ready to upgrade to a system that could manage it all and more importantly make it better.

What I’ll Be Testing and Tweaking

No-sidebar on main blog page

I adore a blog with no sidebar, design-wise. But I’m also very conscious that it’s not great for user experience.

Blog with no sidebarWithout anywhere to put extra information (search bar, popular posts, etc), it makes it hard to keep visitors on your website when they have nowhere to click after reading a blog post.

That said, a whole lot of my traffic comes directly to a blog post (nearly 70%), because it’s single posts that are promoted and shared on social media, other websites and newsletters.

So I decided to make a myself a compromise. I’ve made the blog page (which has excerpts of all my past posts), sidebar-free, but kept a sidebar on the single blog posts.

This way brand new visitors that land on the homepage or about page, will see the clean and pretty blog page first if they click on it from the menu, but if they decide to click-through to a full post, they’ll be given some other options to navigate the site as they read through the post.

The sidebar/no-sidebar debate is something I’m constantly struggling with however (and it brought up quite the conversation in the FTF group on Facebook). So I plan on keeping an eye on my google analytics and heat maps to decide if it’s something I should eventually adjust.

Homepage feature optin

Oh, the famous Derek Halpern Feature Box. If growing your email list is a primary focus for you, the feature box can help. Evvverryone has a horizontal optin under their header these days, so much so that we’re starting to more easily ignore them. But when the optin is basically the only thing on the page you see, it makes it a lot easier to know what you are supposed to do (optin).

HomepageThis is another thing I’m torn with for my sites. It feels agressive, and isn’t so pretty. But at the same time, growing the FTF community is important to me, and I want to make it as easy as possible for new visitors to do that. Plus, I’ve tested an almost-feature box on my webdesign site, and it’s the #1 place people sign up for that list.

I went back and forth with several homepage header designs. In the end, having the optin front and center was not only a strategy I thought would be effective, it happened to look the best with my homepage design as well.

So I’m trying it out. If I see that a significant amount of visitors subscribe from the feature box, I might keep it. If not, I’ll likely change to a pretty image and tagline.

It would be lovely if people would seek out on their own how to get on my email list, and want to do so just to hear from me more often. But as of now, I don’t think that’s the case. So I want to make it as easy as possible for them join the community, see my free resources I have for community members-only, and get blog posts and helpful stuff straight to their inbox.

A homepage feature box and big ol’ green button makes it real easy.

How many FTFers does it take to refresh a website?

My most favorite part of the FTF community is how incredibly talented you all are at what you do. I often see people hiring each other in the group or discussing collaborations. Everytime I need help with someone I don’t have the skills or time to do myself, the FTF community is the first place I look.

I’m so grateful for these FTFers in particular for helping me with this website refresh (because trying to do this, while moving across the world and of course keeping my web design clients a priority, wasn’t possible on my own):

Illana Burk & Miki of Makeness Media: Illana worked with me to define my business goals, figure out who I am as a leader of this community and what you need from me. She & Miki also added the pizzazz (and coherency) to my new about page and took worry about that of my plate altogether!

Sarah Noked: My lovely assistant who can do pretty much anything and knowing she is there (even if I forget to send her things to do) makes my life sooo much easier. She put together my resource pages, proof-read all my auto-responder emails, and fancied up my most popular posts and blog series by making sure there was a related optin at the end of each and ensuring it was easy to find the other posts in the series.

Sara Moss: Ebook editor who made sure you don’t all cringe when reading any of the The Freelancer’s Toolkit pdfs (grammar and spelling is not my forté)

Alejandra Ortega: Ontraport expert who’s taking care of moving everything to Ontraport on the back-end. It’s a big task with so many moving parts. Knowing it’s being taken care of by someone who knows the ins and outs of the system is a huge stress-relief.

Farideh: My accountability partner who makes my Monday more fun and my life less overwhelming so she gets thanked in pretty much everything I do. She also happened to be one of the first FTFers 🙂

BIG Thanks to the FTFP Community

For those of you that have been hangin’ out around here and in our FB group for awhile, THANK YOU. Your support, encouragement and appreciation makes running this sooo sooo worth it.

And if you are new here, I can’t wait to get to know you further!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the redesign and this behind-the-scenes: let me know in the comments!

Help me spread the word?

Here are some click to tweets to celebrate the fresh new design (and of course you can just use those social sharing buttons below too!):

Check out the fresh new #freelance to freedom website and join the community while you’re at it!

Want to know the why & how behind a website redesign? @leahkalamakis goes into detail here: http://ctt.ec/3hJ8r

Come join the #freelancetofreedom community and grab your free #freelance toolkit!

Thank you! I hope the new site is easier on your eyes and makes coming back here often just a little more fun.

-Leah

Leah Kalamakis Leah Kalamakis is the founder of The Freelance To Freedom Project and a web designer/developer for brilliant entrepreneurs. When she’s not hanging out in the FTF Community, you can find her people watching on the streets of NYC. Come say hi on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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{ 41 comments… add one }
  • It looks great Leah! Every page is full of value and purpose. Very easy to navigate through. This behind the scene post is superb!

    xx

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      That’s the goal Siedah so I’m so glad you think so! Thank you!

  • ACK! It’s here and its looking great!! Way to go Leah! I loved this post breaking it all down. Like I always say – you’re a total genius!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Thank you for the support in everything I do, you know I couldn’t do it without you 🙂

  • Leah, the new site is gorgeous! I can’t wait to dive into the new resource pages so I can catch up on posts I missed. The behind the scenes look to the redesign is really insightful too, speaking as someone who is getting ready to redesign myself.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yay, can’t wait to see what you come up with. Designing for ourselves as designers is THE WORST but in the end we’re pretty lucky to not have to hire it out 🙂 So glad you like the site and YES, being able to more easily see old posts is so important so I hope you find some hidden treasures!

  • I love how it “feels” like the same place, but it’s all shiny and organized. I’m pretty much a fan of everything you do, Leah. I just don’t know how you find the time to do it all. Do you sleep? Seriously, I want to know. 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oooh oohh, that’s exactly what I wanted! Same feeling, but shiny & fresh! And to answer your question: I think I look like I do more than I actually do 🙂 I really like to sleep. But I’m getting real good at hiring people to help do the things I know will block me from getting important things done!

  • Dude! Working with you was SO FUN. Thanks for the shout out! The new site looks fantastic!

    xo

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Yes, yes it was! Thank you again Illana, can’t wait to need you again 🙂

  • Bravo Leah! The new site is streamlined, professional, and fun! I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found this community almost a year ago when I first started freelancing. The suppprt and ability to ask questions of people who are doing the same thing is priceless. I’m members of other groups and there’s not the same sense of camaraderie.

    I agree with the no sidebar on the main blog page. I’ve been struggling with this on my own site redesign. Glad to know someone else is doing it, so I’ll try it out, too!

    Thank you for all you do to bring us together and make our lives more successful!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Thank you so much for sharing that Trista! I’m really glad our community is as amazing as it is, I couldn’t ask for anything better.

      I’ll keep you updated on my testing for the sidebar stuff. I’ll be trying out a few things in the coming weeks and I have a heat map installed so I can get a better sense of where people are clicking. So people better start clicking on the sidebar or it’s gone! haha 🙂

  • I love it Leah and I’m so grateful that you’re sharing your story with us so we can learn so much more from you! Congratulations on the changes!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I’m glad it’s helpful Nicole, thanks for being here and always been a supportive member of the group!

  • This is my first time on your website, so I have no idea how it looked before. But it looks awesome now 🙂 I can’t wait to check out all the blog archives!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Haha, well I’m glad you like it! You’ve made me realize I shoulda put a before and after image in this post. Happy to have you here and thanks so much for saying HI in the comments on your first visit!

  • Congrats on the lovely new home! We had a blast working with you!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Thank you for working your word magic!

  • Lovin’ the new look! Thank you for always sharing the how & why behind everything you do. There is so much to learn from you! Keep on being amazing!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      You are so welcome- these are the most fun posts for me so I’m really glad they’re actually helpful for you!

  • I loved this post and this re-design and am in the midst of doing the same thing for my organizing site. Hearing you think through all these steps is immensely helpful for me to consider in my site re-organization. I still remember when you just launched this blog and am so happy you are doing what you love. You are so good at it, can’t wait to see what else you create! And the optin and also sidebar/no sidebar thing is what gets me every time. Still deciding on all that. 🙂

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I know, it’s a tough decision…but it is something to test and can always be changed! I LOVE your current site and don’t think it needs a redesign, but either way I can’t wait to see the next one because you are super talented and I know it will be beautiful 🙂

  • The whole thing is just SO well-planned. I mean…the Start Here page alone. AMAZINGLY CLEAR. Love love love.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Oh I’m so glad. Clarity. Beats fancy any day in my mind! Thank you Nicole.

  • Yay, I love it lady! Congrats on this and it’s so cool to see your whole thought process behind this revamp 😉

  • The site looks fantastic Leah! Loved reading behind the scenes on the redesign and understanding what went in your decisions. I remember being so on the fence with the sidebar discussion in FB, because they were a lot of great points both ways, so I’m glad you found a compromise to work it out here.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Haha, yes…and I posted that discussion to try and get some clarity but it almost made it worse 🙂 I’m liking this compromise but we’ll see!

  • BEAUTIFUL. Kudos, chica. So happy for you and, as always, super honored and grateful to be part of this rockin’ community you’ve created.

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I’m so grateful to have you <3

  • Now I CAN’T wait to re-do my own site. Hopefully in Q3.. maybe Q4… I need to have YOU, girl. You rock!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      Happy to chat when you are ready! I’ve actually loved your site evolution so far, can’t wait to see what you’re thinking for the next iteration!

  • Congrats on the refresh! It looks great, and I love hearing the reasons behind the changes you made, so thanks for sharing those!

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      You’re so welcome, thank you Sara!

  • Congrats on the redesign and growth! Big step <3

  • For lack of a better word… this is AMAZEBALLS! I really love ALL of it! Can’t wait to hear more of your “test” results too – I’ve been thinking of some but not others – interesting!! Awesome girl and thank you for all you’ve done!! 🙂

  • Kimberly

    So much great information here!! I’m eager to hear more about how your two-step opt-in trial goes. Congrats on the new site!

  • How beautiful it is, Leah! I have a question though. Which platform do you use? Wordpress or another one?
    Love your content!
    Karine

    • Leah Kalamakis Leah

      I use WordPress and design from the Thesis Framework!

  • Awesome refresh, Leah! And great insight into the reasons for the changes. I’m always so curious to know the WHY! And I totally hear you on the battle between what looks pretty as a designer and what is more effective! Always a hard one!

    Congrats!

    Vari x

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