Behind the Blog Redesign

From the moment I came up with the idea to start a blog about commercial fishing families and launched Highliners and Homecomings in 2007, I’ve consistently changed the look of the blog. Not drastically, but little by little. I’ve changed the header picture frequently and maintained a growing blogroll on writing, commercial fishing, and various other topics by friends and bloggers I’ve come across in my Internet travels.

Then, with the purchase of the CSS upgrade and studying a few books on the subject, I was able to change fonts, add borders, change colors, and add backgrounds all on my own. And of course, my favorite thing of ALL is to grab cool widgets and add them to my own sidebar. That’s a ton of fun. Sure, it made my blog busy and lose its focus a bit, but I couldn’t resist.

“Wow, Hon,” George always said when he logged in. “You’ve sure got a lot going on here!”

At the same time, though, G encouraged me to keep the theme when I complained I felt limited and to keep learning CSS. He also liked the pictures and backgrounds. “It’s all very interesting to look at,” he’d say.

Tinkering with my blog was a fun little hobby. Still, I was bored and wanted to make it better. So when I saw Keith’s ad in the newsletter for the local writer’s association about website design, I sent an e-mail. We met at a coffee shop and went over the basics.

“Basically, here’s the sitch,” I said.

“I’m a writer. So when agents, editors, bloggers, or other writers come to my blog, it needs to look good. I write about commercial fishing families. That’s my official platform, although I publish some outside of that. My family is a fifth-generation fishing family. I have two children. I want the blog to bring in the fishing wives and moms, but also the fishermen. Keeping my non-fishing readers is essential. I need to combine the masculine and the feminine. I don’t want it to look like I’m still fishing myself or that it’s written by a fisherman, but that I’m still involved, in a different capacity. What do you think?”

“I think you have a lot going on here,” Keith said. “We just need to dial it in.”

“I know,” I said. “We do.”

So, we got to work. We had more than a few laughs as Keith patiently implemented my ideas for color and borders, then let them sit on the screen for a while and worked on other parts of the blog as I studied the results.

(I’ve always loved color. I painted the walls of my first home office bright pink, I have pink hair mascara, and I love hair, body, and eye glitter. I take the white shoe laces out of new athletic shoes and replace them with hot pink and neon green and bright purple. I call it color; my sisters call it clowny. The clown factor does make its way into the things I create on a regular basis.)

“I don’t think those are working,” I’d finally say.

“I’m glad you’ve arrived at that conclusion,” Keith would reply, giving me a little pat on the back before deleting the work.

I’d never seen photo shop in action before and laughed like crazy as he piece-by-piece erased people I didn’t want in pictures. “There goes his hand, there goes his hat…”

And I was amazed again and again as we worked with the header, fonts, and looked for images and moved them around and around. Some of the words in the header are actually taken from a story I’d written, and the font for “Highliners and Homecomings” is called Lobster. Obviously our boat doesn’t fish for lobster, but it’s a fishy font we deemed appropriate. It was incredible the way Keith came up with idea after idea and moved and switched and photo shopped like it was the easiest thing in the world.

Working on the new blog design was scary but a lot of fun. Keith is a quiet and understated guy with a great sense of humor. I encourage you to bounce some of your own ideas off him and see what he can do for you. He doesn’t work with amateur bloggers often, so I am grateful he took time off from corporate websites to have fun with a chick like me and a blog like mine. His contact info is at the bottom of this post. Thanks again, Keith! I love the results. It’s calmer, smoother, and balanced.

I think we dialed it in.

Keith Turley


  1. First of all, great job with the blog! It looks great. We have a bunch of tutorials on our site if you ever need.
    Secondly, my husband has uncles that are commercial fishermen. I had him come look and he like the pictures you have posted!
    Glad I found your blog, thanks for connecting.


  2. Looks fantastic, Jen! You and Keith did a great job together – I’m happy that you found such a good person to collaborate with. Well-done!

  3. Thank you all for taking the time to leave comments and feedback on the new look! I really appreciate it. Jody, thanks for the follow on Twitter and taking time to come over to give it a look. Are you north of me? I loved traveling the Inside Passage when I fished in Ketchikan each summer.

    Robin and Tele, I love our growing community of commercial fishing-related blogs. It’s fun to see the way readers bounce from one blog to the next. Each of the blogs offers something special and unique. Robin has the cool action pictures, Tele’s layout is so serene, and Jen has that cool raindrop background…here’s to us!

  4. Love the new design! Your blog is such a source of comfort, inspiration, collaboration, and camaraderie for me and other fishing wives/moms out here. Our world and lifestyle is so unique and can sometimes feel very lonely. It’s so nice to read about another family with the same ups and downs. Thanks for what you do. Your words matter!

    • Oh, Amanda. And your Facebook status updates are unlike any others. They KILL me! The one about the gym class and “Teach” was way too much. I think the only reason I didn’t reply right then and there is because I was on the road. I think another guest post is in order. Your voice is strong and your writing is as well. What you say and how you say it is totally unique. Thank you for saying my words matter. Writing keeps me sane. This is a lonely life at times. As I write this, both my kids have fevers, sleeping on couches, and Vincent has the croup. My parents are in Hawaii and G is in Alaska. I can’t call help because I can’t expose others. So we just get through it….I’ll be in touch! Would love to have your voice back on here soon!!

    • Thanks, Lori! And I always enjoy your comments. They make me smile and give me the extra encouragement to keep up whether it’s fishing or dog-related. You’re always there and I so appreciate it. Is The Faces of California Fishing blog still up?

  5. Wow, it really does look good. Really clean, sharp and professional. I already can’t even remember what the old one looked like!

    • LOL. Now that is really funny. Overall it wasn’t too bad and I thought it was okay, especially compared to many blogs I come across, but it was becoming clear I could do better and I was feeling stifled. I loved my widgets but they did detract. Maybe I can sneak them into posts here and there. I’ve got to get the clowny in somewhere, right? I keep remembering my old header. That’s what bugged me the most, to be honest. I loved the fact that I could change out the header picture frequently, but I couldn’t do a thing with the type or header layout. Ugh. Keith certainly solved that problem! :) Thanks for the compliment!

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