The Modern Austen 2.0: A Blast From the Past

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Hey everyone! Guess who’s back with a brand new look? It has been a crazy, exciting, BUSY two weeks since I’ve last posted, but I have SO much to share with all of you. EXCITING news. Before I get ahead of myself, I just wanted to pop in today and welcome you to the new design.

I’m planning on sharing a more in-depth post explaining a lot of the new features and easier navigation tools, but today I thought I’d take you on a tour through the various designs and styles I’ve used throughout my two years of blogging.

Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. If you are considering blogging yourself, I hope you’ll see how the most important thing is just to get started; the design will come. If you’re also looking for a good laugh, keep reading!

 In the Beginning

. . . Marissa created the blog. And the blog was good.

Well, it was functional. I began fresh-eyed and excited to try this whole blogging thing out and spent at least an hour scrolling through all of the free WordPress  themes to choose the right one for themodernausten.wordpress.com. (I quickly realized that my perfect free theme probably didn’t exist and that I’d have to be a little more realistic.) I settled on the Fresh and Clean theme (which has since retired–RIP) and swapped out the fruitastic header for a floral pattern background I found online. I secretly reassured myself that I didn’t need to consider copyright issues or anything like that . . . I was too busy posting my Disney Princess-Inspired Outfit Series–duh. 

First Blog Theme

p.s. Who remembers Insta-Friday?

Let’s Get Serious

After about two months of blogging, uploading my own headers here and there, I was just not loving the free wordpress site and its limitations. And knowing me and my personality, I was ready to conquer it all right then and there. (Needless to say, two years later and I’m still nowhere near “conquering”) I dove right in, purchased a domain name, began hosting via BlueHost, AND got myself a Thesis framework and set off to customizing like the ambitious fool I am. During this time, I taught myself basic graphic design using free tools like PicMonkey, GIMP, and Pixlr (most of which I still use today out of pure userability and practicality). So every header you’ve seen from August 2012 through April 2014 was created from scratch by me. Even though a graphic designer might cringe a little when they see them, I am really proud of my “handmade” efforts (even though it’s mostly out of pure stubbornness and pride that I created my own :P).

Check out the buttons I made for my first “big girl site:”

Old Modern Austen Buttons

Never Settle

I kept up variations of this design for quite a long time, making minor changes to the fonts, colors, graphics, pictures, and navigation bar. Surprisingly, I kept using the flower/bird image on the right of my header that originally came from the wallpaper I used in my very first theme. (Again, hello copyright?)

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Despite the fact that I kept this design for so long, I was always itching for something different–something more sophisticated and user-friendly. I knew that Thesis could provide me these things, but I simply did not have the capacity to find, learn, and apply that knowledge! I was also going through a lot personally so I knew my dreams for a major redesign would have to hold off. Instead, I decided to tackle the header because it’s the easiest way to refresh everything without investing too much time (or money).

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So I ended up with this gem. Admittedly, I realize the cameo is kind of cheesy, but I was trying to channel my inner Jane Austen and tie in a modern silhouette (that graphic is also totally DIY by the way–because I have to do it all . . .ugh I am obnoxious) but it just didn’t work out that well. I LOVE the rest of the header and in many ways I could still see myself using it even nowadays. It was a nice change and satisfied my anxious design wishes for a little longer.

Back to Basics

When I looked through my blog, I realized how much I longed for simplicity and consistency. So many of my beginning posts are very obviously PicMonkey-font-plastered and there are many trials and errors with various graphics. Don’t believe me?

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As much as I’d love to have everything tied in together with the current brand, sometimes it’s nice to see tangible evidence of progress. My life has changed so dramatically in these past two years that I am able to pick out where I was in my journey based on the design and things I wrote about and enjoyed doing. It’s an amazing thing, really.

Like with many other things in my life, I decided to cut back and  let go of some things that were extra “baggage” weighing me down or holding me back from being truly happy with my site. I simplified the colors to black, white, and my signature pink, I switched to a nice lightweight font (Josefin Sans), and amped up my photography and graphic design to be more consistent and not just thrown together last-minute.

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For awhile, my “about me” image was on the left, but it quickly made its way back to its normal spot on the right. I played around with columns and adjusting things and just tried to fall back in love with my site. It worked, for a little while.  I really do enjoy that header, but I knew that it was about time to let go of Thesis. While I do fully support the framework, it requires a little more technical knowledge than I feel is worth my time. It wasn’t until after I helped launch Urban Cashmere in March that I considered that another theme might be able to provide me everything I wanted without sacrificing the customization I enjoyed in Thesis.

A Brand New Start

Enter Genesis. One quick Google search and you’ll find tons of comparisons between Genesis and Thesis, but their concept is about the same. They are both frameworks that sites can be built upon using skins (gross) or child themes (awk). They provide the user with just enough control that they can truly customize as needed but are also fully functional and pretty without much effort.

I decided on Genesis after finding Foodie, a child theme that layers on top of the framework. Yes, my blog is built on a food blog theme. And I love it! Foodie was created by Shay Brooks and it is amazing. After discovering Foodie, I realized that a few of my favorite bloggers have customized their own sites on top of Foodie (Check out Jana from Life Could Be a Dream to see what I mean!). What I love most about it is its clean and open space, fonts, and easy navigation. You’ll find out loads more about functionality in another post, but for now, I hope you also enjoy the uncluttered feel and nice white space.

New Blog Design

I know my site isn’t really colorful and super pretty like other amazing blogs, but it is mine and it is special. Now I feel like the focus can be on the content and not just the lack of clear navigation and the different colors and graphics everywhere. Sure, down the road I’d love to invest in a fantastic designer like Elembee, but for now, I am actually very happy with the design. (That being said, I’m still not 100% sold on the slider on the main home page. I’d love your feedback on if you think they’re effective or not!)

Until the Itch Returns

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blast from the past. It was really enjoyable to go through the archives and actually see progress right in front of my eyes. I’m SO glad you’ve stopped back to see me. It’s been awhile, so let’s catch up. What’s going on in your world? Share in the comments below!

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Marissa

Hi! I'm Marissa. I'm a twenty-something dedicated to living life positively, sharing inspiration, developing my best self, and dressing the part. You can find me diving into a good book, looking for the ideal swing dancing partner, swooning over fabulous typography, or doing something ridiculous for blog's sake.

20 thoughts on “The Modern Austen 2.0: A Blast From the Past”

  1. your site looks amazing! I love how you’ve used Foodie. if you decide the slider isn’t for you, just drag it out of the widget area and your home page will start with your posts instead. :)

    1. Thank you, Kristin! It’s really reassuring to know that people like it, especially you. I really love your theme, but there’s something energizing about redesigning! In either case, I hope you find a way to satisfy “the itch.” :) Also, I miss you!

  2. Marissa! I really liked your last website, but love the fresh, new look of this one. It’s zen, uncluttered, user friendly, beautiful! Congrats on the hard work and what you’ve achieved so far! It’s awesome!

  3. Very cool to see the progression! I am glad to have stumbled upon your blog via my friend’s! Fellow Janeite here :) I am looking forward to reading more of your posts! So awesome – great job :)

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