Oh, hey folks. Don’t worry. It’s still me, Emily Henderson. Emily Henderson 4.0, that is. I can design houses, host videos, do a mean Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop impression – hell, I often even dress myself, but one of many things I can’t do is re-design (and certainly build) my own website, and it was time. So I hired the creative team at Project M Plus to completely analyze, break down, rebrand, and rebuild this here site. And they did a wonderful number on me. Emily Henderson 4.0 – more comprehensive, more pages, more vintage to buy, more resources and more design services to book, all while looking at a freshly art directed, and frankly BEAUTIFUL new site.
The blog turned 5 1/2 years old this week, which is basically 112 in blog years. Memory lane called – free trip coming up.
When I first started in 2010 I was on blogger (I think) and I designed the blog myself. I think we all know that by ‘designed’ I really mean I just wrote a couple words in a random font – that’s all graphic design is, right?
It was originally called ‘The Brass Petal’ – due to my love of both gold toned things and flowers – two things that have not changed. I started it 3 months before I went on HGTV DesignStar. Then after I won, Squarespace reached out and offered to redesign my site (on their platform, duh). They did, and it looked like this:
Definitely better than my own ‘design’. But then 2 years later I was sick of looking at that blog, so I asked my friend Bri Emery to give me a facelift. It was a huge improvement (until I messed it up by making some changes that I couldn’t fix). She moved me to WordPress (another migration but a good one – Squarespace just wasn’t the right fit for me). I’m still on WordPress, by the way.
Things were good for a while, but two years is the maximum time for me to stare at the same thing every day, apparently. Most companies don’t need to change their look every 2 years, but its a bit different with blogs – for both the reader and the writer. It would be like you going to the same restaurant every single day for two years. You just get really ready to look at something new, even if the menu changes. Plus, since our business is digital, that means that every single day there are advances in both design and coding that can improve our collective lives and businesses, and I needed to start checking those boxes. Our SEO could be higher. Our engagement could be longer. My bounce-rates, page views, organic referrals, etc, etc, could all be improved upon. If you don’t know what any of that means, CONSIDER YOURSELF LUCKY.
It’s like a surgeon using outdated tools – it might still work, but not NEARLY as well as it could. Time for new tools – shinier, sharper, faster tools – in 24 carat brass.
So the process began. Cleo and her lead designer started pinning and coming up with the new look and feel. I’m not totally sure what direction I gave them – I think I said ‘happy, girly with simplicity, and vintage inspired’. I’ve designed houses for people with vague and yet specific tastes and trust me, its HARD. I can’t imagine I was a dream client, but they began the process and it was already off to a good start.
Here is what they pinned that I responded to pretty strongly:
There were a lot more, but those had the right combo of happy, feminine, a bit wild and totally fresh.
So they started showing me rough concepts of an original design. They found old hand-drawn botanicals and composed them with my name in a chunkier font. I loved the concept – we just needed to tweak it a bit with the colors and background.
Meanwhile they started playing with the submark (the tiny emblem at the bottom of my webpages) and they were inspired by these pretty things:
So they started playing around with my initials (most appropriately) making sure that it worked with the header/logo:
Getting to see the header was wonderful, the submarks were fun, and watching the fonts and colors all coming together was so exciting.
But then came the animated header for the splash page. MAN, was I excited. They showed me the storyboard and I was all … cool, what is it? And then I hit play (check it out here) and I was like yes, that is next level shit right there.
Its obviously nothing I would have done on my own – I’ve never even seen it before. But its just so fun to land and see it. Plus we can change it out any time and play with the speed/colors, etc.
Here’s how the whole process really went down – they presented, we liked, we gave feedback, they tweaked, they presented, we liked more, we gave notes, they tweaked, they presented, we loved, then they built (and still tweaked and built and tweaked while building). The whole process took 6 months – not because of the design, but because of the amount of pages, and the amount of copy, that needed to work with the images. We started it not really knowing what 4.0 would need to look or function like. It was totally collaborative – with them bringing most of the ideas and me saying ‘YES THAT IS A GOOD IDEA. LETS DO THAT PLEASE’. Thank God for them.
There are so many things that go into building a new site, you guys have NO IDEA (well, maybe some of you do). It’s like designing a house in the sense that every single detail has to be considered and designed – including the space between the details. Its not just the logo and the fonts – its the backgrounds, the arrows, the ‘sold signs’ … every single thing, and space between each thing, was considered and is intentional. AND THEN IT HAD TO ACTUALLY WORK! Meaning that the code had to work with the design in a seamless way that made sense for you guys to navigate. The portfolio is a good example of that – what size are the photos? Are we doing gallery or arrow clicks? Or both? How do we link back to the original posts? Where do I put copy? How many words are ideal visually next to the photos? etc, etc.
It was one of those situations where I was whispering this is worth every penny constantly. And no, its not because they are cheap. The best never are.
The final design was settled on and I was, and am, so happy. I change stylistically all the time, and yet I always stay kinda the same. So the site needs to match that – the colors, vibe and fonts might be more on trend and feel more modern, yet it still needs to feel young, happy and with restrained excitement. God, its weird to talk about yourself like that, but you guys know what I mean.
So welcome to the new site. The site is HUGE, as you’ll see. There is still the portfolio, the press page, the about page (with added people and soon to be more!), but now there are a few things you should know about.
First off – our new design services.
We are trying some new things out – things that might be wild successes or failures, but after years of only taking on LA based clients above a certain, rather high budget, we are expanding and adding services for all price ranges. Check them out (and wish us luck).
I have collected resources over the years and continue to add to them every day. We have a secret document floating around here that everyone uses when searching for lighting or textiles, and I’ve slowly done larger posts about them (like the art resources, or online fabric resources), but now you’ll all have daily access to those resources as well. This is only a drop in the bucket. We’ve highlighted some of our favorites and then listed out even more of them – but stay tuned. As we were filling in all the copy on the site I kept remembering so many that I was forgetting (for instance, there is no ‘furniture’ category, WHOOPS) so we’ll be adding to those pretty much on a daily basis. We are also open to submissions for spots as well.
What started out as a what should we do with all this extra stuff?, has now turned into my newest obsession. The Flea – our online vintage store. I’m scared. This is going to be a huge learning curve (are we under charging? Over charging? Not charging enough for shipping?) but I’m so excited to be able to pass on my favorite things, which have graced so many shoots and, more importantly, have even more of a reason to keep shopping and buying (to restock the store, obviously).
Videos are becoming a bigger and bigger part of my business, but I felt like they were getting lost in the blog feed. So we built a whole page just for these videos. We are still tweaking this and Project M Plus just suggested that we change it so that the videos pop out and play right there instead of linking back to the posts, so that tweak will happen soon. For now there is one featured video that will play here (and many are missing and still being uploaded – migrating sites is always tricky – so stay tuned for that, too).
The whole process has been sooooooooooooooooo incredibly wonderful. Project M Plus knows digital media, they know functionality tricks that I had never heard of (which will remain secret, because you have to hire them to get them). There are ways to make your site more visible and to get more hits, stuff that I don’t have the first clue about. But as a designer/stylist with an online following, what I cared most about was what looked beautiful, stylish and clean and they did all those things.
Plus they are cool and they care. That is VERY hard to find, folks.
So I hope you like the new site. Play around, let me know your thoughts. If there is something functionally that bugs you (and bugs enough people) then let us know in the comments. Like running a restaurant, sometimes it takes a few nights of real customers for you to realize that the water pitchers are stored just 2 inches too far from the ice bin – an easy fix but one that we may not have noticed the night before. I want this site to be easy for you to navigate, to move around, to pin out and to comment on, so that you’ll stay longer and hang out with me.
Thanks, Project M Plus for all your hard work. You are so impressive and lovely to work with you have no idea. xx
*Photos of my meeting with Project M Plus by Jessica Isaac