Welcome to version 3 of A Touch of Teal!
I’m so excited to introduce a brand new look today on the blog! I used my last design for a little bit over three years. While I loved the look of my blog and the small updates I made over the years to stay relevant with design trends, I was ready for a change. In fact, I’ve been ready for a change for a while—some of you may remember I was going to redesign my blog last year. That plan eventually fell through, and while I was really bummed at the time, in hindsight, I’ve realized man’s rejection is God’s protection. It didn’t work out for a specific reason—and I am so glad I held out for this amazing Breiver theme by Victoria and Lisa over at Empress Themes.
For those of you that don’t know, I’ve long admired the custom work this dynamic duo does through Victoria’s studio. So when they reached out and asked if I’d like to be a guinea pig for their new theme shop, I jumped at the chance. The shop—which just launched last week!—was created so they can use their six years of WordPress design + development experience to help bloggers gain access to beautiful, well-designed themes that are responsively coded at a price point that is much more accessible than custom projects. (The themes are only $69 and plugins start at $5!)
To celebrate this new brand look, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what makes Empress different from other theme shops, give you an inside look at the super easy installation process, and highlight some of the new features here on A Touch of Teal!
One other quick thing up top—you can get 15% off your order on Empress through 10/31 (aka tomorrow!) with the code HOORAY!
01. Why I Love Empress Themes
I won’t lie—I was a little nervous about installing a theme on my site. Three years ago, my developer did the entire installation process for me and I’d heard horror stories about my blogger friends spending hours trying to fix broken sites or customization after a shoddy install. My blog is my baby in a sense, and it can be very stressful when things go wrong—especially since it’s usually a self-inflicted break due to my lack of coding knowledge. (Hah!)
Before I agreed to be a guinea pig, I asked Victoria if I should cancel an entire weekend of plans so I could devote my time to getting the new theme up and running. That’s when she told me about the proprietary plugins they’ve built to save bloggers like me hours of time and make the install process headache-free. Essentially, when you purchase one of the three gorgeous Empress themes, you have the option to also buy a font customizer and color customizer plugin—which you can see live in action over on the demo sites. Instead of tweaking code to update the fonts and colors across your site, all you have to do is click on the font and color(s) you want and it’s instantly applied across the entire theme in pre-designated locations chosen with Victoria’s design genius.
After I heard about the visual customizers, I knew that I was definitely installing an Empress theme on my site! At present, the shop offers three beautiful options—Brevier, Miramar, and Archer. I opted for Brevier since I love classic blog design—and know from my reader surveys, you do, too! Honestly, deciding which of the three themes was the hardest part in the whole process since I love elements from all three. But, once I committed to Brevier, I added it to my cart along with the font customizer plugin, color customizer plugin, and shop the post plugin and checked out. I instantly received an email containing downloads for the theme and plugins, as well as a step-by-step guide for how to install each component. (And yes, even the installation guides are beautifully designed!)
I’ll give you an inside look at the installation process below, but also wanted to call out two things I love about Empress Themes—and a large part of the reason I felt confident in installing Brevier solo! The first is the large Help Desk Victoria and Lisa built out to answer common questions about the themes, plugins, WordPress, domains—all that technical stuff that is often hard to decipher from complicated articles found on Google. The second is the private Facebook group for Empress customers where I can chat with other bloggers about the themes/plugins as well as blogging in general. It’s always great to have a community to troubleshoot problems and compare notes with!
02. My Thoughts on the Install Process
Monica is also launching her brand new blog look today (!)—so naturally, we decided to tackle the install together in a working session yesterday—and I am so glad we did.
We worked from 12pm to 4pm, and when I left Monica’s house, I felt confident that I could have launched my blog as-is—though, I’m a perfectionist, so I kept it down for a few more hours to put on a few finishing touches.
To start, we saved the theme and all of the plugins we purchased in individual folders on our desktops, which helped keep us organized. I also put up a coming soon page so that I could work on installing the theme without worrying about what people were seeing on the live site. Once these components were ready, we uploaded the theme and then activated it. That first moment of seeing Brevier applied to my website was SO cool and rewarding!
Maybe this is obvious to people that had worked with themes before, but the thing I was most surprised about once my new theme was activated was that my left sidebar content was essentially the same—it just took the look of the new theme. I was a little freaked out because I didn’t know if I would be able to easily delete this content (my old social icons, featured posts widget, etc.) but luckily, I was able to—and in hindsight, this was a dumb thing to worry about since the sidebar fonts/colors/spacing looked like my new theme and not my old one, which meant everything was working properly.
One other thing I did once my new theme was active was disable all of my theme-specific plugins from my old site. For instance, I used to control my social icons and Instagram feed in my footer through plugins—but since these functionalities are built into my new Empress theme, it was unnecessary to keep those plugins active since they often duplicated content. In hindsight, I wish I had deactivated all my theme-specific plugins before installing the new theme so that I could more easily keep track of the plugins that Brevier uses.
Once those two housekeeping items were taken care of, I started following the Empress installation guide that came with my theme to customize my new site! To make the changes I wanted, all I had to do was go to Appearance > Customize and go through each of the customization options Empress offers. The first step was regenerating all of my thumbnail images to fit the theme. (Pro tip—Monica and I quickly realized that we could run this step in another window and continue on with the customization process with the regeneration plugin running in the background.)
From there, I picked my fonts and colors using the Empress plugins I purchased, set up whether I wanted my posts to auto-excerpt or use the read more button (I chose the latter), designate whether I wanted my archive pages to be a grid or look like my homepage feed (again, I chose the latter), set up my primary navigation and footer, and build out my sidebar—along with some other small changes, such as the text on my 404 redirect page. Anytime we had a question throughout the process, we were able to refer back to the installation guides or one of the Empress Help Desk articles, which proved to be a lifesaver.
I’m glad I had a full afternoon to work on installing the theme—but I am also glad I didn’t cancel a weekend full of plans to work on setting up the new look. Empress offers such good documentation that as long as you can follow directions, you’ll be able to set up your new site in an afternoon no problem.
03. Some Features of the Brevier Theme
Much of the core of my site is the same, since like many of you, I love reading blogs that have one main column (and a sidebar with more information) because it is easy to access content and read posts! Call me a traditionalist, but I really dislike when posts aren’t sorted in chronological order or it’s hard to access the latest post. Because of this, I also kept my category pages as the traditional blog format as opposed to the grid view, which is also an option with the Brevier theme.
Up top is a navigation bar that links you to the main categories and my social media channels. There’s also a search bar so that if you’re looking for anything specific, it’s easy to find. (Sidenote—I can see what people search on my blog on the backend of Google Analytics which is super helpful in determining what kind of posts you all like to go back and reference!)
On the sidebar, I’ve linked to some of my favorite posts and will be swapping out the shopping widgets based on what time of year it is—stay tuned for my gift guide picks that are starting up next week!
In the footer, you can easily access my Instagram feed as well as the main navigation of the site. (Pro tip for fellow bloggers—looking at my Instagram feed in a horizontal format is another way I check to make sure my Instagram flow stays on point—for some reason, you can really tell when a picture is out of place when they are all lined up next to each other.)
Of course, Brevier has so many customizations you can really tailor your site based on your preferences and brand look—I found the the “what’s included” section of the theme descriptions is a great summary of all the options. And once you buy any Empress theme, you’re eligible for any future updates Victoria and Lisa make to the theme to get rid of any bugs, update the code slightly, etc.
Essentially, by installing the Brevier theme, I was able to keep all of my favorite functionalities from my old site and was able to get that fresh, more mature design I was craving.
Whew! That was a long one—but I just had to share because I am *so* excited about this new brand look. If you have any questions about the process, don’t hesitate to drop me a note in the comments below and I will do my best to answer!