Behind the New Think Traffic Design (Results + How We Did It) with Chase Reeves

  • July 19, 2012 by Corbett Barr
  • 74 Comments

Think Traffic was completely redesigned less than two months ago. Today we’re introducing our very talented designer and friend, Chase Reeves. We’re also going to share some results about how the new design is helping Think Traffic grow faster than ever.

We’ve often talked here about the importance of design online. You have precious seconds to make an impression on new visitors. A great design can buy you time because it stands out and gives your visitors a warm fuzzy feeling about your site long enough for them to get hooked on your incredible content.

After two years with the same design, we wanted to do something new. It was time to differentiate Think Traffic through a new design and time to put more focus on converting visitors into email subscribers.

We’ve hinted a couple of times about our “secret weapon” web designer. Today it’s time to introduce Chase Reeves, the man behind our new digs.

In this special interview, you’ll meet Chase and learn all about how we developed the new Think Traffic. You’ll also find out exactly how well the new site is performing. We also share tips about how to design your own site or how to find and work with a designer.

And beware: Chase is a sweet talker. This interview is a little less serious (and simultaneously a little more serious) than you might be used to from Think Traffic. Cocktails and douchebags are referenced frequently, along with meaningful work and doing what matters. You’ve been warned…

(click here if you can’t see the video)

For the analytical folks in the audience, we also have some numbers on the email conversion rates of various parts of the new site.

Here are the top 5 email sign up forms/pages on the site that have driven the most email subscribers over the past ~6 weeks:

  1. Feature box (home page): 32%
  2. Traffic toolbox page: 16%
  3. End of blog post box (see the end of this post): 15%
  4. Sidebar form (on all post pages): 11%
  5. Start here page: 7%

Before you try to hire Chase for your site…

I’m incredibly happy with the work Chase did for Think Traffic. You’ll also see his work around the web shortly on a few other sites (including Paid to Exist by Jonathan Mead, which just launched this week).

I wish I could recommend Chase for your site because he would do a fantastic job, but he’s probably not going to be available for a while.

We’ll have some big news to share in the coming weeks… but for now we’ll just say that something BIG is brewing at Think Traffic and Chase will be an essential part of it.

What I’m saying is, feel free to contact Chase about your project. It just might be a while before he can get to you :)

Now over to you.

After you watch the video, we’d love you to share the ONE thing you learned from Chase and me about designing an effective blog or site.

Please share below in the comments.

Also, if you have questions about our results or if you want to ask Chase a general design question, please fire away.

Bonus points if you reference the “unicorn on a stick” Chase talks about in the video.

Oh, and let us know if you like this style of video. I hope you did.

We mention the Thesis framework a couple of times in the interview. Think Traffic is proudly built on the Thesis Theme for WordPress and we highly recommend Thesis.

Visit Chase Reeves on Twitter or at one of his various online hangouts: Ice to the Brim, Father Apprentice, or Matterful.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Alex Mangini July 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

Epic work, my friends. :D

chase July 19, 2012 at 8:12 am

Thanks Alex. You’re someone I always pay attention to… figure you’re some kind of brother or something. Means a lot coming from you!

Alex Mangini July 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm

No worries, dude! You deserve all the praise in the world for the work you’ve been doing lately. I’m genuinely excited to see where Chase Reeves strikes next!

Ian Dawson Mackay July 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

I run a site looking at male self improvement. I’ve had a wordpress theme now for a few years and I’m sick of it. For people with limited resources, what’s best to get a new theme? I’ve looked on Themeforrest and no idea what I want. How can you create a theme or decide on what you want in a bought theme? Is there a way you plan for a site revamp?
Thanks

chase July 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

Hi Ian. I appreciate your candor and the clarity of your question.

You’ve got a lot of content, a lot of boxes to look at, a lot of distraction. As a visitor I’m not sure what you want from me. The blandest thing on the homepage is the *one* thing you’re asking me to do: your email signup box.

Let the visitor know very clearly what you want from them. Do it direct, firm, professional, branded with your tone/personality.

I’ve never used anything from themeforest or woothemes… I would always recommend them though… Also have a look at http://kolakube.com/skins/marketers-delight/ and other themes from Alex (first commenter on this post).

Good luck, Ian!

Ian Dawson Mackay July 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

Thank you so much for this. My ‘look’ has being annoying me for a while now. I find even when creating content, I am still going off and moving stuff about or adding new code etc. I’m off to find a new look now. Thanks for this – it’s been a great help listening to the interview and your guidance.
You’re awesome mate!

Ahmed Safwan@ To Start Blogging July 19, 2012 at 6:38 am

Thanks for sharing such secrets.

I was looking for a designer. I think that chase will be the best.

Thanks corbett

DJ Yabis July 19, 2012 at 6:58 am

Cool. But, Im curious Corbett: What is the change in your conversion rate?

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 10:31 am

Hey DJ, we share the specific increase in the video towards the end if you didn’t catch it.

DJ Yabis July 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Haha I guess I was too excited to know. Did learn it after finishing the video! ;D Congratulations!

Tamal Anwar July 19, 2012 at 7:08 am

Hey man I just love the new design. It’s responsive, definitely a wise move since mobile userbase is growing.

Less than a week ago, redesigned my site to a responsive theme and now the hits are on the roof.

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Congrats Tamal, that’s awesome.

Milo July 19, 2012 at 7:17 am

In the video Corbett says there was a 50% increase in the first month. Amazing!

Great video chaps. My biggest takeaway was asking your audience for what they need and then getting your message and content sorted before hiring a designer. You need to have your shit together before your polish it!

I enjoyed Chase rocking the mic at Chopsticks the other week but I had no idea at the time he was talented in other ways ;) Love both this and Paid to Exist- definitely amongst the best site designs I’ve seen.

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm

That was one hell of a karaoke session :)

Alexandre B July 19, 2012 at 7:21 am

Hi Corbett, nice interview !
I hesitated to write a comment in your previous post to tell you that the design from PaidToExist was curiously similar with the one of ThinkTraffic ^^
Keep up the great work Chase :)

All the best
Alex

Leo Gopal | The Hypnotist July 19, 2012 at 7:32 am

You guys are AWESOME – loved the interview – its always great to get inspiration by fun people with great personalities and who KNOW who to keep you hooked… lol Nice Eyes!

chase July 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

Awesome. Glad you liked it, Leo.

jared akers July 19, 2012 at 7:45 am

Rock on! Congrats Chase.

As a happy client of his as well, I’ll concur on Chase’s awesomeness.

Chase July 19, 2012 at 7:47 am

Ha! Thanks Jared. Fancy meeting you here!

Chase July 19, 2012 at 7:47 am

Hi Think Traffic folks. I apologize in advance for… well… Corbett and I can get a little rambly. But I hope the good stuff in here’s not *too* hard to find.

Thanks for watching and listening to some silly guy from Portland try to put birds on things.

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Seems like it went over pretty well buddy. Can’t wait to shoot installment #2 sometime soon! Nice Portlandia reference too.

Preston D lee July 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

As a designer-turned-internet-entrepreneur, I totally ate this up! Thank you to both of you for this video. PS: I love the video format, Corbett.

chase July 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

Thanks, Preston! Great site.

Chris Green July 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Preston – do you run Graphic Design Blender?

Peteni Kuzwayo July 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

Hi Corbertt & Chase

Lovely interview. One thing I’ve learned is that a design has got to be focused on results as opposed to simply providing cosmetics.

I see that the subscription forms listed above give you 87% of the subscribers. Where does the balance come from? I have one optin-form and realize that I need more to do split testing and see what works and doesn’t.

I thoroughly enjoy your posts guys.

Keep up the great work. Can’t wait to find out what your next project is.

Regards
Peteni

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Those are just the top 5 sign-up sources listed above. The other 13% are spread out on different forms across the site (many are in specific posts).

Gabe Johansson July 19, 2012 at 8:08 am

So focus on creating epic content with one main call to action with a clean theme and you win? Sounds like a plan!

I really like this video setup and style! Also, I really like this design, but I am also happy with my slightly customized Thesis theme! :)

Thanks for the awesomeness inside this post!
-Gabe

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Thanks for watching Gabe!

Michael July 19, 2012 at 8:10 am

Clean, desaturated, easy to read, I really like it. One of the things I like the best is the emphasis on one CTA per page (admin aside). Another thing I like – really like – is the idea that good design is simple, I ma not 100 percent sure it is simple for the designer to create, but for the user, simple is it.

I personally despise, popup, wibiya and hello bars, those fricken things that slide up and down the page to cover your content so it can’t be seen trying to force you to share things you can’t read, I really like the simplicity and useability of your new design. It is quite in keeping with the quality of your content. 2thumbs up.

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Thanks Michael, sounds like we’re on the same page.

Sean Davis July 19, 2012 at 8:24 am

This was entertaining haha.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I love the design. For a couple of weeks, I didn’t realize you were the designer, Chase. Great stuff, man.

I was lucky enough to have Pearson show me Thesis 2 in person yesterday and I’m officially mind-blown. I think it says a lot about a designer to be able to take Thesis 1.8.x and turn it into this masterpiece. So I can’t wait to see what you do with Thesis 2 where more tools are at your disposal.

Kudos to you guys on having fun with the interview.

Sean

Tommy Walker July 19, 2012 at 9:25 am

I love your design philosophy!

Caleb Wojcik July 19, 2012 at 9:30 am

The end of this video still cracks me up… but seriously, a lot of our great ‘lessons learned’ are in this video. Make time for it.

Andy Jelderks July 19, 2012 at 11:09 am

I worked with Chase for almost 3 years. He is one of the most manic/genius/passionate “design guys” you’ll ever run across. There are a lot of soft spots which can you can poke him to make him giggle and jiggle. So if you meet him, tread lightly and learn fast.

chase July 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm

HA HA! *Literally* giggling. Thanks Andy, you’re a gem.

cate - yogahealer July 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

How fun was that?

And very clear. thanks guys.

Greg Hickman July 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

You guys rocked it!

Chase, love your design style on both Think Traffic and Paid to Exist. You have me reconsidering the new design I just started working on and now I’m even more stoked to get going.

Now, just finding the right designer since it’s pretty much going to be impossible to get your time! ;) Good thing for you and bad for all of us that now won’t get to work with you. One day my friend!

Keep killin’ it!

Veso M July 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm

The interview is awesome. The design is epic!

I won’t lie, today I dissected your (ThinkTraffic) navi’s. I will use the info for the greater good! If not, the noble design faeries will bring me to justice.

Like Leo Babuata said “Design is a reflection of your message”. For me, that sums it up.

It’s like “body language” of the web sites. People, can feel it and have a sense of it, even if they can’t explain it. It’s poking the intuition of what to expect. What site is “legit” and what is not.

Good design is telling a lot about the site. No matter how much “pitch” is written, if it isn’t congruent with the design, it’s crap. It’s like words and actions. If the words are not met with the actions, the words are useless.

And we can go even further. For me, people are measured their worth by their actions. Words are simple bridge to that. If the person is authentic, we feel that congruency and from now on – his words matter. We listen. If he does different than he claims – we’re not taking him seriously any more.

And this works the same for the internet.

Live example: http://matterful.co/built-with/

Few words, a picture, a logo and a link. Tells a million.

Keep it up! It get’s us (me) motivated!

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Body language is a great metaphor Veso. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Design is also a little like dress/appearance and grooming.

The Modest Man July 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

It’s already influenced my site. Cool to hear the story behind it!

-B

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Cool site! Love the concept.

Bright Little Socks July 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

The holy unicorn told me to keep it simple and focus on the very next thing I want my reader to do. I’ve watched your video while doing the dishes and I have to say, I haven’t had that much fun doing it in a long time :)

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Multitasking! Well done.

chase July 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm

For sure, Mr/Mrs Bright Little Socks, making your dish washing more fun has made my day. Thanks for letting me know… I’ll be sure to tell my wife — I think she’ll let me off the hook on the next full sink for sure :)

Kevin Wood July 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Wow! I love how you guys defined design as something deeper. A showcase for your message as opposed to just dressing up shitty content. I agree, the audience has to come first. A lot of people tend to get caught up in tweaking the little things as opposed to focusing on the bigger picture tactics: awesome content, relationships, and audience connection.

From your background in creating epic things, why do you think people tend to get caught up in the little details, making no real progress? Is it fear?

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I can be fear, greed, laziness or low self esteem. Or it could be that most people need to study more, try harder and keep practicing.

Chris Green July 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Chase…. are you the same Chase that Don Miller references? Are you working with him?

Ryan Sullivan July 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Believe it or not it’s my first time to this site. You’d think I’ve been living under a rock or something, huh? ;) Anyway, I watched the entire interview and the bullshit meter wasn’t set off one time which is rare in these circles. The site design is gorgeous! Congrats on the awesome growth and I’ll now optin to your email list because the push to do so is evident on the site and Chase mentioned it 88 times (give or take) during the interview :)

Corbett Barr July 19, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Welcome Ryan! Heck of a day for your first visit. Thanks for joining us and don’t be a stranger.

Evan July 19, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I’m a bit of a sceptic about design. So I’m being a bit contrarian.

Having only a little time before someone leaves your blog doesn’t mean that design will make them stay.

Perhaps finding the information they are after immediately will do the trick – which, in a sense is a design issuer too.

Ayaz July 20, 2012 at 12:37 am

Hey! its been great move and certainly well organized and planned change in to the theme helps to attract more visitor’s than before and also its now become necessary that your theme should be responsive as mobile users are increasing.

Owen Marcus July 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

Colbert, excellent interview… and an amazing new site!
You and Chase’s approach toward design rocks. Years ago in my old business I went out of way to hire good designers. You are right, pretty is pretty – good design must go deeper than looking good. As you mentioned that good design starts with a good relationship between the designer and the customer which only happens with good communication.

Your suggestion that we start with a simple theme as we evolve our message is so true. My blog has evolved over the years. First it was a hobby. Then it was a platform for my book. Then it became a message to and about men. Now it’s dialed in to be about how to increase Masculine Emotional Intelligence.

I often get impatient or frustrated about the progress of my new business. In the past my businesses took off quicker. Yet your model that a good site goes through a necessary evolution gives me solace. It couldn’t have taken off before because I was not dialed into what my message was, nor had I discovered what my products would be.

Now as we develop our products and I hone my message I can see we are now launching a real business. I wish I had the resources to hire Chase. Good design is so important. As Chase said, it leads the content. It’s the visual metaphor for who you are.

Thank you guys for raising my bar and inspiring me to generate the income to raise my sites from mediocre to extraordinary.

Good seeing you Colbert at WDS.

Alison Moore Smith July 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Very interesting discussion. Inspires me to seriously clean up a number of my blogs. I’m not a designer, so let the design slip and focus on making money or getting out the message — but it would be so much easier on the eyes just taking a few of these ideas.

BTW, at a recent trip to a local amusement park (where my daughter is in the broadway show), I actually rode a unicorn on a stick on the carousel. Just sayin.’

Great new look.

Nicky Hajal July 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching the astounding Corbett Barr chatting with the stylin’ Chase Reeves, all framed by the beauty of this website.

I may never leave this page.

Corbett Barr July 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Now who’s the sweet talker? You’re welcome to stick around as long as you like Nicky. Pageviews are free :)

Chase August 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

{swoon} !

wilson July 22, 2012 at 10:23 am

After been logged off the internet for so long and coming back to thinktraffic.net I’m blown away, this is so refreshing and simply beautiful. Good job on the video guys, really appreciate listening to what you guys had to say on design and the importance of it.

Manish Patel July 24, 2012 at 1:49 am

Wonderful customization, I love your neat and clean design. I am very impressed with your responsive design, it works like a charm in all devices.

Janet Abercrombie July 24, 2012 at 4:25 am

It’s interesting to watch your evolution. in your new design, you’ve negated items from your popular post, “21 Actions You Can Do Today.” You would no longer encourage people to begin with numbers 3 & 12 (Facebook), 4 (Twitter). Instead, you would probably narrow down to a focus on #1, 5, 7, 9, and 10.

I’m currently building a new design for expateducator.com. Branding is a slow process – probably because I’m still working out my Unique Selling Proposition.

Frederik Trovatten August 3, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Chase Reeves – You have done an amazing job!

I can’t recall a single blogger who has a design like this. It’s unique and it’s fresh, clean-cut and mixed with a lot of functionality to it!

I’m amazed by it.. Really good job Chase!

Kevin of Simplebutcreative Media August 10, 2012 at 10:24 am

I just love this new design concept! It definitely inspired me to redesign my website again lol…After watching the video above, I have a better understanding of what designing a website is really all about…

Dan Norris August 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Wow great results, the site certainly looks awesome and a lot different to what I would expect from a blog homepage. I’m not doing any of the things mentioned in your 5 points but I’ve taken these down and I’m going to look at using these areas to promote my app sign up (which is the goal of my site, not email opt ins) I hadn’t even thought about them so thanks for the tip.

Dave August 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm

the homepage is an interesting design…. trendy/hip… but different.

and you can’t argue with the results (most important)

Chase… curious on the philosophy behind designing a homepage that sells a product… like a course, book, membership site (i.e. selling information).

optin pages (squeeze pages) seem to now be a thing of the past…. especially if you’d like the site to rank in google…. and i think web visitors want more and expect more.

would love to hear your thoughts on this… and if you have any examples of good home pages (aside from the few on this page, i’m already studying them :-) )

Thanks

Sonya Coke August 14, 2012 at 8:40 am

First introduced to Ice to the Brim by Willie Jackson and thought – this guy (Chase) is crazy and fun. Crazy fun and talented.

Melanie September 29, 2012 at 4:48 pm

While this design is very pleasant to the the eye in comparison with the old one, I’d LOVE to know whether it has made any significant difference in the numbers, i.e. has it really increased subscribers from the previous design? If so, how much? Has it lowered bounce rate and increased time spent on the site?

It looks awesome, but that doesn’t mean it’s as effective as before.

Would love a reply, Corbett.

Corbett Barr September 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hey Melanie, did you watch the interview? We revealed a lot of details on the conversions in the video. Yes, the design made a significant difference in both reader engagement and conversions to subscribers.

Melanie October 1, 2012 at 1:13 am

Hi Corbett,

To be honest, the 40 odd minutes put me off.

However, I just watched it there now. 50% isn’t a bad increase at all.

No doubt there could have been a lot of other ways you could have squeezed that number out of your old design, but I was impressed by Chase’s focus on getting the right people to subscribe.

Going with that approach, it’s not just about the numbers. It’s about the attracting the right people to make up the numbers. You’re specific audience.

I don’t particularly like my current design as I don’t think it fits my message, but at the moment I’m a bit dependant on my Adsense income, which is fairly significant for me. When I finish some of the products I’m developing, though, I’d like to move to something cleaner and more one-action orientated.

Melanie October 1, 2012 at 1:20 am

P.S. You didn’t talk about bounce rate or time spent on the site in the interview. I would be interested in those numbers, too. But, perhaps that isn’t a metric you value?

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