Last weekend the new redesign of was launched. Since 2009 when the site was launched, traffic has grown steadily and a decent number of people are following all the new posts via Twitter, Facebook, RSS and email.

This is what the old site looked like…

Japan Travel Mate Homepage
The old home page.
Japan Travel Mate Single Post
The old single post view.

What are the goals of this redesigned site?

When the site was first built a few of years ago, there wasn’t much content – it was easy to find your way to every article. Now the amount of articles has grown, so my biggest goal for the new site is to give people easier and more direct access to the wider range of content.

Improvements in page loading speed as well as a more easy-on-the-eye design are some secondary goals that this redesign accomplishes.

What are the features of the new site?

Helping you find your way to other articles, these features have been implemented:

Find Something New: The Random Article Browser

Explore a random article and find out something new or interesting about Japan. Many people who find their way to this site Google generic terms like “Japan blog” or “Japan travel ideas” – so this feature helps them find something which perhaps they never though of before.

Try it out! Click the red ‘Explore a random article’ button in the header.

Read More of What You Like: Related Article Links

Get more of the content you like. After reading a post, you can easily find an article on a similar (or the same) topic. At the end of every post is 3 links – with nice big thumbnails and a teaser of the post.

While this post isn’t the typical travel/Japan related post – and hence will turn up some non-related results – you can see the related post links in action at the end of this post.

Popular Posts: Most Talked About Posts

This site is setup in a blog style… from the homepage the articles are listed chronologically from newest to oldest. So the very best articles may be buried.

Now you can easily find the most talked about articles from the right sidebar, the more comments on a post – the higher it is on the list.

Convenient New Post Alerts: Follow and Subscribe

Without spending too much time on Twitter or Facebook, a good follower base has steadily been growing. Many people are subscribing to new post alerts by RSS and email – and the previous site only had a small icon linking to these.

Most prominent in the sidebar is a Twitter follow and Facebook like box – so you can connect with JapanTravelMate directly from this site. Like or follow JapanTravelmate now straight from the sidebar.

Below that are dedicated buttons for RSS and email alerts, so you can find out when new posts are published. Get your post alerts in the format you like, click the button in the sidebar.

Also, on individual post pages, to the left of the content, is a Twitter tweet and Facebook like/share button – giving you easier access to send stuff on to friends. Share your favourite posts with your friends!

Why do a redesign?

It’s not that I felt the site looked old, but that what was under the hood could be improved. This site is a WordPress website, and the previous version used a lot of plugins that slowed down performance. This new site has almost entirely replaced the plugins with hard coded snippets.

The new redesign uses far less imagery to make the user?interface?- all the rounded edges, gradients and buttons are pure CSS.

In terms of the design, the old site had low contrast (dark grey text on a light grey background) and nothing was particularly drawing the eye.

Also, for another site I own I wrote a book You Make The Website and wanted to give this a thorough retest as version 1.1 was recently released.

Now the redesign has launched, I can get back to posting! I’ve been saving up a lot of Japrish photos, so keep an eye out for those!