Request for proposals: Comics Curmudgeon redesign

I run a relatively high-traffic (800K pageviews a month or thereabouts) WordPress blog, the Comics Curmudgeon, which is based on an essentially vanilla install of WordPress. I’m still using a design that I sort of hacked together from a freely available template in 2005 and have fiddled with a bit since (which fiddling hasn’t really improved the aesthetics of the site). I’d like to have a professional Web designer/WordPress pro improve the look of the site, add a few bits of functionality that are beyond my capabilities, and hopefully make the ad slots more attractive to advertisers. Here are the main points that will be involved in the redesign:

A new look for the site

I’d like the overall template to be redesigned to be sleeker and less cluttered. Of course, I throw these design-y adjectives around without really knowing what they might mean in practice, but I’m very much interested to see your interpretations of them! Some of the current links and bits of functionality on the site can be taken off and I am open to suggestion on how some of the others might be streamlined or implemented better.

The new design should be relatively minimalist and not distract from the graphics in the posts themselves. There is no need for the design to be unique to my site (the current one certainly isn’t), so if you can use a pre-existing free-to-use template as the base of your design to save costs, that would be great.

One important point: There is some strange behavior with graphics that extend past the right edge of the browser window in IE 7, and this was only neutralized by a hack brewed up by a reader, in which graphics are put inside nesting <div>s. (Just look at the code on the front page to see what I’m talking about.) However, now that I’ve started making a full-text RSS feed available, this is causing problems for some feed readers, so I really need the redesigned site to work with simple <img> tags.

Hopefully it goes without saying that the new look should be designed with all the major operating systems and browsers in mind (i.e., not just IE/Windows).

More effective ad placement

One of the factors that makes the current design cluttered is that I’ve sort of splattered ads all over it. I’ve come to the conclusion that this both makes my site look kind of junky and might be actively counterproductive in terms of revenue. I’d like to consolidate the ads into three or four slots per page, in industry-standard sizes. Because of this, I’m looking for a designer with some background in Website ad placement, who can help me figure out the best way to place ads and strike a balance between increasing revenue and overdoing it.

Mobile version

I would really like for the site to present a very stripped down single-column large-font version when accessed by cell phones and other small-screen devices. My understanding is that this is possible with CSS; I don’t want to end up with two different sites I need to maintain.

UPDATE: Upon a reader suggestion, I’ve now implemented the MobilePress plug-in which seems to do a fair job of creating a mobile version of the site. So I am removing this from the RFP more or less, though if you could help me tweak the MobilePress template a bit that would be very nice, and if you’d like to try to talk me into doing it some other way, feel free.

More functionality?

While the above are my main goals for the redesign, there are a couple other tweaks that I might be interested in doing, depending on cost. Chief among them would be a possible switch to threaded replies in comments, assuming that such a suggestion would go over with my readers. I’d want any such system implemented through a WordPress plugin; I’m wary of external providers like Disqus, and I don’t want people to need to sign up for an account before commenting.

Who I’m looking for

With all that in mind, it should be clear that I’m looking for a designer who:

  • Knows how to work with WordPress templates and relatively simple plug-ins
  • Is adept in the CSS trickery necessary to create a mobile version of the site
  • Knows at least a little about how best to arrange ads on a Web site to maximize both revenues and aesthetics

I probably won’t want to get started on this until mid-September or so, but I want to start gathering quotes now. If you’re interested in taking on the job, please send me some links to work you’ve done, some references, and your estimate of the cost of the job. (You can quote me a price for the whole job or an hourly rate, but if you’re going to give me a rate, please give me a rough estimate of how long you think the job will take you.) You can contact me at I’m looking forward to hearing from you!