Jen and Ted have come a long way since 2012. The couple quit their jobs to see the world, and haven’t looked back since. Their blog, Thrifty Nomads, has come a long way too, undergoing a complete redesign just recently, to provide a better resource to travelers looking for inspiration and advice on traveling affordably.
As our Member(s) of the Month, the thrifty traveling couple shares what kind of work went into the redesign of their blog, and how their goals have changed along the way.
When did you start Thrifty Nomads and what was the initial inspiration for starting a travel blog?
It’s an all too familiar cheesy “couple’s blog” story, but for us at the time, it was a really big deal.
In 2013, we sold all of our possessions and quit our jobs to travel the world. We thought that our experience was one of a kind, and had to share it with the world! Little did we know that we had a familiar story that was part of a growing trend.
The blog started under a different (top secret, embarrassing) name and was a lonnnng-winded chronicling of our travels for friends and family back home. During that first period of blogging, we travelled globally for six months, then settled in Australia for a year, and the blog fizzled out.
In 2014 we left Australia to more long-term international travel again. By this point we realized we’d acquired a lot of practical travel tips over the years, and had become somewhat of experts in long-term travel on a budget.
Both of us coming from single income families growing up, we had many thrifty ways to save for travel from home besides working 9-5.
Put simply, it’s a genuine passion of ours to help people realize how they can actually achieve travel, even if you don’t come from a lot of money.
How would you define your niche, and how has it changed since you first started Thrifty Nomads?
Our niche is affordable travel, no matter who you are or what kind of trip you’re taking.
A lot of people think this means sleeping in hostel bunk beds, or eating pasta and sandwiches every day, but in reality, there are easy ways to save money for even lavish trips. This is a huge shift from our first focus, which was simply sharing a diary of our own adventures.
Many of our articles share travel hacks that everyone can use: ways to book the cheapest flights and hotels, $1/day RV and car relocation deals, and eliminating credit and debit card fees when overseas.
But we also talk about how to save money before you even leave home. That includes guides on effectively selling your belongings, cutting food costs, and mastering the art of couponing.
We’ll soon be covering ways to generate an income while you travel, like finding work experience overseas, working remotely, or responsibly volunteering abroad.
In addition to sharing practical tips, the other aspect of the blog is sharing our honest ups and downs, reflective thoughts, and experiences. Travel is easier to achieve than most think – we want people to know that, but we also want to be very upfront about the realities of travel, which aren’t always gleaming (nor commonly discussed).
What made you decide to redesign Thrifty Nomads and what did that entail?
You definitely get tired of looking at the same simple homepage after a year! But the main motivation was that the old layout wasn’t working for the volume of articles we’d created in that time.
We want our site to be a master guide for affordable travel, and that meant having the right categories and navigation in place so that someone seeking travel inspiration, at-home saving tips, or travel hacks could easily find any of those things without sifting through pages of posts.
The redesign process started with finding a new template which we purchased pre-designed online. After that, we spent hours upon hours tweaking things like fonts, sharing and commenting tools, sidebars, navigation, and most of all, the homepage.
We revisited every post in order to make sure it looked its best with our new template features. When everything was finished, we finally launched (and clinked beers to celebrate)!
What was the biggest challenge in the redesign process?
Without a doubt, figuring out how to best organize and present our content.
Some visitors are long-time fans who want the latest posts. Others are brand new, and you need to convince them to stick around. Some have never even left their home country before, and they need an easy way to get started with the idea of affordable travel.
We went through at least a dozen versions of the homepage and navigation menus to try and find this balance before we finally settled on something we liked.
Is there anything you would have done differently if you could start from scratch again?
We should have had a clearer idea of who our audience was from the beginning. Often we got carried away with revising the layout, only to come back and admit it was flashy but not user-friendly.
Knowing who you want to cater to and what you want your menus, homepage, and other features to achieve – these factors should be your guiding star in the redesign process.
How long did the entire process take?
From when we first bought the new template to finally launching – four months. But that’s amidst juggling everything else: the blog, freelance work, our side projects, and being on the move.
We intentionally made it a gradual thing. That turned out to be very important, as the final product was very different from what would have otherwise been a rushed version out the door!
Did you hire a designer or did you redesign it yourself?
Ted is the techie glue to our blog. He has worked as a professional web developer for the past 8 years, so he moved the entire site over on his own.
We bought our template from a designer as a base, but every customization after that was done by Ted. It certainly helps having those skills on board already!
The logo was custom-made by a professional illustrator named Matt Anderson from Rochester, New York. From our first message to him, he immediately understood our blog concept, and already had some great ideas, including the camel with the coin that you see in the final version today, which we are very happy with!
Have you noticed a difference in traffic or engagement since redesigning?
We had a good boost in traffic after the launch for about a week straight, and since then we’ve maintained slightly higher traffic than before the redesign.
More importantly, we now have a site we’re proud of for all the directions we hope to take the blog next!
What advice can you offer to bloggers who are considering a redesign?
Be patient with redesigning. Do not rush — it will show!
Revisit your ideas constantly. Picking a theme? Deciding your homepage layout? Choosing a niche for your blog? Don’t make a decision without revisiting it with new eyes and ears. Sleep on it!
Ask for opinions from people who will give you honest feedback before running full-speed ahead.
Buying and activating
a new template sounds easy, but making the changes you want to call it your own takes a lot of time. Don’t underestimate it!
You’ve just finished up a year of traveling. What are you travel plans for the future?
Our one-year travel anniversary has come and gone, but we have no plans of stopping just yet. We’re having a quick visit back home to Canada to see our family, but we still have no home base. So we’ll be zipping around North America the next few months (maybe snagging a $1/day RV relocation or two), attending TBEX in Florida, then heading to South America later this year.
Finally, we’ll be back in Sydney, Australia in January to validate our newly obtained permanent residency. That will be our launch pad for indefinite travels in 2016!
What does success in travel blogging mean to you?
Success in travel blogging is making content you’re truly passionate about that makes a difference in people’s lives.
It’s creating something that makes a person think or feel inspired, and is genuine. Every now and then we get a message from someone embarking on their first life-changing trip who tells us how our blog has made an impact on them, and that is hugely rewarding.
Getting rich or paid to travel is a nice dream, but ultimately, creating something you’re proud of that is positively influencing people is our idea of true success.