I Spent $8,000 on a new CharlesNgo.com Redesign

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

Here we are 4 years later.

I started this blog as a passion project a few years ago. Imagine running campaigns for 5 years straight – You’ll be dying for a new challenge!
But I wasn’t enthusiastic at all about starting it. I was telling myself: 

  • That’s time you could spend running campaigns
  • Why would share information for free and create your own competition?
  • Being a brand sucks. You’re going to lose your privacy.

Very valid points. A blog is a horrible decision if you’re looking to make money. You’re sacrificing way too much opportunity costs.
And it explains why there are so few active affiliate marketing blogs compared to how large the industry is.
Ultimately it boiled down to this: blogs helped me get started in affiliate marketing. I’ve benefited from the knowledge of others and felt I needed to give back.
And judging by that metric, I’ve achieved my goals.
It’s kinda surreal to go to a conference and have people tell you that you changed their lives. Just last month I was in Singapore last month and I had a dude cry when he met me. 
It’s hard to see the impact when I’m sitting in front of my laptop each week writing away.
It’s been a great run, but every blog reaches a certain point. That path that leads to two roads.
The writer gets busier, and the blog no longer’s a priority. A stronger brand means more emails to deal with and more opportunities.
The posts become less and less until it joins the blogging graveyard. I get it.
Trust me, there have been so many times this year I’ve been scarce on time and didn’t feel like writing. But I did it anyways because I know how powerful habits are.
You skip one week and there aren’t any immediate consequences. So it’s not a big deal to skip the one after.. And then it dies (That’s why you never skip leg day at the gym).
The good news is the blog’s not dying anytime soon. In fact, I’m doubling down.  I wanna keep growing this blog, and I wanna keep sharing knowledge bombs with you.
Stage 1 is that this blog is long due for a design and infrastructure overhaul. A few months ago we decided to redesign CharlesNgo.com from the ground up.

Here’s why:

1. Usability

User experience is super important. I wanna make it as easy as possible for you to navigate the site, and to read the content.

At the top of the list was redesigning the blog to work perfectly on mobile (40% of my traffic is mobile these days). I read a lot on my phone so I know how frustrating it is when a site doesn’t cater to mobile users.
I also see a rise in tablets and other screen sizes, so I want it to work well at every size. The responsiveness is on point. 

Next up, we improved the search functionality and improved the fonts / readability of the site. I want all of the colors and fonts to work well together so that reading the blog is enjoyable.
I’ve also included features like smooth scrolling back to the top of page, a better comments section and easier access to older posts. We’ve also built the site around a few templates to better tailor the content.

2. Branding / Design

I love good design.

I didn’t care about design for so many years. I’d just wanted something that “works.”

But I’ve come to appreciate the benefits that good design brings. It makes you feel better, and it makes the experience better.

This blog is my namesake, it’s CharlesNgo.com, and I wanna give people a good impression of me. 
I told my designer that I wanted something clean, simple, yet stands out. I told him to look at fashion magazines and websites for inspiration.

A better design means more credibility.

I know affiliate marketing doesn’t have the best reputation.
I’m almost ten years deep in this industry. I don’t owe anyone money. I’ve never scammed anyone. I stay out of drama.
A few readers have told me they read my posts or watch my videos with their kids. Their kids look to me as inspiration. It’s a weird feeling. So I gotta make sure I don’t disappoint em (Sorry for the cursing, working on it lol)
I’m just trying to represent and grow this industry as much as possible.

3. Improve Opt-in %

Anyone that has a blog should know that the email list is everything. We changed parts of the site to help grow our email list.
I give out a lot of content each week through email, and it’s how I keep you guys up to date on events, trends and my thoughts. Not everything that I want to tell you guys should be on a blog post, so email is important to me.

We’re doing this through strategically placed opt-in forms, and working on creating premium, free ebooks. We’ve also made my other social media channels easier to find by including them in the footer.
Another reason I want to focus on building up an email list is because it lets me get personal than a blog post. I feel more comfortable sharing valuable information there. 
I’m also wanting to promote my social channels more so I’ve added them in the footer. I’m going to have a bigger focus on building my YouTube channel soon.

My main media channels are Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter.
I don’t use Instagram (I’d be too distracted, and I figure most nerds don’t use Instagram).

The Evolution of CharlesNgo.com

It’s been a wild ride over the past 4 years. My first ever blog theme was horrible in hindsight. It was a $99 theme from WooThemes.

Some of you guys who email to ask me about blogging – take note here. I started on the most budget theme I could find, and I just started writing about something I knew about.
It’s all about the content. You can perfect the packaging over time.
I’ve seen too many guys waste their time on shit that doesn’t matter. It’s all about the content. Be so good they can’t ignore you.
Trying to get the best design and plug-ins initially is pretty much a form of procrastination in disguise, or not working on the right things.
The 80/20 Ngo Blogging Strategy: Start right now. Everything falls into place eventually and you figure it out as you go.

2012 CharlesNgo.com

No home page, just a classic blog with everything on a single page except for the contact info. Shout out to Matt Mullenweg for building such an easy-to-use, free platform for blogging!

2013 CharlesNgo.com

2013 sees a slight change of design, but still the same basic architecture as the original theme.

2014 CharlesNgo.com

2014 was the first year I made a radical change to my blog and got a custom design. It was also the first time I had an actual home page instead of showing blog posts on the home screen.
This is the same underlying theme that I’ve been using until this latest upgrade. If you’re interested, this version of the site was based on the “Rise” WordPress theme.

2015 CharlesNgo.com

In 2015 I started making incremental changes to the site. I started using more plugins and trying out different widgets. WordPress is actually kinda addictive to play around with because it’s so easy to use.

2016 CharlesNgo.com

After looking around at other blogs that I read, I decided 2016 would be the year I shed the old theme and get something custom made.
We switched over from Enfold to Thrive, and it caused a lot of functionality issues. There were only so many more bandages I could add.

November 2016 CharlesNgo.com

Finally, the net site is live!
We’ve done so much customization to the parent theme, so it’s going to be 
a work-in-progress for the next month or so.

Project Planning Process

How do you go about undertaking a project like this? Here’s what I did.
The whole project took 6 months. Yes that’s far too long for my liking, but it was always on the back-burner compared to my campaigns and AFFcelerator.
Phase 1: Wireframing

I studied some of the top blogs out there to come up with the initial wireframe. I studied NeilPatel.com, and Ramit Sethi. (two of my biggest influences).

I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel so I went with a structure that works. 

Phase 2: Design

We went with my long-time blog designer for this, and I gave him free reign for the design.

I told him to draw inspiration from fashion sites because they are some of the most creative. I also like how fashion sites don’t look too cheesy, they are all about the image and eloquence.

He came up with a unique color scheme with the gray / blue that I haven’t seen in any website. I like it because it makes the site stand out, without being weird. 

Phase 3: Coding it

This was the toughest part of the project,and something that took us months to do. We had to go through 3 different programmers before we found the right one.
As soon as we made the decision that the first programmer wasn’t up to the job, the next programmer took a lot of time and effort going through and fixing the previous code.
it was hard to find a compromise. The designer wanted things a certain way, but the coder just couldn’t get it to work on a certain framework. 

Phase 4: Migration

Once your site is coded you need to get it working live on your domain. This means installing the plugins, and combining the new theme with your old posts / pages.
The developer hosted the site on an external domain while it was being built, and then migrated it over to CharlesNgo.com.
Phase 5: Touch Ups

This involved going through the website and looking for errors and broken links. This is still an ongoing process because I’m removing some old content and putting new content up.
I couldn’t put a number on how many times we went back and forward with the coders to get the site looking like it does it.

Here’s the Financial Breakdown of the Site

We used some high-quality contractors that we found on Upwork, and hired an agency to do some final changes plus migrate the site.

In hindsight, it would’ve been better to go through an agency that could build the site from top to bottom, and the migrate it over.

We spent a lot of time finding the contractors, but it’s hard for them to see the bigger vision. I had .PSD files made up by my designer, and these were given to the programmers, but programmers all have  varying levels of standards and skills.
I also noticed that some coders will tell me something can’t be done, and other coders will research the problem, think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions.
For the next site redesign in a few years, I’ll use an agency (Interested? Send me an email. Looking for A+ people to work with).
The Site Design
Cost: $1,200
I worked with my long-time designer on this. I did the initial research / wireframes. He came up with everything else including site colors, fonts, and design.

Logo Design
Cost $400

I went through a designer from Envato Studios. I like this marketplace for hiring designers and other creative types because it’s hard for them to get accepted there. It means you’re dealing with high-quality workers and you don’t have to sift through so many candidates.
Since my brand’s going for a quality, premium feel, I needed a logo. I dropped the bomb and went with something else. (Don’t worry I’m still gonna be dropping knowledge bombs every day).
I wanted clean typography with an emphasis on the Ngo. I wanted it minimal, yet not too boring. This is what he came up with and I’m super happy.

New Logo


Old Logo

Coding the designs into a WordPress Framework
Cost: $4,660

We went through three different coders which explains why this is so high. Some of the coders seemed to get a lot more done per hour than other coders.

Migration + touch ups:
Cost: $1067
It surprised me how much this cost, but it’s not something I want to make a mistake on.
The migration team is also implementing some other features to help make the site more responsive, so it’s hard to say exactly how much the migration cost.
Total Cost $7,607
The initial budget was $5,000, and you can see that we went over.

I underestimated the costs of coding the design and the cost of migration.
So yea $7,607 is pretty pricey but I consider it an investment. The site does bring in several thousand dollars a month from various affiliate links, so it pays for itself.
Technical Details:

We’re using WordPress and using the Avada framework. This is the #1 selling WordPress theme of all-time, and I like going with what’s popular.

Future Projects:

The site’s still not perfect yet, so bear with us as we make improvements over the upcoming months. I figured if I keep delaying it then the launch will never happen, so here it is.
I have a ton of projects in the works. 
Last year we launched the a free course (since been re-released as The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing). It was a complete course on how to get started in Affiliate Marketing, and I gave it away for free. 2017 is going to be huge.

The most important thing is getting the right people in place. I’m getting busier with my other companies, and it’s getting tougher for me to post consistently.

So I’ve hired editors, researchers, project managers, etc. to assist me with the blog.
I’ll still do the writing myself, but having a strong team means I can work at 3x the pace. It means I can focus on my high leverage activites such as writing content, and delegate out things I hate doing like: research, finding pictures, keyword research, adding links in a post, etc.

Thanks everyone for your support. Making this investment in the blog is letting you know that I’m not going anywhere.

I do it all for you guys.
Also thanks to everyone that put work into this site. The designers, coders, my staff, the sites I got inspiration from, everyone that gave me feedback, etc. This was a team effort.
Featured Image by Alla Serebrina

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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