Starting your Traveling Blog with Vasco

travel

There’s no won­der that there are a lot of peo­ple who love to trav­el and share sto­ries with oth­er folks. Most of us are con­stant­ly sav­ing mon­ey through­out the year to sup­port this beau­ti­ful pas­sion. But how would it be to actu­al­ly make mon­ey while trav­el­ing and express your ideas on the go?

It might look like a dream come true, but I’m con­fi­dent we’ve cre­at­ed a solu­tion that could help you get clos­er to it.


👋 Say hello to Vasco!

Vas­co is our flag­ship Word­Press theme for trav­el blog­gers — it is care­ful­ly designed to help you cre­ate rich con­tent that will allure your vis­i­tors to read it from top to toe. More­over, they will come back lat­er on and engage even more, which will make room for you to keep trav­el­ing. 

Design­ing Vas­co was a long and chal­leng­ing adven­ture. I would love to offer you a glimpse into this jour­ney (from the idea to the final prod­uct) to bet­ter under­stand some deci­sions we took and why I believe this is your go-to design for your next trav­el blog.


Research Phase

Every new project starts with the research phase. This means that before get­ting caught into any visu­al excite­ment, we take the time to under­stand the need and the desir­abil­i­ty that a (bunch of) users are look­ing for. After that, we delve into var­i­ous ideas and find out how we can help them over­come it.

Who is this for?

We cre­at­ed a solu­tion for peo­ple who want to start switch­ing their pas­sion for trav­el into a real busi­ness. You might trav­el with friends or as a solo back­pack­er, you might go wher­ev­er the road takes you, or you could have a hyper-orga­nized plan — any kind of trav­el­er you might be, I’m sure that you learned many things that you wish you would have known in advance.

Unlike Current Solutions

Many avail­able Word­Press blog­ging themes out there adver­tise that, among oth­ers nich­es, they aim to serve the trav­el one too. Most of the times this is just a gen­er­al state­ment and the solu­tion pro­vid­ed is not actu­al­ly serv­ing your spe­cif­ic needs and requests.

While it def­i­nite­ly could be used by any oth­er cat­e­gories of blog­gers, we essen­tial­ly designed Vas­co with trav­el blog­gers in mind, and all the deci­sions that we made were to match their pains.

Understanding a travel blogger’s needs

Most of the time, a trav­el blog­ger who’s at the start of this career often focus­es on two main things:

  • Share their sto­ries, jour­neys, and expe­ri­ences with oth­ers
  • Grow an audi­ence to finan­cial­ly sup­port their trav­el­ing expe­ri­ences

Those two are going hand in hand, and each one depends on the suc­cess of the oth­er. While both may sound mere­ly prac­ti­cal and quite cold actions, the dif­fer­ence lies in how the blog­ger relates to its audi­ence and how he suc­ceeds in cre­at­ing a brand around his per­son­al­i­ty.

When you’re grow­ing an audi­ence, cre­at­ing an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion is a must-have in order to keep momen­tum.

Emo­tion­al con­nec­tion is made through your writ­ing style and it can be enhanced (or dis­graced) by the sur­round­ing con­text which high­lights the con­tent. That’s why it’s impor­tant to be able to speak up as a whole and have con­sis­ten­cy by choos­ing a design which com­ple­ments your per­son­al­i­ty.

Let us woof around by creating a fabulous blog.

We help you express your ideas bet­ter.

Get start­ed now

The Key Features of a Theme for Travel Bloggers

Being a trav­el blog­ger starts with being a blog­ger first with some spe­cif­ic needs dic­tat­ed by the niche you are part of.

After doing our research, read­ing reports and case stud­ies, ana­lyz­ing indus­try-lead­ing trav­el blogs, we fig­ured out a list of the most impor­tant fea­tures that a theme should have to help a trav­el­er kick-off his blog­ger jour­ney:

  • A dis­tinc­tive design with care­ful­ly craft­ed ele­ments to help you express your per­son­al­i­ty and stand out from the crowd.
  • A set of con­ver­sion-focused sec­tions that you actu­al­ly need, avail­able across the entire site (e.g., cur­rent loca­tion wid­get, social announce­ment bar, newslet­ter forms, shar­ing but­tons) designed to help you nur­ture a loy­al audi­ence around your sto­ries and cap­ture their com­mer­cial inter­est.
  • A well-researched con­tent strat­e­gy for your Home page that is clev­er­ly lay­ing out the ele­ments to pro­mote your con­tent to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble
  • A set of lay­outs that let your arti­cles breathe and take in beau­ti­ful imagery to set the per­fect stage for your sto­ries.

All these key fea­tures should match togeth­er like a puz­zle and cre­ate a cohe­sive design to help you shine and get trac­tion. How did we come up with an out­stand­ing solu­tion? Read fur­ther and dis­cov­er the process behind the scenes.


Design Playground

After gath­er­ing all the nec­es­sary data from the research, we cre­at­ed a per­sona to keep in mind in order to guide our deci­sions:

Aman­da is a mil­len­ni­al trav­el­er look­ing to see the world and help oth­ers do the same. She’s work­ing remote­ly, and she’s writ­ing arti­cles vary­ing from the small­est excur­sion out­side the city to mul­ti-month expe­di­tions.

Then we moved on into the sketch­ing phase where we designed the Home page’s nec­es­sary sec­tions, their order, and how they should inter­act to con­vey the infor­ma­tion and stim­u­late vis­i­tors to take spe­cif­ic actions: read­ing an arti­cle, explor­ing a cat­e­go­ry or sub­scrib­ing to the newslet­ter:

Ear­ly sketch­es of the evo­lu­tion of the Home page sec­tions.

Once we craft­ed the strat­e­gy and the ide­al sce­nario for a trav­el blogger’s Home page, we moved on to the cre­ative ideation phase.

A Branding Concept is Born

Tak­ing inspi­ra­tion from the traveler’s lifestyle, we explored how clas­sic motifs like post­cards, stamps or vin­tage cam­eras would fit into a blogger’s dig­i­tal pres­ence. It was impor­tant for us that every­thing we pro­posed was linked to the trav­el­er, so this was a direc­tion that we real­ly want­ed to delve into.

Inspi­ra­tion from the trav­el­er lifestyle: post­cards, stamps and vin­tage cam­eras.

With­out hav­ing the trav­el­er firm­ly in our eye­sight, we couldn’t have made opin­ion­at­ed deci­sions, and we would have veered fur­ther from our goal of pro­vid­ing a dis­tinc­tive design aimed at trav­el­ers.


Ilin­ca is giv­ing some insights about the explo­ration process that she went through in mov­ing from a sta­t­ic set of wire­frames to bring­ing some real per­son­al­i­ty to the theme:

Ilin­ca: “While build­ing the wire­frames and the demo site’s infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture, it all might seem just like anoth­er theme on the wall. All this is nec­es­sary for hav­ing a basic under­stand­ing of the per­sona we’re build­ing the theme for, but what would make Vas­co the user’s new favorite fla­vor of trav­el blog theme? 

Anal­o­gous inspi­ra­tion is a IDEO design trick that clicked for me, and in the con­text of Vas­co, I tried to get a hold on what are the objects that a trav­el­er encoun­ters in his uni­verse: post­cards, stamps, cam­eras, maps. Next thing you know, I was break­ing these ele­ments into shapes, col­ors, typog­ra­phy, graph­ic ges­tures, then mix-and-match­ing them and iter­ate as far as I could; a top-to-bot­tom approach so to say. It was a short walk in the shoes of our per­sona and a road we were con­fi­dent to take while pol­ish­ing Vas­co.”


Next, we sketched out var­i­ous ele­ments to include those spe­cif­ic details and dis­creet­ly inte­grate them. Some ges­tures would fit bet­ter than oth­ers in a web con­text, but at that point, it was impor­tant just to put them togeth­er and ana­lyze lat­er.

Explor­ing vari­a­tions of cards and sec­tions

💡Some­thing caught our atten­tion and soon an inter­est­ing idea emerged: an over­lay stamp and a series of back­ground col­ors that extend­ed over the edges and enriched the visu­al pre­sen­ta­tion:

Extend­ing the back­grounds from image aver­age Col­ors

Tak­ing this a lit­tle bit fur­ther and push­ing the bound­aries, we fig­ured out a col­or­ful com­bi­na­tion of abstract shapes that com­ple­ment the image and make it feel unique. 🤩

Blobs Sys­tem.

We thought that this was the kind of unique con­cept that we were look­ing for, so we need­ed to find ways to imple­ment it flaw­less­ly.

While we could have been explor­ing a bunch of vari­a­tions, the dynam­ic nature of the design would not be ful­filled if we would not have moved it into the devel­op­ment phase to see how things were going to look in the real world.


The Implementation

No mat­ter how good a design is, it means noth­ing if it is not prop­er­ly exe­cut­ed and brought in front of real users. In order to speed up the devel­op­ment time and have con­sis­ten­cy among the theme’s fea­tures, we build a set of com­po­nents around the most used ele­ments that we’re able to reuse and improve from one prod­uct to anoth­er.


Vlad, the archi­tect behind this sys­tem, is talk­ing about the phi­los­o­phy of those com­po­nents and how they help us build bet­ter prod­ucts:

Vlad: “The way we think about Word­Press Theme Com­po­nents is much in the same way Hen­ry Ford thought about stan­dard­iz­ing auto parts and rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing the whole indus­try: with a suite of stan­dard­ized, well under­stood, test­ed and con­tin­u­ous­ly improved parts you get the cur­rent diver­si­ty of car offer­ings but with the con­fi­dence that the basic func­tion­al­i­ty is there – not per­fect, but depend­able. You know, every­day stuff like hav­ing doors that open and close prop­er­ly, a gear­box with for­ward and reverse, or push­ing the brake ped­al and expect­ing to decel­er­ate. Things we take for grant­ed nowa­days.

We believe a more stan­dard­ized approach to Word­Press themes is the way for­ward if we are to con­stant­ly improve the user expe­ri­ence and have a more diverse offer­ing to our cus­tomers.

It is not an easy road as it forces new respon­si­bil­i­ties upon us in terms of con­stant­ly think­ing of the larg­er sys­tem, of the impli­ca­tions each change has. Nev­er­the­less, we are com­mit­ted to mak­ing it work since it has the poten­tial to push us for­ward the same way Ford did more than a cen­tu­ry ago.

We are mark­ing con­stant efforts to design the whole sys­tem as open and inclu­sive as pos­si­ble, thus paving the way for wider adop­tion by the oth­er actors in the com­mu­ni­ty. We see this as the per­fect win-win oppor­tu­ni­ty where Pix­el­grade wins by being at the fore­front, our cus­tomers and Word­Press users in gen­er­al win by hav­ing a reli­able sys­tem at their fin­ger­tips and oth­er theme authors win by hav­ing a sol­id foun­da­tion to build upon and con­tribute to.”


As with any of our themes, we aimed to bring some­thing new and unique to the table— below are some of the key fea­tures we’re most proud of.

The Blobs System

It all start­ed with a sta­t­ic mock­up that showed a set of three blobs in per­fect har­mo­ny with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive image of the blog­ger. Even if the shapes looked ran­dom, their for­mat remained fixed and couldn’t be per­son­al­ized — how can we gen­er­ate those shapes and make them unique for each indi­vid­ual blog?


Răz­van took the chal­lenge to pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly gen­er­ate those shapes in an arbi­trary man­ner but still offer some lev­el of con­trol to the user, keep­ing them unique. See how it works in the video below and read about some of the chal­lenges he faced dur­ing the devel­op­ment of the blobs sys­tem:

Răz­van: “The first chal­lenge was to find a way to pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly gen­er­ate ran­dom shapes but also give the user con­sis­tent results and have a sim­ple way to store them in the data­base.

The sec­ond one was to find the right bal­ance between the num­ber of con­trols and the lev­el of cus­tomiza­tion the user had in gen­er­at­ing the blobs.

We end­ed up with a pret­ty clear process in the end: dynam­i­cal­ly cre­ate reg­u­lar poly­gons in SVG, trans­late some of their points to cre­ate some more unique shapes and then smooth out the edges using some SVG and CSS mag­ic.”


The final result is an easy-to-use inter­face that you can use to quick­ly gen­er­ate any kind of blobs you want.

Auto-generated Stamps

Anoth­er ele­ment fre­quent­ly found in the traveler’s lifestyle is the stamp applied to post­cards that you send back home to the loved ones.

We imag­ined that this is a per­fect ges­ture that we could bring to the dig­i­tal world and use it to cre­ate an emo­tion­al liai­son between the phys­i­cal part of the trav­el­ing expe­ri­ence and your online pres­ence.

To be even more authen­tic, it was impor­tant that the whole graph­ic ele­ment could have been gen­er­at­ed from your name and auto­mat­i­cal­ly placed all over the site to rein­force that the brows­ing expe­ri­ence feels like receiv­ing a per­son­al post­card from you.

You can eas­i­ly cre­ate your own stamp and use it auto­mat­i­cal­ly all over the site.

A Blueprint to Jump-Start Your Content Strategy

We know that while you may not be a top-notch copy­writer, you still have your own sto­ry­telling approach — which is rec­om­mend­ed for the most areas of your site. At the same time, it’s impor­tant to nail down the basics and include all the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion about who you are and what you’re going to do with your blog.

Con­tent place­hold­ers for each wid­get to help you fill up all the rel­e­vant details.

As you already imag­ine, we took the chal­lenge and searched for ways to give you a help­ing hand on this mat­ter. After the ini­tial research, we worked with Oana, our dig­i­tal strate­gist and copy­writer, to cre­ate a set of default text for each block that you can freely use to kick-off your con­tent strat­e­gy with the right foot.

As the visu­al assets help you kick­start and opti­mize the design phase of your blog, we think that the same prin­ci­ples apply to your con­tent.


Oana is giv­ing you more details about the impor­tance and flex­i­bil­i­ty of the con­tent place­hold­ers that we pro­vide:    

Oana: “When I worked on the con­tent place­hold­ers I tried to make the most out of the micro-copy areas, with­out los­ing any of Vasco’s per­son­al­i­ty and charm. I want­ed to sup­port and high­light its great design, not over shine it.

The nar­row space forced me to be both cre­ative and straight­for­ward, but the fact that I always kept in mind the needs of our per­sona made my life eas­i­er. This way, I was able to craft snip­pets of copy that could be eas­i­ly adopt­ed and adjust­ed by a wide range of trav­el blog­gers. I gen­uine­ly cared about this kind of con­ve­nience from the very begin­ning.

By keep­ing in mind the needs of a per­sona trav­el­er, I was able to craft snip­pets of copy that could be eas­i­ly adopt­ed and adjust­ed by a wide range of trav­el blog­gers.

The key mes­sages I fine-tuned for Vasco’s demo have one sin­gle goal: to help peo­ple have an accu­rate com­mu­ni­ca­tion entry-point. They make room for trav­el lovers to build upon and make it even bet­ter through their own sto­ry­telling approach.

Their flex­i­bil­i­ty allows users to be authen­tic and con­sis­tent from start to fin­ish, avoid­ing a bunch of naive mis­takes that can dam­age the over­all mojo. On top of that, it def­i­nite­ly leads them to cre­ate an expe­ri­ence that audi­ences of all kinds will remem­ber and brag about.”

We will push even fur­ther into this area in the future, but for now, you have an excel­lent entry-point for each sec­tion of your Home page.


Conclusion

As you can see, to actu­al­ly cre­ate a sol­id solu­tion for trav­el blog­gers, to go beyond the obvi­ous, requires a lot of effort and com­mit­ment — but it pays off in the end. What fol­lows is to see how you can take Vas­co even fur­ther. Best of luck! 🤞


Fun facts

As a final note, I would love to share some naive yet fun­ny occur­rences that hap­pened dur­ing the devel­op­ment of Vas­co.

#1—Is it Bobo?

This time, we tried to post­pone the nam­ing chal­lenge and focus on dif­fer­ent areas first. We used to call it “Bobo” dur­ing the whole process, so now some of our folks are still stuck with this name. 🤷‍♂️

#2—Demo Guy

The first demo’s pre­sen­ta­tion we cre­at­ed for Vas­co had an intrigu­ing image on the Home page. We dis­played a man at the bar, enjoy­ing his drink, but the girls in the office plead­ed for chang­ing it because it had an Ital­ian mafia vibe.

#3—Blobs Art

Dur­ing the devel­op­ment of the blobs sys­tem, things start­ed to get a lit­tle funky with all those shapes and their con­trols — and not in a bad way. Our devel­op­ers got a lit­tle too car­ried away with dis­cov­er­ing strange but beau­ti­ful shapes that could be gen­er­at­ed with num­bers. Ahhh…the beau­ty of maths.

George

I'm a daydreaming designer with a desire to improve the world, to be a good and a meaningful person. I value calm but easily get excited by the next challenge.