First published August 2021 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
More than a year in the making, Vietnam Coracle’s new website design was created during the pandemic. This page tells the story behind the redesign. (To experience Vietnam Coracle’s new look and layout head over to the Homepage). Although the aesthetic and functional changes are significant, the content and ethos are the same as always. My thanks to Ben for his work, vision and patience. And thank you to everyone for reading, using and supporting Vietnam Coracle. I hope you enjoy the new site. Tom
THE NEW SITE!
On this page, I’ve written the story of Vietnam Coracle’s redesign, including how it was conceived, who’s behind it and what readers can expect from the new site. Click an item below to read more:
Support this Website
Please make a donation or become a patron if you use & enjoy my website. Vietnam Coracle is totally free & independent. I never receive payment for anything I write & there’s no sponsored content.
Thank you, Tom
Story Behind the Redesign:
I have wanted to redesign the layout of Vietnam Coracle for many years. However, I lacked the technical skills to do so by myself. The old or ‘classic’ site (which has barely changed since I started Vietnam Coracle, in 2012) represents only what improvements are within my own limited technical ability. In addition, I’ve had help from a couple of my more technically savvy friends, especially Carl N (who worked with me for two years) and Harry R (who helped set up the website in the very beginning), to whom I am very grateful. However, it was only when I met Ben, in 2019, that the idea to completely redesign Vietnam Coracle started to become a reality. Our working together on the redesign coincided almost exactly with the emergence of Covid-19: the pandemic was the backdrop to all our work over a period of 12-18 months. (Read more about me and Ben on the About Page.)
One of the first meetings I can remember, during which Ben and I discussed the concept of the new site design in detail, was in an open-air seafood restaurant in the handsome, quiet backstreets of Vung Tau. It was March, 2020, just before the first national lock-down in Vietnam came into effect. Ben and I had both moved to the spacious seaside city of Vung Tau to spend the impending lock-down there, which seemed a far more suitable place for social distancing than the more crowded and polluted environment of Saigon. The month or so we spent in Vung Tau gave us time to discuss the new site at length.
Over the following months of 2020, when the pandemic was largely under control in Vietnam, the real work began on the new site, steadily taking shape until, by the time we went on a group camping trip in the pine forests of Dalat to celebrate the new year, the general design was finished. Over these months, travel to Vietnam wasn’t possible from overseas, so my site received less traffic and I had fewer emails to respond to and guides to write or update. This gave me more time than I might normally have had to focus on the new site. Meanwhile, Ben was working several other web-development jobs for clients around the world. Although 2020 was a torrid time for many countries, it was actually a good year for living and working in Vietnam, and this is when we did the bulk of the work for the redesign.
When Vietnam’s fourth wave of the pandemic began to emerge in May 2021, Ben and I left the crowded streets of Saigon once more and moved to the island of Phu Quoc. Again, we used this time to add the final tweaks and finishing touches to the new site design. Locked-down and cut-off from the mainland, I was still on the island when we first launched the new site, working from my temporary home by the sea. But, by that time, Ben had left for the United States to get vaccinated and spend time with his family and friends. Ultimately, the time we had during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, we used to create the new Vietnam Coracle website. For us, it was a good, constructive use of those two ‘lost years’.
Focus & Goals of the Redesign:
Our key focus was to make Vietnam Coracle more practical and more beautiful; easier to use and better to look at and read. I’ve always wanted Vietnam Coracle to be a website anyone can enjoy through beautiful images and evocative writing no matter where they are in the world, but also one that’s practical for travellers on-location in Vietnam. Thanks to the redesign, I believe Vietnam Coracle now realizes these goals better than ever.
We’ve focused on making the content more visually appealing and better organized; the layout and navigation more coherent, intuitive and easy to use; and the website more efficient, faster and better-optimized across all devices and screen sizes. Vietnam Coracle’s new design makes it better to browse and read from the comfort of your home or in a cafe, but also better to use on the road, in real-time when travelling in-country.
The aesthetics of Vietnam Coracle are important to me. I want the site to look better than ever: to inspire more and deeper wanderlust in those who read it. I want the website to be a living, breathing guide to Vietnam. I want the images to pop out so much that you can smell the jungles, hear the ocean, feel the breeze passing over you on a motorbike, and taste the street food. I want readers to be able to experience Vietnam via the website and then go experience the country in the flesh for themselves: make actual what I write about. This is what Ben and worked towards during the pandemic.
Another goal has been to integrate the ethos of Vietnam Coracle into the general design. I want to make it clear to readers what Vietnam Coracle is, how it’s run, why I do it, and how readers can support the site. To this end there are regular links across the new site to my About, Support, and Updates & Accuracy pages in order to reinforce the values underpinning Vietnam Coracle: no sponsored content, no paywalls, no paid posts or advertorials, no freebies or favours: 100% independent and free to read. I rely on various forms of reader support to keep it this way.
What’s New on the Redesign:
The new site is faster (much faster) and smoother. Posts and pages are better organized, archived and presented. Navigation is bigger, clearer and more varied: there are multiple ways to find the content you’re looking for – from maps to menus to search boxes. The mobile version of the site is far more sophisticated, user-friendly and visually appealing. Images are bigger, brighter and sharper. The new design showcases the thousands of photographs on the site, thus doing justice to Vietnam and the travel and cultural experiences I write about.
Ben and I put a lot of thought, time and effort into this redesign. However, as anyone who’s a web-developer or runs a website will know, it’s a constant work in progress: never totally finished. We will continue to make tweaks to the site here and there to keep everything up-to-date and functioning as well as possible. I am happy and proud of what Ben and I have created and I hope readers are too. Thank you for using Vietnam Coracle and please consider supporting the site. Tom
*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write on this website: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this article because I want my readers to know about the website redesign. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page