Camels & Chocolate v. 5.0: Shiny & New

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I dreamed last night that someone handed me the keys to a brand new BMW convertible, and then I woke up to find my site looking like this, so I guess you can say that dreams occasionally do come true?

If you’re a long-time visitors to Camels & Chocolate, things may look just a wee bit different around here. And if you’re a first-timer, well, perhaps I should start from the beginning.

I’m Kristin Luna, veteran journalist, Southerner and adventure seeker. I started C&C more than eight years ago, and it’s evolved from a travel blog to a personal site to a lifestyles portal through which to share my varying interests and passions: food, bourbon, home renovation, the South, writing, and of course travel (some things never change). You can read more of my backstory in depth on my fancy, new about page. Even if you think you know everything about me, I encourage you to click over and learn something new!

Kristen
Kristen
Kristen

My last redesign, while pretty, was a bit dated, clunky and no longer functional for my needs, so in the early spring, I reached out to Further Bound, who had given my friends Pete and Dalene the VIP treatment when they unveiled their latest iteration of Hecktic Travels. I loved how, right off the bat, Hannah was responsive—a major problem I’d had with development teams in the past—and suggested we set up a Skype call to further explore a collaboration. Five minutes into our chat, I was smitten: I knew this was the pair who could deliver exactly what we needed for Camels & Chocolate v. 5.0.

SVV and I spent a couple months strategizing with Hannah and Lee and plotting out exactly what this site was going to look like before formally starting the design process in July. Hannah, having been a reader from the beginning, had a very distinct vision of how the C&C virtual journey would go; Lee, was responsible for executing it in concept from the coding end.

I don’t think these two had an inkling of an idea at just how big this project would turn into (VERY is the answer). As we got our hands dirty with the details, we kept delving deeper and deeper into possibility, page by page. I wanted a bold palette and a font with hints of Art Deco. I needed a way for people to find the 1000s of pages of content easier. I needed punch. I needed a way to display my hundreds of magazine clips in a clean and easy-to-navigate format. I needed a method of displaying multiple images as collages, or to have the images be flanked by compelling pull quotes. And, most importantly, I hoped they’d come up with a way to put together eBook ideas that had been rattling around in my brain for the last several few years.

I needed punch. I needed a way to display my hundreds of magazine clips in a clean and easy-to-navigate format. I needed a method of displaying multiple images as collages, or to have the images be flanked by compelling pull quotes.
Kristin and Ella
Camels and Chocolate New Web Design
Camels and Chocolate New Web Design
Camels and Chocolate New Web Design
Camels and Chocolate New Web Design
Camels and Chocolate New Web Design

After creating mood boards on Pinterest for everything from design ideas, colors, shapes, fonts, textures and photography ideas, the bare bones outline of the site began to form. Art Deco became a driving design component, with its linear lines and geometric turns—something I’ve always felt drawn to. We also spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the website a more pleasing place to visit: clearly defined categories and destinations and content that readers can really drill down into was the ultimate goal. Previous website iterations didn’t do this very well and we were ready to make a big leap and refine our virtual journey. We hope you agree that it’s now a place to get lost, bookmark and, most importantly, return to time and time again.

And behold, magic ensued: Lee and Hannah gave me a platform to do all this and much, much more. This site was a huge step for me on so many levels, not only because it was the biggest upgrade we’d undergone to date, but because it was also the first time I’ve ever had professional pics taken to fit within a uniform site branding (all Hannah’s doing). For that, I turned to Nashville-based lifestyles photographer Joe Hendricks, who is one of the best in the biz and an all-around awesome guy. He made the whole shoot a whole heck of a lot of fun—he even got my stoic husband to crack a smile for a few shots! Major victory right there alone—and my pageant queen-turned-makeup artist and stylist pal Brenna Mader did my hair and makeup for the occasion. I’ve decided I want these two to style my life because they did such a great job making me feel pretty. (And funny enough, they both were behind the scenes at my sister’s wedding this past weekend, too, so you’ll be seeing more from them soon!)

Camels and Chocolate New Web Design

Before
Camels and Chocolate New Web Design

After

But what’s new exactly? Wellllll, other than literally everything, you’ll find all the international destinations I have ever covered on the Places page, which is my absolute favorite part of the entire site. If you’re looking for U.S. states specifically, those are broken down even further here.

Within posts, you won’t be able to click through the categories anymore, because we made it even more streamlined for you: You can either see the major categories on my homepage or you can always click on the Topics tab at the top of the page, which will take you to my archives broken down by theme: At Work, At Play, At Home, On the Road, City Dog Tales and Creative Crush. There is also now a breakdown of the categories at the bottom of many pages to help you through a crappy day in the cubicle with images of prancing puppies or pristine and sandy beaches.

My portfolio of published magazine and newspaper work is not only much easier to digest now but even broken down by genre: travel and food, celebrities and entertainment, business and startups, homes and entertaining, and health and wellness. Many of you have, in the past, asked to read samples of what I do all day, every day (other than tend to this blog and Ella’s every need), so here’s your chance! Be sure you have a solid Internet connection or free WiFi (183 pdfs is a lot of bandwidth to peruse).

So You Wannan Be a Travel Writer
The Ultimate Guide to Nashville
Magazine 101: Breaking In

Probably the biggest development is that I’m (finally!) rolling out the eBooks in phases, the first of which will be a very lengthy—read: upward of 20,000 words—rendition of my popular post of the same name, “So You Wanna Be a Travel Writer?” This will come out in October, and if you want to be notified of when that happens, you can sign up for an alert. If you want a FREE eBook on my favorite travel tips and products, you can nab that right now by subscribing via the form at the bottom of this page.

There’s so much more, but I’d prefer you discover it on your own, rather than break it down page by page. So have a seat and stay for awhile, will you? Since we just took the site live today, there are no doubt still bugs and broken links we’ve yet to find. If you locate any such holes, I’d be ever so appreciative if you’d do me a solid and leave a comment below.

And even if you don’t find missteps, I’d still love to hear more about YOU, period. I’ve been blogging for nearly a decade and my audience has changed with the times. People interact differently, through Instagram and Tweets as opposed to blog comments. As such, I’d love if you’d humor me: Do introduce yourself, tell me where you’re from, what you’re all about and why you’ve stuck around. Because while this site is about me, it’s kind of about you, too.

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COMMENTS
  • September 23, 2015

    GIRL you killed it! This looks amazing!
    I’m cheering you with a glass of bourbon all the way from ATL. Bravo, Kristin!

    • September 23, 2015

      Thank you, Muriel! Come up and we’ll drink bourbon together, k? 😉

  • September 23, 2015

    So excited to finally see this baby go live! Thank you so much for choosing us to embark on this journey with you – it’s been a real adventure. You and Scott have been such a joy to work with, and given us so much freedom to really push this beyond what any of us first anticipated on that first Skype call all those months ago! We hope you will love your new online home, and can’t wait to see you continue to grow from here. Cheers!

    • September 23, 2015

      I’m going to need you to just move in with me already because I’m already warning you the separation anxiety began to seep in the second you went to that wedding in France!

      • September 24, 2015

        Haha! Well that’s a good incentive to keep creating lots of wonderful new products so we never have to stop working together 🙂

  • September 23, 2015
    jeje

    Yippee! it’s stunning!!

  • September 23, 2015
    Erin

    It’s just so gorgeous! Congrats girl!

    • September 23, 2015

      Thank you so much! I’m just a wee bit smitten with all that Further Bound did for this major upgrade =)

  • September 23, 2015
    grace b

    I’ve always loved to go back and read through your archives and I LOVE how easy it is to do that now! And this palette — the yellow especially — is so gorgeous! 🙂

    • September 23, 2015

      Thank you, Grace! That was always the big problem with the past couple versions: with 1000+ posts, it’s hard to make it easy to navigate/sift through the archives/find things you’re looking for. That was Hannah’s top priority with this design, and I’ve got to say she nailed it =)

  • September 23, 2015
    Brie

    Hey! Love the new look. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been enjoying your blog for years and years (ever since you guest posted on Secret Agent Josephine’s blog which had to have been while I was in college- nearly a decade ago) and I rarely comment. I love living vicariously through the glamorous stories and pictures you share of your amazing adventures, and I’m thrilled that I’ll finally visit Nashville next summer when my church youth choir tours there. Thanks for sharing your lovely writing!

    • September 23, 2015

      That’s awesome, Brie! Brenda (SAJ) and the whole BlogHer crew of mommybloggers were my first online friends, and I love that you found me through her. And thank you for commenting…let me know if you need even more Nashville tips before your big trip next summer =)

  • September 23, 2015

    I am head over heels in love, love, love! It is amazeballs. Long time reader and fangirl, this rocks it! Congrats on all your fabulousness and love the extra visibility of SVV on these pages!

    • September 23, 2015

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! And yes, Hannah was pretty insistent SVV be a part of the design…much to his dismay HA. I do love how the photos turned out with him in them though! =)

  • September 23, 2015

    Congratulations on your redesign! I love the colors and the parallax scroll. Cheers to more travels eats and blogging.

    • September 23, 2015

      Thank you, Lilliane! I so appreciate all the support =)

  • September 23, 2015

    I love it!!!!!! It’s so perfect for you!!!! It makes me so happy I jumped up and down when I saw it. And seeing how good Hannah and Lee did makes me SOOO happy I’ve hired them to do my site. And I couldn’t be happier for you because I know the desire to have an amazing site intimately. It becomes an obsession. Ha!

    • September 25, 2015

      Ahhhhh I can’t wait to see what they do with your site! I’m so sad that Hannah and Lee won’t be part of my daily life after the next week or so. Only solution? Start a second site, ha! =)

  • September 23, 2015

    Ahhhhh I’ve been waiting for this all week!

    It’s so beautiful! Love it.

    • September 23, 2015

      You are too sweet! Thanks for all your support, Britt =)

  • September 23, 2015
    Lemon

    Yayyy! I love the new site! So exciting, looks gorgeous, uses my favorite color (Lemon yellllllooooowwww) and one of my favorite shapes (hexagons)! It’s all about me, right??

    • September 25, 2015

      It was clearly inspired by you and a ploy to get you to ye olde Victorian soon. After all, the Lemon Room does have a new hex tiled bathroom to boot!

  • September 24, 2015

    Woooow… this looks like the BIG TIME!! I think that with this beautiful, refreshing design and nice navigation, folks will really enjoy spending time here (myself included!). Can’t wait to see what happens next — congrats! 🙂

    • September 25, 2015

      Thank you so much, Kirsten! There’s definitely a LOT more we can do with the new design. Now for the tedious task of reformatting 1000+ posts accordingly…that might take me a few months (er, year) 😉

  • September 24, 2015

    Love it! I loved working with FB and so glad you did too! Isn’t it fab to have a nice breath of fresh air on the site??? Lovely!

    • September 25, 2015

      Totally! Your site was one of the ones that inspired me to hire them. I already knew I was interested via the Hecks’ site, and then they sent me yours as another example and I was all, signed, sealed, delivered, count me in! =)

  • September 24, 2015

    Your site design is BEAUTIFUL!!! I loooove yellow, but I also just love how sleek this is! 🙂 Thank you so much for reaching out, I can’t wait to dive further into your writing. I love Nashville, I hope that you have the BEST time seeing Tswift and Vance Joy this weekend! XO -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • September 25, 2015

      Thank you, Alexandra! Ditto to your site =)

  • September 24, 2015

    It looks AMAZING! I’m excited to explore a little 🙂 Congratulations!

    • September 25, 2015

      Thanks, girl! I appreciate you sticking with me all these years =)

  • September 24, 2015

    AAAHHH!!! SUCH BEAUTY! I love it. I think it speaks volumes about your personality as the person behind this blog! Expect me to linger around these parts and cyber-stalk your archives in the following days (maybe weeks? Months?) :p

    Congratulations on the new design, Kristin!!

    • September 25, 2015

      thank you, thank you, thank you! You are always the sweetest, Pauline =)

  • September 25, 2015

    OBSESSED! Seriously, it’s probably embarrassing how excited I’m getting clicking around your site right now. So much pretty!

    • September 26, 2015

      I heart you, Silvia! Thanks for the excitement =)

  • September 25, 2015

    The site looks wonderful and really inspires me to make changes on mine! I’m a fellow travel writer nearby in Lexington, Kentucky. I have enjoyed reading your writing for a few years now.

    • September 26, 2015

      Site designs are such a huge undertaking, but always worth it in the end!

  • September 25, 2015
    Yam

    I LOVE THE NEW SITE DESIGN!! The shade of yellow? LOVE. I’ve been reading your blog for roughly 4 years now and I rarely comment, but I just had to do it today.
    I’ve always loved your writing, and the great photos you share. Seeing it all put together this way is amazing! Even your posts from the past two months feels like I haven’t read them before. I’ll be exploring the rest of the site after I submit this 🙂

    p.s. Hi, my name is Yam (no, really. It’s a nickname, and my full name is also food-ish). I’m a reader from Manila, Philippines.

    • September 26, 2015

      I love you, Yam! a) That’s a great name, b) you’re from the Philippines (can I come visit? I hear you have some killer diving) and c) I love how full of life you are! Thank you for chiming in and for the nice words =)

  • September 25, 2015

    Woohoo!

    It looks… BEAUTIFUL!
    Many congratulations to you and all your successful endeavors.

    (By the way, as I type this, there was a blinky thing happening underneath the Submit button, and then once it stopped loading, this text showed u… never mind, it went away.)

    • September 26, 2015

      Haha, hopefully just a temporary glitch but definitely let me know if you see anything again. Our design/development team is AWESOME and fixes things pretty much the moment we report them =)

  • September 25, 2015
    Briel K.

    Finally had the chance to take a look around. Congratulations, it looks great! I’m loving the colors and font choices and everything seems more organized and easier to find. I love the “Places” page. It’s so appealing to the eye!

    Reading the “About Me” page made me realize I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time! Not sure when I started exactly, or what led me here, but I think it had to be around 2008/2009. I didn’t read when you were in NY but I know I was reading when you were in SF and when you got engaged and married. Time sure flies!

    • September 26, 2015

      You definitely did not want to be reading during my NYC days…I had no idea what to do with a blog back then ha. As such, most of those posts are now deleted or hidden 😉 *hangs head in shame*

  • September 26, 2015

    Now this is SNAZZY! Nicely done. FWIW, I loved the old design too. 🙂

    • September 26, 2015

      Awww you’re sweet! I didn’t even have a blog feed or archives page on the last one so it was extremely hard to find anything, ha!

      P.S. You know I love your new-ish design. After I saw that, I just had to get a new look for myself!

  • September 28, 2015

    I’m new to your site, so it was fun to see the comparisons of your old site to your new design! The style and look has definitely taken your site up several notches and the photography and colors are beautiful! Great job on the new look! Can’t wait to see more of your site.

  • September 29, 2015

    Congrats, such a beautiful redesign! Looking forward to scrolling through it all 🙂

  • October 2, 2015

    Gorgeous! I love everything about this site. I’m looking forward to digger deeper.

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