If you’ve visited the site since yesterday, chances are you noticed things are looking a little different around here.

That’s because I’ve unveiled a new Brave New Traveler design and layout, incorporating a number of changes I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

Warning: if you’re not a web design geek, I won’t blame you for not reading any further.

But for the rest of our readers interested in things like CSS, layouts, and WordPress, than by all means, read on. Here’s a breakdown of the most important changes and why I chose them.

Shrunk The Header

I loved the old Brave New Traveler header. It was a great place to showcase an interesting photo. It’s just too bad it took up too much prime real estate on the page.

Website experts will tell you the better way to design a site is to have the juicy content start sooner. After all, when you see the header once, you don’t spend time looking at it again later. You want good content. So the header had to go.

Widened the Columns

While it’s generally best practice to stick with the lowest common denominator in screen resolution, I realized after delving into my Google Analytics that over 75% of visitors have screen resolutions set to 1024 x 768 or larger.

That means most of you were reading the previous Brave New Traveler layout crammed into a 780px wide column. Too narrow, in my opinion. So I stretched the new width to 950px, taking advantage of that extra breathing space.

Added Most Popular Posts

It’s a tragedy for a blog to bury their best work in the archives. There’s no better way to entice new readers to stick around and subscribe than showcasing your most cherished content. Hence the new ‘most popular’ column beneath the categories.

Tweaked The Advertising

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to place advertising on Brave New Traveler. But because I would like to pay our contributors one day, I need to start making some cold, hard cash. I briefly considered pornography, then decided it didn’t really fit with the whole “exploration of travel in the 21st century” thing.

So option 2 is fiddling with the placement of Google Adsense, an Amazon store, Text Link Ads, and a variety of trusted affiliate products in an attempt to monetize the site for semi-steady income. (Hint: If you’re enjoying yourself and the blog, clicking the ads and buying the products is appreciated).

Strengthened The Community

One major component I felt was missing from the previous layout was the public support of the wonderful readers that visit Brave New Traveler. These are the readers who comment on the posts, spread the word, and generally make it feel like a thriving travel community.

My answer to this was to include the MyBlogLog widget and filling out the travel blogroll, in the hopes of sending some link love back out into the travel blog universe. After all, it’s the readers who make a great blog. Otherwise it’s just a couple people talking to themselves.

Added ‘More Travel Headlines Feed’

Each week I roundup the latest and greatest links from around the web. Sadly, not all the links end up showcased. But I still end up bookmarking it.

So to help you keep track of the plethora of great content published everyday, I’m publishing a new “More Travel Headlines” rss feed which you can subscribe here or just scan the headlines in the bottom right of the website whenever you visit.

What do you think of the new layout? Feel free to tell it to me straight. I can take it.