A Site Redesign for Spring 2008

After taking a break these past few weeks, I decided to reboot the blog and point it in a new direction.

Part of the motivation was a desire for something warmer, more spacious and more readable to accommodate longer bits of writing and tutorials. As for the shorter bits, I’m also posting links to Twitter. I still want this site to be a ‘final destination’ for readers rather than an index of outsourced content as Zeldman has noted.

Design

Design-wise, I wanted something catchy but not trendy. I mostly improvised and found myself riffing on the textures and colors from my band’s EP cover which also favors the rich brown-orange-blue palette. Otherwise I just improvised and found that ideas came quicker when I didn’t force myself to plan — the benefits of being my own client.

Mostly, as you see from the homepage, I wanted to avoid the constraints of the typical blog format and use WordPress make the content more modular. This should make life easier next time I want to redesign.

Browser Compatibility

In my paid projects I will continue to temporarily support Internet Explorer 6, but this site no longer supports it. Users will still be able to navigate the content, but display and DOM issues will not be fixed for browsers more than two years out of date.

Boy, does that feel good to say.

Content

I’ll continue to write about the smaller details of building websites, especially when it comes to WordPress, but I also want to cover more big-picture issues that come with planning and strategizing larger websites and dealing with client feedback.

Functionality

The new site uses fewer template files than any theme I’ve developed, yet is significantly more powerful. Much of this is due to WordPress’s conditional tags. Instead of creating custom page templates for everything, I inserted a number of conditionals within page.php and both sidebars to dynamically determine which content to display. I also used applied classes and IDs to the <body> tag to control layouts. All in all, the theme is much ‘smarter’ while remaining compact.

On that note, I also used the loop in some non-standard ways throughout the theme. I created a unique template called loop.php and inserted some conditionals to make it behave differently in different contexts.

As far as solving problems, the feature I’m most happy with is the ability to use a dropdown menu for subscribing via RSS. I mentioned awhile back that I thought the current method of offering feeds was unintuitive. Users unfamiliar with RSS typically click the orange icon, are greeted with XML code and have no idea how to proceed. Offering them the one-click ability to add the feed to their favorite reader seems, to me, an improvement. If you have suggestions for more feedreader support, please let me know.

Finally I added some javascript zoom tricks to the Work page and also to the Archives and Category menus. In my experience, I only use those menus to navigate blogs a very small fraction of the time, so I thought I’d experiment with minimizing them.

But enough self-indulgent explanation — I hope you enjoy the new direction!