It’s been just over a year since I rolled out the current design of Pixels and Widgets and for the past four weeks, I’ve been itching to tear it down and start all over again.
I guess the question that occurs to me is: Why redesign a site that you barely update?
I’ve been asking myself this question ever since I wanted to start touching code again.
I can sum it up to several factors: My work with Shortcovers has really opened my eyes regarding online reading, and I’d like to implement a few theories of what a good reading experience should look like. Moreover, my current head-space is significantly different—while I like the design, the greys feel heavy and they weigh down on my soul. Perhaps I’m just hitting an optimistic upswing?
Back in August 2008, things with ShareImpact had begun to jump the tracks. I had been with the company 5 months, worked out the user experience and had begun prototyping in HTML. Unfortunately, this meant little as we still had not chosen a technology platform to implement it in. I realise now that that was a fundamental error. Who cares what language or framework you use? To have a working product that is demonstrable is so much more important. Chasing money with pretty pictures is a losing proposition.
By then, I guess I knew things weren’t going anywhere, so I started designing P&W v3 and updating my CV.
While I wasn’t in a funk, I definitely was trending down. I think my design (grey, grey and more grey) kind of shows that. Working with Drupal made it even more frustrating, but at least I can say that I did it.
Admittedly, I have found Drupal to be extremely flexible and admire many of its features. Unfortunately, I feel paralyzed by the amount of administrative overhead I feel is required to maintain this site. I really feel that a CMS should get out of the way from the author and I find the numerous security updates, the onerous update process, the lack of a proper admin dashboard, and a content creation interface that tries its hardest to beat me down. (What system expects you to author directly in HTML?)
Thinking back about the evolution of my site…MovableType was great as a blogging platform back in 2002. It was cool to have a Blog. It was a pain to setup (and still is) and I never quite understood how to have it run an entire site. I love that my articles were outputted as static HTML (it is so easy to archive). In 2005, I moved to Textpattern having tested it and WordPress 1.X. I felt that Textpattern had the more solid base and best potential to grow (Boy was I wrong). I love Textpattern for it’s simple authoring interface and textile markup. Unfortunately, development shortly began to languish (it has since picked up again with exciting new features), and to be honest, I never got a handle of its templating system until after I read “Textpattern Solutions”. I dislike WordPress. It just didn’t perform well enough for the Imprints v2 site. modX works well, has a modern admin interface, and strong developer community. It was joy to use for the current imprints site, although it lacks documentation. I’ve toyed with ExpressionEngine and I am excited to see what version 2.0 looks like.
My website is as much about self-promotion (I’m very bad at it) as it is a point-in-time representation of my psyche. I need to continually update as I grow, and understand new things about myself.
For the next redesign, I really want to output a substantially better reading experience with better typographic control. Off hand, this means adopting a grid system like Blueprint CSS or Grid 960. I really want to lighten the weight of design. More whitespace, no more verdana (which burns my eyes) and no sidebar. I really want to move away from the life-stream pattern that I’m using and create a kick-ass homepage (like I do for my clients). I want something rich and not flat.
I think the key difference with this design is that I’m really trying to understand my motivations this time (v3 of P&W was motivated by an urgent need to create a web presence—I figure I would need to find a job quickly and I was right). I really want to stay away from “what tool I want to learn” and do all the proper prep work—Just like I do for my clients.
ASIDE: That’s the irony though, I spend so much time working with clients and figuring out their needs, I do the exact opposite on my personal site.
I’m looking forward to see what I come up with.