Discussing Design

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Sometimes I start writing a post with no idea where it will head. What follows is a bit of a meandering waffle…

Recently I asked for some suggestions for content (which I duly ignored, sorry about that). The still-blogless Donalda suggested:

Every so often you do a “here is what my site looked like in the past and here’s what it looks like now” thing, but with the last few changes you haven’t. I quite like those as I like to see where the design idea is headed. A discussion of DESIGN of blogs might mean a few folk not making the evil, evil mistakes that lots of neophytes do – not discussed in your talk, but very helpful, the usual suspects of links, and just a few ideas on what your next change will be.

The alternative was to post a photo of some kittens smothered in Nutella… or something… I forget why.

Why re-design?
I’ve been, rightly, accused of re-designing this site too often and thereby breaking my “brand”. Thing is, as this is very much a hobby, I don’t really care about that kind of thing. This site has gone through several iterations, starting pre-blog with a title of “Something” and a popup window featuring frames and tables for layout, to the current “blog” style which I’ve yet to make into a WordPress template, despite several requests1. In-between times I’ve ditched a ‘name’ and used the URL, and then gone back to a name, not to mention the fact that the site URL itself has changed from www.snowgoon.co.uk to www.gordonmclean.co.uk (or .com if you really want).

The reason I have a website at all stems from the need to experiment when I was learning HTML (the very first iteration of my website was purely a set of links with a lot of clever Javascript, lost in the murks of time that one) and it wasn’t until I started writing and publishing online that any idea of site construction really entered my head. This is why I still enjoy the process of designing and building a website, and still enjoy finding inspiration from many sources.

And yes, this is kind of at odds with the reasons why I joined 9rules, but who said I had to be consistent? Ohh I did… damn.

Where next for this site?
I like the current design. It meets MY needs, and hopefully isn’t too hard to use for you guys and gals either. The overflow section (on the left) is working OK but still needs some tweaking, and the main posts are looking fine. The Flickr integration and top navigation needs a little more refining but I do feel quite settled at the moment.

That usually means that in a couple of months I’ll be bored again. But which direction will I take next?

Well I’ll be steering clear of big bright colours and large sans-serif fonts (far too Web 2.0… whatever that is…), but I think I’ll be making more use of sections and graphics in the future. Mainly because my proficiency with PhotoShop is leaping forward (thanks to some other projects I’m working on) and because it’s the one area my sites have always lacked. In saying that, I have still to find a real balance between nice graphic embellishments and my desire to retain a minimal design. I may drop the number of colours in the future, and have one main highlight colour with the rest of the site relying on blacks, whites and hues of grey.

I may also experiment with a new layout, primarily offering a semi-fluid width for the main column (the one you are ‘in’ at the moment). Ideally the main column will be resizable but be limited to a maximum width… still figuring out how to do that one mind you. I will NOT be changing to a “content on the left” layout, I don’t think. Primarily because I think having the ‘other bits’ of your site hemmed in by the main content gives them some focus, whereas on content-left sites I rarely move my eyes to the right of the content and miss out on a lot of stuff that way (might just be me though).

All in all this site WILL change in the future, not anytime this month mind you but hey, who knows what the future will bring.

Site critique time then.

If this was YOUR site, what would YOU change?
Any examples of sites you like the look of are welcomed. Some examples that I keep returning to are:

  • Minor 9th – single colour highlight, clean, crisp design.
  • Daring Fireball – proves that dark backgrounds CAN work.
  • Warpspire – nice use of space, and nice approach for a ‘one post’ on page site.
  • …. you tell me!

Finally a mention for the Hemingway theme which you can find on the last site on the above list. I really like this approach, but find it at odds with my desire to have content easily available (not behind a click). Still unsure whether it’ll be an influence for any upcoming redesign but it does have some excellent ideas.

1 I may get around to it at some point, but I’ve still to get my head into the whole WordPress ‘template’ thing.