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« Le Tour de France 2004! | Main | Rohdesign Redesign: Part 3 »

Rohdesign Redesign: Part 4

It's been a productive week on the Rohdesign redesign, even though the original deadline of July 1 wasn't met. Partly it had to do with really seeing the scope of my undertaking as I dove in, partly it had to do with real life crashing the party.

035Somewhere near the end of the month I decided not to worry about the arbitrary deadline, as it had already served its purpose: getting me excited about the redesign process. Now that I'm rolling, I've decided to set a new deadline of July 15th, because I know I work best when I have a deadline to work toward.

I've been very pleased with the documentation process. It's been strange (in a good way) how aware I've been of my own work as I have written down my notes, made sketches or futzed with Fireworks comps. The idea of displaying notes and artwork publicly has focused my thoughts on the process in a way I hadn't expected. I've heard many kind comments from readers who are enjoying the series. Thanks everyone!

As for the project status, I've spent time this week focusing on layout refinements and color experimentation. I was generally pleased with the last grey box layout, but wasn't able to get into color schemes until Thursday, which was in the end, probably for the best.

Some contemplation about the site design during the week came to a head on Thursday morning at the cafe. I felt the 3 column design was still too complex — it needed simplification. So, I took out my sketchbook and began putting down ideas on the way back to a 2 column layout. The general idea was to move the new 'Notable' sideblog section into the left column and heavily reconsider all of the items in the navigation area. What was critical and what not?

I needed navigation, and wanted 'Notable', 'Quotable', 'Reading' and 'Hearing' blocks to stay. I decided to move the 'Blogpals' block to the Links page and to move 'Blogtools' block to the About page. This freed up room for both 'Notable' and 'Quotable' blocks on the left navigational column.

The body text area widened out, leaving some whitespace on the right edge, in place of the 3rd column. The globe seemed a bit too large, so that was slightly reduced. Overall I felt pretty good about 2 columns, except for the nagging feeling that Notable and Quotable might be lost in the navigation row.

I decided to take a break from design, to explore colors and textures. I've wanted to maintain the color scheme from the old design, at least in spirit. Feeling more attracted to strong but muted colors of purple, orange, black and green, I began colorizing two column layouts, exploring dark purples, bright and then rusty oranges, slate greens and variations of their application on elements and type.

I liked the color process, even though it was quite difficult to balance the colors I was working with. Rusty orange is a strong color when paired with deep purples and slate green. I think the color choice process is made even harder, since I want to come up with a combination I'll like for a long while, perfectionist that I am.

I've decided to post my progression of comps created with color, as links because there are quite a few: 03.0, 03.1, 03.2, 03.3, 03.4, and 03.5.

Seeking Advice
After several variations on these color schemes I brought in my advisory council. First, Michael Ashby, a fellow blogger and web designer. Michael always offers good feedback and did not disappoint. I showed him my progression of layouts, and heard his feedback, which challenged me to continue with the process.

Later that evening, I had my wife in to have a look and offer opinions. She liked my progression, though had feelings about some color choices which helped me greatly. From her suggestions I built a final color comp on Thursday evening.

Before heading to bed, I sent the progression of links to my friend Andy Bauer, whom I trust for design and color. Andy has already been a helpful through this process with the design, so I knew he would also offer useful feedback.

Boy did Andy deliver this time! He wasn't as keen on the 2 column layout as I had been, because he felt a sense possibly of "missing something" on that left column — particularly the Notable and Quotable blocks. He felt that keeping these items on the right side of the page (e.g. the original 3 column design) kept them in a place easy to see. He also had suggestions about the colors, offering his gut impression that they felt very 1980s. He liked them but wondered if they might go out of fashion.

He wasn't completely crazy about my experiments with the weathered looking globe logo. He thought it was just a bad resize in Photoshop rather than an intentional thing. As I'm new to and not totally sold on the weathering idea, I had to agree.

So, I made some adjustments per his thoughts and generated another comp, numbered 03.6. This one featured 3 columns and a gray layout (as color is being revisited).

Another friend and fellow designer, Paul Rozanski, stopped by the house this afternoon to pick up some things, so I asked him to have a look as well. He suggested I consider more descriptive identification, sharing with new visitors just who this 'rohdesign' guy was. I was encouraged me to generate one last comp this evening before dinner, 03.7. This modification featured a more descriptive tagline, a small photo and intro to the blog and myself and a little more positioning experimentation.

Decisions & Direction
The design progression for now has stopped and I've printed out each one for review. I have some contemplating to do about the design, colors and what items really ought to be on the new design, but I think this should wait until Monday. Sometimes getting away from the project helps me identify things I may not notice when I'm up too close.

So, another chapter of the process has passed and documented here. As always, if you have comments, suggestions or ideas, feel free to leave those.

Have a great weekend! :-)

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