Well, I did it. As of this writing (11:46 PM Saturday evening) the main page of the new weblog design is live. I hope you all like the new design as much as I do.
You may be asking, why the sudden change of design? Well actually, I've already stepped through most of the redesign process in the summer of 2004, stopping with a final design I liked at the time. A vacation interrupted the process for a week, but when I came back, the design I'd settled on just didn't feel quite right yet. So, rather than push it through, I decided to let the design percolate in my subconscious for a while.
During the course of percolation, I began to have other ideas about how the site should look, and what should be present. I knew for sure the site should be simple, clean, direct and readable, yet also attractive (I am a designer after all).
I began to feel strongly about adding a photo of myself on the site, which had been removed in the earlier redesign process. The more time I spend in web design and blogging, the more I feel that sites which portray a person (or persons) behind them have an edge over sites which do not. To me, they feel cold and impersonal.
An About page became a requirement (which is not yet fully expanded) to provide some background on myself for new visitors and for long-time readers alike.
I kept the Reading block from the most recent redesigns, and will probably add a Listening block (with a fave CD) very soon. I always find other bloggers' reading and music choices quite interesting, so it only made sense to include my own selections. These will be linked to my Amazon Associates account, so if you end up liking a book or CD I'm checking out, using those links is always appreciated. :-)
Part of the key for me was to start with stock Movable Type templates rather than from scratch on the project. Even though I've done a fair amount of editing, it really helped to have a starting point — I'm sure they will continue to be tweaked and adjusted.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the redesign results. I'm certain there will be changes coming, but I've at least stepped through the door now. Now that I'm through, it seems less of a challenge to adapt the remaining templates to the new look.
Finally, if you see issues, errors or freaky reactions in your favorite browser, please leave a comment or contact me with the details.
Reader Fazal Majid sent along a nice email today, pointing out some of the missing styling on the site. I replied to Fazal, and thought it might be interesting to post some bits of my reply and a few other thoughts related to the redesign.
So, you may have noticed some ugly supporting pages on the blog (permalinks, archives, etc.). Reason: rather than trying to get a perfect design ready and launch all at once, I made a decision to make it a process — the main page first, followed by secondary and supporting pages.
"Life is not a dress rehearsal. Quit practicing what you're going to do, and just do it. In one bold stroke you can transform today." — Marilyn Grey
The unstyled pages for permalinks, comments and archives for a little while, until I'm free to get in and apply the new templates and stylesheets. I've intentionally allowed the un-styling to exist, rather than waiting for every page to be perfect.
By keeping this a process, I can improve the design and function as I go, rather than taking months to build something only to go through the same process later. Besides, I was curious to see what kind of feedback my readers would provide.
"We'd much rather see entrepreneurs build something quickly, get it out there, and let the customers bang on it and evolve it. The entrepreneurs who insist on over engineering their solutions inevitably end up with nothing to show for it." — Fred Wilson
It's been an interesting experience to let go. As long as the site is functional and ugly, I'm Ok with that. Instead of modifying the entire site in an all-nighter, I can make smaller changes when time allows.
Fazal also commented on the starkness of the design. I had a few reasons for such a clean, simple design. Since the primary focus on this site is writing, I wanted the text to receive the focus. I plan to keep the design simple and elegant — maybe a little more stark than I might normally allow.
At lunch today, I resolved most of the issues with the main page — mainly Internet Explorer 6 problems (surprise, surprise!). I've added a new color bar up top, to replace a gradation that was a bit too light.
There are still more changes coming. If you see any weirdness or have suggestions, I'm quite open to your thoughts. Rather than assuming I know what readers want, I'd love to hear it from you directly.
Thanks again for all of the excellent comments and encouragement!