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Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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Rohdesign Version 2.0 Goes Live

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.

Update 2005-02-21
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.

Unstyled Pages
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.

Stark Design
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!

Reader Comments (11)

I like the new design.. need to update the RSS feed template, too.. I had to come to the main site to look. :)
February 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBrad
looks great.
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterchinchorrero
I like it. It has a fresh simplicity. I also like the fact that you took "world famous" out of your description. I never knew how to take that.
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Kemp
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterIan McKenzie
Love the new look, Mike!I haven't tried the RSS feed yet, though I know I had problems accessing your old one. One question though, why don't you have a link to Journalismo? I actually had to go Google it to find it...
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
Hi Mike

The new design gets the thumbs up from me. Nice new logo, overall very simple, and much nicer link colours than the old version. I definitely like the idea of adding a Listening block -- just wish that clicking through would do the sensible thing for us non-US types and take us through to the item at our own Amazon store :-/
February 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNeal
Mike - I really like this cool fresh look. One question though - did you intend for all your links and your 'mug shot' to be right at the bottom of the page - after all the current blogg entries? They are all left justified so I thought maybe they should be at the top left hand side of the page?

In case it is relevant I'm viewing via IE6 @ 1,024 x 768

Great work!!!
February 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
Thanks everyone!

John, as for site funnyness, it's just that I'm in-process with the templates. I think the right bar ought to work now -- though you may need to reload.

Thomas, Word Famous is sort of a joke -- something I'll address in my About area. Basically I knew and was known by people around the world, and was a designer, so I made up the phrase. However I wa always concerned that it spoke of pomposity, when really is kind of self-depricating. ;-)

Kristin -- thanks for the suggestion about Journalisimo. I will be updated the blogroll and making it easier to update in the future as an MT include.

Neal, good point about Amazon. I don't know if I get credit from the other stores -- I might need to apply for memberships at each international store to get credit. I should look into that for the UK, Canada and Australia.

Ok, more tonight... :-)
February 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

Love it!

Have blog envy....
February 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hughes
I like your new home page design too!Very clean, simple, and to the point.No distractions either.

I hope others will use it as a template.
February 21, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterkpr
Actually I meant to say weblog page instead of home page.
February 21, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterkpr

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