So I’ve been thinking off and on about what a revised jaredwsmith.com will look like. This is always a point of self-conversation, but the discussion has kind of erupted in recent days, to the point where I am actually prototyping a new look in code (if the design makes it out of Photoshop, that’s typically significant). I’ve been pleased; the new look cuts down a great deal (try over 750 lines less!) on layout code and thus does a better job of degrading the presentation when viewed by a non-CSS or text-only browser. I also think the new look is generally cleaner than what’s running now. The current design has gotten incredibly noisy, I think. I also don’t think it’s as easy to use as it should be. Granted, there’s nowhere to navigate to right now, but I plan on rectifying that.
That’s where the other dilemma comes into play. I’m likely going to go the WordPress-as-CMS route and create specific pages for the about page, etc. However, it wouldn’t make much sense for it all to live under blog.jaredwsmith.com — so I have a decision to make, which may be incredibly dumb. See, a year ago, I originally ran jaredwsmith.com at the root (i.e., www.jaredwsmith.com) and decided to migrate it when I wanted to separate the main site and the blog. However, as you all have undoubtedly noticed, this “main site” I speak of has yet to materialize. WordPress 2.1 enables some new features that make it sweatless to implement WordPress as a CMS (you can see a great example of this on the CofC SGA site), so the natural route is to create the pages within WordPress and go from there.
It’s not that simple, though, because having a full website sit under blog.jaredwsmith.com doesn’t make a damn bit of sense to me. It makes much more sense at the logical spot, under www.jaredwsmith.com. This poses a major, major problem, though — if I move WordPress to www.jaredwsmith.com, then all the PageRank I’ve built over the last year with blog.jaredwsmith.com vanishes into thin frickin’ air. Sure, I’ll have a URL rewrite rule set up on blog.jaredwsmith.com to redirect permalinks to the new address, much as I have implemented with www.jaredwsmith.com…but still. It worries me a bit, at least right now.
One idea is to set up a second WordPress installation at www.jaredwsmith.com and administer the pages there, but that sort of redundancy is about as elegant as an elephant tap dancing to Trammell Starks. Another idea — the original plan, in fact — is to write up my own set of PHP pages, database, etc. and stick those on www.jaredwsmith.com, and hook into the blog database to show recent posts, etc. It also is very much like the secondary WordPress installation, except harder. No thanks. So, the poison will be relocating the blog and its associated pages back to its www roots, and hopefully for good this time…unless, of course, someone (or myself) comes up with an ingenious method of making it all work with the multiple subdomains and whatnot. I’ve heard WordPress-MultiUser mentioned as a solution, but that seems like overkill for what I want to do.
Technical matters aside, the new look will be nice. It’ll use popdown menus — automatically generated by WordPress, to boot — in the top bar for navigation. This is in contrast the current tree hanging out on the right (which I personally find to be tough to locate visually and a source of page noise). The right sidebar will continue to exist as an ad haven and blogroll location, and content will sit on the left. I toyed with the idea of a fluid design this time around, but I scrapped that idea because I believe reading is easier when there’s minimal need for eye travel (and a fluid-width design on a widescreen monitor can cause a lot of eye travel). Thus, this design will — just as past revisions of WordPress-based jaredwsmith.com have — fit in about 800 pixels wide. I haven’t determined whether to keep the serif Cambria/Georgia font for body text yet. I like the idea of differing the content font from the interface font (currently Segoe UI and Tahoma), but I may decide to relent and use a sans-serif face for body text this next time around. The only requirements for using the new site will be a standards-compliant browser. I’ll be doing most testing in Firefox and Internet Explorer, with some limited Safari and Opera testing as well. It’ll be perfectly usable in a browser that’s got no idea about CSS (Lynx, etc.) and will be tested for Section 508 Web accessibility, like all of my projects for the last two years have been.
One thing that will probably not make it into the next iteration of jaredwsmith.com is a full-blown discussion forum. I’m not sure I can dedicate the time and energy to the upkeep of a forum in addition to classes, work, and other Web stuff. I’m not 100% killing the idea of a forum, but I would not expect one at this juncture. Forums are beasts to run properly. I do believe, though, I may start the practice of having an occasional “open thread,” as seen at so many other blogs, which basically permits the reader to just go off on pretty much anything. Done right, I think open threads can be successful. I still have time to weigh this, though.
Now you know what a self-conversation about design is like. Hehe.