Tag Archives: redesign

Introducing Photographica, the jaredwsmith.com redesign

Somehow I found the energy, the sheer will, and a requisite dose of insanity to release a major redesign of jaredwsmith.com this weekend. I call it Photographica, after the fun rotating photos that you’ll come to see as you browse through the new look.

A lot’s changed on the site, because a lot’s changed in my life. In 2005, when the orange/gray look took shape, it was a very edgy, turbulent time in my life. I was taking a great deal of chances, and it still held a hint of that youthful carelessness as I went about foraging a new identity. That identity’s since been foraged, and has been polished and evolved over the last three years. I’m now about to embark on yet another chapter in life; one that is certain to bring a whole new level of challenges along with it; but it’s also one that I feel I’m heading into on firm, stable ground. That’s what this look says to me; it’s got elements of that stormy side of life (as evidenced by the clouds that extend well beyond the frame of the main content area of the site), but it also brings a calm cleanliness as only Helvetica Neue and the less-loud blues and greens provide. I also think it captures an important element that I’ve tried to reinforce in my life: Stopping to smell the roses and take the world around me in — thus, the rotating photos of the world around me. This is a small set to start with; fear not, as there will be many more down the road. Photos are only a part of drawing a more complete picture of “the world according to me”; thanks to the FriendFeed sidebar widget, I’m able to show you a wider spectrum of my thoughts, likes, and dislikes, as well as what people think of those thoughts, likes, and dislikes.

Photographica evolved from a process that’s taken basically most of the summer. I pumped out at least ten mockups of what the site could look like before one night I was struck with a little stroke of genius. I began to template this out in static HTML; this process lasted several weeks and really enabled me to get it into WordPress quickly over this past weekend. It’s by far my most CSS-heavy design, and really shines on recent versions of Safari and Firefox. I take heavy advantage of WebKit and Mozilla’s pre-release implementations of the border-radius property, so if you’re on those browsers, you will see that rounded corners are pervasive throughout. If you’re not on them, not to worry — this effect degrades perfectly and there is no effect on performance at all. And if you’re still using Internet Explorer 6 for some reason, at least upgrade to IE 7 if you can’t switch to Firefox; you’re going to miss out on the image rotation and a few other items because IE 6 is just incredibly behind the times.

As always, Photographica is a living look and is a work in progress, as all Web sites are. There may be some bugs and some areas to iron out; I’ll fix them. For now, though, enjoy. I think you guys will like it.

A Sunday night core dump

I’m sitting here with a terrible case of selective writers’ block. I can write stream of consciousness in the blog all day long — which is what this is — but I’m struggling to write a movie review for my editing class. It’s due Wednesday but this is the only time I really have anything resembling energy for homework, which is surprising considering the emotional rollercoaster the NFL has been for the first two weeks. (I don’t want to say much about Week 2 beyond “the Cardiac Cats are BACK!” and “isn’t robbery illegal in Colorado?”) Continue reading

Focus (Or Lack Thereof)

Something I’ve always struggled with is my blog’s focus. I tend to zero in on topics for a little while and then drift to something else. It quite fits my semi-neurotic personality — I’m definitely a “phase” kind of guy — but I realize that for the few folks who do read me from time to time that my lack of focus can throw you off. Some people come here for my weather updates; that’s cool and all, but what if I go on a binge of technology posts about FriendFeed and Facebook and leave the weather alone for a while? What if people showed up for me to talk about the Padres when I haven’t mentioned them on here since April? Writing such a blog can be tough on the readers because that noise makes what one might perceive as “the good stuff” that much harder to find.

I’m trying to mitigate some of this issue in the next design by reinforcing a topic-based scheme that should more easily direct folks to what they’re looking for. I’m doing a little of that with my weather section right now, but I’m planning on doing the entire blog in a topic-based navigational scheme come redesign time. The goal is for folks to be able to see on the homepage a quick overview of my posts by topic, versus one giant aggregation that could be all over the place. I’ll still retain the all-over-the-placeness on the blog homepage (equivalent to jaredwsmith.com/blog now), but the homepage should at least help people be directed to what they’re interested in that I might write about.

This will help me be able to produce more content in more topics and give each topic pretty close to equal time. If I go on a binge of personal posts — I’m in something resembling a quarter-life crisis at times, so this is entirely possible — the noise generated from those won’t drown out my weather posts, so those who don’t give two rips about me ;) can still find out what kind of damaging winds will inevitably not materialize because I blogged about them. I’m really hoping that this works out the way I intend. There are some avenues I want to explore via the blog that I haven’t really felt like exploring yet because the necessary organizational balance has not been in place. I’m looking forward to those controls coming into play, and I’ll be interested to see how it affects readership down the road.

Some changes

As you can see, I went through and did a whole bunch of stuff to the site today. More work is forthcoming, too.

The first piece of motivation was to change the header to get that outdated picture out. After doing that, I realized that I had tweaked the PSD that held the layout to alter the shadow angle. Whoops. So, the title was off the rest of the layout. I re-exported the rest of the layout and was like “well, you know, while I’m here, I can fix the horizontal scroll issue at 800×600,” which I did. Then, stuff started just rolling:

  • I got rid of Georgia as the primary post text font (it just looked off) and went to a Helvetica/Arial set for post text (Verdana is too wide for my tastes and Tahoma lacks an italic version of the font, making it look TERRRRRIBLE when italicized) and Segoe UI and Lucida Grande for headings for those who have the new round of Microsoft UI fonts (or Macs). Georgia still stays for blockquoted text, though.
  • I cleaned up the asides. No incredibly loud 20 pixel-wide left border anymore.
  • Note the “Tagulonimbus” tag cloud on the homepage and the bottom of the blog homepage, too. It’s fun.
  • My Twitter status is now available under the heading RIGHT NOW on the homepage and blog homepage.

Tweaks are in progress for standard blog posts and their archive pages. I’m still figuring a few things out with those. I think you’ll find, though, that the look is “matured.” I sure think so.

Yep, it’s changed.

No, this is not an April Fool joke, folks, this is for real. Welcome to the new JaredWSmith.com. :)

In the course of two days I have managed to code and draw up a brand new look for the entire site. I’m pretty pleased with this look. There’s still work to be done, and that work will continue, albeit at a bit of a slower pace. However, a full bio, full information about me, and all that fun stuff will be here in short order. As time goes on, too, more features will be rolled out that take advantage of the new interface. Go ahead, roll over the menu near the top; you’ll like it, especially if you use Firefox and IE 7. You’ll see a lush dropshadow with subtle transparencies…mmm, nice. This is definitely more graphically oriented than I have done in the recent past.

I’m using WordPress as the CMS now. It didn’t make sense to have one set of static pages at one subdomain and the blog at the other, so I combined the two. If you have bookmarks, links, etc., that go to blog.jaredwsmith.com, don’t worry — those will all still work. www.jaredwsmith.com is mirroring blog.jaredwsmith.com’s contents now. While blog.jaredwsmith.com will still function for things like RSS feeds and permalinks, I strongly, STRONGLY suggest updating your bookmarks to use www.jaredwsmith.com, as that’s where all the stuff is now going.

Drop your feedback in comments. I hope you all like the new look — and please be patient. I’m continuing to add more stuff and make fixes and the like. :)

J

Pondering a revised jaredwsmith.com…

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.