Peter M Howard ::

wintermute.com.au

A New Look

17April2009 [personal]
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In which I pull together a long-overdue upgrade and redesign in the space of a couple of weeks

I’ve just released a significant refresh to this website. The system under-the-hood has been through a big cleanup, with a handful of features added that I intend to be taking advantage of soon. And while it keeps some of the old feel (the #222 on #eee and the use of Lucida Grande, at least where available), I’ve made some pretty dramatic cuts in places.

The front page is very different. It’s now a stream of the latest items, currently pulling from bits and from photo albums. The idea is that I’ll be able to expand that so I could include a particular photo in the stream instead of only in an album. And I want to start pulling data from third parties to include in the the stream — Twitter will be the first stage of that. And site-wide, everything’s been trimmed back to just bits/photos, so I’ve cut back on the extraneous navigation links that didn’t really help.

With a modified front page, I’ve now put some archives in places at /bits/. The archives show snippets from bits for the latest month, and show titles grouped by month going back to when the site first started.

Visually I’ve tried to reduce clutter as well, assisted by the simplication of navigation options. Some of this is achieved through little things, like consistently making headings (where they’re light on dark) act as hyperlinks, and as permalinks when you’re on a particular detail page.

With the top banner removed and the photo thumbs removed from the footer, I’ve cut back on imagery, which left the page feeling very news-y. I’ve used a bold fuchsia for hyperlinks to give the design some character.

And the /photos/ app has seen some love. I’ve tried to make the album interface easier to use — so it outputs all the thumbnails together. And the photo detail page itself inverts the light-on-dark colour scheme to draw attention to the image. The images themselves are larger and higher quality than before. (Well, most of them are now; I have Python and Django churning away in the background reprocessing all the images as I write this). I’ll have one more change coming here — it needs to be easier to navigate through an album’s photos while actually viewing a photo, rather than having to hit Back and select another image all the time.

Getting this redesign in place was an unusual experience. I’ve been throwing bits and pieces at a redesign on and off for over a year now, but it really was only piecemeal. A couple of elements stuck — the fuchsia was a colour I chose back in the beginning. But I’d been putting off the app rewrite for too long, and the redesign became stagnant because of it. Then only a couple of weeks ago I picked up the Django 1.1 beta and made various fixes to get the site running nicely. At that point I remembered how much I liked coding for Django and dug in. Around the same time, I realised I wanted to start pulling data from Twitter, and other places, and that I wanted to be able to publish individual photos, since I rarely publish albums anymore. Both changes will take a little more dev work, but more importantly, they required a rethink in the way I was presenting updates within the site. This final design has been put together with that in mind, and has come together in the space of a week.

And with that, I’m off on holidays for a week, where I intend to be internet-less. But I will be writing, and probably coding, and taking photos. So there’ll be lots more coming soon. And I’m hoping the redesign reinvigorates how I use this site to publish too…

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