New Design

Friday, Sep 11, 2009 1:42 pm
William Barnes

I just finished the TIP Group website a few days ago and realized that I (unconsciously) borrowed some design elements from this website. That just won’t do, I thought. And anyway, my old design was getting old. So over the last two days, I redesigned this site from scratch. What makes this noteworthy (to me) is that I did it using HTML 5 and microformats and I’m intending to figure out ARIA this weekend and make the site accessible. More on this after the screenshots.

The old design

The new design

As you can see, this is a very plain design. No more sunburst or whatever the rays of like background I used to have is called. I’ve always loved minimalist blogs. It’s harder to do than one would think. I’ve tried several times but they always come out looking amateurish or get crowded and turn into the last design (which started out very austere). But I think that this one turned out quite well. The site uses Helvetica Neue and Verdana (though I might try Arial and see how that works, Verdana is getting overused online and it makes Arial actually look unique when you see it). The icons are modified versions of these dark denim icons. I don’t have all the sidebar space that I used to have, so I’ll be integrating my Twitter stream into the post stream. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while anyway.

To update to HTML 5, I followed these wonderful directions from SmashingMagazine. It’s not really a huge change from XHTML 1.0. I still code XML style though you have the option of HTML-style coding. I figure that as I went to all the trouble of breaking the HTML 4.0 habits, there’s no point going back. Plus, I like lower case tags. The new elements are nice, but <article> isn’t really all that different from <div class="article">. I really only did it because I could.

I don’t know how much work accessibility will turn out to be. I gather that (for a blog) it is mainly just a matter of tagging certain elements with role attributes. I don’t need to figure out keyboard accessibility like I would in a more interactive site.

Settling in nicely

Thursday, Jun 26, 2008 8:32 pm
William Barnes

[Note: I’m writing this more to remind myself why I’m sticking with WP rather than because I think any of my potential readers will enjoy it.]

I briefly flirted with Movable Type and decided it wasn’t quite for me (but not before wasting a few hours learning its template system and porting my design). The move was mainly because I prefer to write my posts in Textile rather than the (horrible) WYSIWYG editor that comes with WordPress.

However, MT has a number of drawbacks. The main one is that it publishes posts statically. At first I thought that seemed like a great idea. It surely would save on the processing power required to serve pages. However, this limits what can be done with a layout. Since the sidebar is hard-coded into a post, it either cannot contain dynamic items like a list of recent posts or comments, or it must be rebuilt every time you post something. It was reasonably fast when I was testing it, but I can imagine that it would slow down noticeably over time. Its template system is complicated and spaghetti-like. I felt like I was doing something wrong every time I made a change (and then of course, I had to rebuild the entire site).

Following this interlude, I switched back to WordPress to see if I could make it work the way I want. I was able to find a working Textile plugin and shut off the WYSIWYG editor. And I found a quite passable Flickr photo importer (which means I don’t have to use WP’s clunky file manager).

So I think I’m back to WordPress for good now. Here’s hoping.