I was up all night but wow, the results sure were worth it! You must certainly be immensely impressed by the blog’s new look, eh?
No. No, you mustn’t. I started with a page layout that would have been considered cutting-edge during George Bush’s presidency. I’ve updated it to something that would have been marked me as a sophisticated professional web designer during Dubbya’s.
(Maybe even his first term.)
Yeah, I know. The new design really ain’t much. There’s nothing advanced in the backend — it’s still just CSS — but beyond that, it simply looks old-fashioned: Masthead, navigation bar, content column, sidebar column. It’s not even built on a grid system or anything. But! It’s a next step. And the next step after any next step is the next step after that.
It’s been a longish night so I’ll fix the typography later (sure, it’s time to wire things up to take advantage of webfonts). Also, the more time I spent getting the sidebar to work the way I wanted it to, the more it occurred to me that yeah, maybe I can get rid of it entirely. It’s still filled with the stuff I put in three years ago when I moved to WordPress. I might change the content to give the sidebar a more emphatic function, but I might just as easily decide to move to a one-column layout. Perhaps with a static bar at the top and bottom that highlights things I think are worth highlighting.
(I mean, look at BoingBoing.net. It’s a huge site, and yet it could hardly be simpler in terms of layout, right?)
But at least I finally scratched some long-overdue items off the To-Do list. Most of my blog’s readers access it via the RSS feed. When I first added that feature to my blog, it was being run via my own hand-coded CMS system. It wasn’t a checkbox to click; it was a whole section of script that I had to write. Then as now, my goal is to make it easy as possible to read this stuff, and that clearly means “full posts in the RSS feeds.”
Ah, but what about the first time someone visits the site? They need to be welcomed. Concierged. A hot towel should be offered. Perhaps also a drink coupon of some sort. Ihnatko.com really didn’t fulfill that role well at all. I kept meaning to add pages about my speaking and links to my writing, my podcasts, and other tendrils of the Ihnatkoverse but just never got around to it. Also, the site design didn’t naturally gravitate towards that kind of navigation.
As always, though, a big hidden purpose of this site is to serve as a test bed for web technologies. From time to time, I hear about a new framework or a new whatsit that web designers are using, and I like to play with it a little. Recently, for instance, I learned that Twitter has released the toolkit that they use (up to a point) for their own webapps. It looks pretty neat. I’m still using Carrington as my basic blog template. That’s the guts of making this blog work on WordPress. Bootstrap looks like a nice starting point for the CSS, with some nice scripting libraries added in.
That’s to say nothing about different scripting languages, different production workflows, different coding environment, different concepts and theories about backend design…I’ve been learning plenty. Most of it never left my hard drive, of course. I’m all for eating my own dogfood but then there’s the sort of dogfood that you shouldn’t — legally — be allowed to serve even to a dog.
I’ve also been looking at Tumblr and other blogging platforms. Cool stuff, but I keep circling back to an ages-old frustration of mine: I can easily spend as much time searching for a canned theme that I like as I would have just learning what I need to learn to build the site I want from scratch.
But for all of this bluster about my learning new tools…what arms did I take up tonight, in my fight to make my site look Slightly Better Than Awful? The exact same ones I used in 1995, when I built my first site: BBEdit and an FTP client.