I’m a family man with two small kids (one of them brand new), and I’ve had a busy year. I rarely have time to blog, let alone redesign my website. I make websites for a living, so if I do have time to redesign my own, chances are I’d prefer to spend it doing something else.
I’m a senior designer at Clearleft. In the last year we’ve been working on redesigns for the BBC, Channel 4, eBay, WWF, Mozilla, NBC Universal, and the BFI. The fact that I hadn’t even designed my own site had become an embarrassment.
Until last week my blog resided at paulannett.co.uk and used the WordPress “Blueprint” theme. My criteria for choosing it was that it was plain, and I wanted something that didn’t look like I’d designed it. In hindsight, I would have been better to take the route Colly took by removing his site’s design completely (he has recently relaunched with a lovely design).
So the Blueprint theme didn’t represent me at all. Over time I came to realise people would of course assume I had designed my own blog. That gave me no incentive to add content and draw attention to it’s existence. I was beginning to worry that professional opportunities may be passing me by as a result.
So this redesign just puts the design where it was meant to be — it’s plain and simple, and out of the way. I have half a dozen redesigns archived and unseen from several years ago, each with it’s own style, none of which I was happy with. Since joining Clearleft my design eye has matured, and I’ve learnt not to design for design’s sake, but to design to help the user achieve their goals. This is a blog, and the user’s goal is usually nothing more than reading.
With that in mind, Instapaper‘s text-view and Arc90’s Readability bookmarklet have served as visual inspiration, although I soon realised that I didn’t want to completely remove the right-hand column as I’d initially intended. Regarding text size, Wilson Miner’s 2008 article on Relative Readability was also an eye-opener, and I’ve gone even larger. Too large? Sitting with my MacBook on my lap, I find this text surprisingly comfortable to read.
Limited for time, I once again started out with a theme that had all the functionality that I wanted built-in. It makes sense — someone had already done the backend work for me! But this time I did what I should have done before: paring back the template’s design, stripping out as much as I could, and introducing my own feel with the help of a simple sketchy-prototype-inspired header (I’d hesitate to call it a logo). Compare the theme I started with to the look of the finished site, and you’ll see that it’s a completely different design. It’s still a work-in-progress, to be tweaked over time.
I make no apologies for it not being entirely my own HTML and CSS — it does pain me that the code is ugly and cluttered, but it was the difference between having time to do it or it never getting done.
So, here it is. Rather than hoping it evokes any feeling of like or dislike, I simply hope this new look makes your reading experience easier. It is only a blog, after all.
Does it work for you?