New Blog Design Coming

After having this design up for almost two years, I’m more than ready for a new design for this blog. And I’m hoping you’ll help me. With the amount of traffic I get, I feel I owe it to you just as much as I do myself.

For me, design isn’t just about a cool new look. I need to put some more function into this site as well. Let me share a bit about what I’m thinking.

The Design Wishlist

First and foremost, this blog is definitely about Reading. Some bloggers post short quick blurbs or long excerpts of code. I don’t. I tend to write. I’d love to follow William Strunk’s advice better (”Omit Needless Words”), but I find the verbosity in me takes over at times. And you must like it to some point, because you keep coming back. Verbosity. Yes, it’s a word, and if it isn’t, well, it should be.

So, making the readability of this site better is my Number One Goal. It’s okay, but it could be much better. Typography, line-spacing, and all that good stuff must take precedence over a wild design.

Second, it’s time for a bit more room to breathe. If you have an 800 pixel wide monitor, I weep for you. Nobody does. 1024px is more than acceptable for a blog these days. If this was an international website for a business, it might still be a bit risky. But the vast majority of international traffic I get comes here to try and post spam comments. I’m more than happy to make their viewing of my blog a bit more difficult.

With extra space, I can go with a 3-column format, but I don’t want it to look like a tri-fold brochure, or two cluttery. So, I’ll be putting both columns together on the right or left - probably the right side to keep with the convention that the most important content is on the left - the articles themselves. The additional space on the columns will allow for more advertising space, while at the same time keeping it “in check”.

I’d like a more fluid look, but I fear it might eat into my Readability goals. One approach might be to incorporate the ability for users to change it themselves, from fluid to fixed, as this theme here does. If you are on a widescreen monitor, you’ll see what a huge difference this does when you click the options in the upper right corner.

I’d like a slightly higher contrast, again for readability, and I’d like the colors to mean things. I also definitely want a bit of dark elements around the page, sort of hinting at my geeky underpinnings, but not appearing geeky to the average visitor. I hope.

I’m also going to shoot for a full-width background, similar to World of Warcraft’s home page, that gives some breathing room to the elements on the page and not make it appear so constrained in width. Those without widescreen monitors will just see less of the background, but not miss any of the important content.

I may go with a banner that has some minor animation or movement, just to give it a bit of an edge over other sites. Probably Flash. And yes, it will degrade nicely for those without Flash.

Function Wish List

It’s time to get all 2007 on you. I’d love to offer a mobile (WAP) version of the site. Would anyone actually use it? No, of course not. But it would be good for me to take the time to do it. We’ll see if this feature makes the final cut. I can always do this later, too.

XFN (or Microformats) will be implemented throughout. Granted, probably nobody reading this knows or cares about this (yet), but as long as I’m going to update, I might as well be ready for the next big thing. Firefox will be incorporating it into their next browser (3.0), so people will start expecting this functionality before too long.

AJAX-enabled comments is something I’d like to employ. This and a better separation of my own comments with that of my visitors. I first noticed this on Jonathan Snook’s very well-design blog (talk about Readability!) and said “I have to have this! I must! I must!” Since then, I’ve found that there is a very good plug-in for this feature (although I’ll still have to style it appropriately) from Christian Montoya, which I very well may use.

Other Thoughts

What I’d really love to do would be to switch to Mephisto because it runs on Ruby on Rails, which I’ve been learning, and I can’t think of a better way to get my feet a bit more wet than to rip it apart and customize it how I want. Still, I don’t want to be ever accused of being a Rails Purist. No, actually, it’s okay if I become one, but I still have my first love of PHP - and I don’t see a reason to abandon a great platform like WordPress quite yet. Okay, so the truth is that it would just take way too much time and offer no benefit to you - the reader - by switching platforms.

Maybe once all the above changes are done, I might do it, because I’d love to get paid to do some RoR projects someday, and it might seem a bit hypocritical to a potential client or employer if I have a WordPress blog. Personally, I think it shows flexibility and adaptability. But, hey, you know how clients and employers think - or rather, don’t think.

Send Me Your Two Cents Worth

Let me know what you think by email or comment below. This could take months at my present rate of “free time”, or maybe I’ll slap it all together in five hours on a Saturday in the middle of a couple of Keane albums. Who knows?

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