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Cleaning up the blog

Posted on 8 June 2012

Astute observers of this site, of which there are none, may notice a few changes over the last little while. Here’s another one of those annoying posts explaining what I’ve done. I know there’s no point to these, but I like to keep a little log of what I’ve done.

Bye bye buttons

When I first designed the site, I wanted to see what I could do. That included mimicking the share buttons so prominent elsewhere on the web. “Share this!” “Plus one!” etc. If I were wanting to keep up with this, I would have to add a Stumble and Pin It! buttons, in addition to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and Comment.

But increasingly, I’ve been annoyed by them. Most of the sites I really enjoy reading don’t have these buttons. They are a distraction– and I rarely use them. When I made confluence, I didn’t add any. I liked the effect a lot. It feels more like an experience and less like a website.  Information Architects provides a compelling list of reasons you shouldn’t bother with them, the best of which I think is this:

“If readers are too lazy to copy and paste the URL, and write a few words about your content, then it is not because you lack these magical buttons.”

So I went back and removed the buttons on the main page. I didn’t go whole hog like some of the most minimalist sites do and get rid of comments, too. I like comments, when I get them, and they are rarely spam or hate. So no harm so far. But instead of the giant “NO COMMENTS ADD YOURS!” button, I’ve made it a quiet “discuss” link, alongside the category and the permalink. There if you want it, but not in your face.

I did leave Twitter and Facebook buttons on individual posts, though. A couple of reasons for this. First, people who read my site actually use these buttons fairly regularly. Second, I view Facebook and Twitter discussions about my posts as “discussion.” Since I’m keeping comments, I like to provide comments in other mediums alongside. I’m not sure I’ll keep them permanently, but they’re there for now.

More readable (I hope)

The buttons being gone make the site more readable, I think. So do some of the other changes I made. I chose the DePo Skinny WordPress theme for this site all those years ago because I love the minimalist, distraction-free look of a single column. But at some point, I also changed the font to be minimalist, too. Tiny, blocky words. Not the nicest to look at. So now we’re up to 16px sans seriff, now, as well as wider columns. I’ve also done away with the “My Week in Twitter Updates” on the front page, so when you’re browsing all you see is things I’ve actually read.

Footer

The other thing I love about the DePo Skinny is all that information contained in the footer. It’s not in your face upon arrival, but there for you if you need it. In the original version of the site, a set of your five latest Flickr photos appear at the top of the stage. I got rid of those altogether quite a while ago, but now they’re back– at the bottom. Also there is a tiny bio, links to other sites, and a variety of other information.

Blog vs Site

Finally, I’m working at distinguishing the “blog” from the “site” more. Under the old system, no matter which portion you visited, the header read “this is my blog” and clicking on the title brought you back to andrewkurjata.ca/blog. But as I become more active in places like my Tumblr and confluence, this doesn’t make sense. The blog pages are the post, the archives, and the RSS feeds. Things like my bio, contact information, and disclaimer are sites that are about me and my general web presence, but not necessarily related to my blog. People might be reading confluence and want to see my bio, without necessarily wanting to wind up on my blog. So I’ve adjusted things to reflect that.

If you are on the blog pages, it still says “this is my blog” and links you back to that homepage. But anywhere else, it reads “this is my website,” which is different. The link, too, is the homepage, a spot that acts as an introduction and launch point to a number of places, including the blog.

I’ve removed the link to the archives in the header (under the assumption you’ll only be visiting it after reading whatever else is on the page, and therefore the link in the footer will suffice) and replaced it with “Start” which brings you to the homepage. I view my homepage as my introduction, and it makes sense to reflect that throughout the site.

There’s a few other things I’ve adjusted, as well. Different styles for a few things like bullet points and footnotes. Better categories. I’m not entirely done yet, I don’t think, but this is an overview of what’s been changed so far. Tiny things that most people won’t notice, but if done right, make the site a better experience.

Filed under: meta

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