Posted on 31 August 2013
Regular visitors to this site who have refreshed their cache recently will have noticed some changes to AndrewKurjata.ca. There are actually quite a few things I’d like to say about it, and plan on doing so in the coming weeks, but for now here is a brief overview of the basic philosophy and thoughts behind it.
This change isn’t an overhaul so much as an evolution. The last time I did a redesign, I had just discovered responsive web design through the Svbtle network and Marco.org, and my focus was on making the experience of reading this site consistent across devices. Since then, I have been studying a number of other sites and how they work in order to make this one even cleaner and easier to use.
While still looking at Marco and Svbtle, the other sites that I used as reference points for what a nice site could look were, as follows: ShawnBlanc.net, BrooksReview.net, DaringFireball.net, MattGemmell.com, and Medium.com. To my mind, all of these accomplish a goal of creating an destination where the act of reading what is written is elevated above all else.
Matt Gemmell in particular was influential because of his post titled, appropriately, “Designing Blogs for Readers.” In it, he outlined his case for what makes a good site, and I tried to implement most of what he said because, frankly, it’s true. In particular I focused on the following:
I’d recommend you read his post if you’re sitting down to design a website. The point is, I wanted to make this site a place that you feel comfortable sitting down for a while.
One item from Matt Gemmell I’m going to focus is the notion that navigation should be easy. I used to have eight items in my header bar — blog, about, contact, subscribe, mixtape, tumblr, twitter, and etc. I have tried to hone that down, settling on what we currently have – blog, about, best of, and bonus. These are, I think, the four key places I’d like people to go.
Blog is where we are now. It remains what it became some months ago– a place for my original voice. Mostly longer form posts, but a few smaller things as well, like this and this. The point is it should be stuff that it is authentically “me”, whatever that means (future post).
About is one that I’m having some hesitations about. I understand that it’s useful to keep the navigation options low, but I worry that I’ve squeezed too much into this section. It’s essentially the entire navigation section of the site- we have my bio, resume, contact information, the blog archives, the design options, search, subscription information, and sitemap. I’ve divided into sections, but it still seems a bit long. For now, though, it is what it is.
Best of is something new. I’ve been thinking about the lifespan of things on the internet, and how to surface old content I think still has legs. I’m going to assume that a certain number of people coming to this site every week are new. And that being the case, I’d like them to see what I consider to be my best work- the key reasons they might want to poke around a bit. It contains my favourite/most popular blog posts, as well as some of my favourite radio pieces and a few of my other projects.
Bonus is another new section. It’s actually my tumblr, which used to look like this. I’ve now redesigned it to match the rest of the site and integrated it into the overall design. The notion is that I can scratch my itch to linkblog without drowning out my more original pieces in a sea of outbound links and photos. We’ll see how that goes.
On that subject, I’d had some frustrations with the limitations I felt like I had when it came to posting over on this main page. This used to be my catch-all blog, one where I posted personal anecdotes, photos, and links to interesting things. But somewhere along the way I had a few popular posts and felt like everything I put on here had to have some sort of mass appeal. To break that down, I opened up the code so that in addition to having posts, I can categorize things as statuses, links, photos, and quotes, much like Tumblr. If I get to be on national TV or I lose a pet, I should feel comfortable sharing that information here, if I feel like sharing it. These new formats help, because I can integrate them into the main site without them going into the articles feed. They can be treated as they are: personal moments that aren’t full-fledged blog posts.
5. Sharing and comments
The use of share buttons and comments is among the more divisive in the website-design world. On the one hand, they increase audience engagement and sharability, on the other hand they can look crass, cheap, and interfere with the overall aesthetic appeal of a site. I decided I would use both, but sparingly. To that end, I’ve created what I hope are tasteful buttons to tweet, email, or facebook share posts. I’ve also kept comments. But I can turn the appearance of those items on and off for every individual post. This means that if I am sharing something that I don’t really feel needs comments, there won’t be any there. Same with social sharing. Conversely, if you see a comments section, that means I am actively inviting comments, as opposed to mindlessly posting with the comments section just sitting there. Below we have one post with comments and sharing on, and a status with them off.
And on that note, the comments section is open on this post. I’d like to hear from you if there is any aspect of this that doesn’t work for you, or changes that you think should be made. Ultimately, it’s my site, but I can’t anticipate every use case. As I said, I’ll be writing more about some of these changes in individual posts in the future, but this is a rough roadmap of what I’ve done and what I’m going for.
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