Addicted to novelty since 2001

Boring Site Note: Redesign in Progress

After attempting to redesign this site for a year or so, I’ve finally admitted that I don’t have the time or commitment to do it myself. I’ve commissioned Ray vanderWoning, whose site I’ve always admired, to do the dirty work.

I’ve got pretty specific ideas about what I’m looking for in a redesign. That said, I thought I’d solicit my dear readers: If you could change one thing about the design of this site, what would it be?

There are lots of sites whose content I enjoy but, for whatever reason, dislike the design. Note that I’m interested in format and layout suggestions, not content (we can talk about that some other day). I make no promises that I’ll endorse your suggestion, but I’m interested in feedback. Remember, if you want to be particularly disparaging, you can always comment anonymously.

27 Responses to “Boring Site Note: Redesign in Progress”

  1. Richard

    In the future (or possibly the present), design won’t matter nearly as much where you rank in search engines for keywords you want to be highly ranked for. So the one thing I’d change about the “design” is having the title of your posts in the title element of your HTML (inside the head element). I do a lot of “site:darrenbarefoot.com” searches in Google, looking for something I remember you wrote, but “Darren Barefoot – Miscellanist” is effectively the title of every entry you’ve written.

  2. Darren

    Richard: Indeed, that’s on my list of changes. Also, all the different archives that MT offers, because Google hasn’t been spidering my site correctly.

  3. Chris

    Hey Darren, I like the design now. My only gripe is that it’s too wide, so I end up with a horizontal scroll bar.

  4. Jon J

    Not so much something I’d change, but something I’d keep – the color scheme. I enjoy it a lot. Looking forward to your new design (as long as it’s green).

    ;)

  5. Richard

    Will you be offering category feeds, or do you even categorize content? (Drupal does this, but you knew that.) There are good reasons not to categorize content on a weblog like yours, since you are a Miscellanist (you have the credentials to call yourself that too) and I think the main reason people read your site is because they want a little bit of everything rather than just one thing, ya dig?

    If you’re considering changing the URL scheme of your new site, you may want to consider redirects, since that means no links will change. I know, I’m thinking back-end here, but then again, I’m a back-end kinda guy. I can advise on this, having done it with number-based URLs before.

    +1 on keeping the green and also on keeping the logo as well as a headshot. It makes your site stand out from all the other sites that don’t have the person’s photo on every page. :)

  6. donna

    No More Popups. I hates them, hates them!

    Other than that, heck, I liked your site fine already. :)

  7. Darren

    Richard: I always figured you for being a back-end guy. That’s a yes on categories (I’ve always used them, but never exposed them), a yes on keeping–to some respect–the green and a yes on some kind of photo of me. Not sure about the logo.

    Is changing the URL scheme really worth it? And how does one automate the generation of the redirects?

    Arwen: Yeah, I’m thinking of dispensing with the pop-ups for comments. I see the upside, and can’t think of a downside to doing so, so I’ll probably go ahead with it.

  8. gill

    There are too many pictures of you, and not enough pictures of cats.

  9. Lindsay

    If you’re looking for cat photos, I’m happy to send you some of Peaches :-)

  10. Ray

    One thing I’d change, if I were the designer… oh wait, never mind … is the long-assed scroll.

    Typography is going to get a work-over too. The page needs more whitespace. The comment page has zero padding between right hand text and the scroll bar. It’s gonna change. Comment font is too small.

    Interesting note about the comment pop-ups. We’re going to implement a photo pop-up a la vanderwoning.ca, but I’ve always felt that comments should be embedded into the permalink template. Darren has yet to direct me on whether he wants to keep the comment pop-up or not.

    Look for a kinder, gentler green.

  11. Richard

    how does one automate the generation of the redirects

    Through the dark art known as mod_rewrite. Or, in your case, more likely PHP. But it’s not a big deal, because it matters less what your URL is than how highly-ranked you are in search engines.

    The decision about pop-ups would probably depend on how many people use a browser that comes with pop-up blocking out of the box. The percentage is proabably smaller than that of those who use a non-pop-up-blocking software (such as IE, or those who route around pop-ups altogether and read via the XML feed), but the user base is probably more vocal.

  12. Sue

    I echo the above sentiments about keeping the head shots. I think the side bar with the “resume” stuff is somewhat outdated – perhaps it fit with the site when it started, but your “blog” personality seems to have outgrown the theatre work credits in importance.

    I like that you don’t have much of a header graphic. One thing I don’t like about blogs (including mine) is when the text starts halfway down the page because there’s some big graphic of, I dunno, a waterfall or something.

    Green is good.

  13. filmgoerjuan

    I haven’t tried it out myself (still using the horrible MT 2.6x default numbering scheme for blog archiving), but this script seemed like a good solution to the whole redirecting issue.

  14. BWG

    Darren, you rock.

    I’m pretty proud of my big brother and his mad coding skills, too

    Between the two of you, DarrenBarefoot is going to look sweeeeet.

  15. Olaf

    Your gallery schtuff should better resemble the site’s design. Of particular note, the Hall of Technical *whatever* is too different from the the rest of the site’s design. I think I recall that you use a canned album solution. Hack it or lose it. Take a look at my site’s example (former Gallery user).

  16. Debra

    One nit: I hate having to right-click to open links in a new window. Leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.

  17. Rog

    I was just about to list my primary wish for any site that I regularly read– then I see that you mention that your layout will be getting narrower and already I’m worried.

    I’m not sure exactly how narrow you mean, but I hope, pray and beg you: Please please please do not use a fixed tiny narrow portion of the screen.

    [begin rant]
    I understand the ease of use for web designers to have big gaping white space bordering content, but I’m soooooooo tired of scrolling more than I should need to because someone wants to emulate a printed look or is too lazy to find other ways to accomodate 640×480 users (which in itself is absurd, arguably there are more devices at lower resolutions who get screwed with a fixed 640 width).

    IMHO the narrow band design is the worst and most common example of poor UI usage for the sake of style and a lack of imagination.

    Unfortunately, vanderwoning.ca is a prime example of this design flaw that peeves me so.

    Please use a resonable amount of your horizontal space, especially considering that your primary content is text.

  18. NecroRogIcon

    How the web was meant to be

    Over at Darren Barefoot’s blog there’s a whole smackload of comments regarding his plans to redesign his site.

    The discussion has me pondering about what blogs are for in the first place, or rather, what they get used for (regardless of their inte…

  19. Nancy

    I don’t want to turn this into a debate, so I’ll just offer my unsolicited two-cents: Rog, I disagree with you about the whitespace issue. (I’m not a designer, just an appreciative reader and writer).

    On a site like this where the content is indeed primarily text, the eye needs a break. In its present state, the layout is busy. I’m thinking a little more organization and order won’t hurt.

  20. Sean

    “Unfortunately, vanderwoning.ca is a prime example of this design flaw that peeves me so.”

    It’s not a design flaw, it’s a design element that provides better readability of text. Or haven’t you wondered why newspapers have organized text into narrow columns for the last century or so?

  21. Rog

    But newspapers and magazines do NOT have 40%+ of whitespace. It’s overkill.

    In an attempt to emulate print size/shape, first there’s the large borders flanking on the left and the right just to create a more vertical appearance and then of course the little fake page within a page adds its own margins (which I fully admit are the whitespace needed for readability).

    I agree that whitespace could be used between articles on here to break them apart and make them less cluttered and more readable.

    I’m not arguing against whitespace in general, I’m arguing against excessive whitespace, especially the fad to sacrifice the horizontal in big huge blank bars. And as you go up in resolution, they really become evident as a design flaw, because if the page is locked at 640, the borders just grow and grow. I find it annoying at 1024 but it’s downright ridiculous at 1600.

    Everytime I see a page with those blank borders I think “cheap and easy way out”. The silliest part is that it just adds to the length of scroll, something that every designer complains about.

    Content is king and why not use the medium you’re in to its own strengths?
    [/rant end]

  22. Ray

    Easy there Rog, it’s only a website.

    Nothing happening here folks, move along now.

  23. Sean

    “But newspapers and magazines do NOT have 40%+ of whitespace. It’s overkill.”

    Can I let you in on a little secret? You know your browser window? It’s resizable.

    Don’t tell nobody, okay? (Wouldn’t want to start a panic.)

  24. Rog

    LOL fair enough Ray, it was not my intention to kill all of the more moderate suggestions that Darren is looking for.

    Carry on folks. *ducks*

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