It makes me proud to finally unveil what has been a labor of love for me. Codenamed “Pangea” (Greek for “all lands”), the purpose was to unite sections of Noscope that had drifted apart.
When I started pondering this redesign (press Shift F5 or click out of your feedreader if you don’t see anything new), it quickly became clear to me that I wanted to focus more on the structure and the functionality behind the scenes, than the look itself. I’ve spent years learning that if you simplify and optimize your work processes, your productivity will increase. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
While design came secondly, I still wanted the visuals to be intertwined with the structure. Having had a design that was intentionally secondary to its contents for a very long time, it was crushingly clear to me that this one had be able to stand on its own. I wanted a design that was tight, clean, and felt thought-through. That was the master-plan.
When I actually embarked on this redesign, I set myself a few minimum goals to achieve in order for this so-called “Pangea” not to be a crushing failure:
- Highlight orphaned sections
- Redesign primary navigation for simplicity
- Highlight worthwhile content from ages past
- Simplify the administrative updating of all sections
- Simplify writing and interlinking and, as such, inter-archival relationships (you heard me!)
- Allow for monthly rebranding
- More space and less scrolling
In order to fullfill #1, I have decided to adjust the Noscope homepage to hold a digest of all sections. This is not rocket science, and it’s been done before, but in my case not as extensively as now. This further allowed me to clean out quite a lot of clutter and cruft from the section most of you are likely to be reading: the journal.
Redesigning the main navigation (#2) was fairly easy. I added tabs, relegated Colophon and Archives to be secondary to the Journal, and removed the search button in favor of simply pressing “Enter”. The latter was purely decorative, as the usable thing would be to leave the button there. Yeah well if I don’t want to follow Jakob Nielsen’s recommendations based on statistical analysis, I don’t have to, so there.
With regards to #3 and #5, I’ve finally followed the visionary bloggers and joined the tagging train. So much in fact, that I’ve thrown out categories for all but structure. This new voodoo will hopefully help people find truly related content, quickly, and quite possibly allow people to click on things that interest them to see if maybe I wrote some fantastic piece on it in the past. That, and I’ll be adding links to really noteworthy past articles on the homepage, in the bottom right corner.
I spent the better part of a month working on #4. That means updating and simplifying my installments section. The end result is, probably, what makes me most warm and fuzzy inside about this redesign. For instance, open my latest installment (June) in a tab and notice the two new features: “scale to fit”, and “older installment”. Combined, I think they help out quite a bit with exploring the archives.
Adding space (#7) has been in my mind all through the actual design phase. Armed with De Bono’s Simplicity Principles, I have fiercely tried to remove clutter and focus on what’s relevant. This, not only visually, but structurally and semantically as well. In removing clutter, I also decided to add icons, something I’ve usually been too lazy to do:
While not 12×12 works of pixel perfectness, I think they work well for what they need to do: replace text with generic symbols and concepts.
When it came to allowing for monthly mini-redesigns (#6), I had spent so much time creating a tight and stand-alone design that I’m afraid this is one area I over-looked (i.e. failed miserably in). We’ll see what happens when the dust settles.
More than anything, I’m happy to have kicked this screaming baby out of the door. Okay so it has a few bruises here and there (as of this writing, wallpapers and photography sections still need love, and Internet Explorer… well… [Update: Now with IE7 support]), but they will heal in time.
Equally important is the fact that I am once again excited about having a homepage. It doesn’t look like an abandoned mess, and it has that special “new car” smell. I’m confident this will get me posting snacksized portions of pointless stuff again, for several weeks or even longer.
Visually, I feel the design stands up quite well compared to your typical LiveJournal, MySpace or feed reader layout, and that’s not bad considering their respective popularity. I might not win the war with it, but this day I fought. But seriously.
Essentially, I feel like I’ve done what I set out to do, which was to create a clean, tight layout that provided me with the tools and features I wanted and presented the information in a viable way. I might not have unified continents that drifted apart in the Mesozoic era, but it’s not half bad either.