Posts filed under ‘Portfolio: Design’
Created for the up-and-coming children’s book illustrator, Marsha Riti, the design for this site is a substantial overhaul of the blog site I built for her a few years back. The new “vintage cereal box” look matches her Mid-Century inspired illustration style, with her endearing artwork featured front and center. Keep an eye out for her forthcoming book, The Picky Little Witch, from Pelican Publishing!
Highlights for this project:
- HTML5 and CSS3 goodness! Much cleaner, lighter code.
- Custom, lightweight jQuery plugins handle the homepage portfolio viewer as well as the “candy-striped” dual-color post titles
- Various features of the site are implemented as WordPress custom post types, making it super-easy for Marsha to keep the content fresh.
- A dash of Typekit-powered font embedding makes the site’s typography consistently cute cross-browser.
Visit the new marshariti.com site.
I’m pleased to announce that another of my long-term projects has launched: the latest redesign of the University of Texas School of Law website. This was the first major refactoring of the information architecture, HTML, and user interface of the site since 2003, and is a significant departure from the visual refresh of 2005. (My other major project was the new UT Law Events Calendar, which launched on the same day — it’s been a busy summer!)
The UT Law site holds anywhere between 3500-6000 pages (depending on how you want to define a “page”) spread amongst dozens of departments and organizations, with very little of the content in a CMS of any kind, and it’s accompanied by a dozen or more in-house custom applications written in three or four different programming languages, so this major change to the code was quite an undertaking. After consulting with our stakeholders, conducting some user testing, and evaluating other top-tier sites, I began the redesign with the intention that we’d need a great foundation to build off of, while retaining enough visual familiarity to the old site to not confuse our users needlessly.
Highlights for this project:
- Brand new HTML5-based templates using clean, semantic markup with hooks for a flexible (but optional) grid-based CSS layout system
- Completely redeveloped visual design, color scheme, and branding, with improved typography and layout
- Newly designed universal UT Law header and footer, improving usability while taking up less vertical real estate
- Standardized look-and-feel for internal law school departments and organizations, along with cleaner information architecture (many URLs have been shortened considerably)
- Easier navigation through simplified, consolidated landing pages
- Google Custom Search Engine integration available across the entire site, letting users search without leaving the UT Law site
- Google Analytics’ new asynchronous code now site-wide, including subdomains, with dual tracking to forward stats on to the main campus Development office
- Lighter HTML, smarter handling of cacheable resources, and browser throughput performance tricks give end users much snappier page load times (who loves image spriting? I do!)
- Universal use of UTF-8 for better foreign language and other specialty character encoding support
Much work remains, however: the content across the site is currently being reevaluated as part of this project, and we will be working hand-in-hand with each department to ensure that the offerings are up-to-date, relevant, better organized, and more media-rich (where appropriate). Also, the homepage is a temporary placeholder while we work with our communications office to develop new material and focus this Fall semester.
Many thanks go out to my supervisor Mark Gunn, teammates Austin Kleon, John Croslin, Brian Borowicz, and awesome student worker Laura Davila for helping with the porting and making sure that everything looked as snazzy as possible for the launch date!
For the past six months my co-worker John Croslin and I have been hammering away at this project, and it’s finally launched: the new University of Texas School of Law Events Calendar. After comparing many popular (and not-so-popular) open source and commercial calendaring projects, it was determined that none of them fully met UT Law’s specific needs and infrastructure, so we tried to figure out which features worked best in each, and started from scratch.
On the surface, the public view has all of the trappings of a fairly generic calendar (grid + list views, date-based navigation, multiple “calendars”, iCalendar downloads), but behind the scenes there’s a fairly impressive feature set. A quick list of what’s going on:
- Entire system designed and built from the ground up, using cross-browser-friendly HTML, CSS, and a dash of jQuery
- Object-oriented PHP with an Oracle backend (which is what we’re running now, but it could be modified easily to use MySQL or PostgreSQL instead)
- Custom workflow routing that hooks into our faculty / staff / student directories and makes efficient use of our special events and media services departments’ resources (if an event requires catering the system notifies our Special Events department for approval, student-submitted events are first screened by the Student Affairs Office, etc.)
- Recurring events are possible with more flexibility than what’s found in Outlook: you can edit most of an event’s details without requiring the removal of the whole series, and you can choose whether changes affect only the single occurrence, if changes ripple forward, or if the changes ripple to all sibling events in the series
- Integration with our Exchange server via Exchange Web Services to provide room availability (free/tentative/busy) info to users when creating new events, to help with room selection
- “Pretty” permalinks that are navigable for all calendar views (for example /calendar/today/ lists the current day’s events, /calendar/2010/08/ displays August, 2010, in a monthly grid view, /calendar/2010/08/faculty-events/ narrows that further to faculty-specific events, etc., and using the date navigation controls doesn’t kick users out of the specific view)
- Coming real soon: iCal/RSS feeds, embeddable calendar widgets, better Exchange integration, mobile views, and more
One week in, it’s already shaping up to be a very useful resource for our users. We might have the code available as an open source download at some point, especially if there’s interest in adapting or extending it. If you’re looking for something right now, you might be interested in the great work being done with UNL Events Publisher and Bedework, two open source projects I took inspiration from. Otherwise, feel free to take a look at what’s happening at UT Law!
I once again had the honor and pleasure of working with my favorite contemporary artists, Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, this time to redesign and refresh the duo’s web presence. I created the first version of their site back in 2004 and it was time for an overhaul. This design is much cleaner and brighter, highlights their excellent body of work, and creates a framework that can be built upon as new pieces and publications are added. Some portions of the site are still a work in progress, so check back soon for further additions.
Always an honor to get to improve upon a personal favorite!
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of reading the newspaper comics: youthful confusion about the differences between Garfield and Heathcliff, Marmaduke and Howard Huge, the Lockhorns and the Family Circus, wondering who was reading those giant-yet-boring Prince Valiant strips on Sunday, pondering the bizarre evolution of Robotman. I’ve read the comics religiously ever since, missing only a handful of days over the past 20+ years. But there were so many strips I simply ignored, convinced they were stodgy hangers-on from decades long past, or else that they were unfunny legacy soap operas not worth the time to investigate.
Thankfully in 2004 Joshua Fruhlinger started reading the comics so we wouldn’t have to. His curmudgeonly commentary had an opposite effect, though: hundreds of thousands of people suddenly began to appreciate Mary Worth for all of her meddlesome glory, found themselves able to recite the sordid back stories of the girls of Apartment 3G, and learned new ways to determine whether or not you might in fact be a Plugger.
The Comics Curmudgeon is one of the few sites that I visit multiple times a day right in the browser (despite its handy RSS feeds), so it was a great honor to be given the chance to do a facelift of the site. Since I look at it so often, I figured I’d better do a good job. Not to mention that if I broke what was already a cherished site, I’d surely be mauled by his sizable community of rabid comics fans!
Some of the highlights of the redesign:
- An awesome new logo up there in the header depicting Josh as drawn by Ces Marciuliano, writer of Sally Forth and creator of Medium Large
- Brand new, handcrafted WordPress theme, designed to retain some of the lo-fi, Verdana-heavy charm of the old site while cleaning up the layout and typography considerably
- A new jQuery-based @reply system for the comments section, modeled after the ad hoc format that his community evolved and had been manually typing in — his posts often reach 500+ comments, so this helps keep track of who’s talking to whom a bit
- A new Advanced Archives page that lets users build the archive they’d like to see (ex: “Show me this month’s posts about Mary Worth that contain the word “meddle”, in ascending order, five per page”), also allowing for easy bookmarking of their search query
- Cleaner, lighter code and speed optimizations on the server side to help offset the time it takes to pull down the large daily comics
- A flexible “jello” layout that expands and contracts depending on the size of your browser window, to add a bit of whitespace and breathing room without breaking things for folks on smaller screens
- iPhone and “other” mobile versions of the site (which double as low-bandwidth alternatives for those on dialup who’d like a speed boost) with AJAX comment loading
Hopefully it’s all a change for the better (I think it is!), and I look forward to hearing the feedback!
Another freelance project from this Fall: a minimalist and crisp portfolio website for Austin-based photographer/artist Adam Schreiber. This hand-built site leverages clean HTML and jQuery to display his works in a custom set-based image gallery. He’s had great shows at the CRL and Art Palace, and is currently featured in his first museum show at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston until February 7, 2010, so if you’re in the area be sure to check it out!
Last Summer I was asked to help design a website “brochure” for the new eClass Distance Education program, a new graduate-level legal education offering at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. I designed the basic look-and-feel of the site for them and the structure of the single-page concept with custom jQuery scrolling effect. The final coding and layout was handed over to the JMLS web team, who fleshed it out very nicely.
Trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, today we launched an iPhone / iPod Touch mobile web app for the University of Texas School of Law. If you want to check it out on your iPhone right away, fire up the following link in Safari: http://www.utexas.edu/law/m/
- Directory Search — if you’re affiliated with UT Law School you can search our internal phone and email directory by name or department, using the native iPhone apps to place calls and send emails directly,
- Event listings and Notices pulled from our existing calendar and Law Mail announcement systems,
- RSS feed view of our press releases,
- Recent Twitter posts from our Communications office (this will make more sense when/if we have more than one Twitter account posting official news, and can combine them into one stream here),
- Maps: detailed building maps, Google maps that use the iPhone location services to guide you to our building, KML-based maps of public parking, nearby hotels, and restaurants,
There are a lot of things already in the works for the next iteration. The number one goal is to support other popular devices, to live up to the ideal of “one web, any browser”. As a developer who has wrestled against the wide range of inconsistent desktop browsers and all of their HTML and CSS inconsistencies over the years, though, it was really, really, nice to work with a single browser that already supports HTML5 and CSS3 presentation out of the box. Now I’m spoiled.
The first of my summer freelance projects is now live: the portfolio site for fabulous packaging designer, Christy Carroll. Love her work! Christy crafted the visual design for the site, and I implemented it in WordPress with a completely hand-tailored jQuery portfolio browser for the homepage. More to come soon…
Freshened up my personal blog and portfolio site for 2009. While similar to the transitional look and content that you’ve seen for the past couple of years, this theme has been hand re-written from scratch and features many advancements over the old style. The entire site is better integrated through WordPress than ever before using features newly available in WP 2.7.1 (gravatars, per-post styles, threaded comments, etc), a handful of customized plugins, subtle jQuery enhancements, and Subversion to tie it all together on the backend. I’ve also moved to a new domain after about ten years of being at asnorwood.com. All of the old links should still point to the right place (or get you pretty close), but let me know if you find something missing.
The bulk of the improvements are behind-the-scenes, but I can at least say that the following changes make my life easier and me happier:
- Uploading new portfolio work is much more straightforward.
No more need for a separate gallery plugin!
- The category and link organization is more sensible! Tags, too!
- Better error-handling — hopefully you won’t end up 404 Not Found, but you at
least have a sporting chance of getting unstuck now!
- The search engine optimization (I hate that term) seems to be working
already, too. Thanks, Google!
- The search form pulls up better, more accurate results!
All of this tech stuff is secondary, of course, and I’m still trying to decide how best to balance the blog entries between my different interests. Maybe I’ll eventually split off into two or more distinct sites to keep things from rambling together. I’d also like to figure out a better way to incorporate the side-channel links (currently I’m using del.icio.us) and scrap-collecting elements (I love Tumblr for gathering quotes and other detritus, but not sure how best to tie that content in with my main site). Being nearly the fifteenth anniversary of my first website, you’d think I’d have this all figured out by now!
What do you think? What would you change?