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?
Today sees a new homepage for the University of Texas School of Law. This iteration is more of a realign than a redesign as the decision was made to keep our interior pages intact while we continue a long-term look at our branding and online presence. The biggest design challenge was creating something cleaner and more useful for our visitors while retaining most of the same content and enough of the previous design to tie it in comfortably with our current site’s look-and-feel.
The new version emphasizes our communication pieces, changing the rotating banner graphic into something more dynamic: the accompanying text is now HTML-based and will link to richer features similar to our Clinical Education stories. Our previous 75×75 pixel highlight buttons (which themselves were reduced from the intricate 200×140 highlight graphics of two years ago) have been folded into our general News list to help simplify the page. The navigational links were dramatically reorganized to make the hierarchy clearer and more contextual. Everything’s still there, it’s just been reshuffled.
Make it pretty
The goal aesthetically was to reduce the homepage’s clutter and to make the information presented more visually balanced. I designed the old homepage, so I’m to blame! To accommodate the larger banner graphic I increased the width of the site to 840 pixels, and then subdivided that width into a five-column layout. The typography is much more consistent, and care was taken to align the text vertically on a baseline grid. The colors are lifted from the previous version but greatly toned down — far less orange, no more crazy orange-stripe-gradient thing, and a nice white background with some subtle color at the top. Still feels like UT, but doesn’t scream it, and the new design continues to match our internal pages.
Behind the scenes
I’ve shifted the site from Transitional to XHTML 1.0 Strict and have made greater use of XML for the maintenance of the feature stories and news items. The layout and typography are all still handled with plain CSS: if you strip away the stylesheet, you’ll find that the homepage is semantic, streamlined, and very navigable with screenreaders or other assistive technologies. Text can be adjusted in the browser to just about any size without breaking the layout. We’re also sporting a bit of hCard markup so that folks can easily scrape our contact and location info into more useful formats.
Hopefully the refresh is just what we need to help carry us along until the sitewide redesign. I think the updated technology and cleaner look will do a lot for us, and it should help increase our visibility as one of the top-ranked law schools. If you have any comments about the design or about site refreshes, I’d love to hear them.