The last comment posted on this blog says: “kind of waiting for new design”. There are not many things more important for a blogger than a will of his readers, so here it is. Only 5 months later a brand new look for szafranek.net is here.
The biggest problem with the old site was that it mixed navigation and loads of content in Polish with new posts in English. For 2.5 years I had been successfully confusing both Polish and English-speaking visitors with this mess. So my first priority was to handle the bilingual content. Now the whole website uses navigation in English. A lot of content has been rewritten (eg. the entire Works section). The old blog posts and articles in Polish are still here. If you’re using a modern browser (Safari, Chrome, Opera or Firefox 3.1 or newer) you’ll also notice small flags indicating Polish pieces.
If it took me over 4 years to redesign, I don’t expect another overhaul too soon. My second goal was then to create a design which will look acceptable even few years from now. I’m not a professional designer. But I figured out that the best way to achieve my goal was to focus on content and leave fancy graphics to Photoshop wizards. Thus a strict adherence to a conservative grid and insane amount of time spent on polishing the typography.
While working on the redesign, I happen to read Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style. The book deserves a separate review, but let me just say that if I would have to point a single book every designer should read, that would be it. (Please note that it doesnt’ mean that designers should read only a single book.) The reading was both revealing and depressing. Revealing, because I learned a lot about typography and, according to my friends, became some kind of typomaniac. Depressing, as I realized how rudimentary web typography is when compared to print. So I ended up doing what’s possible now with CSS and dreaming of the better world in which the browsers are capable of hyphenation and other amazing things. Looking at the current status of CSS3 Text Module, it may be only a dream for long time.
Last but not least, I was simply bored with the old design. Thus the new look deliberately uses the color that is an abomination to many and the whole design doesn’t look like anything I created before. I also let myself play a bit, for example when designing the timeline in Works section. Again, only decent browsers will be able to show it fully. Users of IE6 and IE7 are kindly welcome to upgrade.
The geeky parts
I consciously decided that the site won’t look the same in every browser. After consulting my stats, I decided to make the layout look acceptable in IE6 and IE7. In Firefox 2 and 3 and IE8 the site looks almost as it should. Almost, as I rewarded users of CSS3-capable browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox 3.1+, Opera 9.6+) and added few goodies for them. My principle is that users of every major browser should be able to access the content. However, I don’t believe the content must look exactly the same way, especially if the browser is as crippled as IE6.
I wished everybody would use a decent browser. I also wished everybody would use an operating system able to display type nicely. Unfortunately, the world is far from being such a cool place and most users are stuck with Windows XP which doesn’t even antialias fonts by default. As the site relies on typography so much, I was depressed how dreadfully it looks without decent font rendering. I hope to write a separate entry on the topic. Right now I can only kindly ask XP users to enable ClearType or upgrade to Vista, and ask Vista users to upgrade to Mac OS X.
More enjoyable part of development was the work with WordPress. I switched from my very own FlexCMS, considering Ruby on Rails-based Radiant CMS along the way. WordPress is famous for being insecure and terribly written. But it also turned out to be one of the most user- and developer-friendly tools I have ever used. Customizing it was a pleasure, thanks to the good documentation, incredibly rich API and enormous community. I haven’t had to modify anything in WordPress itself: the whole design of this site is basically an ordinary Worpdress theme. Well, maybe not that ordinary, as I spent few dozens of evenings to make it behave exactly as I wanted. But eventually the site looks as designed and there are no compromises on quality as it’s customary to other content management tools. What’s more, the blog posts are imported so nothing was lost during the process.
Brave New World
Each promise to update this blog more often was followed by a shameful hiatus. So this time: no promises. Just see you next time. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the new site.
PS. Thanks and kudos to Helen, Michał, Łukasz, Paweł and Grzegorz for their help, comments and devastating critique :).