Redesign Chronicles: Introduction

Over the coming months, I’m going to tear down and redesign this site. I plan to do it slowly, making it a great practice and learning experience for me personally. What I plan to do is chronicle the process, describe steps I’m going to take, what the options are and the rationale behind my choices.

I’ve been building web sites on and off for over ten years now, some shitty, while proud of some. The big eye opener for me, as well as for plenty of other people, was Doug Bowman’s redesign of Wired News in 2002. What was so special with it? Well, kids, it was built with XHTML and CSS, and as a high profile site showed it was possible. It was the final nail in the coffin: table designs were dead! And we all suddenly realized embarrassed we’d been pooping out bad designs for a long time.

The next big influence that steered me toward this chronicle was the redesign of Blogger by (guess who) Doug Bowman in 2004. But not as much as the redesign itself (Douglas blog post about the redesign is anyhow a good read) but the new themes and the designers behind them. I discovered the web designer of validated-xhtml-css-blogosphere and begun to learn lots of new stuff: how to do web sites and still keep yourself sane, how to do a good job and do it properly, and not just do but how to think. So little more than a year ago I decided to get serious, harvest all the knowledge I could get from the likes of Molly, Dave, Dan, Jeremy, Roger… (I could go on.) And write it down in some structured manner: creating a helpful map to guide me through the different phases of the design process.

My original idea was to develop a pattern language, just as the Gang of Four had previously done for software development and Christopher Alexander, who originated the idea, done for architecture. Yes, it was ambitious. And no, I’ve not come around to it yet. This series of chronicles will be the intermediate solution. But the installments will not necessary be posted in any particular order, even if they will mostly track the process of developing my own redesign, but just about things I’ve acquired some sort of structural thinking around.

One of the first thing you usually do when building sites is Information Architecture analysis and planning in regards to how the site is best organized. Since this site is a blog I’m keeping the structure that is already in place. (However, one chunk that may need a look at in redesign is the issue of navigation.) So I will skip most of the IA issues for now. The next installment will instead deal with the basic layout issues, that may sound simple but is important and can be really interesting.

See ya’!

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