Those of you who know where I work may be happy to know that we’re neck-deep here in the challenges of designing a responsive mobile website (in a cost-effective manner, no less!) As such, and since this blog serves a multi-faceted purpose, one of which is as a kind of sandbox for my own personal code-based experimentation, I’ve been playing with a few design tricks I’ve been thinking a lot about, once again resulting in the subtle tweaking of the look-and-feel of this site. Responsive design is tricky: you are essentially building multiple websites that overlap with each other — same content, different look — but that need to resemble each other enough that users just think things are shuffling around… which they are… but in clever ways that maximize screen real estate. In short, you change one thing and two more things break. You fix those and some other bit pops out like a cartoon pimple in a completely unexpected place over here. Yoink! I don’t seek your pity, just your patience if something doesn’t look quite right.
It’s now been a couple of years since I came off that little blogging sabbatical I took through most of 2010 and “reloaded” this blog into the initial stages of what you see today.
In that time I’ve made a lot of changes: I’ve refocused my writing, refreshed my template, and re-invigorated my topics, all the while narrowing my efforts and generally increasing my readership. Not to mention the fact I (mostly quietly) crossed the eight-hundred thousand word mark last week.
I sometimes write about how I don’t really care if anyone is reading or not. That remains true… mostly. The primary purpose of this blog remains now and forever as a kind of extended letter to the future, a history of our lives as they were lived, for Claire to know about things or anyone else who might legitimately be interested to read upon.
But at the same time, I’ll freely admit, it’s nice to be read in a more contemporary sense, too. It’s nice to hear from you and interact with you, whoever you are. There’s that, too.
There is something else I’ve been thinking about for a while, all tied into the notion of readership. See, the name “8r4d reloaded” — what this blog was know as up until today — was merely a place holder. If it seems like I change the name of this blog a lot, then guess what: you’re not crazy.
It lately has been renamed almost annually.
…they might just be boring.
Every name has it’s flaws, of course. They can be too long. They can lack description. They can imply something not meant to be implied. Or they might just be boring.
I try to avoid these things, but I somehow always stumble upon an unseen obstacle that leaves me wondering how soon it is before my readers get frustrated at the roulette of nomenclature I use to denote my writings.
It’s a risk to change, but the previous name was flawed in two senses; First, it was intended to convey the notion that I was opening the doors to a shuttered blog, a sense that was temporary then and outdated now. Second, it didn’t have any meaning for anyone but me. My vague, often-queried-upon gaming handle — 8r4d — connected to the notion of being “reloaded” had no strong connection to anything much any more.
…it’s a little vague, it’s a little nuanced, but I like it.
Thus, I’ve decided to rename this blog again.
If you are reading it now, you can likely see by the branding tweaks that I rolled out said name-change earlier today. The new name: “8 Clicks from Nowhere” — it’s a little vague, it’s a little nuanced, but I like it. And I think it is not only left wide open to interpretation around my topics — running, photography, blogging, gaming, et cetera — but I think it also opens it up to be more of a “title” for this site and less of a… “huh?”
So… yeah. There you go. Will it increase the number of people reading? Who can say. Or, does it even matter? But either way, it might give me a few more months of inspiration before I wonder again.
Along with the name change I also reverted the URL back to just blog.8r4d.com and tweaked a few other things. Most everything else will be staying the same… for now. Let me know if you encounter any bugs… or even just what you think.
I’ve been writing here now for well over eleven years, and every so often I dig into the guts of one part of it and redesign some element of how it works, which way it’s structured, what I’m writing about, or in what fashion the end product appears on the screen. And I always seem to put it out there as the latest, greatest — and last — change.
That’s not really true, though. Being a web design guy at heart means that as long as this blog is around I’ll be tweaking the bits and tugging at the bytes trying to get it to be something more like what I envision it should look like.
The past week has been one of these “every so often” times, as those who read this blog anything close to regularly can surely attest. I’ve dug deep into the innards of this blog and reshaped a whole lot of things so-much-so that I thought I should take a stab at explaining it… if for no other reason than it will be interesting to me in a few years.
The old look-and-feel had brought me through about four years worth of posts. No, really. It’s been that long since I last overhauled this space. Back in 2008 or so, I dropped in a modified template based on a very simple, plain, and streamlined two-column blog. It started off with a very basic, canned template that over the years and episodic moments of my writing, evolved to reflect various moods, themes, concepts, and conceptual changes. It had a very simple colour palette consisting of blues and greys and whites, with much (if not all) of the architectural imagery presented as grunge-styled silhouettes. I liked it. It suited what I was trying to present: a simple, no-nonsense blog.
Around the same time I was running another blog with a lot of content. I’d found a free template online that I nudged very slightly to suit the more magazine-equse appeal of that content. It was a very public blog, posts routinely hitting two or three hundred hits within an hour of posting. But blogs come and go, and this one faded away as my interests and life-focus changed.
But I still had that template tucked away. And last week, with some spare time over the long weekend, I started contemplating what I might be able to do with respect to two big goals: (1) just another refresh, since it had been so long since the last one, and (2) better integration of the multitude of photographs that never seemed to get much of any profile in the old design.
So, I started to build. And then I tweaked. And then I launched. If you hit this site around about the holiday Monday, you’d probably seen something of a mashup of some of my new tweaks and a lot of the canned design. But over the last week, in my spare time and with the insight of poking around a stack of new and modern web architectures, I’ve slowly built out what I think is coming up to my — let’s call it — VERSION 3.0 RELOAD of the site.
It features a… well, a feature space at the very top of the home page, big, bold and colourful image-based navigation to some of my new stuff and some of my favourite stuff. It is easy to refresh with some built in random-ness that let’s readers discover and find more of the interesting stuff right from the landing page.
It also features more focus on my (now five) main categories. Each is styled with a unique colour that follows posts filed in those categories around the site: for example, “fatherhood” posts are touched with red in all the major lists and navigation elements.
There is also a big refocus on imagery. Every post now has a defined or default thumbnail. Those thumbnails fill the naviagtion pages with a little more eye-catching colour, but also make use of some of the thousands and thousand of photos I’ve accumulated over the years. (The customization, so far, with imagery is fairly shallow though, so a few pages in to any list and you’ll find the default image filling your screen.)
The new design also makes use of some consistent font choices. Static images and headings are styled in the Google Font Library’s “Special Elite” Serif, while everything else is (or should be) styled in some flavour or another of Arial (sans) and relies on weighting, spacing, and casing to add variety while avoiding distraction.
In the end what I think readers will find is something a little more “magazine-like” that is more article-based, colourful, exploratory to navigate, and interesting to read. And in a few more years, I’ll probably have a change of heart and tweak it all again. As for the next little while, watch for a few minor tweaks here and there, but otherwise just enjoy the new design.
Part of the interesting fallout from quasi-unemployment was that I scoped out on my own as a freelance design dude — and not only that, but also interesting is that the work still trickles in. I mention it now because I spent a good chunk of time this evening progressing through some logo design for small company writing an iPhone app of some kind.
That’s what long weekends have become I guess. Time away from real work to get my side-business work done. Because even if I were a dishonest person (which I am not) I would not have the time anywhere but at home on weekends (and a few sparse evenings) to get any of this kind of work completed.
It’s been fun. I’m thinking of it as portfolio fodder, now: additions to the growing collection of semi-professional graphics and web work, slightly askew from the work I do for real money in real life, but that would be appreciated and respected by someone who needed a glimpse at the guts of my lingering talents.
It’s also weird, because most of those talents were originally fostered in those multiple redesigns of this very blog space. It used to be a regular event to see the pages hosting these random writings transformed in a swoosh of graphic design fury. Ya’ll thought I was nutty, but it paid off, didn’t it?