The thing about the Web is it evolves. Every time I hear a colleague say, “well, I’m still trying to finish the (content, design, IA, whatever) so I can launch it,” I pull out soapbox #143: “If you wait until it’s finished…well, you’ll be waiting a long, long time. Just get something out there. Make it perfect later.”
So, naturally, when I saw my website was getting long in the tooth about three years ago, I did exactly what I’ve told everyone else not to do: I let it get stale while I waited until I could really get in there and rebuild.
Do that, and your site will slowly die. I now know this from sad personal experience. The gratifying part is, of course, that people NOTICED it was dying and complained about it.
So, thank heavens I got on the ball, stopped waiting until I could really get in there and redo the IA, and updated the bloody thing. (Of course, now I’m redoing it again as it settles in and I see what needs to be fixed…). Now that I’m back in the groove, I’m trying to grab old blog posts, stuff from the old site, etc., and get it all updated and back online. Hopefully that happens over the next week or so, but I will never again wait until I have time to do everything before I launch.
But while I was doing it, I grunnied around in my old archive files and noticed something: Until the current webbist’s block, I’d essentially redesigned my website every 9 months or so. And like the geeky yearbook pictures of our parents, I can’t believe some of the truly wacked out site designs I’ve had through the years. Here are some samples:
This was the first Morganica.com. Didn’t last long–there were LOTS of things to keep up with all these little bits and pieces–but it tells me a lot of things about where I was, design-wise, in 1998.
For one thing, I was working at BYTE, arguing daily with a temperamental art director who’d just converted to the Zen school of design, i.e., if it’s not a pure white page, it’s junk. He objected to all that nasty text messing up his layout, my editors were mutinying over being told to write stories in 100 words or less, and at the same time I was dealing with BIX, BYTE’s text-based, newsgroup-predating BBS which had less than zero design. I must have felt really constrained because I went nuts with MY colors, my graphics…and somewhere along the line decided I was in love with gradient fills. (blush)
Thank heavens the pendulum swung the other way. Don’t have a picture of it, but within six months I was getting nosebleeds from all the color ramps, got my art director’s religion and went to a blessedly simple design. Then I got fancy again in 2000, this time with graphics:
The whole site was built around a cute picture I’d taken of my cat carrying a cherry around in his mouth when he was a kitten. The cat grew up, though, and got less cute, so things evolved again, to something that I really, really liked and still do.
This one broke away from the idea of columns and boxes, and simply threw stuff up wherever it was on the page (of course, there’s a layout grid going on in the background, but it wasn’t supposed to LOOK that way). This one got some awards for design, but also had its detractors–unexpected doesn’t work well for regular visitors, and several people asked if I’d recently gotten religion because the thing at the top looked like the Christian fish symbol. (Honestly, all I wanted was a sweeping swoosh…)
Besides, it was a genuine pain in the neck to alter the images and make settings for them. It’d take me an hour to make the content, and three hours to find and fix up the images. So I sought something simpler.
This one brought back the cherry (notice it in the logo), lasted for quite awhile, and it sent me in the direction of dark-backgrounded personal sites. Commercial sites, where your money’s riding on the speed with which people can “get” your site, often need a white/light site for reasons I won’t go into.
But on a personal site, you don’t particularly care if anyone finds, reads, and understands the stuff. Plus, if you’re going to be graphics-based instead of text-based, which many personal sites are, light transmission (instead of reflection) tends to make the graphics pop and glow more than it does on a white background.
Anyway, I kept that element in the new site–for this iteration, unless there’s text that needs to be read, I’m showcasing the graphics on black.
We’ll see how well this works as the new site settles into its paces. The cool thing about personal websites is that you don’t have a usability legacy to worry about so you CAN redesign whenever you get the urge. I plan to.