It’s been a few years since I made any big design changes here at Windypundit, but I’m beginning to think it might be time for something different, and I’d like to ask for you, Gentle Reader, for some help.
The impetus for this change is the release by Six Apart of a new major version of the Movable Type blogging engine that powers Windypundit. I tried upgrading to it a couple of nights ago, but it replaced all my templates with the default template, so I undid the upgrade. I could probably figure out a way to prevent that problem (e.g. read the manual), but I’ve decided to take a different approach. I’m going to start with the default template that comes with the new version of Movable Type and build on it to recreate the Windypundit site from scratch. The result should be a whole new Windypundit the works correctly with all the Movable Type features.
Almost everything about the blog design is up in the air. I’ve started to make a list of changes I’d like to make:
- Rebuild the site using the new Movable Type templates to make sure the site can use all the new features.
- Declutter the sidebars by removing some items and moving others to separate pages.
- Use a slightly more modern looking design. Windypundit isn’t supposed to look like the latest fad in web 2.0, but I wouldn’t mind a few more modern touches.
- Change the color scheme to be a little more vibrant, but without causing eyestrain.
- It might be time to change the logo. Logos with swoosh marks were a cliche long before I started using mine.
- I’d like to add a few small graphic accents, like bullet points or something, just to give the site a few unique touches.
- I want to keep the page SEO friendly. For example, if you check out the page source, the first big block of content is the text of the first post. The sidebars are placed at the end of the page, after all the text, and CSS positioning is used to place them to the left and right of the main text block.
- It’s time for a new banner image.
- With multiple authors, I think I need something more prominent than a byline to distinguish us. Perhaps it’s time to add avatars to the posts.
I’m expecting that I can re-use a lot of the same template code. For example, I’ll keep a lot of the CSS styles that control the look of blog entries, because I don’t want to have to go through all the posts to restyle them.
Also, I need to change the way I handle photographs. I currently host them on Smugmug, which offers a few nice features such as on-the-fly resizing, but it’s a bad practice to rely so much on a single third-party service. I’d like to host the photos on the blog server, but I may have to write some software to get the features I want. More on this as it develops.
How I Could Use Your Help
Since I got a lot of suggestions when I asked for help finding protest songs, I figure it couldn’t hurt to beg a little more and see if any of you have some ideas about my site design.
(A) If you’re a regular reader, or even a passing reader, I’d like to hear your suggestions for improving the Windypundit web site design.
I’ve tried to make the Windypundit site design as simple and uncluttered as I can, in the spirit of sites such as Google, craigslist, or Facebook. (Yeah, the Facebook page is cluttered, but it’s cluttered because it offers a lot of functionality: There are very few purely decorative elements on a standard Facebook page.) There are very few design elements on Windypundit which do not serve a purpose. For example, the right sidebar is set off with a background color because otherwise the text in the sidebar is confusingly close to the main text in the center. Except for the logo and the banner image, almost every element serves a purpose.
Got suggestions? Got something that bothers you? Let me know.
(B) By tradition, I don’t use my own photography in the banner image, so the image has to come from somewhere else, and I’m taking suggestions. I’ve done two aerial photos and two skylines. I’m thinking my next one will be of some kind of Chicago landmark. Not the water tower, and not the friggin’ bean or anything else in Millenium park. More likely some characteristic buildings or infrastructure. Maybe the Michigan avenue bridge. Possibly just a traffic jam. With a pothole.
The banner image should not have distracting shapes, colors, or content, and it should have room for the Windypundit logo. It doesn’t need to have a blank area, but I have to be able to overlay stuff on the image without ruining the composition.
Since using an image in the page banner might not count as photojournalism, I’m a little more concerned about the legal issues. I’ll need to have the legal right to use the image, either directly from the photographer or else from a stock agency, unless it’s in the public domain. The image should not contain any identifiable people unless they have signed a release. The composition should not depend on any prominent copyrighted or trademarked content such as a sculpture, advertising, commercial signs, or trademarked buildings.
If you know of an image that would work, send me a link to it. If you created the image, I’ll credit you.
(C) If I decide I’m tired of this logo, I could use some help picking a new one. Suggestions? Thoughts? Designs? Same legal rules as the banner image.
If you think the site is perfect the way it is, that’s okay too.
[Update: Two more design goals for the site:
- The site should generate code compliant with the XHTML 1.0 Transitional standard.
- The site should meet general accessibility guidelines where applicable.