I started redesigning this site back in 2014, 2016, and again in 2018. Each time I hit a wall: the structure was too complicated; technologies weren’t quite where I needed; it lacked the right intention and focus, or I was simply too busy or distracted to finish anything.
Although I’ve been working on this redesign little by little since mid-2019, it took a few old friends — Luke, Cameron, and Greg launching new sites over the last couple of months to ultimately tip the scales. This site is a home base, a central hub. It’s a repository of thoughts, ideas, and discoveries, and a window into my head (yup, I’m terrified too). It’s for me, but also for you.
Those three rebooted sites represent the early days of the web — curious, independent, experimental, but also calm. That web was a place where inquisitiveness and passion meant anyone could claim a piece of virtual land to build on. It was that independent spirit I missed after years of being on the other side of a decentralized web.
The Drawing Board
When I wiped the slate clean again, I knew one significant factor that held me back before was trying to shoehorn the older site into the newer one. So, the lesson was: maybe don’t do that and kick it over to a subdomain instead. Check. And a huge sigh of relief to be honest. From there, I set out to define objectives to guide the way, such as:
- The design has to get out of the way of content
- It has to feel lightweight and responsive
- It must be able to aggregate content instead of it being distributed across platforms
- It must be a place to present work I’ve made for the first time, and in a flexible manner
- The CMS must be able to deftly handle any kind of content and be adaptable in how data and structure are managed and presented
- It has to provide a solid foundation to build on and opportunities for me to learn while brushing up on existing skills
Like Luke, I needed to move the foundation to a new CMS and had also been looking closely at Kirby. MovableType had served me well since 2003 when I launched the first version of this site, but it was time to move on. I hadn’t been able to keep it up-to-date, and quite honestly, dealing with Perl and relational databases was increasingly painful.
I took the time to consider and reconsider content structures in Kirby to ensure they would remain extensible into the future. Luckily, the flat-file structure underlying how Kirby works makes refactoring blueprints easy. This proved particularly important as I was designing and building the new site entirely in the browser on top of git for version control and dependency management. Nary a mockup was needed, and design problems could be solved in code first.
Some ideas started as standalone code sketches where I could work on a problem independently before worrying about production anything. Others came about through accidents or brushing up on new CSS techniques like columns, grids, and flexbox.
The last few years have offered moments of reflection and introspection, and all of those coalesced into the form this site took. The world feels increasingly complex, so stripping the presentation back without being fussy or overwrought is a reflection of what matters to me right now.
The same might be said for how I’ve chosen to present content typographically. using Quarto and Gotham from H&Co offer a sense of stability and quiet stature. They form the bedrock that holds everything together.
Like any design project worth its salt, this is Final_v1_rev2_alpha. Just kidding — never ever name your files like that. Really. In truth, turning on this new site is just the start. There’s code to be simplified, performance improvements to address, stories to document, and new features and functionality to build.
It took space, a clear head, plus a degree of annoyance at those previous failures to push through — something I had a taste of in 2019 during a 6 week sabbatical from work. And so here we are in 2020 — a step forward, but one that has me thinking about the next already. The independence feels good.