Stephen Jay Gould posited that evolution isn’t as gradual a process as people often imagine it to have been, that in fact it is more like a series of plateaus punctuated by dramatic leaps. I’ve been meaning to redesign this site for over a year now, and have hashed together a few designs, explored what feels like hundreds of existing templates, and even briefly toyed with the idea of switching to another CMS platform. For the record, Concrete5 looks very interesting and I might recommend it to clients in the future – but I would lose far more than I would gain by switching from WordPress. And WordPress coincidentally, as of version 3.1, now has a decidedly Concrete5-esque admin menu bar. I don’t know who comes up with these ideas first, of course. I think they really are the zeitgeist, as with so many of the newest ideas in the digital ecosphere. But I digress. The point is, that rather than a gradual evolution, this latest change has been more like the earthquake that resolves the pressure that gradually builds up in a fault over years, decades, centuries.
There were a couple of problems I wanted to solve with the redesign. Firstly, there was boredom. The previous template was over three years old, and it only stayed this long because I designed it pretty much from scratch, and felt a certain pride of ownership. But one looks at a page every day for three and a half years, and even that pride gives way to longing.
Secondly, I tire of writing on what feels like a giant roll of toilet paper – my colleagues at work have heard me make the same complaint about Microsoft Word – there is a linearity to the old three-column theme that just doesn’t reflect my way of thinking or writing. For my personal writing projects, for example, I’m now using Scrivener, which operates in many ways more like a writing database than a “word processor.” And what is WordPress but a friendly front end for a(n) SQL database?
Finally, there is the awareness that while this website is a personal indulgence, a ten-year “brain dump,” people do, on occasion, come here looking for particular pieces of information, or at the very least information on particular topics. And because organising and presenting information in an engaging format is part and parcel of what I do professionally, I thought it might behoove me to have the website that bears my name reflect an understanding of information architecture.
The solution, as it stands, is the Technical Speech template – originally created for a blog about web programming – which I have lightly tweaked to suit my purposes in a magazine-style approach to what I think are (mostly) our main topics of interest here. This involved dumping a lot of occasionally whimsical categories into the tag cloud which you will find on the right, and reducing our categories to music, writing, food and (mostly) drink, advertising, and the catch-all news and commentary, which will include current events as well as news about what is happening here behind the scenes.
Let me know in the comments if anything isn’t working, even if it just isn’t working the way you want it to.