Committing

in design

Well, after a long process of messing around with wireframes, colors, fonts, content drafts, fiddling, tweaking and general fear of committment, I’ve finally ~officially launched~ a redesign I’ve been intending for nearly two years.

My old portfolio was almost 100% hand-coded, written by me in notepad++ by copying and pasting from a generic html file. It was not what you would call ideal for making changes on the fly. But at the time it was simpler than learning to, say, develop my own theme for Wordpress. Which I did eventually learn to do for a client who needed it, and it was ok, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the process. I felt limited a lot by the way the templating system worked, and I didn’t much like php when I dug into the guts of the thing.

For awhile I thought perhaps finding a Wordpress portfolio theme and doing some minor customizing would be better than building from scratch. But the vast majority of portfolio themes out there are focused on visual presentation, and I wanted the focus of my portfolio to be on telling the story of a project, with typography as the main emphasis. I was struck very strongly by Jeffrey Zeldman’s design manifesto when I read it, and became more convinced than ever that I should pursue a typography-driven design. Eventually I picked out a theme I thought I could work with, but I kept getting caught up in frustrating details and never made much progress. The truth is Wordpress has grown into quite a beast, and it’s overkill for my little site. And, let’s face it, when it comes to my own development I am a control freak. I wanted to feel like I really knew what was going on with my site, but I didn’t want to invest the time it would take to get that confidence with Wordpress.

In the meantime I started poking around in the world of static site generators. They sounded a lot more my style - enough abstraction to make adding content and tweaking the design relatively painless, without a resource-hungry and arcane backend to fight with. I’ve played around with Ruby a little bit and it warmed my functional programming-loving heart, and Jekyll is the tool I’d heard about most, so that’s the one I ultimately chose. I had some adventures with the intial setup and a lot of adventures migrating the content from my old Wordpress blog, mainly due to the fact that it’s been nearly 5 years and several machines since I had anything like a development environment set up. Fortunately, most of that was one-time pain and now that I’ve got the groundwork laid, it’s been fun to tinker.

In addition to Jekyll, I used a Simple Grid responsive grid for layout, and Tim Brown’s modular scale tool (and inspiration from his More Meaningful Typography article) for sizing the type.

I’m still tuning and optimizing and filling in compatibility issues - defining fontstacks with the help of Ffffallback, for example, and I’m not 100% happy with all the current responsive behavior. I’m also working on learning Sass by converting my current CSS, but I decided at last it was time to commit to the changes, and ship this baby.