You start off with an idea, progress it to a concept, make a design, fiddle with it for too long, then turn it into a working prototype. If all goes well, then you’re in for a couple more rounds of revisions and improvements, then the site gets filled with content and you launch the site. You get a flurry of interest, then the site returns to every-day service. (These days, it’s very rare indeed to make a completely brand-new website. It’s usually an iteration or a new design of an existing site. Which is good and necessary from time to time.)
Once the site is in service, and the stress and worry of making it work is past, then the revisions begin. Improvements based on experience of the site being used by its visitors and its authors. Improvements based on bug fixing, or improvements based on new experiences.
Although only the most pernickety reader will notice, this is a revised version of my website. (Coincidentally and unexpectedly launched on the 20th anniversary of Zeldman’s site.) I’ve been chopping away on it, a few minutes at a time, for months. I am quite pleased with it, although I realise that it’s a revision which most visitors won’t even notice.
The big sidebar menu and my mug shot are gone, replaced with a much simpler page-top navigation which is visible to all with iPads and larger screens. Getting rid of a big page element feels good: the new site feels like it’s cleaner and tidier.
The typeface has been changed to one I’ve wanted to use for a long time: Minion Pro, provided via Typekit. It’s not a modern font, but I have loved it for a long time. Designers will criticize its use, but I don’t care. It’s legible and classic, a serif which harks back to the type used in my school day reference books. I love Garamond, too, but Minion is just that bit thicker and more legible on computer screens.
Aside from those two changes, most of the others are behind the scenes. More efficient WordPress coding – although it still needs a lot of work – and a more modern structuring of template parts and flexible content containers are building the pages, making the maintenance, reusability and extension of the code much easier. Having worked out a pretty robust and extensive Parent/Child theme set for WordPress and implementing it in Big Wide World, the next update to the site will be invisible to the visitor and be built on the fresh code I’ve recently completed.
The main code structure behind this, the tenth version of my site since 2006, has never been re-built from scratch. Layouts change and CSS gets re-written, but many features and functions are built on the principles I used when first coding the site in 2006, when WordPress was still in version 2. I’ve learned extensively over the past nine years, and a complete re-write of the code is long-overdue. Not because it’s unstable or broken, but because it’s not clean. I get irritated by having a site whose code is patched together and so it’s a niggle in the back of my mind.
So why update the site now, before it’s re-coded? Because procrastination is a death knell for a creative project. A website is never finished: it just reaches a stage where enough improvements have been made for an update to be released. I started this version of my personal site in 2006 after completely deleting a previous version and it’s been a work in progress ever since. Any website can be improved upon and it’s that which keeps my interest in the medium bubbling away, despite having worked with it for nearly twenty years.