the evenings out here - Thoughts, rants and musings about absolutely everything except photography. Or cats.

Redesign Part 1.

in Design & Usability , Tuesday, May 31, 2005

After weeks of reading wise words on information architecture, usability, designing with web standards and other esoterica, I have finally started on some practical stuff. It is a lot easier reading about all this stuff than it is putting it into practice. My plan was to follow a strict ground up plan based more or less on the the Elements of User Experience. To some extent I did this, and forcing myself to go through at least part of the exercise was both useful and educational. It is all very well using these theories in a relatively abstract context working as a small part of a large machine, but applying them to my site, where I am the client, the designer, the developer, the content provider, not to mention approximately 98% of the audience. The pressure I felt to just "get on with some real work" was quite high, especially as I knew that the Movable Type part of the site was in a real mess. Also I have very little time available for this, mainly 40 minutes or so of commute time every day. To make best use of this time I tried to find design tools I could use on my Palm. I'll talk about these in a seperate post. I had (and still have) many ambitious plans in my head for both the visual and non visual design, but putting them into practice is another matter. Inspiration which flows freely on the tram or in the shower seems to dry up when I sit down in front of the screen and realise that in fact I have no idea how to do a particular trick in CSS. Practical problems intrude as well: StyleMaster from Westciv is a great tool, but v.4.0 is very buggy which means that time spent learning new features was largely wasted (v4.0.2, now released, seems much better). Finally I decided to attempt a full overhaul of the Movable Type templates, to rationalise and slim down the stylesheets, and to attempt some stopgap cosmetic improvements. I also wanted to make some usability improvements in link styles and navigation. I had about 4 hours to do this. Although it was all done in far less than ideal circumstances, some of the planning I did whilslt commuting helped a lot. For example, analysing my business requirements led me to understanding that a prime objective of this site is self promotion, and there are two aspects to this: Photography and Other Stuff. This led to the further realisation that my so far unintegrated blogs provide two ready made pillars for the site architecture, and that I should seek to take advantage of this. part of a high level site information outline It also occured to me that I might be able to use Movable Type for more than weblog publishing, but also as a CMS (Content Management System). A quick Google revealed that I was far from the first to think of this. I think a full blown MT driven site is beyond my resources for now, especially as I would have to integrate the photo publishing part, but it is tempting. For now I've settled on a quick fix, using mt-rssfeed plugin to add topic titles to the home page, providing some semblance of integration. I think that the experience so far is positive, but there is a way to go yet! [Posted from the scene with hblogger 2.0]