I’ve been talking about a revamp of my site for a while now and, since I actually managed to get down to brass tacks last night and build the darn thing, I thought it would be prudent to let people know things have changed – and will continue to over the next few months.
I love working with WordPress. Having been using the platform since something like version 1.8, seeing the revisions for 3.0 are very exciting. I wanted to take advantage of them to expand my use of my site. In the near future, in addition to the natural blog and page modules, the theme I’m building will have spaces (and ideally feeds) for Fiction, Non-Fiction, and a public calendar. All built on the WP platform.
Also, since I may be missing tonight’s #blogchat – which is, oddly, all about blog design – I thought I’d point out some things about why the theme looks just like it does.
User experience design is coming to feel like the third art of web development. There’s programming – which acts as the back-end, structural portion. And there’s visual design, which is not my forte, which behaves much like the paint and interior decoration of a building. In the middle, however, is the UX portion, which should be – and often is not – treated as the electrical and plumbing. It’s the part of development which allows people to actually use a space, to take advantage of the good programming and see the benefit in elegant design.
I built this blog theme largely out of my observations of other blogs. There are breadcrumbs and previous/next post navigation neatly tucked into the single post pages. Archive pages are minimally different from single post pages. The front page has a clear feature and some nav to other sections. The major navigation for the site is at the top, with simplistic pop-down segments for categories (which will be cleaned up more later).
On every page is a jQuery-powered accordion section holding some less-critical, but still important information about how to connect with me. Eventually, this will also house the proper calendar portion of this site. I used this trick, almost as-is from a Soh Tanaka tutorial, because it let me put a huge amount of information in a tiny amount of space. That’s fairly important for me, given that I wanted to focus as much attention on what I’m posting as I could, without removing information from availability.
The important difference between visual design and UX design is less about a programming difference, and more a shift in purpose. A purely visual design answers the question “What do I want people to see/feel when they visit my site?” – this is important. UX design doesn’t ignore that, but rather goes one step further to ask “What do I want people do with what I show them?”
Blogs are as highly communal as they are asynchronous. Bloggers ask questions like “Why am I posting this?” all the time when writing. Blog designers benefit from asking UX-centric questions for the same reasons; considering the readers is one of the things that can separate good blog design from great blog design.