Filed under "Jaredigital.com"
Navelgazing 2: The Reckoning.
I don’t want to dwell on the redesign too much, but I do want to touch on a few of points. So here we go.
Herein, Jared asserts that his Links feed is some sort of undiscovered internet treasure, claims Love is dead and flips on his longstanding opinion that light on dark website designs are a horrible idea. Obviously.
This Is Where I Write The "Hey Internets, I Redesigned Teh Site" Post and You All Pretend To Be Excited.
Hard-refresh those browsers, kids. Version 15 of Jaredigital.com (snappy codename forthcoming) is alive and kicking. Somebody cue up The Breakfast Club soundtrack.
This weblogue entry finds Jared waxing self-important about a piece of the internet that most people don’t care about. All the same, it is of paramount importance for Jared to communicate his high-concept redesign to all of you. If you imagine that Jared is reading this entry to a shelf full of stuffed squirrels, it will be much more tolerable.
Welcome to DreamHost.
I’ve recently moved hosting services to DreamHost. Hello to all my DreamHost neighbors. My move was incredibly smooth and easy after a bit of database jiggery (thanks again, Chris, for helping me out with that MySQL stuff… I really am a noob). Big thanks go to my old webhost, MG1 Hosting for such a great ride all these years. I’m sorry to see you go.
I think I’ve covered all my bases here, but if you notice any oddness with comments, links, feeds, etc., please drop me a note and let me know.
Thanks for indulging me in this gratuitiously self-centered post. Carry on!
Refresh those stylesheets, folks. “Operation: My Last Design Was Okay But Ultimately Unsatisfying So Now I’m Starting Over” has wrapped.
If you’re looking around and realize I might be a little crazy, that’s fine. This is really the direction I wanted to go originally…
Are We There Yet?
When I decided to retire the “disco pink and black” layout of this site and go in a new direction, it was fueled by one lone desire: to zig where others zag. I’d seen the trendy design memes getting passed around the blogosphere. Horizontally split layouts. Dark backgrounds. Widescreen layouts. Gradients. Oh, the gradients!!! And there’s nothing wrong with following trends. I follow some trends and will probably follow some of them for quite some time. Trendyness doesn’t change a good thing. It’s just that what I was aiming for was to point my canoe upstream, as it were, and paddle against the current…
If you’re here on the ol’ www domain and not off somewhere remotely viewing from RSS-Land or Content-Aggregationville, welcome. Take off your shoes, grab a pillow and have a seat by the coy pond. That’s right. Feels, good, doesn’t it?
So this is it. The skin of my identity for the next indeterminable length of time. It’s quite a departure from what was here before, but such is my way. I didn’t sign up for the CSS Reboot this year, but I suppose it’s logical to lump this redesign into that event. Then again, I may sign up _ex post facto_-style.
After passing up two previous rounds of submissions and then weeks of waiting for Round 3 announcements, interlaced with nail-biting and a mounting retaliatory urge to create my own blog network (cheekily named the 10commandments Network), I received an invitational email from Paul. Ah, success!
Textpattern: Clean RSS Feeds & Feed Updates
I was reminded in my last article that I had implemented clean RSS feeds on this site and never announced it or explained how it was accomplished. Truth be told, I thought that Jeremy Koempel would publish the code, since he basically handed it to me on a silver platter. Others may have done this before, and it may be published in other places, but the following is an explaination of how to achieve what I’d like to call Koempelized Clean Feeds™.
Hooray, Textpattern 4.0.2!
You know, Textpattern just keeps getting better. Thanks are due, in no small part, to Dean Allen’s growing team of TXP developers. Nice work, guys! Sometimes development can be a thankless endeavor.
Page not found
So what’s new in this latest release? Say it with me: “Error pages!” Yes, 404 error handling has been refined. After TXP 4.0 broke standard
.htaccess error handling, replacing it with an, um, ugly generic error page, version 4.0.2 adds an
error_default page template under the Pages tab, allowing full visual access to the page’s output. The real benefit here is that now 404 error pages can benefit from all of the TXP tags instead of being hardcoded…
I get plenty of unusual search strings in my logs. Thanks to the Beck lyric I had featured in my title bar a few weeks back, some lucky soul’s Google search for “crouton” turned up my site in his results. Haha! Brilliant! And it’s good to know that a search for “revolting entertainment” on Google.fi ranks me at #2. Hey, if it’s not revolting, it’s not good enough for me.
Holy Schnikies, That's A Lot of Hits!
As I took a break from hardcore coding activities this afternoon, I decided to check up on my site stats and comments, as I often do. When I got into my Textpattern admin panel and clicked on “Logs”, I nearly had a heart attack. My logs are up to 1,060 pages!
Textpattern: Hacking the Comment Form's Tabindex
One longstanding frustration among Textpattern users has been the choice of the comment form’s default tabindex order as well as the fact that Textpattern does not assign a tabindex value to both the Preview and Submit buttons. Those who habitually tab through form fields have found themselves inexplicably thrown back to the top of the page after tabbing out of the Comments textarea. Make sense? Of course not! A stroke from the Tab key from the Comments box should naturally go to the Preview or Submit button.
I’m no PHP whiz, so this discovery of mine may be a no-brainer to you accomplished coders out there. Still, I resolved to figure the darn thing out on my own and post my findings here. Click those safety belts, here we go!
The year was 1999. Predictably, the tired strains of Prince’s 1999 meandered through the air near my small studio apartment. It was New Year’s Eve, after all, and in just a few short minutes it was going to be the big 2000. The future. The year we’d all been waiting for. Jetpacks for all. I sat in front of my 100mhz Packard Bell desktop, waiting for the clock to roll past 11:59. I had backed up my important files on floppy disks and was presumably browsing the interweb to pass the time. Yes, I was a loner.
Textpattern 4.0 Up and Running.
I wish I could say that my switch to the first “stable” release of Textpattern was seamless and glitch-free. It wasn’t.
Upon upgrading and logging into the Admin panel to run the update script, I was greeted with a cascade of PHP errors. Actually, it was one error repeated ad nauseum. It took me a minute to figure out how to clear it from my screen (it was a language setting issue), but a novice user would have probably quit right there. Maybe it was an issue with upgrading, and not entirely TXP’s fault. Maybe I wouldn’t have had the problem if I had been keeping up with the release candidates, but I wasn’t. I came straight from 1.0rc1.
What's New? Search Me!
I’ve been procrastinating the day I’d finally buckle down and get the search feature on this site smoothed out and functioning the way I want it to. At first I let it slide, using Textpattern handle search results in its admittedly awful way. By default, Textpattern returns search results to the default page template and inside the
<txp: article /> tag. In layman’s terms, that would place the search results for this website on the Home page, replacing the Recent Articles list with the search results. Not cool—or usable.
For those about to be inspired, I salute you.
A recent discussion over at the CSS Vault was recently brought to my attention, and before I power down the computer and make the long drive to Plano to begin my new job, I figured I’d weigh in on the debate.
From the thumbnail view on CSS Vault, the design looks very similar in color and layout to my old Black design.
The visual correlation lies almost exclusively in the horizontal black, white, and cream color blocking. Nothing else seems to be an issue to anyone. It would seem that Aaron has changed the header color to maroon since the site hit the Vault, no doubt in reaction to the numerous comments made about the initial similarities between his site and mine. I can’t say I blame him, and it’s probably all for the best. All things being equal, I quite like the maroon.
My official stance on this “incident” is that I don’t feel “ripped off.” Maybe I’m just in a gracious state of mind, or maybe I just realize that we all borrow design from each other. True, upon first glance the similarities are bold. But they are not many. In fact, the similarities really end with the horizontal color blocking, and that’s not even an issue at this point. When my design got in the Vault, it was briefly compared to Jason Santa Maria’s site. Though I had visited Jason’s site many times, there was no conscious effort to draw inspiration from it. I could see some similarities, but I knew that my inspiration had definitely come from other sources. I am grateful to not have been swiftly judged in a public forum.
We operate in a collaborative environment. We all use code, tips, and tricks developed by other designers or code gurus. I have never spoken to Aaron, so I don’t know if he’s even seen the work that his design is supposedly derived from. And assuming he did, what’s so wrong with being inspired? Using what you see around you in your own work? I think that some of us in the web standards community are sometimes a little too hard on each other. It seems that there is far too much comparing one design to another.
My time is short, so that’s all I’ll say. But am I wrong? Should I be up in arms? Or is my altruistic attitude just the medicine this issue needs?
Pretty in Pink
Despite the transitional nature of my life at the moment, I made time earlier this month for a site redesign. I hope by now you’ve noticed the change. It didn’t start out as a solid commitment, but when a pleasing design began to take shape, I signed myself up for the CSS Reboot. Truth be told, the signup was mostly meant to keep me from chickening out. And I almost did. Twice.
It all started with a rerun of Saturday Night Live. Actually, it all started with this jittery feeling in my gut the day I launched the Back in Black design. Historically, this website has been in a constant state of flux but considering the great feedback I got from Back in Black, I made a decision to “remove the flux capacitor” and keep that version around for a while. I love the Black design, but I’ve habitually changed and tinkered with this online palette since the day I bought it. Anyhow, back to SNL; the “comedy” sketches were questionably entertaining, as usual, but when I saw who the performers du jour were, I decided to stick it out.
Blame The Killers.
You heard me. The impetus for the Pretty in Pink design came from Killers frontman Brandon Flowers’ pink leather jacket & black slacks ensemble. Very snappy. I’m not overly nostalgic for the 80’s, and it’s certainly nothing I’d wear to my local Chili’s, but there was just something appealing and decidedly retro about the color combination. All at once the design possibilities started flowing. Hot pink! New wave! Do you like Flock of Seagulls, you neo maxi zoom dweebies?
Big Nav? Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?
One part of the design that I’ve received a lot of feedback about is the “big nav.” Some people like it, and others think it’s — well — too big. The whole design actually began with the Big Nav. Yes, it’s bold. Yes, it’s garish. And yes, it is exactly the size it was meant to be. I felt that my old nav blended in a bit too much, and this time around I made it a point to really emphasize it. And with the bold “you are here” feature, it’s easier to know what page you’re on.
The music theme continues, and I don’t see it wearing me out anytime soon. This is, above all, my personal website and music still manages to be an influential part of my life. The familiar Plugged In and Side Notes icons return, hopefully running a thread between this design and the last. My favorite iconic addition this time around is the logomark on the stompbox. Originally the logo just sat beside my name — plain Jane style — but I think the stompbox really helps to cement the musical theme of the design.
Back to the Future.
There will no doubt be some adjustments made as the days go by, and I’ve very much appreciated both the positive and critical feedback I’ve received so far. Feel free to weigh in if you are so inclined. I consider every comment I get.
When it rains, it pours — right? That’s how the saying goes, at least. For all that’s been happening in my life over the past few weeks, there is really very little I can say right now. Ain’t that a peach? Here’s what I can tell you:
- I will be participating in the CSS Reboot, though I loathe the word “reboot.” Don’t get me started. I initially decided that I would not participate because a) I am thoroughly preoccupied with life’s little surprises and am having a hard time finding time for this website, and b) this design has been good to me, sending droves of folks here in search of the Three Column Layout. Also, I had no idea what to do as a redesign. That being said, I found time this weekend to rough up an idea that I like; in time, it will become a glorious new chapter in… nevermind. It will just be a welcome change.
- Remember that project I wrote about a while back? The one where I hinted at working with some pretty cool designers? Well, the silence is about to be broken. But not yet. Look for a writeup, possibly, at the end of this week. I love it when a plan comes together.
Sadly, that’s all I have to report. Let’s meet back here in a few days, shall we?
It Takes A Lot To Make Wednesday Exciting.
Wednesday = an eternity. It’s true. On this warm Texas afternoon it seems like the week will never end. The lovely breakfast indigestion from Bill Miller’s didn’t help, either. I am so looking forward to my brief Christmas break that I can barely stand the wait any longer. A scrumptious turkey dinner made by my wife. The prezzies. The Christmas movie marathon. The sleeping. Oh, the sleeping!
So my thanks go to Mr. Zeldman for giving me a good shock on this lazy afternoon. Like “Vince Neil’s heart meets the paddles” shock. Browsing my referral logs (what would I do without them?), I discovered semi-droves of hits coming from the Big Daddy of Web Standards’ “Of The Moment” list.
Thank you for the pick-me-up, Mr. Zeldman. Of all the unsolicited and surprising linkups this website has had, this is by far the happiest and most unexpected.
A Delicious Firefox Headache.
I have been migrating my bookmarks to del.icio.us over the past week or so, marveling at the level of organization that can be achieved with the use of tags. It’s been great. I’ve been doing all this with the hopes that I can easily synchronize my bookmarks between many computers via Firefox’s Live Bookmarks feature.
For a while, it worked like a charm. And then I hit a snag. A big snag. Maybe you can help.
I read a lot. So it wasn’t long until I had created nearly 50 bookmarks tagged blogosphere. Opening Firefox 1.0, I go to del.icio.us, subscribe to the proper feed by clicking the Live Bookmark icon at the bottom right corner of the browser, and add the feed to my bookmarks.
Whoops. Only the first 30 bookmarks show up in the Live Bookmark and, as of yet, I haven’t found a way to increase that number. Sure, I could divide my del.icio.us blogosphere bookmarks into smaller subcategories, but sooner or later even the subcategories will exceed 30 bookmarks.
So what can be done? Has anyone out there come up with a solution? The del.icio.us/Firefox Live Bookmark combo seems pretty handicapped at the moment.
Plugged In: The RSS Edition.
By popular request (meaning someone asked and I had free time), The Plugged In sidebar links are now available via RSS feed. Don’t you just love the sound of that? RSS feeeeeeed. It just rolls off the tongue like so much sweet chocolate.
The Atom feed is giving my so much grief that I’m not even going to mess with it anymore unless a lot of people beg me to. Or unless I have some free time tomorrow…
A documented bug in Textpattern prevents the Last-Modified header from updating when a new link has been added to the list. Curiously, the bug doesn’t affect all newsreaders. If you are not receiving an updated feed, you have my apologies. The TXP guys are aware of the bug and are surely working a fix into the next release.
Back In Black.
An Analysis of the the Jaredigital: Black Layout.
It all started on July 17, 2004 when I went down to Borders and bought Designing With Web Standards. As I read through the book, I investigated many of the websites listed on Zeldman’s externals page, studying CSS styles, options, layouts, and markup. It was through my visits to these sites that I began developing the design for my Black design. CSS had opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities, and I was ready for the good times.
It all started with three influential websites: Justwatchthesky, Coudal Partners and Airbag. Taking a cue from one of Cameron Moll’s Sitepoint articles, I set out to strip from these sites the elements that I admired and shape them to my own design. Although I ultimately chose a more tame typographical style, Coudal’s large headlines made an impact on me, as well as Ryan Sims’ article format.
Before embarking on this design journey, I had to establish the scope and placement of my content. What sections did I want to include? What did I want on the front page, and where and how did I want to arrange it? My previous design had left me wanting for more content on the front page, and more organization for future expansion. A site map and layout schematic were the first steps. After some rudimentary mapping on paper and coming to an understanding of the desired content placement in my mind, I continued on to the visual design.
Coudal and Airbag’s three-collumn layouts were really the visual impetus for my redesign. This was the page structure that I wanted to have, since it allowed for more compartmentalized content areas than a standard two-column layout. With a reworking of the column widths and a few visual cues from Airbag, I soon had the content structure that I desired.
Palette & Visual Treatment
I have been rocking the “Wicked Worn” look since way back in the day, long before I knew it had a name or such a loyal following among designers. I have always been fascinated by old electronics, packaging, crates, signage, and typefaces. Chosing a visual treatment for my new design was not hard at all. Having already chosen a “rock & roll” theme, I simply chose a color palette, typefaces and weathered textures that properly represented the theme. The black on cream color scheme reminded me of yellowed concert handbills, crudely photocopied and left plastered to telephone poles and the sides of nightclubs. It was perfect.
Content Management System
Textpattern was the final step in the equation. Admittedly, the decision to use a CMS should have been made at the very beginning to minimize development time, but I console my unorganized self in the fact that Textpattern was a pretty simple install. Transitioning my old articles was the most time-consuming task (aside from actually learning how to implement Textpattern), and unavoidable in any case.
So there you have it, in all its geeky glory. I’m happy enough with this layout and design to not change it for a while. I simply don’t have the time to pour into my own selfish projects anymore. And after a long day of designing at the office, sometimes the last thing I want to do is go home and do more of the same. This design is going to stick, and my wife will thank me.
Season Of Change.
It was my honor and privilege to participate in two important events yesterday.
I haven’t voted in all presidential elections since I turned 18, but I have voted in the majority of them. I think I may have skipped the Clinton/Bush election due to a case of “Imsickofthiscrapititis”, but I have since repented of my ways. I feel good about casting my vote, even though it would be a cold day in hell if my preferred candidate actually won. That should give you a better idea of who I didn’t vote for.
I’ve already documented my distaste for MoveableType, and hinted at a move towards Textpattern. After a couple weeks of tinkering with some minor bugs, I have now
partially transitioned this website to Textpattern. I could not be more pleased with the results. As a new Textpattern user, let me run down some of the reasons why I decided to employ this nifty content management system:
- It’s not MovableType.
- It’s free, and not a free crippled version. Free.
- Easy installation. All you need is PHP and MySQL on your server. That’s it. Upload your files, configure some paths, and you’re cooking with Crisco. Seriously, the install instructions are 3 short paragraphs.
- Intuitive Admin area. Backend administration of a Textpattern site is a snap to wrap your head around. Tools are separated into Content, Presentation, and Admin tabs. Want to add and manage content? Go to the Content tab. Want to manage presentational elements? Bam. Presentation tab.
- Elegant Admin area. Everything just looks so darn nice!
- Easy publishing. Textpattern uses Textile, a syntax that reduces XHTML tags to shorthand Textile tags that reconvert to XHTML when published. Write article in Textile, view it in XHTML!
So if Textpattern is so easy and awesome, why did it take me two weeks to figure it out? Like learning a new language, familiarizing oneself with the system may take time. Having never used a CMS before, my learning curve was a bit steep. And Textpattern is not perfect. There is some give and take.
But, all in all, I’m excited about this change. No more hardcoding blogs for me!
Woes, Woes and More Woes.
Woe is me.
Indulge my complaining just this one last time. I attempted to set up MovableType last night and it went horribly wrong. Don’t ask me how, because I have no idea. I followed the instructions. Disaster ensued. Suddenly all my hard work was reduced to “Internal Server Error”, and this did not sit well with me. I blame myself for my apparent lack of database know-how, but feel somewhat justified in saying that setting up MovableType must be what it feels like to build a computer; namely, it’s no picnic if you’ve never done it before.
But I yearn for your comments. Yearn. So I shall most likely attempt an install of Textpattern in the future, since I have tried it out and found it to be pretty simple to set up. But this whole database-driven blogging system is new territory for me, so expect some bumps in the road.
But there’s more! Somebody please point me in the direction of hard and fast data about public opinion regarding Flash intros. If I have to do another Flash intro, I’m going to — well — do another Flash intro, because it’s my job. But I won’t like it, because intros are bad bad bad! And in the best interest of clients, we should not be selling something that actually hurts their business.
I guess that’s enough woe for one day. I promise to make a happy blog next time around.
Stop The Presses! Another Website Has Been Redesigned.
In an astounding display of originality, Jaredigital.com has been redesigned from the ground up. The initial upload actually took place on Tuesday, October 5th, but emails to CNN.com and Slashdot were delayed until all of the webpages had been placed online. Site owner and designer Jared Christensen remarked, “A website redesign is such a rare and unique event in the web community. We, meaning I, didn’t want to announce the completion of this redesign until all our ducks were in a row. We do this for the kids, and disappointing them is just not an option.”
When asked about the reason for the redesign, Christensen replied, “We built the old website back in 1982 with an Etch-A-Sketch, a car battery, 2 sticks and a pack of Juicy Fruit. Needless to say, the site needed to be brought up to code or we were going to get some seriously vicious warning stares from internet patriarchs like Al Gore.”
The new website features a revolutionary new technology called CSS, which is reportedly short for Cryogenic Secret Sauce. This “secret sauce”, when paired with XHTML (eXcellent Hypertext Markup Lingo) allows the same website to be viewed in all internet-enabled devices while adhering to correct markup principles.
“I’m proud of this new chapter in Jaredigital.com history,” says Christensen as he opens the door of his 2004 Maserati. “I’m just a humble guy with a humble website. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.”
You Are Looking At The Future.
In the not-so-distant future, robots will grow our food. Money will be obselete. Love and Dr. Pepper will inherit the earth. Image-slicers will be mocked. Nested tables will go the way of the Dodo bird.
I, for one, am all for the love and Dr. Pepper benefits the future holds for me, but wince at the prospect of all that mocking. Thus my humble website has been redesigned in a significant way to embrace the future.
Web standards is where it’s at. My integration of XHTML and CSS are long overdue. I have much to learn, and you’ll be the ones to tell me how poorly I’m doing all this stuff.