Site Rebuild: Beta

Happily as I type this, the first rough version of this new site is now at the stage where I’m calling it “beta” and throwing it out there so I can start to move on to other projects, like focusing on my job search, spending more time with good people and getting some Vitamin D as Sydney heads towards summer!

I built the original site in 2004, all hand-coded with the exception of using WordPress as a blogging platform for the “news” feature – whilst this sufficed for a long time, the manual updates required (even for navigation changes if I added a photo gallery!) and other commitments meant the site didn’t get much love after about 2008.

Hence when I started sketching ideas for the rebuild over a year ago in Berlin, I aimed to both learn lessons and make the site as future-proof as possible:

  • Using WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS), with plugins where useful
  • Create a fully responsive site across desktop, tablet and mobile, with a nod to retina where possible (a jump from the rigid 1024×768 baseline of the original)
  • Showcase as many skills as possible, and overall my approach aiming to “get it built” – including architecture, UX design, visual design, front-end coding, photography and content creation.

As happens with most projects, there were a lot of unknowns and a lot of “simple” pieces that turned out to be infuriatingly difficult, like the three home page panels which stubbornly refuse to resize images across some browsers, despite using fancy new HTML5 techniques that are supposedly cross-browser.

Overall though, a lot of positives up and running in the new site already:

  • Per the above goals, a broad site, works cross-device, and everything on top of the CMS engine built by me;
  • I think the overall UX, structure and visual design hangs together well, with a clear visual hierarchy, strong contrast and content put front and centre;
  • “Hero” sections are looking almost exactly as I wanted them, such as the Home Page Slider, “Where I’ve Worked” slider in the CV section, individual job templates and the Travel Photography section;
  • Having aimed to augment content with strong iconography, these look pretty coherent site-wide, with most looking sharp across all devices after I built them as icon fonts; and
  • The CMS underneath is working seamlessly for content updates, after trial and error (followed by a few licence fees) led to 23 active plugins being integrated into the site.

That said, the perfectionist side of me still sees a lot of quirks and challenges to resolve …

  • The heading structure isn’t perfect yet, especially on tablet and mobile – maybe time to look at the golden ratio and ensure balance.
  • Some background images are great (e.g. the CV section) but some need creation, and some need work so they don’t compete with the main content in their section.
  • For readability, the Heading 2 (H2) style needs more spacing so it breathes a bit more.
  • The panel imagery on a couple of section pages need adjustments for responsive widths.
  • New case studies need to be written, lest I forget some stories from the trenches.
  • And there’s a *lot* more content to come, such as my Masters Degree from 2009.

So a job well done til now, but more to do. If you have any feedback, suggestions or corrections, feel free to email me!

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