It’s been two and a half years since the debut of stevecochrane.com v3. You know, the one with the owl.
It was a textbook case of over-design and I worked on it intermittently for roughly eight months. I made a lot of mistakes, and I always enjoy when people that I respect publicly acknowledge and laugh at their own mistakes, so here goes.
A web design is not an excuse for the designer to show off their skills. When I saw Jeffrey Zeldman speak at An Event Apart once, one of the many brilliant things he talked about was what he calls the “guitar solo” approach to web design. This is where the designer does a bunch of crazy, superfluous stuff to show off how awesome they are to fellow designers. This was exactly what I did, and the result was pretty clunky and vague.
Don’t start a series that you have no intention of supporting. You know the giant tagline at the top, “Web standards make me want to rock out”? That’s a play on a lyric from Art Brut’s “Modern Art”, and my intention was to have a series of lyrics twisted into web jokes. “I’ll think of more later,” I said. That never happened, and the first one stayed up for the life of the site.
Don’t publish a site until everything is final. Obvious, right? Well, I spent so much time on the index page that I got impatient and said “let’s do this thing,” slapped together the rest, and shipped it. The other parts of the site, like the single post view, the comments, and pretty much everything other than the index, never looked quite right. Also, the About page has been “Coming Soon!” for two and a half years.
The best creative tools are the ones that stay out of your way so that you can do your work. The current blog is built with WordPress, which is a good platform, but it requires too much maintenance for me. Most times I log in I get prompted to upgrade, and the essential caching plugins wreak havoc on my file system, wasting even more time. So I’m experimenting with the impeccably designed Tumblr and planning for a possible switch, in the hopes that its simplicity will encourage me to write more regularly.
Do something memorable. This is one I’m currently struggling with. Even though it’s basically window dressing, people like the owl and the scrolling speech bubbles, and they remember my site because of them. I want to cut it because I feel it’s very distracting to a reader, but maybe the best answer here is to just tone it down a bit. But ideally I would do something that is memorable and that has functional value.
Now I need to work on some design iterations. Also, maybe not have so many posts that are all “me, me, me.”