April 6, 2009

New Web Design

For the last week I have either been sick, had no internet, or both. If I am able to post this, then I am currently in a “sick with internet” stage. Expect grammatical errors.

While the level of this cold or whatever I have fluctuates along with my on-line connection I have been working on my new website design as an appropriately straightforward task. Thankfully I’d already set up my own internal server so I can work on a prototype off-line. Unfortunately as a lot of this is new to me it’s been a pain not having internet resources to help me through the hard spots

I’m basing my new site off WordPress, the blogging software. I was debating whether I should just use WordPress for the blog part of my new site, but I decided it was probably easiest to just manage the whole website under the system to get the same look and feel and universal search over the whole site. The tricky part is that I want to have a bunch of subdirectories for different things - games, experiments, tutorials, blog, etc. - which involved extending plain WordPress somehow to get this functionality. But I’d like to do this leaving the core files intact so I easily do updates. That’s something I’m working on, as it involve some in-depth WordPress tweaking which requires a stable connection to their wiki to solve.

I have got a semi-decent CSS style done though. That’s probably taken me the best part of last week to finish, mostly because there’s so many options you can tweak. There were some things I’m set on, such as having my favourite colour orange being featured in the logo badge of the site. But then there are other options that required experimentation. Should the site colour scheme be based on azure, violet, lime or a mix of the three? How much orange should I use? Is it better to have a thematically interesting background site to make everything look fun, or should it be very simple to emphasise the content?

Fonts are a big issue too. It’s amazing how few fonts are web safe. I think only Arial, Times New Roman and Courier/Courier New are dirt common over every system. Verdana, Georgia and Trebuchet are great for Windows and Mac, but their Linux support is low. Tahoma is an interesting font but has patchy Mac support. Arial Black and Impact are fairly common on Win/Mac but is only useful for headines. And apart from Comic Sans that just about wraps up all the web safe fonts. Of course, you should set multiple fonts in your style sheet so if one is missing then it finds a suitable replacement. Unfortunately though, many of the fonts have rather unique looks that make finding a common replacement difficult. And I’ve got no idea what fonts are common in Linux variants (apart from Arial, Times New Roman and Courier).

And then there’s Internet Explorer. I’ve read how web designers hate IE, but I never really felt exactly why until I tried testing out my design in Windows after building it on a Mac. As a novice designer, I thought it was plain sailing with my design looking the same in Safari, Firefox and Opera on the Mac. I was wrong. It seems Internet Explorer likes to play by different rules to every other browser in existence (biggest offender appears to be the calculation of box widths). Internet was down most of that day so progress was slow, but I did manage to use a brief window of connectivity to find a site with a shortlist of hacks to fix the problem. But it is annoying, and I sympathise with those who wish IE to drop in popularity.

All in all, the website is coming together nicely, if slowly. The internal prototype should be finished this week, and the new website will be up by the end of April. Slowing me down is this headcold or whatever bug I’ve caught, together with my tendency to spent waaaay too long on minor details (like shades of azure), but these issues will be conquered soon. Once I’ve got a full prototype working on my computer I can move to setting up a new server somewhere, which will take anywhere between a few days or a few weeks depending on the frequency of disasters.

Then I can post a link and ask you try it out!

P.S. Creative work including that Flash game will recommence shortly. I’m debating whether it’s best to do this over at the new site once it’s done, but the decision is moot until I’m a little bit better.

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