I've made a small promise to myself not to redesign this site. At least not for a while. Seeing all the wicked designs out there truly is inspiring. Instead, I've resolved to incremental touches.
One thing I was never truly happy with was the sidebar. It originally was dark gray text over a dotted border (like the comments header) but it seemed dull. I tried doing a nice rounded border with a fadeout and a custom font on top but found the design truly out of place. And so now it's in its current rendition. I changed the headers to the white text on the green background. I also squished the sidebar, bringing it in by about 20px. I think it's a cleaner look and more consistent with the overall look and feel of the site. A side effect of tightening the sidebar should be that users at 1024 will no longer have to suffer with a horizontal scrollbar.
Move to PHP
I'm still on MovableType but wanted to allow for certain functionality to be easier to add down the road so I switched to PHP. All .html pages will automatically redirect to their .php counterparts. I actually was hoping to remove the .php extension but I couldn't seem to get the redirect working properly on 1and1.com.
Touching on the sidebar again, this allowed me to add the rotating list of 9rules members.
Although subtle, I removed all field labels and now store them as default values in the fields. In doing so, I increased the number of rows for the comment
textarea. Never hurts to have more room to right. There's likely drawbacks, like accessibility, to this approach but considering my general audience, this doesn't seem to be an issue.
They're bigger but on the home page it seems like overkill. I may just tweak the size on the home page.
That's it for now...
Down the road, I'd still like to beef up the RSS feed handling and have it displayed more nicely on the sidebar. On a final note, I've been contemplating dropping full-text feeds to drive people to the site. I'm not ad-driven so it's not about ad impressions but more from a branding experience, it'd be less anonymous. What are your thoughts?
I say you should just scrap MT and go with Textpattern, but I've already hasseled you about that enough. I like the design tweaks, and have always liked this site's design anyways.
I'm in agreement about the sidebar. Your last rounded border rendition felt slightly out of place. First thing I noticed when coming to this post (even before reading the post) was the new sidebar, and I like it much more.
How is 1and1 working out for you? Any performance issues?
Bruno: I'm not a big fan of them. Granted, it was via their 3 year free hosting promotion so I suppose you get what you pay for. For a basic site, I'm sure it'd be fine but I've found my site availability drop from time to time. Their webmail proggy is slow and cumbersome. They kept dropping one of my domains.
I set up FONTSMACK using Dreamhost (referral link) and would highly recommend them. Their webmail is quicker and more straightforward and they have great features like Ruby on Rails support or insta-Wordpress installs. I'll probably switch over all of my sites to Dreamhost when the time comes.
Instead of replacing the labels with the default values, why not use the approach here: http://youngpup.net/2001/labels
It's a more accessuble approach in where JS is not enabled, the labels stay where they're normally at..
Thanks Dave for the link. That is a nicer approach. And as it turns out, it solves a problem I was having on a work project just today!
Your with 1and1.com, thats my host of choice.
Anyways, the side bar looks good, and fits another screen res. Thats a very nice change. The rotating 9rules is a great addition as well.