Recently, I was making some changes to the layout of the homepage of this site and became frustrated because I couldn’t come up with something suitable. In my frustration, I asked via twitter, “Why is it so hard to design for yourself?”
A little bit of reading and thinking later and I realized the problem was two-fold. First, I’m not that good of a designer and second, because I’m not that good, I can’t ignore the design process.
Design starts with content.
Jeffrey Zeldman tweeted, “Content precedes design. Design without content is decoration.”
When I started the design for this site, it was basically a fresh design (as opposed to a redesign). I was starting from scratch because for the better part of two years I had too much other work to design for myself.
Instead of thinking about content, I basically thought about two pages (homepage / article page). That’s it.
If I had planned it properly, I would have added the following pages to the list of pages to be designed:
- Blog Page with recent entries & categories
- Blog Category Page with category specific entries
- Portfolio Page with recent work (featured and categories)
- Specific portfolio category page with recent work within a category.
- Portfolio Project page with information about each project listed in portfolio
- Upcoming Events Page (I often speak locally and would use this page to promote future events, and provide access to note from past events).
- Event Information Page for upcoming events. Includes location, description, etc.
- About Page
- Contact Page
- Project Survey Page for those that want to contact Firebrand Media about their project
Instead of thinking about all of those pages and the content for each prior to design, I fired up Illustrator and started designing with two pages in mind. Worse yet, once I was satisfied with the two pages that I designed, I opened my text editor and started coding my site.
Essentially, I did what I often complain about most from clients - I underestimated the breadth of the project. I had a fuzzy vision of how it should look once complete but no concrete roadmap for how I would get there.
This went well for a bit (at least until I finished coding those two pages) and then got progressively harder as I had to code subsequent pages.
I pushed through and finished coding the site but it was a bit ragged in the places where I had not planned prior to coding - which was essentially the entire site.
Recently, I finished up a couple projects and in the process of adding them to my portfolio, I realized that my site was essentially broken. It didn’t present the content in a suitable way and so I made the decision today to remove the old styling and let the site run around naked while I planned out the new site.
The only reason I can do this is because I’m not really looking for new clients right now. Instead, I’m supporting the clients that I have (which includes a couple redesigns and potentially a new project) and I’m focusing my energy this summer on creating a better InThePanhandle.com. If I were seeking new clients then I’d probably just let the old design stay on the site while I worked out the redesign.
The positive thing is that the site is still navigable and the content is still accessible.
This could be a good lesson. Instead of focusing on the decoration, I’m moving forward focusing on the content which is all I’ve got at this point.
Wish me luck.