The one good thing about redesigning your own web site is that it keeps it fresh in your mind the challenges your clients face when they contract you to create a web presence for them. Do you have graphics? If not, what graphics do you need, and how should they be created? Do you have marketing copy? Are you a good enough copywriter to write your own, or should you seek outside help? What pages should I include? What new technologies are available? Does this really do a good job of telling my story to people who may be interested in my services?
It’s often said that the child in town with the worst haircut is the barber’s son, and so it is that often, web guys like myself leave our sites unmaintained while working on client projects, and can go years without updating our own web presence. It really pays to make time to go through the challenge fairly frequently, in order to keep yourself in the mind set of your clients.
Here are some reflections now that I’m through with this particular version of the site:
- Typography, typography, typography. During review of the initial stages of the redesign, one thing I got dinged on was my text handling on the page. Keep your line-heights tall enough to make clear delineations; if you’re using dynamic font sizing, 150% works really well (that’s what I have all through this site). Keep your body text in a common, easily readable sans-serif font, but use a little serif here and there in your headers to add pizazz. Also, slight variations in color tone can create subconscious focus on important segments of text, so set a base font color, but create lighter, dark, darker, and even darkest classes in your CSS in order to quickly highlight the good stuff.
- Prairie dog. Sometimes, when we’re down in the trenches for long periods of time, we miss changes in design trend, new technologies available for rich media, and shifting prevailing thoughts in best practices. Before you commit yourself to a design path, stick your head up and look around at what other designers are doing. Spend a good couple of afternoons doing nothing but reviewing OPP (other people’s portfolios), and draw inspiration from what you like.
- Suck it up, and ask for professional review. Not everyone is going to like your design. That’s just a fact of life. However, if you can take professional criticism, you’ll be a better designer for it. As I was testing out the design concept I had in mind, I posted the first stage to /r/Design on Reddit. Those folks are brutal, but if you’re thick skinned enough to take the heat, you WILL come out with good advice, just about every time. At least half of the revisions and improvements I made to the design came from that review. If you’re not capable of taking the good criticism with the bad criticism (and knowing the difference!), you aren’t ever going to improve.
Now, I’m going to have a celebratory glass of wine or two while celebrating not having to do this for another year or so. Excelsior!