A Complete Redesign in Twelve Hours
Over the last few days I have received a ton of great feedback on both a number of my articles and my site’s design as well. While the former has remained consistently positive, the latter refrain almost invariably included the same two criticisms: that I had set the font too small, and that every line contained too many words spread much too far across the screen for a comfortable reading experience. Others recommended that I find a way to differentiate linked list items from my own posts, but by and large the most common suggestion advocated a larger font size and decreased content column width. Today, I have addressed those issues and many others with my latest redesign, live with this article.
Contrary to what I may have alluded to when responding to those offering feedback with regards to my site’s design, I had only thought about it in the abstract up to that point. I had created no wireframes, selected no color schemes, and had not even begun thinking about a particular font — besides knowing that I did, in fact, need to design a new website, I had not fleshed out any of the implementation details whatsoever. Busy with writing and working on First Crack, I just did not have the time.
Thankfully, that did not keep me from trying.
With the exception of some minor styling code for block quotes, links, and footnotes, I deleted every CSS definition until I had a blank, plain text-esque layout. Then the fun began: I needed to decrease my main column’s width, so I pushed it down to 50% and centered it. Looking good so far. With my old code gone, the font already rendered at a much larger size than it had previously; both here and in the default color scheme of black text on a white background, the automatic browser styling would do. However, everything looked too squished: I needed more whitespace, so I upped the line height to 200% and added a generous margin around every article and the top and bottom of the screen. Mostly satisfied with the layout, I moved on to fonts.
I follow a number of well-read writers who place great stock in good font choices, so I realized the significance of a great typeface early on as one of the most important aspects leading to an enjoyable experience. With this in mind, I turned to my trusty sidekick Google Web Fonts in search of an attractive option that would lend itself to both a visually pleasing design and an easy reading experience. With more than six hundred choices just for the Roman alphabet though, I quickly became overwhelmed. Unsure where to begin, I decided to see what everyone else used in the hopes of stumbling across something I really liked. I looked to Marco Arment first and then Shawn Blanc, where I thought to explore potential options on Typekit.
Given the importance of a great font, I had prepared myself to pay handsomely for one; however, when I discovered that Typekit charged for variants I could find on Google Web Fonts for free, I turned my attention back to Google and eventually decided on the smooth sans serif Roboto. Although I tried a number of others, everything paled in comparison to Roboto. With a font in place, then, I went back to tweaking layout and spacing. As the day wore on and it grew steadily darker outside, I became increasingly less satisfied with my chosen color scheme: it reminded me of a comment Tweetbot’s developers had retweeted of someone complaining that the bright white layout made their eyes bleed at night. Hoping to save my readers some pain, I began exploring a dark mode.
I spent the rest of the evening tweaking shake sensitivity until it worked well enough on my iPhone to detect intentional shakes and disregard most unintentional ones resultant of normal usage; however, that left me with the much larger iPad to contend with. To make a long and tedious story short, I ended up using different settings depending on the device, which I differentiated using a wonderfully simple trick I found on Stack Overflow. From those who have checked out the beta, it works like a charm on both devices.
Incredibly — to me, at least — I did all this yesterday in around twelve hours from start to finish, and spent today writing this before and after work. I cannot, nor do I mean to, take all the credit for this great turnaround time though: I could not have done it without the feedback of my Twitter followers giving me direction as to what I needed to work on next. In particular, I would like to say a special “Thank you!" to @typistX on Twitter for all his help: when asked he took our conversation out of Twitter and in to email, where we made a great deal of progress. I could not have done this so quickly and to such splendid results without him, nor without the input of my newfound friends on Twitter. To all of you: thank you; to everyone else, I hope you enjoy the new design.