Does Your Site Need a Refresh?

I decided that this is the year to kick start improvements in my website design.

After ten years, I’m sick of my web site’s look. During my early web development days I would change the design almost yearly. My original LEGO site went through many refreshes until I abandoned it for Flickr. My blog, now, feels old and neglected. Not only that, I’m not happy with the format or flow of content either.

Wake Up Call

When I started this blog, back in 2006, I rolled my own program as a simple way of just logging some random thoughts. The entries back then were short, almost Twitter like. The site was a playground of things to test and try. Somehow, I've lost that spirit.

This weekend I brought that old script back to life. Struggling with my old CMS, I needed a way to test new templates with dynamic content. Using my old script seemed like a way to jump-start my development.

The script worked just fine, but what surprised me was the design was identical to my existing site. The site looks the same in 2016 as it did then. Even the top links were the same. What I thought was forward movement instead was a visit to the past.

Call To Action

Note that I haven’t been idle. I actually built new themes for both of my major sites. The problem is I only shared them with myself. That isn’t the best way to get feedback and I don't recommend you do that.

Another problem I faced is that XHTML was all the rage back when I first built my site. For better or worse, it is ingrained in my site's code, making it difficult to update. On the up side, it is forcing me to grow up and learn HTML5 and modern CSS. I can also now focus away from static design and focus on the responsive needs of today's devices.

A bigger problem is my CMS. It doesn’t have the spit and polish of WordPress and lacked the features users expect now. That is my fault. I haven’t kept it up to date, and my adventures in using alternatives found me wanting more. It doesn’t help that I’m too much of a tweaker. My desire to roll your own solution is too strong. This is not a lead you should follow.

What I realized was I was just dragging my feet. I kept updating content, but not making progress on the design. Torn between work and other hobbies, my site continued to stagnate. As the new year rolled in, it was obvious I needed to do something.

If you’re managing your own site, don’t wait like I did. Take a good hard look at your design. Ask yourself, does it feel fresh? Would you visit this site? If you answered no, make a change.

More Than Just Design

That brings me back to why I’m writing this. That blog script of mine, as old as it is, is now my road to rapid development. The simplicity of it is making it easy to throw content into a template so I can play with flow, not just look.

And flow is where it’s at. The world of web development has moved beyond just looks. It’s about experience. My current site is just a string of articles. Some are interesting, others are just words. It looks like a bad Tumblr site. Long articles flow down the page make it hard to read and consume. Even worse, there is no way to get to past articles that people might care about.

My other problem is that I’ve been breaking out my sites into the various hobbies that interest me. Given this site is a jumping spot to those other interests, I keep asking why am I not making it easier to get to them? Modern templates that I’ve found look to make this situation easier.

My goal now is to start over and try to get new experiences out. I’ve created a little Kanban set up in OneNote with the intent of speeding up changes. It may sound silly, but it is helping me focus and show progress.

I can also devote time to the user experience. In fact, I found some great articles on how to do that. Using a research section, I’ve tucked those articles away for future reference. I might even try a few of the ideas at work.

What about you? What’s your story? What’s keeping you from updating your sites? Have you found a great way to design in UX? Shoot me a link or drop me a comment.

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