Sunday, May 4, 2008

Website make-over

After about 4 years of a design that was clean but not very modern, I decided to sit down and give my site a complete make-over. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted it to look like, and in my hubris estimated I could do it in a day or two.

The original website design was done using Claris Home Page, a dinosaur even in the day that I picked it in 2004 as my tool for table-based layouting. But for the rather simple site I had in mind, it was the logical choice, given that I had last designed a website back in 1994, in the days when HoTMetaL Pro was considered a major step forwards.

My mindset is that of a developer, not a designer. Which means that I'm pretty good at straightforward HTML, and I can work with XML and the gory details of XSL transformations. But for some reason, my brain comes to a grinding halt when it is confronted with CSS. So I generally let the designer "do his thang" and integrate it with my XSLT file or AJAX routine. Which I write in a programmer's text editor, not some fancy tool like Dreamweaver.

However, for my own website I was going to get it right - and of course, it resulted in a lot of expletives and crying and pleading with every deity that could remotely help - not that I really expected the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, to be any good at CSS, but hey, it would have been cool if she had swooped by and fixed the problems - and I was getting desparate at that point.

Until I decided to put away my programmer's hat, and dug out my copy of Freeway Pro, which I had recently upgraded to version 5 anyway. Created by Softpress, it is aimed at visual designers who like working with Quark XPress, drawing graphic elements and filling them with content.

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was active in various student associations, where I invariably ended up layouting the association's magazine using PageMaker or RagTime. So after a lot of experimenting, unlearning and documentation-consulting, in these past four (*) days, I managed to completely revamp the website.

The result is CSS-based, and my website no longer looks like something designed in the 20th century. There's one more section to redo as far as layout goes, and I still have to wrap up those elusive tutorials that I started back in 2006 - I'll let you know when those eggs hatch. Right now, I have to get back to preparing for runrevlive.08 - where I will be presenting the session on Advanced Databases.

(*) Four days, whereas I had planned two days. Great - just great. If my boss reads this, I'm sure he'll have a field day - according to him, you need to multiply a developer's time estimate by 2 and then you may get a more realistic timeframe. Don't you just hate it when the manager is right? Then again, he worked his way up from the coding trenches - which means he has a much better idea about software development than, say, a former bank director pretending to be a CEO in IT...

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