Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, co-founder of lifestyle magazine Lagom, founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, and an electronic musician.

The new version (4.5) of elliotjaystocks.com

Posted on 15 September 2007 Comments

Article illustration for The new version (4.5) of elliotjaystocks.com

I launched version 4 of this site back in April, and although I’ve performed various bits of ‘housekeeping’ in the months between then and now, I felt it was time for a more formal revision. So here we are with version 4.5 and I’d love to hear your feedback!

As you can see, this was very much a realign than a redesign; I’m developing ideas for a full ‘version 5’ relaunch, but that’s not going to happen until next year and I needed something to bridge the gap. In particular there were problems with the site that I’ve been meaning to address for a long time: namely, the legibility of the text against the (old) background image and the need to realign my about page to more accurately reflect what I do these days.

So, if you’re still interested and would like a run-down of exactly what has changed, here you go…

In general

The most obvious visual change is the new background image, which not only acts as a nice obvious clue to the fact that the site has been ‘upgraded’ but successfully solves the aforementioned legibility problem. Not only that, but the old background image has been stolen and reused so many times that the original didn’t seem as unique. It was time for a change.

I made a very subtle update to the semi-transparent PNG that appears when block-level links (like in the ‘recent posts’ list) are hovered over: it’s now green. In the original version I wanted to avoid using blocks of colour like that, but the emerald hue works so well over the new background image, and it serves as a hyperlink identifier now that the regular (black) semi-transparent PNG is being used elsewhere on the site (more on that in a minute).

Blog

Now that I’m an absolute Twitter junkie, it made sense to display my Twitter feed on the site. I love the fact that it keeps the site fresh, but I do apologise for the slow loading of the data. Twitter’s fault; not mine.

I don’t know if any of you noticed, but my Flickr feed hasn’t been working for quite some time, so I’ve ditched the flickrRSS plugin for Wordpress and gone for the standard Javascript-powered Flickr badge. Anyone know how to get more than 10 photos displaying? Altering the ‘count’ in the URL string doesn’t seem to make any difference above 10.

As well as the very subtle restyling of the ‘featured’ column, there’s a small addition in the form of the ‘speaking engagements’ section, which has become necessary as of late. This can only be a good thing! :)

I think one of my favourite features of version 4.5 is the new look comments. Ok, they’re not really a feature, but I think the design (a fairly drastic departure from the previous incarnation) makes the comments section so much more interesting to look at, and the alternating row backgrounds (now using the black semi-transparent PNG) have been a long time coming. What do you think? You might notice I’ve also added in a permalink for each comment, which you might find handy if you want to reference something that someone else has said.

About

The about page needed some serious rethinking to give the content a bit more breathing space and draw attention to the new features. The result is the crossbar that spans the full width of the page. With its own internal, equal-width columns, it also breaks up the page’s grid a bit more, allowing for easier reading.

Using Wordpress’ ‘page’ feature, I’ve added two of them: FAQs and copyright. These will grow over time, but I felt that they were necessary additions in order to a) save myself time writing e-mails (FAQs) and b) make it clear that the site’s imagery is not up for grabs (copyright). They’re linked to from the top crossbar, which also has press-related downloads such as biographies and photos.

Portfolio

The portfolio page hasn’t really changed at all, except that I’ve added some of my most recent projects. When I give the site a full redesign for version 5, I think I’ll probably ditch the one-page portfolio format and opt for division by category or date. What do you think? I’m open to suggestions!

Further thoughts

Ultimately, version 4.5 is intended to be more fun for you to use. Prior to the site’s launch in April and its subsequent success, I’d never been in a position before where I’d had to cater for readers other than myself and a handful (literally) of other visitors. So the improved user experience in this version is kind of a thank you from me to you lot.

The experience of making these updates has also solidified the need for a complete redesign in a few months’ time. There are some things (like the portfolio page) that can only be improved upon with a drastic change to the site’s underlying structure, and with those in mind, I’m planning version 5 right now. I think the biggest decision will be whether to move from Wordpress or not. It’s great for powering the blog, but other pages (such as a decent templating system for the portfolio) might benefit from the power of a whole-site CMS such as Expression Engine. Hmmm…

Just so you know, some of the outstanding issues I’d like to tackle in version 5 include making the article illustrations links to the full posts, adding some sexiness to the comment form, and finally launching The Vault.

Again, I’d love to hear your feedback on any of the above!

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