Tour of the New Blog

Posted: December 30th, 2009 in Design, Public, Web Development. No Comments

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I wanted to take a moment to introduce the new site. I’ll explain a little of my thought process and how I came up with what I did for the site from design to functionality. Before I begin I must say that the things I write about in this post will and should change with time. A website is a unique medium that has the ability to grow and change with time. As technologies advance, so to capabilities, content should be dynamic, and it’s my aim to develop the site for you and me. You being the reader. I would love feedback and comments on the site. Please feel free to email me using the comment form in the bottom right hand corner or in a comment on the site. Anyways, on to the list.

All my content in one place: Blogs traditionally have a navigation bar across the top or a column of navigation options on the side. Often times the navigation bar on the top direct to static pages, while the blog sidebar handles the different blog post options. I wanted to make the focus of the site the content, rather than the navigation. To do that I made a clear differentiation on the site from navigation to content. Basically everything on the main portion of the site is content. Blog posts and information take up the left 2/3 with a sidebar with additional information in the right 1/3 column. The information in that column represents information posted by me in other places on the web. Most popular are facebook and twitter, but I also keep up an occasional blog on Fannation.com and keep an up to date list on Scordit.com. That right hand column will continue to grow I suspect as new services become available and popular, but I wanted one place to showcase that data.

Two blogs in one: One of the biggest challenges of my previous blog was my audience. I’d say 90% of my readership was my family. We use blogs on occasion in our family to keep in touch with each other and friends. As my career in web development continues however I found a growing need to expand my audience. The thoughts and things I wanted to share went beyond the scope of my family, not to mention I did not want to direct that kind of attention to my personal life. My initial thought was to just make two separate blogs. Makes sense right? Family could go to one, public goes to another. But that wasn’t quite what I was going for. I wanted one single system to handle both. I wanted to go to one place and one system to get my information out all under one consistent brand. Not to mention the time and money it takes to upkeep both projects. I wanted to consolidate that work into one place. bryankwilliams.com has become that one place.

. . . it was my aim to make a living, breathing website.

You’ll notice right off the bat there are 2 main sections of the site, the design/development blog and the family blog. Family is a section meant for family and friends. I discuss things more of a personal nature and write about topics that my family and friends would be interested, while the design and development blog handle more of a public nature. A place to discuss web development/design techniques or other things like sports or politics.

So this was the solution, a blog that on the surface was strictly public, with the option to sign in to view more personal content. The permissions issues and accessing on the site depending on logging in will change and adapt as time goes on and what I find effective.

Facebook Integration: Facebook isn’t just a buzzword. If I was going to have a system to login and view my blog with friends and family there was no way I could ask them all to create new user accounts just for my site. I needed to find a way to make that process easier for them. Because a lot of the online family interaction that happens now is on Facebook I decided to investigate Facebook Connect features into the site. Again, I believe that connection will increase as new things become available, but right now you can sign into the site using Facebook credentials and do things like sharing the stories and comment on your wall.

Sharing  via FB, Digg, & Twitter: I won’t lie, I’m bias to the systems that I use regularly. I love twitter for example. I check my feed regularly and love to share what I’m doing or when I find things I love to retweet them. I also use Digg, so I decided to make easy buttons for readers to share my content. That’s not really the case with family posts, so I decided to get rid of them on a family post, but if you find a public post helpful or entertaining, it’s now easy to share.

Interaction: Like I mentioned before, it was my aim to make a living, breathing website. I want to provide the latest content about myself and encourage discussion or interaction on the site. To help this I’ve tried to incorporate specific things. I wanted a clear and easy to find contact form. It’s located in the bottom right hand corner of every single page. I also want to hear from the readers via comments. I love getting others’ opinions or take. I understand I have my biases and perspective on things and I love hearing things from another point of view. In fact, if you have any ideas on how to make the site more interesting and interactive please let me know. I’ve thought about having a place for polls or drag and drop interactive pieces, but I’m not sure if it’s really what the users want at this point.

Flexible Design: This is more of a technical and design trait, but I wanted to make the site fluid to fill any screen size. Almost every other website I’ve designed and developed for have had a fixed width to this point. I wanted to break out and do it a little different with this one. There is a minimum point the site needs to be and you’ll see that if you try to shrink your browser smaller, but I wanted to make it expandable as screen sizes and resolutions are growing so much, I don’t want to have to redesign the site as it grows and leave older users behind. This option makes it dynamic and hopefully look good for everyone. Another feature that I have planned and will implement in the near future is an iphone and ipod touch specific theme. Mobile content is only getting more popular and I certainly appreciate it when a site has a good iphone version. I’ve done it for some others sites and plan to have it in the coming couple months.

Interesting & well designed content: I enjoyed using blogger for my previous blogging needs but there were so many times that I said to myself, “man this is a pain,” or “I’d really wish I could do (blank).” With the new site I want to make the posts as interesting as the content that  is written. There is a post image for every post going forward, that will make it easy to look at the page or post and know immediately the topic. I also wanted to include photos and videos. Not just 1 or 2 small pictures, but a lot of larger photos and blogger just didn’t have the tools to make that very easy. I now will be incorporating entire photo albums, pull quotes, video and other things to make the post more pleasing to look at.

WordPress: I built the site using the WordPress platform. I know that doesn’t mean much to most of you, but some of you web developers that have used it can attest that a lot of really cool tools are built right into WordPress that I can leverage. like an iphone app that allows me to edit and update posts right from my phone, even upload pictures as I’m on the go. There are backup and exporting features that I can move the blog later on. A lot of the content I have right now was imported using tools from my previous blog post. But the biggest thing with that is that I own and control all of my own content. I didn’t like the idea of so much of my personal content being controlled and existing on a service owned by someone else.

So there it is. A break down of what I went with and a little of my thought process behind it. Hopefully the explanation has been helpful and please if you have any ideas or feedback on the site write it in a comment or send me an email.

Bryan Williams

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