I recently decided to redesign this blog. (At the time of this posting, you can obviously see that it is not finished yet as the design of this site has not changed.) I am a self-proclaimed PHP expert, I know CSS and HTML pretty well, and I dabble in Photoshop. One thing I lack though, is creative vision. I am by no means a designer. I know the code and the tools, but I am not artistic. Give me a mockup to work with, and I can code it, but beyond that I’m pretty useless.
The initial re-design of the blog, which I spent about 30 man-hours on, came out looking very generic: Header, content, widget column. I really wanted something unique, and bold. Something not too overbearing but still very easy to use. I was unable to come up with anything myself. The first redesign was basically centered around using this header graphic I drew in Photoshop (below), and basing it off a design I really love. I really didn’t like how it came out, so I scrapped it.
This is one thing I need to stress to anyone out there designing a website: If you become unhappy with a design, even if you have spent a lot of time working on it, don’t be afraid to scrap it and start over. I did, and I couldn’t be happier. The new design, thanks to my friend, is just what I wanted. It is minimal, yet interesting. Unique, yet usable. And most importantly, it fits me, and my style.
This is another thing I need to stress to anyone out there designing a website for yourself: The design must be a reflection of you. If you are generic, then use a generic template. If not, you should make your site, especially if it is a blog type of site, be a reflection of you and your personality. This is the hardest part by far, especially for someone like me. Luckily, I have friends who are professional designers with just enough spare time on their hands to help me out a little bit.
If you don’t have professional web designer friends, I still feel it is very doable, if you have the fundamental knowledge that is. Even with my total lack of creative vision, I have cranked out a few decent looking sites in my day. Just don’t get frustrated, don’t give up, and don’t rush. Patience is key when designing, as bad as I try to, you simply cannot force progress. Rushing things will only make the design suffer.
The last thing I want to stress to aspiring designers is the thing I struggle the most with, criticism. I am really excited about this new design, and nearly everyone I have shown it to criticizes first, and compliments second. This is a natural part of the process. Keep one thing in mind, it is for you. While you want it to be appealing to the masses, you also do not want it to become a cookie cutter site of what you think other people like the most.
I expect to release my new design some time next week, and I really look forward to it. Once I do, expect a full write up on my creative process, and the problems you can expect to run into when designing a site for yourself.