Archive for July, 2008

To WordPress or Not to WordPress?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

About a year-and-a-half ago, I switched from a flat HTML web site to using WordPress (WP), mainly because I wanted to start blogging (although you an’t really tell by the archives, or lack thereof). The current design was in the works several months before the actual switch to WP, and looked much better on paper (and Photoshop) than when executed.

A big part of that was trying to get comfortable with learning WordPress. I’m more of a designer than a programmer, and know very little about PHP, especially back when I went to WP. Frustration with picking up a new programming language, learning a new application, and trying to get a site up and running as quickly as possible led to me cutting some corners on the details that I normally wouldn’t cut. Once finally up, other professional projects, and life in general, has kept me fairly busy to where I haven’t sat down to adjust the little things about the execution of this current design that bother me.

Now, over a year has passed, and the purpose of this site has changed a bit over that time. Instead of trying to modify the current design, and fix those pesky quirks, to fit my new vision for the site, I began to seriously rethink the design and structure from scratch. Granted, it hasn’t gone much further yet than some great thoughts in my head and a few roughs in my sketchbook, but I’m still planning to do a redesign before the year is out. My grasp of subtleties of CSS have also grown dramatically over that time as well. Along with that, I can finally deal with the subtle details that just haven’t sat right with me these past 18+ months.

During the first part of 2008, WordPress issued a new release with a spiffy new dashboard, courtesy of the fine folks at Happy Cog. Mike Davidson even jumped on the WordPress bandwagon. Motivated to tie the upgrade with a redesign, and the fact that I am actually getting real sleep again, I’m itching to pull this off sooner than later.

Recently, another wrench is thrown into the works. Jason Santa Maria has redesigned his site. The design is well done with lots of great details that pull it all together. But what really caught my eye was Jeffrey Zeldman’s remarks on the redesign. Zeldman referred to Jason’s redesign post as a “call to arms” for web art direction. By switching to Expression Engine, Jason gains the ability to create and apply different templates to different blog posts, while keeping an overarching theme for the entire site, much like print design does.

I admit this has been one of my frustrations with most content management systems on the web. Coming from a print design background, I’ve accepted, but haven’t enjoyed, being locked into one design with no option of variations outside of hard-coding pages. Now, with the ability to do this in Expression Engine, I’m strongly considering making the jump as well from WordPress to EE. Ideally, I would like to see someone develop a plug-in for WP that allows this type of design flexibility. Maybe by the time I’m actually able to start building the new design for this site, someone will.