Recent posts

  • Relative readability Why go so big on type? There’s a short answer and a long answer.
  • Excuses, excuses Some people might suggest it’s not worth redesigning a site I only post to twice a year. They’re missing the point.
  • The Optimizer Every designer is wired differently. Some people are idea people, some people are artists. I’m an optimizer.
  • Indistinguishable from magic I love video games. I’m terrible at most of them. But I’m a sucker for a game with a good story.
  • Airport express Recently I learned two things about interaction design and user experience from waiting in lines at the airport.
  • Shouts and echoes There have been some situations lately that have got me thinking a lot about the Internet as a megaphone for personal communication.


1 May 2006

A kick in the pants

Another day, another redesign. I hate deadlines.

I hate deadlines. I said I would reboot today, and I did. Like Keith I’ve been getting kind of sick of the old digs. I’m not done with the redesign I had planned, but I probably never will be. If I’m never going to be satisfied, this deadline is as good as the next one. So here it is. It’s not finished, but it’s out the door. There are rough edges, unfinished and downright broken pieces, and lots of cleaning up to do. Time to get started.

On the surface

It’s not a drastic change really, more of an iteration than a redesign. I’m sick of looking at the last design, but there are lots of things I like about it. The overall concept of the original design (which I’ll get into in a later post) is still where I want to go, I just don’t think I’m quite there yet.

Which makes sense. I didn’t start this site as a publishing platform, I just wanted a place to experiment with a design. So I’m still trying and failing and trying again. It’s all the same design really, just different, partly-failed attempts.

Behind the scenes

The big changes with this relaunch are under the hood. I’m not the only one who’s getting tired of Movable Type lately. It was a great tool in the beginning when I just wanted to publish some blog posts and the occasional photo. But the more I wanted to do with my site, the more I felt like I was stretching the original tool too thin.

Last year, I left this site alone for a while for a lot of reasons. But when I wanted to start posting again the reason I was most reluctant was that I didn’t want to come back to Movable Type. By the end, I’d built up so many hacks and plugins and templates just to do what I wanted it to, I didn’t even want to touch it for fear I’d have to fix something.

So this time, it’s Django all the way down. I’ve been using Django at work since before it had a name, and I’ve always wished I could take it home with me. I’m not a programmer in the slightest, so I never really thought it would be possible for me to move away from the prebuilt systems like Movable Type and WordPress. But thanks in no small part to Django’s generic views, other people’s code, and lots of help, I’m free. And in the end, all the code I had to write to build this site from scratch with Django was less complicated than all the Movable Type templates it took to power the old one.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Jeff for setting the example. If you want to see what Django can really do in the hands of a self-professed non-programmer, you need look no further than Jeff’s new site. When he came to work for World Online last year, I taught him everything I know (literally) about Django. He took it and ran with it, and quickly stole my title as the Leading Expert on Django Who Isn’t a Programmer. Now I’m stealing from him.

I couldn’t have done it without Jeff, or Jacob who wrote the app that hauls in content from Flickr and, or Matt who wrote the script to import all my old posts from Movable Type, or Adrian, or James or pretty much anyone who’s ever contributed to Django since the beginning.

Where did everything go?

Most of the content here is the same as before—I’ve just moved some things around.

I’ve grouped the recommendations together and moved the “Meet” section (interviews with friends) back into the blog where it really belongs. I might do more of those later, but there’s no reason for it to be more than an occasional feature of the blog. I’ve got some ideas for doing more with the recommendations too, but I’m trying to get something out there instead of doing it all at once. Very Real of me.

I’ve really slowed down on taking photos since I started including them on this site. From the beginning, I was always toeing the line between trying to be “artsy” and just shooting snapshots for the memory bin. This time I’ve cut back on the photos that are published on this site to just my favorites. You can still find all the rest on flickr along with the snapshots, inside jokes and screenshots.

If you’re subscribed to the FeedBurner version of my blog feed, you should already have the new version. If not, you’ll want to resubscribe. There’s also a photos feed now if you’re interested.


  1. 1 May 2006

    Laura Brunow

    I’d like to take part of the responsibility for not letting you finish your redesign today. (by dragging you to Dallas for my brother’s wedding all weekend, making you plan our wedding with me, and generally trying to keep you out of the house and away from your computer)

    Love the big pictures and the openness.

  2. 1 May 2006


    Don’t tell anyone, but I think I like yours more than I like Jeff Croft’s… (although I’ll admit, his attention to detail is extraordinary). Only thing, which seems to apply to everyone’s reboots, is the ultra-wide main text columns. I find it tiring to read text columns that are wider than 450 or 500 pixels or so… I guess it’s a by-product of everybody going for generally wider layouts these days. Maybe I’ll get used to it.

  3. 1 May 2006

    Wilson Miner

    I won’t tell. I promise.

    You’re right about the wide text columns. It’s one of the things on my list that I don’t really consider finished yet. I really didn’t mean for the post content to be so wide, but I haven’t worked out what to do with the space yet.

    I guess that’s what happens when you go wide. It’s really fun at first, and it makes for a great homepage, but sooner or later you have to figure out what to do with all that… space.

  4. 2 May 2006

    Jeff Croft

    Dangit Virginia! Wilson’s ego does not need to be fed! Hehe. Just teasing, of course! :)

    I went back and forth between using just my left column or spanning my left and middle columns for my post text. Obviously, I chose the wider one. I do agree that it’s a bit on the long-lines side of things. The flip side of it is that I can use bigger, nicer images in my posts. So…I dunno. One of the many either/or decisions we have to make in web design, I guess!

    Great job, Wilson. It looks terrific.

  5. 2 May 2006

    Joshua Works

    This is beautiful. I’m stoked to see that Flat is Back. Now I just need my own swift kick…

  6. 2 May 2006

    Wilson Miner

    Maybe I should put one of those starburst stickers in the top corner that says “No gradients, drop shadows or shiny buttons.”

  7. 2 May 2006


    Looks great. I really like how you’ve got something a bit different from the rest, kudos for that. Oh and it’s very easy on the eyes as far as reading goes…good for that.

    I may need to talk to you and Jeff about your django set up. He’s a bit over the top for what I need, but I think what I want to do with my site (content-wise anyway) is pretty similar to what you’ve got here.

    I’m kind of sick of MT too, but unless Expression Engine blows me away I’ll probably have to stick with it as it’s all I know well.

  8. 2 May 2006

    Wilson Miner

    Keith, Jeff is a bit over the top for what anybody needs. That’s why he rocks.

    There are really two Django apps (the blog and the tumblelog) that do most of the heavy lifting on both my site and Jeff’s. Jeff uses the tumblelog outright, I just use it to import and republish photos from flickr and links from We both made our own minor tweaks in a few places—Jeff did a lot more than I did (obviously). You could get a pretty big head start with just those two apps and the stock Django stuff (flat pages, etc.). And depending on how you want to do it, the MT import script that Matt wrote might work for you too.

    So far, there’s nothing I miss about MT that I can’t at least see a way to add (or have Jacob or Jeff help me add) with Django.

  9. 2 May 2006


    Here’s to facelifts and rethinks. Two good things, as shown.

  10. 4 May 2006

    Bryan Veloso

    This has an awesome style to it, something that I can’t explain. It makes me feel that I went a little over the top with my design and there should be something that I should be rethinking.

    Thanks for the indirect nudge in the head. ;)

  11. 4 May 2006

    Wilson Miner

    Thanks, Bryan. I love your new design—I don’t think yours is over the top at all. At least not compared to that Jeff guy.

    Lately I’ve got to know some people in person who I used to only know through their blogs and I’ve really noticed how much some people’s sites reflect their personalities. Yours and Jeff’s are great examples. There’s just something in every little decision that says something about you. It’s cool.

  12. 4 May 2006

    Laura Brunow

    Bryan- I know what you mean- every morning Wilson urges me to de-accessorize. I’d wear a lot more brown if he had his way, but I think he’s glad that I don’t.

  13. 5 May 2006

    Jeff Croft


    I love your huge sunglasses.

  14. 5 May 2006

    Bryan Veloso

    Glad you think that. I’ve had a lot of people say otherwise… and I feel like I’ve been excommunicated from the kingdom of standards when I put anime on my site. So… no idea. ^_^;

  15. 5 May 2006

    Laura Brunow

    That’s hilarious Jeff.

  16. 8 May 2006


    I think this looks fab!