Redesign / Development

Part 1: The why

It’s February. It’s 2020. I’m hoping – for the sake of my life expectancy – it’s a bit early for a midlife crisis. So instead of shopping for sports cars or training for a marathon, I’m going to give my website a refresh.

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that this is named “ Part 1”. The educated of you will have deduced that might mean this is the first post in a series. The optimists of you might hope that the outcome of this series is better than the Game of Thones finale.

This first post aims to outline where the site is now, and the plans I have to make it… better. I want to outline who the site should be targeted at, any technologies or approaches I want to try, and an overview of my requirements.

In future posts, I will go over my design and development processes. Including what tools I decided upon, and what did and didn’t work.

The current site

When I designed and developed my current site in 2015, I did it with freelancing in mind. I was undertaking a few projects at the time, and it felt like I needed a positive online presence to support this. I created the website and a few social media channels.

The website was designed around one core requirement; get people to “hire me” to create their small business websites. How pretentious.

What was used:

  • Design: The screens were designed using Sketch. Creating desktop, tablet and mobile size designs for each screen.
  • Development: It was developed in Slim PHP framework, which is something I was familiar with at the time, and worked well for small sites. The code was versioned in Bitbucket.
  • Hosting: The website used cPanel hosting with a company called TSOHost. There wasn’t a CMS in sight — as I was the only one maintaining it — so I would FTP the files when required.

So why change it now?

There are a number of reasons for why I want to update the website, but primarily I feel that the current target audience of my website isn’t quite right.

I’m working full time, and married with two children — aged 3 and 5. My spare time is short, and of great value to me, probably not so much for my kids. Sure, I do the odd project here and there, but I want it to be on my terms and not bolstered by keeping up a facade that I’m open for business. It’s awkward when clients are asking for me, and then I say I’m not interested, or I’m not actively looking for work.

I want the website to promote me as a person, not a business. If anyone wants to find out a bit more about me, or what I do, then it’s a space for that. Just that. I want to remove the ambiguity about what the point of the website is. My domain name is .info so it makes sense that it’s info about me.

Opportunity

With a new website comes opportunity. Opportunity to try things out. I’ve always struggled with trying anything drastic out when working with clients. There are deadlines, expectations, my time, and most importantly; other people’s money at risk.

With a project like this, it’s the perfect opportunity to try things out. Realistically — other than time — there isn’t much to lose.

There are a number of things I’m wanting to try out (some of them potentially overkill for the task at hand):

  • Figma/Adobe XD/InVision Studio: My personal Sketch license is horribly out of date. I’ve always used Sketch, so for the design stage of this build I want to try a new design tool.
  • One-page website: I’ve never really tried to do one in the past, and I can’t see any reason that there’d be enough content to push it to multiple pages. There’s a question mark about how the portfolio of work would be presented, but I can cross bridges as I get to them — or go the long way around.
  • Dark mode toggle: Total luxury item, but it will be interesting to see what approaches can be made to make this a thing. Plus it’ll give me a new challenge at the design stage to get something that compliments both modes.
  • Gatsby: I’ve dabbled with Gatsby in the past, but never got very far with it without an actual project in mind. There always seemed to be a caveat that put me off when weighing up clients’ requirements and what’s possible in static sites.
  • Netlify: Linked to the Gatsby approach, I’m keen to try automatic deployments when merging code into master. We’ve got to 2020. A time where hosting is free, but we pay for form submissions!

What’s next?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting articles outlining my experience, thought process, considerations, dad jokes, the lot. Naturally, I expect the next post will be about the design process, so find a good belt and strap yourselves in.

I’ll be sure to come back and add some sort of logical navigation to help everyone navigate between the posts in the series.

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Andy Barnes

Andy Barnes

Front end developer who likes to design. Lover of technology, 80’s music and Dominic Toretto.