Redesigning with rules


Like many designers, I have a tendency to outgrow my website as soon as I finish redesigning it. “This time, I’ll do it right,” I say to myself. But as soon as I start, my excitement to finish leads me to cut corners and hack together a poor excuse of a website just so I can add new content again. This is my downfall. I’m left with poorly written code that eats at me every time I even think of my site. I no longer feel motivated to update it, but instead, I feel compelled to redesign it.

This time, I have done it right, with the help of a predefined set of rules and goals. I started with a public Github repo consisting of only a single README file. For an entire day, I sat at my desk and thought about my then current website. I thought about the obstacles that made updating it such a chore. I thought about the parts of the website I squeezed in later, which weren’t considered when establishing the original design. I thought of all the advances in the web world that occurred in the past two years. Then, I made lists.

I listed the hacky shortcuts that corroded the code base, like using important! in a stylesheet when a restructuring would have been the better choice. I listed the best practices I should follow in order to maintain a future-proof design, like retina-ready images. I listed the pitfall behaviors to avoid because they break between platforms, like hover-to-reveal. All of a sudden, I had a clear set of restraints to keep me in line while redesigning my site.

Along with these rules, I reconsidered the use-cases of the new site in an attempt to narrow the scope and focus. How have I changed since the last redesign? Two years ago, I wrote blurbs about others' work with the occasional update about my own projects, but rarely did they ever exceed a single paragraph. Now, I find myself more interested in writing at length about the freelance world and my experiences with it. Rather than share content already well into circulation, I want to write about the workflows I discover, with the hope that they trickle through the community and help others. That new trick I learned last week—I want you to know it, too.

At this point, I found myself with a clear direction. Redesigning my website was just a matter of chasing these goals while staying within the boundaries of the predefined rules. I designating an entire week to focus on the redesign, edging closer to a look that excited me. I found it when I first applied the design to one of my older posts—seeing it with a color scheme specific to its content felt like Christmas. I now have the clean design I was after, built on a clean code base.

This is my first article with the new design and I can’t wait to write the next.