A recently-departed (as in left for another company) coworker stopped by my desk on his last day to drop off a backup CD I had burned back in 2001. Today I popped it into the drive to see what curiosities lurked within. I was delighted to discover one of my trademark “Miscellany” folders, with a bunch of random stuff in it. Unquestionably the most interesting artifact was a screenshot of Microsoft’s website, as it appeared in 1994.
I’m simply at a loss to explain this design. Clearly
many most all web designs from that early need to be cut a little slack, and I doubt any of them have truly aged well. But even through that lens, this site is inexplicably hideous.
I’m certainly not the first person to look back in time and mock this design, of course. But “usability guru” Jakob Nielsen used it in an article he wrote back at the time, and it’s still lingering on his site with a new introduction written in 1997. (Frighteningly enough, if the conclusion I draw from my brief perusal of the
long and boring highly usable article is correct, he’s actually praising this design.) Personally I think Nielsen’s views are overrated, and that if he really knew as much about usability as he is supposed to, his website would look a lot different (and he’d also realize he no longer needs to cater to the bandwidth limitations of those running 28.8 kbps modems — but I digress; besides, these guys rip into him much better than I care to). But it’s still an interesting look back in time.
My guilt over slighting those regrettably still stuck using Internet Explorer 6 finally got the best of me, and I decided to do a new site design that doesn’t completely break down in that (outdated) browser.
Well, that’s not really the reason I did it. I wanted to take a new approach that allows for more customization of the presentation in different sections of the site. But I made it IE6-friendly while I was at it. The new design is based on another color scheme called “Salamander” that I found at Kuler. (Sorry, I’d link right to the specific color palette but, guess what, it’s Flash. Boo.)
It’s not finished yet, but I wanted to put the necessary pressure on myself to keep working on it until it’s completely done. So now that it’s far enough along to be presentable to the public, I’m rolling it out.
Most of the cool site-specific graphical headers are still missing, so it’s falling back to a generic presentation with a nice garish green band at the top. Certain other fine details are also still missing in the CSS, but I’m getting there.
Eventually there will be more dramatic changes to the page structure: the home page will be more of a “portal” than just a dump of the most recent blog posts; different sections of the site will have different content in the sidebar, etc. But this is a start.
If you’ve never visited this site using Internet Explorer 6, you probably are unaware that up until now doing so would load a big ugly alert box explaining how foolish you were being to do so — being that I am an arrogant Mac and Firefox user, not to mention that IE6 is dangerously insecure (besides not supporting alpha channel transparency in PNG images, which are the building blocks of this site’s design).
Today I had the chance for the first time to see just how horrible the new design looks in IE6, and as much as I don’t want to support that browser, I also couldn’t handle thrusting visitors into the hideous mess of this site in IE6 without at least giving them a taste of what it’s supposed to look like first. To that end, I’ve created a more friendly “welcome” page for IE6 users, giving them one last chance to upgrade before proceeding, and in the process showing them a hint of the site’s actual design as it’s intended to appear.
But of course, since you’re not using IE6 (are you?), you have no idea what that page looks like. So, I thought I’d show it off a bit. Here it is. Enjoy. Or not. Actually, it’s not really intended to be enjoyed, so don’t. (I’m really only posting this link so I can test the HTTP_REFERER link functionality I embedded in it. [And yes, I know the correct spelling is “referrer.” Tell that to whoever created the names of the HTTP host headers. I mean whomever. So there.])
For web geeks like me whose design ambitions occasionally outpace our abilities, it’s always fun to come across tools like this:
Color Palette Generator
Just give it the URL of any image anywhere on the web (such as, for example on your own site) and it generates color palettes for you to use in your design, based on the colors in the image.
Look for yet another new Room 34 site redesign in the near (or not-so-near) future using this tool!
I realized what a daunting task it was going to be to use the built-in WordPress functionality to manually copy over all of the articles from my old site database, so I dug under the hood and used the power of SQL to just more-or-less dump everything from one database into the other. So now all (well, most) of the stuff is moved over, and I can begin to disassemble the old site (currently lingering in the link set as “Room 34 Cold Storage”).
If you care to look back at the old stuff (and why wouldn’t you?), you may notice some oddities… that’s mainly due to inconsistencies between my idiosyncratic HTML and the fancy formatting/clean-up WordPress does. I’ll gradually fix that stuff… maybe. (Right after I get around to organizing the basement.)
I’m also tinkering more with the themes. I’ve downloaded several interesting themes that I plan to try out for a while, to get a feel for both their visual appeal as well as the ways they handle certain technical features of WordPress. Once I find one I like, I’ll use it as a basis to build my own, one that incorporates my photography as well. (Will the excitement never end?!)
Oh, I almost forgot to mention… some of the old stuff didn’t have dates, so I hastily and more-than-somewhat arbitrarily assigned them all to January 1, 2004.