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A Shiny New Site Design


I cobbled together the design for this site a few years ago and had been gradually tweaking it, changing the banner graphics, the colour scheme and such things ever since. When I switched to WordPress last year I promised myself that when I had a bit of time I’d sit down and create a new design that was more personal to me. That time never materialised so I finally just sat down and did it anyway! If you’re reading this in an RSS reader you might want to visit my site and see it for yourself. Here’s the before and after picture:

The old vs. new site design

I’m no graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination but I thought that rather than pay someone else to do it or use a standard template I’d give it a go myself to see what I could come up with.

One of the first things I wanted to do was widen the main content area of the pages so I could insert bigger photos (which is particularly useful as I’m retrospectively importing all my old photos into the site – more about that another time).

Taking the design of sites like Matt’s and the Web Designer Wall as my inspiration I decided to go down the image-heavy, non-minimalist, non-corporate route (it is the era of broadband after all). At one point I toyed with the idea of a minimalist design like Mark Pilgrim’s but in the end my ego got the better of me and I decided to try to put as many elements of my life in as possible. So here’s an explanation of what I came up with from top to bottom:

  • The background picture is this photo of Goatfell which I took on holiday on the Isle Of Arran last year. It is of course in my home country of Scotland!
  • The photos at the top are some of my favourites I’ve taken around Yorkshire – the place I’ve lived for the last 9 years (I can’t believe it’s that long) and a wedding photo is hidden in there too (you can just see my right shoe).
  • My keyring goes everywhere I do and frankly I’ve never had a better one. 1GB of USB storage, scissors, knife, screwdriver, torch and pen built in? Swiss perfection! Or maybe I’m just a geek…
  • Anybody who’s ever worked with me might notice that I never use a notepad – instead I just use bits of paper (invariably torn paper) to scribble on, which is why the design features plenty of torn paper.
  • I have a thing about highlighter pens. Whenever I start a new job one of the first things I do is seek out a nice highlighter which I’ll use probably once the whole time I’m there! Hence the hover-over highlighting in the menu bar and the headings on the sidebar (yes, I really did draw a line with a highlighter pen and scan it in, I couldn’t think of a better way).
  • Since my eyes aren’t what they used to be I get tired staring at black text on white all the time, so I’ve gone with textured paper for the main background.
  • I’m obsessed with coffee so that’s a picture of a cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain I was drinking yesterday at the bottom of the page – it was delicious!
  • Finally, my good lady always complains that I never dust the house. She’s often written my name in dust and I swear I never see it (and conclude that dust is invisible to me). So for her I’ve gone with that grainy, grungy, dusty look, although it looks fine to me!

There are a few other tweaks throughout the site that I won’t go into but I must admit I’m really pleased with the result. Rather than having a plan I just fired up Photoshop and started working away, trying different things to see what worked with this being the eventual result. It took about 5 evenings from start to finish. Hopefully I’ve produced something original and unique that’s specifically tailored to me. And I did it all without resorting to putting a picture of me in it – yes! πŸ™‚

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

9 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Wow!

    The site looks amazing! You may say “I’m no graphic designer,” but you could’ve fooled me!

    Well done!


  2. Thanks! πŸ™‚

    I don’t think I could make a career out of designing as I’m still not exactly sure how I managed to do it! I just kept trying different things until it looked ok and luckily it came together nicely in the end.


  3. I love the new look to the site πŸ™‚ And you are far too modest with you’re talents! You’ve done a great job as always πŸ™‚


  4. I really like the new design. The photos merge very nicely with the content.
    The only thing that bothers me is the blue marker on the right, but I’ll get used to it πŸ™‚

    Good job!


  5. Thanks Nir! I have a thing about that particular shade of blue for some reason (I can’t even remember how I chose it) but I seem to have been using it for ages throughout the previous couple of designs. I tried using yellow and various other colours but thought it looked the best this colour – although I may tweak things from time to time if I can improve it!


  6. I like the new look of your site. πŸ™‚ Especially the Blue Mountain coffee bit. It’s the best, isn’t it?


  7. Thanks Melanie! πŸ™‚ I remember when I first tried Blue Mountain thinking “it’s expensive but I’ll try it and find it’s not worth the money but at least I’ll know”. But one mouthfull and I was hooked – one of the few things that is worth paying a bit extra!


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