Thursday, January 14, 2016

Design 2016

2016 may just be dramatic! **Edited 1/15/2016**

First up, if you are only caring to look at caps or obscura or don't care one whit about the design and layout of this blog, move along.  This post will be about a design idea I have and my seeking opinions on it.  I'll have more regular posts later... although later the whole look of this blog may change.


OK, now that we are down to the 6 or so readers that actually come here for more than just the most recent few caps or obscura, I'd like to ask your opinion.  I've had the basic design of this blog since I started it back in 2010.  By 'basic design' I mean a dark themed blogger blog.  The background has always been black or very dark gray.

Unfortunately I didn't ever make screenshots of the blog for the first couple years, so I can't really describe what it looked like.  The only thing I have design wise, is the graphic used for the background palette.  Originally I used hotpink and black:

As you can see, it was a VERY hot pink.  In 2012 I did a major redesign that muted most of the colors to the palette I have today.  Here's my post asking for feedback.  At that time I also started using the large format header graphic.  Then in 2013 I did another redesign.  It was mainly giving the background some flair in the form of the stripe up top.  Here's the post talking about that redesign and a post where I discuss the aftermath a bit.

Each re-design tweaked the layout a bit.  Three columns with the post in the middle, three columns with the post on the left.  Moving around the gadgets/widgets on the side... stuff like that.  But I've also changed the way I preview images.

If I remember correctly, my original posts didn't have 'preview' images at all.  The small pic of the cap would link directly to the larger image of the cap.  If you wanted to read the post you actually had to click on the 'Read More' link.  That didn't last too long, and the small preview of the cap became a link into the post itself where there was another small preview of the cap that would link to the full size cap.  I did that primarily to better track pageviews.  The non-cap posts almost all had a 'preview' images as well but they were often squarish images with the title in the bottom and a slightly opaque color bar behind the text.  Simple, basic, and I'm still doing that today.

In the 2013 re-design I tried to make more creative preview images for the cap posts.  I made a 400x400 pixel image that was part of the cap but not enough to really give away the story.  I'd  then drop in the title and make the preview image black and white so that there was a consistent design aesthetic.  That didn't go over well as the black and white preview posts were seen as  my non-cap posts.  Understandable, so I changed them to color and the idea went through just fine.

Soon thereafter I more or less hut the blog down.  I then re-started it using the obscura format instead of the cap format.  For my obscura's I went ahead and used the 400x400 previews but had the slightly opaque color line with the title in front of that.  I had to do something like that because the obscura's don't have graphic titles and I didn't want anything slowing me down or discouraging me from making a quick post.

And that's where we are 14 days into 2016.



That's just over 5 years of one design philosophy. My caps have had at least four major 'movement' in the same amount of time.  So this morning I got a but up my butt and desided to try something different.  Not just moving the columns around or adding a second stripe or even altering the colors... no I wanted to go in a far more design oriented direction.  If I had to pin this idea on anything it was the redesign/rebirth of Locked in Lace.

I adored the minimalism.  Yeah, the headers are big and bold and moving and I wanted to do that too, but just the white background, simple previews images, and simple text.  I liked it.  Sadly I then spent about 4 hours banging my head against the desk as I tried to figure out how to make blogger do something like that.

The closest I could come up with are blogger templates made by pros... but they all have aspects that I don't like.  And they are all made out of xml, and css.  Two languages I just don't do.  So I couldn't even alter them into something I wanted.

But that doesn't mean I gave up.  I decided to see what blogger could do for minimalism.  First thing... wipe out the dark color scheme.  Yup, I went to the white.  I tried to think of a color that I could hang my hat on.  If you went to Locked in Lace you can see that their color is red.  It's in their logo, it's in their titles, it's in their links.  I thought about keeping some dark rosy pink... but I never really liked pink when paired with white.  weirdright?  Beyond pink, I don't have a single color I want to work with.  Some of my posts will be blue, some will be red, some will be tan, some will be green.  So if my preview images change color so dramatically why stay with any color?  Why not embrace the black and the white!?

With that big lack of color I wanted to do something more to pump up the preview images.  They've been 400x400 for almost three years now.  Why?  My current 'frame' for my posts is just over 500 pixels wide?  Why don't they fill up that space better.  And as long as I'm doing that, why not make the post frame bigger?

So I went down to a two column format.  I kept the basic width of the blog at 1100 pixels and that ended up leaving me 740 pixels to work with for a preview image.  For no reason at all I decided to go wide format so I left the preview images at 400 pixels high, but stretched them out to 740 pixels wide.

I didn't want to just assume that this format would work.  I mean, I've been looking at images to use with the idea of a square preview for quite awhile.  So I went back and re-posted 9 posts.  Most represent basic obscura's... a single image followed by a story.  But I also did some of the more complex obscura's where the images are in the middle of the story, at the end of the story, or even multiple images throughout the story.  I also did a cap as that would be another format to play with.

All in all, I'm quiet happy with the way this looks. It's both a big change and a small change.  Blogger just doesn't have a lot of options.  But with the template tool and the layout tools I touched upon just about every thing I COULD touch upon to ensure I  had a good simple black and white (and some grey) layout.

Now, I know what you might be thinking (at least the 2 of you that are still reading this far down);  where the hell are all these changes?

They're at my test blog.  Yup, I'm anal enough (heh... anal) that I didn't want to just fuck up all of this blog for an experiment.  At least not with your opinions first.  So head on over to

http://caitlynstestmask.blogspot.com/ and let me know what you think.  Understand there is no new content there... all the obscura's and caps and stories are already posted over here.  What I'd like to know is:

How does the black and white work?
How do the preview images work?
How is the wider post frame?

Anywo... take a look, and let me know.  Even if you don't like it, I would value your opinion on this.  Oh, and if there's something you've seen at some blog that you like that isn't there, let me know that too.



----------------------------------------------------
1/15/2016 5:11pm

I really appreciate everybody's opinion so far!  Instead of trying to keep up a conversation here where this post might be buried, I decided to go ahead and make a post on the test blog.  For one, I'm showing off several images of changes and the larger format makes that easier to see with less clicking.

So go ahead and head on over and read the post "2016 Design Notes".  You can comment there or here, I'll be reading all of the comments on both blogs.

Thanks again for your input!  I really REALLY appreciate it!


7 comments:

  1. i like the testmask look, but to be honest, i do not come here for the caps. i come here for you. you do what you wish with your blog.

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  2. My blog was bright pink at first but I've been using white background for a few years now. It really cleans up things and makes the content pop. I like the test site!

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  3. The two columns look very nice, but the header feels ...grim maybe? The mask in black just seems more downbeat to me.

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  4. For me it looks a bit too much flashy. Giving different opinions hehe ;P

    The contrast is quite drastic too, with you usual blog. Personally I like relaxed colours, as they tend to give a better reading background.

    I do like the two columns and making the caption snapshot the central idea of your blog and posts. That's something I've been exploring myself, but never nailed it.

    At the very least I would go with a pink mask to blend it with the background. Overall is quite professional but lose some spark. I don't know. Just my opinion. Too much formal for the ideas that cover your blog :)

    Hugs and Kisses Alectra

    P.S: I do have been watching your blog, but turned to lurker mode hehe!

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  5. I thought i would not like the new theme but it looks good.
    the two columns. And the grey looks neat. (As in cool. Not glad you tidied your room)
    Like any thing new it might take a while to get used to the new look but go for it.

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  6. I replied to your test bed, but also sent a few screenshots to your email in case you don't read the caitlyn email every day.

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  7. I want to thank all of your for your comments. Praise and criticism are both welcome! I've continued the discussion over on the text blog, and still welcome any more thoughts on the new layout/design.

    My thought right now is that unless someone inspires some major change I'll be swapping over to the new layout/design this coming weekend.

    Thanks again!

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