The un-design

Akshat Jiwan Sharma, Sat Jun 22 2013

I can hardly call my self a web designer. I know html and some css and I can throw some stuff around on a page but that's about it. If it were not for twitter bootstrap my websites would probably look a lot uglier. Despite this I do spend a lot of time to flesh out and perfect my designs. A common problem that I face is that of content arrangement. There are times when I am not too sure if the element that I am adding is necessary or not.

A seemingly harmless dilemma like that can quickly eat up my entire day. I will start by trying out all the combinations of the element with my existing design and end up not being satisfied by any of them. Then I will turn to the web for for help and the things will take a turn for the worse. Before I know it I will be knee deep in quicksand of blog posts each giving out their unique but often conflicting advice. It never helps, all it will do is end up confusing me and I will probably leave my work altogether with my head hurting. Poof! there goes the day.

After loosing hundreds of hours I have come up with a simple solution to overcome the problem that I hope can help someone in need. So here is my mantra

Don't be greedy, remove when in doubt.

I have learnt that when arranging content it is very important to give every element breathing space. So squeezing in more elements to make more "economical" use of the screen real estate does more harm than good. When I was designing my blog the initial idea that I came up with was to have the post title and a cover image on the index page. The screens looked good and I should have probably left it there. But I was not satisfied. I wanted more.

"This simplistic concept was not design" I used to say to myself. Over the course of several days I tried different concepts for my blog. From a single post to 10 posts with summary to P interest style layout. I never stopped to think if this was actually making my blog more readable or not. No I was greedy. I wanted to show anything worth showing on a single page. In this disorder I even forgot the original purpose starting a blog. To write. To write constantly without fail every day. In trying to "design" my blog I skipped on writing. At one time there was not a single new post written in a month. Worse yet the posts that I did write were rushed and rough.

This was when I decided to draw the line. I resolved to "un-design" my blog. All that remains now is the essential stuff. On the index page there is a big logo, a search box and a list of posts(with an optional cover image) followed by the page links. Similarly the post detail page has just the logo, search box and the post itself.

I learnt most of my lessons the hard way. I want other people who have started blogging or are planning to blog anytime soon to learn from my mistakes. To this end I have created an open source blogging platform, specter that I introduced a couple of days back. My work is not finished though. I have to go through all of the posts again that I created during my "design fever" and edit them. I also have to make enhancements to specter to make it more fun to use. But I think I am on the right track now.


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