This article has been retired and will no longer be updated. Caveat emptor!
A Fresh Start
I started the original ElasticDog about a year ago when I became interested in standards-based—web-design. The more I read about the subject, the more I wanted to try things out and to create a standards-based site of my own. It had been years since I had even touched HTML, but I was determined to do things right this time around. I stayed up late nights reading, experimenting, repeatedly failing, and eventually, learning…
Once the initial design had been completed, I was pretty happy with the results, but didn’t know where to go from there. I had successfully created a functional/accessible site using XHTML and CSS; but they say that “content is king,” and I felt that at the time, I had nothing significant to write about.
And so, I kept researching as much as I could on web design, intermittently writing on what came to mind, and fooling around with different ideas that I ran across. In time, I began to develop my own thoughts on the subjects that I was reading about, rather than just taking what others said at face value. It was quickly becoming apparent to me that ElasticDog needed some major improvements.
Repair or Rebuild?
To give you some background info, one of the ideas behind designing with XHTML/CSS is forward compatibility
- in theory you shouldn’t have to update your code in order to do a redesign because your content and style are kept completely separate. For a beautiful demonstration of this concept, just check out the css Zen Garden.
With the first version of ElasticDog.com, I had put a lot of thought in to how my code was structured and included many unique features that I really came to like. But on the flip side, I also did some things that were out of the ordinary which prevented me from executing a redesign as easily as I had hoped. For example, instead of having a fixed-width or fluid page, I decided to try my hand at an elastic design, which is a combination of the other two. This added unnecessary complexity to my code and limited some of my future design options. Because of limitations, and others like it, I knew that if I started over again, I could do better.
Around this same time, I was experiencing some reliability issues with my hosting provider, the new licensing structure for MovableType (my former CMS) was causing a ruckus in the web log community, and I had pretty much stopped writing entries all together. It was then that I became determined to mix things up in order to turn ElasticDog into the site that I had always envisioned.
Stepping Back to Move Forward
To kick off this renewal, I went back to the basics by looking at some of my favorite sites and writing down the aspects that made them stand out. How was the site organized? How did the author handle semantics? What characteristics of their design were useful? What features were attractive, or conversely, distracting? Why did the designers make the decisions they made? What things in my previous design did I do right?
Keeping all of those things in mind, I began creating a new design from scratch. I completely restructured my XHTML, cleaned up my CSS, and made everything more user friendly. I paid attention to the smallest of details, and made sure to insert a lot more flexibility into my code so future changes wouldn’t be such a headache.
Once I had an idea of how things were going to look, I went out and read reviews about hosting providers and ended up switching my site over to ICDSoft …a move that I’ve been very happy with.
Now that I had a redesigned look for my site, and a new server to put it on, I needed software to manage it all. Due to a number of reasons, I chose to leave MovableType behind and use the open-source publishing platform WordPress instead. Once the software was installed, I created templates (based on my design) that would automatically generate my entire site using WordPress…and the rest is history!
I Promise, I’m Almost Done
Now that I’ve bored you to death, I can finally welcome you to the new and improved ElasticDog! Not everything is quite polished yet, but I figured it was good enough to get things going again. For the time being, my old entries will not be imported into the new design. Eventually the ideas will work their way back in the archives, but for now you’ll have to do without.
Last, but not least, I’d like to send thanks out to those who gave me support during my initial learning stages and also to those who offered their insight on my latest design. I realize there’s not much here yet, but I now have a better idea of what I want ElasticDog to be, and more importantly, how to get it there.