Long overdue for a redesign

The last time Justinsomnia went under the knife was 2007, and the web has changed a lot since then. Allow me to impress this upon you with a single image. The graph below represents the percentage of mobile browser traffic to my blog over those last 5 years. Hello iPhone and Android users!

Percentage of all mobile traffic to Justinsomnia from November 2007 to October 2012
Mobile traffic from November 2007 to October 2012

In the span of a single year, mobile traffic jumped from almost nothing to nearly a third of my total traffic (before settling down around 15% this year). Given that there’s now a significant global audience of people browsing the web with smaller screens, I decided it was time to get up to speed on responsive web design. (If you’re in the same boat, I highly recommend checking out Apple’s developer docs on Configuring the Viewport. It was eye-opening.)

So what did I do?

First and foremost, I set out to radically simplify the page layout. I wanted a design that presented my posts and photos in a more professional light, cleaner and unadorned. I settled on a site-wide structure of two equal-sized columns with fixed widths, which would neatly stack on top of each other when viewed on mobile devices. If you’re not currently reading this on a mobile device, you can simulate the effect by resizing your browser to be narrower than the width of the two columns (unless you’re using Internet Explorer version 8 or prior). To contrast the old design vs. the new design on an iPhone, check out this side-by-side screenshot. What a world of difference!

Justinsomnia iPhone screenshot before and after response web redesign
Justinsomnia on an iPhone, before and after

Of course I had to redesign the header, this time with a bold new font (Veneer), a monochromatic color scheme, and design elements that pay homage to technologies that paved the way for today’s social media: letterpress printing and film photography. Given only two columns to work with, I took the boilerplate stuff out of my old third “sidebar” column and stuck it in a new four-column footer (which makes things feel a lot less cluttered). I considered retiring my “neatlinks” linkblog, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I stacked it under the Recent Comments in the right column on the homepage. Speaking of which, I rewrote that plugin to only show the most recent comments from the last 30 days (for maximum freshness) and to show category-specific comments on my category archive pages (e.g. Food). For my monthly archive pages, I wrote a new plugin, Adjacent Archive Links, to add previous and next month links (e.g. October 2010).

My post pages should look pretty familiar. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For the post text and headers, I’m trying out Google Web Fonts (Open Sans and Droid Serif). The biggest change to my posts is a jquery plugin I wrote to paginate the comments when I get more than ten. You may notice that I’ve sprinkled a few navigational links to Older/Newer Posts here and there. I also revised and simplified my about page to take advantage of the two column layout. Behind the scenes, I rewrote every one of my WordPress template files from the ground up, to be more modern, more modular, and to take advantage of all the new semantic HTML5 tags (specifically <article>, <header>, <footer>, <nav>, and <time>).

If you still read blogs in a feedreader, well, you’re probably not reading this sentence there. Here’s why: I’ve always been a vocal advocate of full text feeds, mostly because automatically generated excerpts tend to be so awful that they defeat the purpose of having a feed in the first place. But my opinion has changed after following David Lebovitz’s excellent blog over the last year. He usually syndicates a photo with a paragraph or two, which provides a just-meaty-enough teaser that I get the gist and move on or click through to the post on his site and continue reading. Which is great because his posts can be quite long. So I’m giving this approach a shot using a modified version of mPress Custom Feed Excerpts.

And now, without further ado, let me bid a fond farewell to my digital home of the last 5 years. Forward.

Justinsomnia screenshot circa November 2012
Justinsomnia, circa November 2012