Here’s what I’m trying to accomplish with the slightly redesigned homepage you see here.
Notice the new column of text over on the left? That’s the first big change. What used to be there was a lot of links and little graphic blobs and other bits and pieces of the flotsam and jetsam that bloggers like to put in their marginalia that links to other stuff. Most people on the web today have learned to completely tune out the navigation column; it seems about as exciting as the credits at the end of a movie.
The trouble was that new users would land on my site, having followed a link from somewhere, and they would have absolutely no idea what was going on. They were on some kind of site, there was this guy, Joel, he was saying things, so what? The home page, like the home page of many blogs, wasn’t really serving first-time visitors.
I was finally motivated to get off my butt and fix it by reading Jakob Nielsen’s recent post about Weblog Usability.
The theory here is to divide the home page into two columns, one for first-time visitors and one for everybody else, and by using narrative and full sentences in the navigation/first time visitor column, I’ll actually seduce some people into checking out what’s over there.
There are two other small changes. My public calendar has moved up to the top right corner. And home page postings will now have titles, instead of dates, because the RSS people kept complaining about that.
Non goals: I made no attempt to be slick. A long time ago I paid a top web designer, Dave Shea, who created a stunningly beautiful design for me to use. It ended up looking a little bit too shiny, though, so I never used it. This is a site designed by me, badly, using my poor Corel PHOTO-PAINT skills and my crappy amateur photos and my affection for the font “Georgia” and my poor eyesight (thus the largish font). It’s not some kind of corporate blog developed by the marcomm department at a company that desperately wants to get people to pay attention to their new brand of laundry detergent. The more it looks like it was designed by a geek, not a graphic designer, the happier I am, because I am a geek.
The changes haven’t completely permeated the inner pages yet, but that’s only a matter of time.