Frogged and the Winds of Change

About a month ago, I submitted the Nexus to the blog review site Frog My Blog. I saw Janet got a perfect review, and decided to see how my blog would fare. I expected some constructive criticism, and a link at the very least. I got both.

”He is an Art Director, designing catalogs, flyers and book jackets. For that reason I'm going to be a bit hard on him. Why? Because he should know better. Because he should be used to true critique and be able to absorb it and evolve.”

Sensitive as I am, often overly so, I've been developing a thick skin since elementary school. Aesthetics are subjective, and you can't please all the people all the time. I am used to having weak spots in my designs pointed out and surpassing them in revisions and future new creations. I'd also read many of the reviews on the site, and knew what to expect. For example:
”Reverse type is evil, Graphic Design 101 says you can use it in titles and small blurbs of text but general content? On the web? Smack on the hand with my handy Wacom Stylus for that.”

She goes on to explain reverse type in detail. Light color on a dark background is something every graphic designer struggles with at one point or another, especially working in certain genres where it just feels appropriate. In a way, keeping the white on black on my personal site for so long was a stubborn show of rebellion, since I'm never allowed to do it anywhere else. It's fine for headings but not for large blocks of copy. I'd heard the complaint from various readers before about the site as well, but I'd been reluctant to change it.

I've finally caved. I'm still learning CSS, but through trial and error, and some technical support from Rey when I got stuck with something, I think I got things to look almost the way I want them to. Maybe when I learn more, I'll get fancier and have a cloak billowing around the edges of each post, but for now I think things are legible, while keeping the darker elements in the frame work.
”The long paragraphs however I shall take issue with and again an Art Director working with catalogs should know this.”

This is a tougher fix. Around sixth or seventh grade, an English teacher drilled in to me the notion that a paragraph had to be a minimum of eight sentences, varying in length for flow and interest. Dialogue was the only exception. Rules are guidelines though, and vary depending on the medium. There is a difference in writing for the web, but to break up my paragraphs would require a major change in my natural writing style. That probably won't happen overnight, but I have made my posts slightly wider. Too wide and they would be too long to read horizontally, but I think I've diminished the vertical issue a bit.

”And speaking of art lets see more of it.”

I consider this more of a personal blog and not an art blog, even though I am an “artist” by trade. She does admit to skimming because of the legibility issues, so I can see how a blog by an art director with few photos or drawings could be perceived as an oddity. I've gotten better responses to personal stories than photographs, and a sense of my audience after nearly two years. Lately, the response to the pictures has been so sparse that I'd considered doing away with it completely. There may be more of a balance in the future, or it may be a moot point.

I've made small changes, and a few behind-the-scenes edits that will allow me to make changes in the future far easier. Some of my older posts might seem weird until I've had a chance to fix some color problems, but going forward I expect I'll be happy with the way things look. Hopefully, all this housekeeping stuff isn't too boring. If nothing else, this post is a good historical documentation for my own future reference.

What do you all think? Is it easier to read this way? Did anyone like it better the old way?


Blogger Wendy said...

I hate to say it but I liked it better the old way. Probably only because it's what I was used to. I'm just a creature of habit and I hate to see things change.

9/17/2006 7:36 AM  
Anonymous TheGreek said...

I think there were valid points made. It is easier to read, easier to digest and the point about more art in the blog of an art director is really spot on. Even if this is more of a personal blog, being an artist one would expect that personally you're more visual than literal. There may be a position in the Marketing Department. Also, I have a book which I lend out to those friends who are struggling: The Non-Designer's Design Guide. Just ask, I'd be happy to share.

9/17/2006 8:38 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Even if this is more of a personal blog, being an artist one would expect that personally you're more visual than literal.

I can see that, but what got me really into reading your blog "back in the day" was the content. I like your writing style, we have a lot of the same interests, and I can relate to and sympathize with your point of view. That's what keeps me coming back, so I don't care if you change the blog to neon pink text on a lime green background.

I take that back. Don't do that.

My point is, I don't care what you do with the layout as long as it's readable. If I enjoy a site's content, I'll keep coming back. There are some websites that look so bad that it really bugs me... but I keep reading them for the content.

You're doing a great job with your blog in general. I like that there's a lot there but it doesn't look cluttered. I always end up cluttering my blog to the point that I scrap the whole thing and start over with a stripped layout... then eventually clutter it up and start over again. This process repeats every six months or so.

I like the gray, but if you change it back, I'll be fine with that, too.

9/17/2006 10:11 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

I forgot I had that book. Did you want it back?

Does the BG look gray or light blue?

9/17/2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

On my computer, the bg looks mauve, but I knew instinctively, that that wasn't your choice. I really admire the way you take criticism---publicly too. I would do it clandestinely, with many tears and stamps of feet.

I also read you for the content and because I have a strange maternal reverse magnet that leads me to worry over the wellbeing of young men I've never met---you are the sanest among Michael Jackson( actually not so young anymore), Heath Ledger (the scourge of the Southern Conservative)and that guy from Cirque du Soleil who insists on hanging from things by his teeth.

All that aside, I'll continue to read, all the while changing that mauve bg to bluey-gray.

9/17/2006 11:02 AM  
Blogger Kev said...

I kind of liked the old way also - the new black text on a light blue background is interesting and easier to read - but the dark blue hyperlinks are hard to read on black.

I also come for the content, not the design. This is a personal blog - not a professional blog. You don't have this website to promote your job, career, or to gain more paying customers or sell things - so you don't post your income-generating work and don't design the blog to bring in customers - the design reflects your personality and interests. In the old days of the internet, black background with white text almost always meant a "science fiction" or a "geek" website, now even scifi/geek websites look clean and professional.
Nothing wrong with getting critiqued - you always learn something from the experience.

Basically, I think you should have your blog design look the way you want it to - (even, God help us, pink text on a lime green background) :-)

9/17/2006 12:39 PM  
Blogger Kev said...

Oops.. my link didn't work -
It was supposed to link to SFSignal.

9/17/2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger Curt said...

Make your site look however you want as long as it's legible. These dark blue links, as Rey mentioned, are not just illegible--they hurt my eyes. Other than that, a cool-looking site just feels cooler than a mostly-text site, and I'm sure you're capable of making it look really cool. Just don't let it affect your writing.

And eight sentences per paragraph? That was some insanely sadistic and ignorant English teacher, man. The sooner you purge that from your thinking, the better.

9/17/2006 3:57 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I prefer dark text on light backgrounds, so I like the new look of your posts. (It's a light blue background for me, BTW.) Light text on dark background messes with my eyes, where my vision will remain blurry long after I've left the page. The dark blue links on the black background are hard to read.

9/17/2006 4:32 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

I always vote for legible.

That, and anything that doesn't make me feel as though Uruk-Hai have been manufactured in my skull, and are using my eye sockets as escape routes.

I think that means I like the new theme better. Content is king, but legible content is Universal Emperor.

9/17/2006 8:11 PM  
Blogger TheWriteJerry said...

This is a content-driven blog. I come every day to read it, not to look at it. Forget what the critics say.

Well, except knock-out type is hard on the eyes - but I suffer through it for the high level of writing.

And like Lorna, I'm getting mauve on the two different computers I've looked at the site on.

But my point is, don't fret the frog.

9/17/2006 9:49 PM  
Blogger b13 said...

I'm one of few words (when typing) but I like the old way.

9/17/2006 10:35 PM  
Blogger MCF said...

I'm still tweaking my palette. I lightened the blue used for the visited and unvisited links so it works better now on the black, but it didn't work with the light blue in my posts, which is why that's now a light yellow, always a reliable standby in my print work. Not as stark as white, but you can still read stuff on it.

I have trouble with change too, but I'm getting used to the new (evolving) look. Future revisions will be easier with some of the tweaked code. And Jerry, this isn't the first time you've said you'd suffer the eyestrain for the content, so it's a good thing that I make it easier for people to read my stuff. The only really disappointing thing about the review was that I didn't get a guage on how my content was, because she couldn't get past the visuals to actually READ any of it.

Having people read this stuff is one of my goals, so I think I'm on the right track. Thanks for all the feedback! :)

(Geek sidenote--apparently, Marvel already has an obscure character named Feedback with similar powers to the Dark Horse character. I wonder if Stan knew that, and if that will pose a problem...)

(Other Geek Sidenote: Darrell, AICN probably has a lot of great content, and good info when rumors turn out to be true, but it's horrendous looking, second only to 99.44% of MySpace pages, my other least favorite site on the web. I might read AICN if I could get past the oversized clunky type, and that probably sells the point more than anything else about keeping a site legible.)

9/17/2006 11:29 PM  
Blogger Scott Roche said...

Good content is key though I love your pictures too. I'd be afraid to send her my blog since I use reverse type as well. In that regard I actually prefer light type on a dark bg.

9/19/2006 1:52 PM  

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