This website is only about 6-months old, but I decided I needed to make a few changes. I've received a tremendous amount of positive feedback and for the most part, I've been pretty pleased with the design and the organization of information. In spite of the positive feedback, there were a few aspects that bothered me and some small adjustments were necessary.
Item #1: Content strategy
For starters, when I originally published the site in May 2007, my intentions were to dive into full-time freelancing in the near future, so the site had a distinct "this is Oaktree Creative, the company" approach to it. Much of the content of the site was written to reflect that approach and (unintentionally) the homepage was little more than a glorified splash page. It looked nice, but seemed empty to me.
Solution: Completely rebuilt the homepage to show a featured blog entry, a list of recent entries in one column and the Murmurs (RSS here) list in another column. I moved the portfolio links to the bottom above the footer. I also rewrote the About page, making it more personal and less "about Oaktree Creative, the company."
Item #2: Blog entries limited to full articles
Occasionally, I come across a good article or see something on the web I'd like to comment on or point out. The way this blog is set up, it doesn't lend itself to a short, link-blog format.
Solution: I've been looking for some way to integrate that type of content on the homepage and wanted an easy way to implement it without having to write a bunch of code. I also wanted it to be easy to publish when I found something interesting.
A friend of mine pointed me to (and helped me set up) a nifty little tool called Simple Pie. Simple Pie is a PHP script that pulls items in from an RSS feed. In my case, I'm pulling items I've tagged as "murmurs" in my del.icio.us bookmarks.
Item #3: Horizontal Banding
Another thing that bothered me was this concept of "horizontal banding" that seemed to visually dominate each page - again, especially the homepage. What I mean by horizontal banding is that each "section" of the site was separated visually by colors and border treatments. So it gave the site a "banded" feel to it. An orange band at the top for the header, followed by a brown band for the navigation, followed by a wider, white band for the "main content" and then a larger tan section for more content and then a final band (darker tan) at the bottom for the footer (see graphic).
Solution: I was able to remove two "bands", which I think helps make the site a bit more visually fluid and less "compartmentalized". I got rid of the navigation band; it now blends in with the header. Also removed the footer band; it now blends in with the bottom portion of the page instead of being set off in its own section.
While I had the hood up and my hands greasy, I decided to make a few other cosmetic changes. Some are more obvious, like the color palette and the header graphic. Others were more subtle like text size adjustments and a few new icons.
All in all, I'm pleased with the changes. Mostly, I'm excited about the Murmurs, which will give me a chance to keep the content more dynamic around here. If you're interested, grab the RSS feed to follow the updates and by all means, feel free to chime in with your feedback.
(There's still a few things I'm working. A couple of the newer portfolio links at the bottom of the homepage don't work yet. I know about it and I'll be fixing that soon.)