Mafe Maria Realigns
I’m not one of those insatiable designers who redesign and reboot compulsively only for the pleasure of creative change. As the pure INTJ that I am, behind everything I do, I must always begin with a reason why and some concrete goals to direct my work. Without such direction I just get lost and don’t accomplish anything. So, after 86 hours of work (some wasted, some not), I’m finally proud to present the recent changes to Mafe Maria. They all aim to solve the design problems I identified two months ago after doing some serious self design review.
The biggest changes involve the layout of the home page, and the presentation of playground entries. Yes. It’s true that on the home page I’ve pushed blog content even further down than it was in the first place, and this is risky. However, instead of a large image that doesn’t change for months, the top of the home page is now used to feature the latest playground entry at full size, which is not decoration, but actually one of the main pieces of content of this web site… A piece of content that I was afraid was not being noticed before.
A side effect of this, is that it pushes me to create playground entries more often. Since I’m now “punishing” you with more scrolling on the home page, at least I want to make it worth your while by giving you something fresh to look at as often as possible. And then, when I create entries that I don’t like, I won’t be able to sleep at night for as long as the poopoo artwork is up there introducing my site in such a powerful way.
It is still a risk that newcomers will see the playground entry and not scroll down or click on navigational links to find more content. But I’m hoping that the visual impact of the art may entice most users to explore more. It only takes a few seconds to see the art (or even click on it), as opposed to reading a full post, and then wanting to explore more. Of course, these are just assumptions, and there will probably be users who won’t figure out the new Mafe Maria. But, if you come and don’t go beyond the playground entry, my guess is that you probably wouldn’t have been interested at all on what I write about.
If you do scroll down below the artwork, I am now happy to offer you three different areas really quickly:
- The latest blog post, now including a much larger excerpt than before. The previous design forced me to make short excerpts attempting not to push playground entries too far down. Now, newcomers can read a little more before diving in, which is a good thing because I don’t always get to the point on the first paragraph of my posts.
- Recent entries, which remained similar to their previous version, but are now found higher on the page. Dates on that list are gone, and I’m not sure if people will miss them.
- List of topics (i.e. blog categories). No big changes here.
Below that, if you’ve ventured that far down, I also offer you a new area I had long wanted to include: Short links to blog posts, web sites, and other external content which I am currently enjoying and want to share without having to write full posts for them. For the home page, I much prefer this over a blogroll. It’s more dynamic, and after a while you’ll be able to notice which are the sites I read anyway since I probably will have posted more than one link to them.
Diving into the site, I believe space is now used a little more wisely; see the playground, for instance. Page width is not fluid any more, but I hope to have given you a comfortable width for posts. Anything wider than that is really hard to read. The shorter side bar also feels cleaner to me. You’ll find the same secondary content that used to be there, but recent entries are now presented first than categories, and categories are compacted into a select box. I hope to hear from you if you find this annoying and prefer the longer list.
There are several other small changes I won’t bore you with. The main point, though, is that I feel good about this version. I reused a lot of what was already there which worked and didn’t need to be changed — “Good designers redesign, great designers realign” — but I feel that the small changes have solved the problems I had with the site, and I hope they have also helped my readers navigate and discover Mafe Maria’s content better. One example is, my friend Marla commented that she really likes the “new” journal page (i.e. archives), but guess what: That page is not new. It has been there at the bottom of the side bar for a long time. So the fact that Marla was now able to find it so quickly and that she finds this helps her better go through the site, makes me very happy.
The Road Blocks
One implicit goal I set out to achieve was to improve the visual design of this web site so that it would better reflect my skills as a web designer; so it would make a stronger connection with my professional work and somehow help promote it.
I struggled a lot with this: Trying to exude abundant creativity and originality in every corner of the design; attempting to fit a piece of my portfolio on the home page; agonizing to make the design of the site work as an extension of me, personally. And then I realized that I needed to stop.
I decided that this site doesn’t have to push traffic to MQStudio. If it does, great… but notice I’ve removed the silly link to my portfolio from the navigation bar. It’s still on the footer, and in relevant blog posts, but it has no place here as anything bigger than that. I don’t write a lot about my work. I do some, but when I do it’s a personal reflection, and not a doctoral dissertation attempting to teach anything to anybody.
Regarding the display of creativity… It wasn’t working. It was too much pressure and I wasn’t talking easily to my muse. It was more like I was grabbing her by the hair and dragging her to the computer. She wasn’t happy. Suddenly it hit me that as wonderful a template as I could create, the effort would end up being a one-day flower. Sure, I would probably get some praise and I would be very proud of it for a while. But then, it would inevitably become old. I had something much better to show: The creative playground entries. No, they’re not web design. They do not show what I can do for you as a professional designer. But they’re fun, and if they change often enough, they’ll make the site more dynamic. Every day I post a new one, Mafe Maria’s visual design will change. How much fun is that? A lot for me, if you ask me.
There are sill a few tiny bugs I’m trying to solve, and there will probably be some continuous tweaking of little details… nothing I think you should be able to notice. The next big step (and personal project on my list) is adding the photo gallery. I suspect I’ll still keep a lot of photos on Flickr, but the photo gallery will display those that are much more important and personal.
Feel free to send me feedback privately or as comments to this post if you want to share good or bad impressions about the changes. Some will disagree, but I take professional criticism pretty well, and this site is also for you — regular readers — anyway.