All in the <head>

– Ponderings & code by Drew McLellan –

– Live from The Internets since 2003 –

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Rebuilding 24 ways

1 December 2013

As those with long memories may recall, I first launched 24 ways in December 2005 as a fairly last-minute idea for sharing a quick tip or idea every day in advent. I emailed some friends to ask for contributions, and was overwhelmed by the response. Instead of the tips I’d had in mind, what I got back was full-blown articles prepared with depth and care.

I designed (and I use the word lightly) the site myself, got it up and running using blog software, and off we went on a twenty-four day roller coaster.

The site was such a success that we repeated the process in 2006. When recruiting authors for our third year in 2007, Tim Van Damme asked me to do something about the terrible design. I pretty much said “well, go on then!” and that year we launched with an all-new look. Tim did an amazing job with a design that was well ahead of its time, both visually and technically. It’s hard to remember now, but the heavy use of RGBA colour meant that the design only worked in a few browsers (notably not IE or Opera) and performance was bad in those that could render it.

But that was very much the point. I think the fact that the design ran for six entire seasons (2007-2012) is testament to how forward-looking it was. It took a couple of years for the browsers to catch up with it.

In 2011, I retrofitted the design with a few media queries to help it respond on modern devices, but by the end of our 2012 season, the design was beginning to show its age. Simple practicalities like not have enough space left for any more archived year tabs, plus a structure designed for discovering three years of articles and not eight meant it was time to think about a redesign.

2013 Redesign

As my early attempts attest, I have very little skill in that area, and so if I wanted a new design I was going to have to find someone much better than I am to work with. So, where does one start in finding a designer?

I’m in the fortunate position of knowing lots of really great web designers – many of whom have been authors for 24 ways over the years. I figured I’d start with my top-choice dream person, and work down the list until I found someone who’d be prepared to do it.

So I started by asking Paul Robert Lloyd, and he said yes.

Knowing that a redesign would take some time and needed to be fit around everyone’s work and life commitments, we started discussing the project early in the year. By June we started to panic that time was shifting on, and now as I write, about an hour before we launch the new site, Paul’s still working away on the finishing touches.

In 2012 I rebuild the site in Perch for the old design, and this month I’ve updated that implementation to add the new features and requirements the design added.

The details of the design itself are probably best left to Paul to discuss (and I hope he does), but for now, I’ll just let you soak in it like I have been doing for the last few weeks.

So here it is, 24 ways 2013.

- Drew McLellan

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About Drew McLellan

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Drew McLellan (@drewm) has been hacking on the web since around 1996 following an unfortunate incident with a margarine tub. Since then he’s spread himself between both front- and back-end development projects, and now is Director and Senior Web Developer at edgeofmyseat.com in Maidenhead, UK (GEO: 51.5217, -0.7177). Prior to this, Drew was a Web Developer for Yahoo!, and before that primarily worked as a technical lead within design and branding agencies for clients such as Nissan, Goodyear Dunlop, Siemens/Bosch, Cadburys, ICI Dulux and Virgin.net. Somewhere along the way, Drew managed to get himself embroiled with Dreamweaver and was made an early Macromedia Evangelist for that product. This lead to book deals, public appearances, fame, glory, and his eventual downfall.

Picking himself up again, Drew is now a strong advocate for best practises, and stood as Group Lead for The Web Standards Project 2006-08. He has had articles published by A List Apart, Adobe, and O’Reilly Media’s XML.com, mostly due to mistaken identity. Drew is a proponent of the lower-case semantic web, and is currently expending energies in the direction of the microformats movement, with particular interests in making parsers an off-the-shelf commodity and developing simple UI conventions. He writes here at all in the head and, with a little help from his friends, at 24 ways.