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A blank page, a fresh start (a new website)

Thoughts on planning, designing and building a personal site, and the role of the personal website in 2020.

I’ve maintained a personal website of sorts for the past decade, but for the past year or so I’ve resorted to a holding page with a bit of blurb and a fancy animated visual. This is due to two very positive changes in my life that have affected my time greatly; the first being a move to full-time agency work, and the second—rather more significantly—becoming a parent.

During the process of building this site, I’ve asked myself a few questions, the most fundamental being —

Why go to the trouble to design, build and maintain a personal website?

This was something I had to think about a lot, especially being a designer who is gainfully employed and not currently able to dedicate large amounts of time to personal projects.

The answer, in my case, is simple: I like personal sites. My route to becoming a professional designer has been influenced by many people I have never met and will probably never meet in person, and much of that wisdom has come from people’s own platforms. There’s a plethora of examples out there, but for those not familiar I’d spend some time looking at the sites of Frank Chimero and Lynn Fisher.

I’m a firm believer that a strong brief is the foundation to a positive outcome, so I set myself the following rules.

Keep it simple

In 2020 the web is full of visual noise, I don't want to be a part of that. To talk more specifically, I made a few choices with the design and build of the site, the first being —

No JavaScript

I have nothing against JavaScript, I use it extensively in my digital work and I’m always working to improve my knowledge and application of it. However, working without JavaScript is a design decision in itself, as it forces the mind to dismiss a whole layer of potential complexity, and keeps the focus on the bits that really matter. This also means —

No tracking

Tempted as I am by the metrics, I find it hard to justify the benefit against the contribution to web surveillance. The only real ‘engagement’ I wish to generate with this site is connection with people and my own personal development, and these things can’t be measured by counters or graphs. Again, metrics have a very relevant and important place in the digital sphere, but that place ain’t here.

Lightweight, accessible, performant

We spend a good deal of time at Substrakt talking about accessibility and performance, both of these being aspects of digital publishing that are often overlooked in favour of the immediate gratification of making something that is loud. It’s only right that I put this thinking into practice with my own work.

Make it readable, or rather, a place for writing

More important than any of the design or coding choices that went into this site, I want it to be a place for writing. I do a lot of writing, usually for clients, colleagues or myself. I want to write for anyone who wants to listen.

So there we have it. As Plato stated, “The beginning is the most important part of the work”. I’m glad that’s over with then.

Ian Jones

Ian Jones is a designer and developer based in the UK. Currently working as a freelancer, he also dedicates time to independent and personal projects, as well as mentoring and teaching.