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read_me.gif Southern Voice Washington Blade

Redesigning Lynne

And this is fresh

by j. brotherlove

Lynne has been talking of redesigning her site for some time now. So when she tapped me to implement a design by coctaso, I happily accepted. I am pleased to say she’s all setup with a sparkly new look.

Lynne d Johnson

Anyone somewhat familiar with web design and Movable Type (MT) knows that it’s not as easy as flipping a switch when upgrading your blogstyle. I just wanted to highlight a few areas.

The Upgrade
The upgrade of her MT installation to the latest 3.2 went pretty smooth. The secret is RTFM carefully and prepping before you run the upgrade script (a lesson I learned with an ExpressionEngine disaster I created). As for features, Six Apart has done a good job with this release. Anyone running an older installation should consider upgrading.

The Structure
I changed the MT structure of Lynne’s site. This is mostly transparent externally. Behind the scenes, there were plenty of things to consider. The end result, Lynne can now control her total domain through MT if she so chooses. Sweet!

The Code Cleanup
Like myself, Lynne is one of the Original BlogFam™, who hand-coded her site for years before switching to a CMS blog solution. This had left a lot of legacy code and content on her pages. I was compelled to clean her code. There were areas I couldn’t touch without breaking the layout, however.

The Permalinks
One of the biggest changes Lynne wanted was to switch from the old-school permalink format (blog/000724.html) to the new school practice based on titles (blog/my_latest_post.html). I’m a big fan of the new school URLs and suggested she go even further by removing file extensions from her permalinks (blog/my_latest_post/).

With the change of over 800 page names, broken links was a concern. I created an MT template to spit out the old/new relationships and then used the output for a .htaccess file to do the work. Booyah!

The Style
I believe great content deserves great presentation. Any designer will tell you that working from scratch is the ideal situation. However, Lynne already had a great design. My job was to make it work within MT and with other features she wanted.

As mentioned in this year’s SXSW Interactive convention Joelle and the rest of the How to Make $$ With Your Blog Design Skills panelists rated MT as their least favorite CMS to design for. I’ve never had problems in the past but the newest default templates in MT are not my friend. They work great for most people who are content with the default and published styles. Customizing them for individual expression? Not so cute.

The original stylesheet by coctaso was 111 lines. I increased it to 265 to allow for position, color and other things. This was my first time styling around another designer’s design and complementing the style. It was sometimes challenging to get results I wanted while maintaining the integrity of the design. I’m pleased with the results. Most importantly, so is she. I could write pages on the frustration of browser/OS drama but I won’t. That said, her site looks best with Firefox. But you knew that already, right?

Next Steps
As with any major redesign, there a few odds and ends that need attention. I should have those knocked out in the next day or so. I have other MT-related ideas for Lynne on the horizon to help her manage her virtual identity so keep an eye out for that. Do me a favor and let me know of any weirdness you find.

pub: 06/06/2006 | previous entry | next entry | feedback x 2 | subscribe

Lynne’s site looks great! I haven’t noticed any hiccups.

I did see your post on the MT Forums a few days ago about the archives. I thought, “who is he hooking up?” LOL

dude thanks a million. you know today was the first time I looked at it in IE on a PC - glad I hadn’t before. It’s not bad there, but just not what it is in Firefox - or better yet, what it is on a mac. You know I live and breathe mac, right? Anyway, can’t wait to hear what else is in store for my virtual self.