Autumn redesign 2015

Keeping up with this site’s tradition of a yearly design refresh, I made some visual changes and a reorganization of this site two weeks ago.

This time around the redesign introduced fewer visual changes than last year’s redesign but these changes are in many ways more consequential. Every blog entry have been posted in their own blog section since the beginning of this summer. However, every entry still only appeared on the front page and on the main syndication feed along with all the other entries. Everything still appears on the front page, but now they are also posted in one of eight new content sections.

The sections have their own sub-indexes, syndication feeds, and their own color scheme. They’re aimed at slightly different and more targeted readerships than before. Each blog entry in a given section will be styled in the same color scheme as its section, and entries on the front page are accompanied by the same color scheme. Where as before every entry were styled in a distinct green color, this post belonging to the new Development Notebook section is now styled in the turquoise color denoting that it belongs to that section.

The page header have also been redesigned to feature breadcrumb navigation links. For blog entries, this means they’ll highlighting the section they belong to right at the top of the page. The syndication feeds have also gotten a new and more prominent position in the header; showing off both the existing everything-feed but also new feeds from each section. From looking through traffic data, this pattern seem to have worked over all expectation already with a sharp increase in pageviews per visitor coming in from search engines. Putting content into content sections have helped me use the constant audience drawn in from searches better by more carefully targeting them at other content they’re likely to find interesting. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed is how syndication feed subscriptions for two of the eight new sections have in a mere two weeks grown almost to the number of subscribers the main feed have had almost two full years to build.

The site’s publishing platform, Nikola, didn’t have support for any kind of sectioning the way I wanted. I had to research and develop the new feature before putting it to use. I had already started using the URL schema I expected to use for sections earlier this summer, but also updated old entries to use the new schema when making the final changes live. Every old address were of course carefully redirected to their new addresses under each section.

The average file size of each page have also been reduced significantly for most pages. This has been achieved by deduplicating entries and splitting up the existing CSS into smaller chunks that are conditionally loaded only when needed by each page. This has led to some added transfer protocol overhead, but with HTTP/2 server-push right around the corner and high client adoption of HTTP/2 already, this shouldn’t be a problem for very long.