Really, a redesign? This can’t be real…

It’s about time…

So finally I’ve redesigned my website. It’s been about three and a half years since the last version of laurakalbag.com (still around at http://2009.laurakalbag.com) and that’s a site I designed before I finished university, before I even started freelancing full time. To be fair, it took a while for me to hate it (not that usual kind of as-soon-as-it’s-launched-I-hate-it problem us designers often have) but that’s far too long for a portfolio site to be hanging around. Since then we’ve had a huge shift to mobile design, then web fonts, then responsive design, and I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching on my own site.

I’d done a little update when I got hold of a Typekit account, got some fancy fonts on there, which temporarily quenched my thirst for a redesign, but it was downhill from there. I kept updating the portfolio in the hope that people would see it for the work, not the site, and I added a WordPress blog with a default theme to house my ramblings, albeit in a brandless design. Then I starting being embarrassed about it, the grunge textures and simplified layout. So I had the genius idea that I’d stop updating it. If I did that then I’d be bound to redesign it so I could add more projects…but no, a lack of time and inspiration left the site stagnating for nearly another year.

Designing for yourself is really hard

Here’s the thing. I’m a client designer. I love the challenges and variety brought to me by clients, and working on new projects, and at that distance it’s much easier to understand how to best represent them. Designing for yourself is completely different. You want to accurately portray yourself and you want a site that showcases what you do. That’s pretty intimidating in an industry where your friends will judge every pixel!

My ideas

I struggled with the idea that I needed to showcase work. In theory, the best way to do that is to have a very neutral, simple design where the work does the talking. The problem is, a very clean and minimal site could never accurately represent me. I love colour and decoration and striking design. I had to find a way to balance the two. I had this little idea where each page would be themed to fit the colours of the project (or subject of the blog post.) This would result in a site that had a huge variety of strong colour. I knew that this meant I had to reign in the other design elements (typography, layout, texture, shapes), making them simple and letting the colour show through without seeming too overwhelming. Whether I’ve achieved this, I’m still not sure…

And of course it’s not perfect

Since I started the redesign process, I knew that I’d have to let go early on. To be fair, I’m used to doing this on client projects; you can’t be fiddling around perfecting every pixel forever. There’s not enough time or money in the world to pay for that. So there will be parts of this site that are a bit wonky around the edges. There’s some dodgy hover styles and a half-baked attempt at retina support that I’d like to improve upon, but I fancied that I could iterate upon these things once they’re live, and benefit from the wisdom of my friends.

Now to get on with it

I could go on forever about my decisions and choices and ifbutsmaybes so I’ll cut it short here. I might write some more posts about the design at some point, but I wouldn’t want to bore you to death…

 

11 comments

  1. Very nice Laura, certainly gets across a lot of your personality starting with the typeface and then on to the illustrations and colours! It’s great, and everything you’ve written is so honest and upfront.

    If I were to make comment it would be I’m never keen on underlined links (if you need to underline, use border-bottom so you don’t interfere with descenders).

    Also, your (amazing) work doesn’t seem to take centre stage! Perhaps that’s what you wanted, but it’s like the 5th link on your navigation? I’d bring it to the fore and make your screenshots larger, and maybe cross-sell between sections a bit.

    Other than that, awesome :)

    Reply

    • Laura

      Thanks Matt! Funnily enough, I used to always use border-bottom for exactly that reason, but eventually I found it too distracting having lines hanging so far away from the main shape of the characters. It took away that skimmable uniformity.

      You’re very kind about my work, and I really appreciate the constructive criticism. I did think hard about how I wanted to represent myself, and really my primary goal for the site was to be as useful as possible for potential clients. Of course I want to be judged on my previous work, but I think it’s important that I provide other information about the kind of designer I am and what I’m like to work with.

      Reply

  2. I know I said yesterday, but you’ve done a bloody good job with this. You should be dead proud of yourself, and you’ve inspired me to maybe finally get round to finishing mine off too!

    …after I’ve helped you with that jQuery, of course ;)

    Reply

  3. Hey Laura
    I was wondering why you didn’t just tweak the original site instead of a full redesign? Not that I dont like the new one, its pretty cool :)

    Reply

    • Laura

      There was too much I wanted to change. The way I’d configured WordPress before was quite awkward to maintain (there was a lot of HTML required when adding new projects) and I wanted to make use of the newer CMS-like features that WordPress offered (like custom post types and custom taxonomies.) Also, when designing a responsive site, it’s much cleaner to rewrite from mobile CSS first which would have meant refactoring all the markup!

      And then there’s the fact that I was just sick of the old design. I know this one isn’t exactly ‘modern’, but the old version was definitely ‘old school’… ;)

      Reply

  4. Looks great. I agree that you should move your work to the forefront, however. Clients, or at least the ones I’ve worked with, can tell a lot about you by the work you do – not necessarily a block of text about you.

    Just a thought. :)

    Reply

  5. Ben

    Glad to see it finally live Laura – as I said on Twitter, amazing work. Really love the eye to detail you have put into this, and having known you for a while now, I really feel your personally comes through.

    It’s never easy working on your own website, and you can spend every hour under and over the sun tweaking it, but like you said, it is live and it works (beautifully). Now you can tweak and iterate when the time arises.

    Reply

  6. Michael

    Really like the new design, Laura. Especially impressed with your texts. I always struggle to have my text reflect my way of working and thinking, so I end up deleting it and still have the old gibberish on my site (that I haven’t touched in over a year). It’s like you said so hard to design and develop for yourself.
    So you should be really proud of this site, it looks and feels super!
    Cheers,
    Michael
    PS: what’s with the favicon, are there tiny hands growing out of your chin ;-)

    Reply

  7. Michael

    I really like the simplicity of the design and absolutely love all the colors! If your personality is anything like your picture (cheerful & smiley), then your personality shines throughout this site and through your writing. Keep up the awesome work!

    Reply

  8. Thank you for this post! I too, have been neglecting my own site, I even took my whole old site down and just put a “I am working on my site” temporary page, but that still wasn’t enough motivation. I am still stuck between 0 and 1. You totally verbalized what I think some of my blocks are, and it was really nice to feel like other designers struggle in some of the same ways I do. I think it’s hard when you take doing good work seriously. Your site is awesome, great work. You have inspired me to get to work, maybe :)

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Fields marked with * are required.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>