About a year ago, I relaunched this site with a completely new layout. Today, we have a less ambitious but still important update!

Why Now?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t poke this site’s templates on a regular basis. Now seemed like a good time to improve navigation and discovery though, because we’ve got a lot of content incoming. This year is an important one: In August, not only will I be 5 years into my journey as an artist but my blog will also turn 10 years old! So, I think it’s the perfect year to fill out the both the art gallery and the blog archives. That’s going to seriously pad out this site’s content, and I was starting to get worried about how to make any of that stuff discoverable.

Then there’s also the side-issue of the gallery growing indefinitely: While it was all on one page, every image I added made it just a little slower to load. It wasn’t that slow yet, but without a change it could only get worse.

For those reasons, now seemed like the perfect time to improve how I present content.

What’s New?

The first main change I made was to break some things up by date. If you go to the art gallery you’ll see that it’s now broken up into multiple pages, one for each year. I’ve done something similar to the blog as well, we have the same pagination as before but there’s now an archive page for each year too. That should make it much easier to find posts from earlier in the blog’s history.

In order to present these new pages without too much wasted space, I’ve also introduced a little sidebar widget:

The goal of this sidebar is to reclaim some of the empty margin space from the site’s current theme. I’ve also added some responsive design here–the floating sidebar becomes a horizontal bar at the top of the page on narrow screens:

Projects Get Some Love

That’s not all I’ve done with the sidebar either. I was never fond of the code project page layout, so I’ve re-used the sidebar design for displaying relevant project links!

As you can imagine, this makes project pages very short. So, I’ve found some more content to fill that vertical space and improve discovery! Consider Singularity’s project page yesterday:

…and now, today:

When a blog post is relevant to a certain project, it now gets a link on the project’s page. Since many of this blog’s posts are about project development, this should help give a historical view of a project’s development and also advertise posts from the archives as well. It’s a feature that wasn’t really feasible with Blogger before, but with Jekyll it’s a cinch.

Time of Mods

Finally, I’ve added a new project type: Mod. I realized that my projects page didn’t have any of the Minetest stuff I’d made in the past couple of years, leaving this gaping hole that felt very odd. However, my mods didn’t quite fit into any of the existing categories. And then there’s RPG16, a texture pack that isn’t really a code project but probably deserves to be featured somewhere regardless.

I created the mod project type to rectify that and added two new projects that fit it. I also took the opportunity to list Rida and Open Pixel Puzzles, projects that aren’t presently released but are probably worth mentioning. I think from now on I’ll be adding unreleased projects here from the start, since the new related posts section can make them useful regardless.

What’s NOT Here Today?

There are a few features that I was thinking of adding, but either didn’t make the cut or haven’t been implemented yet.

First up, we have the elusive table of contents. I really wanted to use the new sidebars to make a nifty little table of contents for blog posts, but after testing it just looked awful. The main issue is that I often write long headings. These look nice enough in the post body, but when you shrink them down to a sidebar they start wrapping and you get a mess. In the end, I decided that they didn’t add enough to justify the shoddy presentation.

Another thing I’d like to do for projects is more media: stuff like screenshots and videos at the top showing off what the project looks like. I haven’t tried this yet, but I think it’s something to look into later.

Lastly, I want to figure out how to integrate video content into the gallery. I can handle static images and gifs right now, but I’ve been producing little videos in blender from time to time and I don’t really have a solution for featuring these right now. I’m not sure if I’d want to do a youtube embed or include the video file directly either, the latter is probably better for users but worse from a storage & bandwidth perspective… it’s a problem that I need to think about more before I act on it.

Looking Forward

That’s all for site updates, but before I leave you let’s more talk about what I want to do this year. Last year’s push for more games was a bit of a wet fart, and with my ongoing situation it’s still tough to release new projects.

However, not everything is off the table either. A handful of old projects can be messed with as much as I want, and many more will be safe to release provided they don’t need further modification. And of course, anything from the old blog archive is fair game.

I’m still working out my precise strategy, but my current plan is to try pulling on this old content and doing some retrospectives on the things I can easily make public. My hope is that by the time that’s all done, the relevant matters will be resolved and I’ll be able to continue with the rest. Else, I’ve got an old long-term project that I’ll be reviving. You’ll hear more about that once the retrospectives start ;)

I also plan to release Open Pixel Puzzles of course, and hopefully update it once in a while. I’m still waiting on audio assets, but worst-case I have a backup plan in case they don’t arrive soon. In any event, I expect that I’ll be able to release before the end of January.

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