Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

Want to help create the next version of elliotjaystocks.com?

Posted on 07 March 2008 42 comments

Article illustration for Want to help create the next version of elliotjaystocks.com?

Back when I launched this incarnation of the site in April last year, I wrote a detailed post that included several point about how I’d aim to improve the site next time. Over the course of the last few months I’ve made several subtle modifications to enhance it, but now that I’m starting my own business and changes are needed rather than just wanted, I feel that it’s time for a ‘proper’ revision… and I’d like your help!

It’s strange… when I launched the site, I had virtually no readers; now you lot are here and for the first time ever, I’m having to design my personal site with readers in mind! It’s a daunting – but exciting – prospect, and that’s why I feel it makes perfect sense to ask you what you’d like to see. I’d love to hear your own thoughts on how the site could be improved, but to get you started, here are my basic goals:

  • Completely revamp both the design and the information architecture.
  • Have Wordpress power the entire site instead of just the blog.
  • Drastically change the ‘portfolio’ section so that there’s more of a focus on each project. This will be the biggest challenge, WP-wise, as I’d like to have each portfolio project as a post that – because of its category alone – gets pulled into the portfolio section.
  • Create a new ‘goodies’ section that contains downloadable treats like the Starkers theme and / or tutorials.
  • Include a ‘lifestream’ page to collate feeds from my Twitter / Flickr / etc. accounts.
  • Create a new ‘services’ page to serve as the business page on the site.
  • Improve the typography by using sIFR for titles.
  • Improve type usability by sizing in em instead of px.
  • Revise the information in the ‘about’ page and fill it with many more details.
  • Heavily update the content in sidebars such as ‘blogroll’.
  • Draw attention to my speaking / writing / teaching gigs, perhaps by introducing a dedicated page where resources from each can be downloaded.
  • Pull in my Flickr photos to a dedicated page. Jeff Croft does this amazingly, although I’m probably looking for something simpler; more like on subdued.net/photos
  • Create a contact page with two addresses on it: one for general enquiries and one specifically for clients. Above both, I’m going to put a prominent link to a (revised) FAQs page, asking them to read that before emailing.
  • Make a proper ‘archives’ page for the blog.
  • Pay more attention to styling forms and comments.
  • Generally improve the reader experience.
  • Make it the best site I’ve ever designed! :)

So is there anything else I should add to that list? All comments and constructive criticism will be welcome, although if there’s a feature that you absolutely love and wouldn’t want me to change, please voice your opinion about that, too! It’s over to you, my friends…

42 comments

  1. johno

    johno

    07 March 2008 @ 06:26PM #

    I love the design of this site. Don’t change the header please.
    I think WP for the entire site is a great idea. A downloads section is another good idea (and a great way to attract new visitors).

    I’d also like to see larger body text; and perhaps -2px is 1 or 2px too much negative letterspacing for the titles.

    Overall design of this site, though, is beautiful (I’m quite jealous really).

  2. Shane

    Shane

    07 March 2008 @ 06:27PM #

    It’s fairly typical that when you start writing things down, the list is quite scary! I’m currently in a similar position with my personal site.

    I’ve always really admired the actual design of this site, and it’s genuinley one of my favourites out there.

    The most recent changes to Wordpress make it much easier to use it for the whole of your site. I remember hacking away with the code a year or so ago, but now, the pages functionality makes it easy to use it as a CMS.

    For your portfolio section, wouldn’t you just need to create some sub-pages (one for each site) under the portfolio page?

  3. Adii

    Adii

    07 March 2008 @ 06:28PM #

    Sheesh Elliot… It’s evident that you’ve spent a lot of time thinking this whole thing through… :) And it’s going to be a sad day once this design is retired permanently… Plus I think you’ll have to push yourself to your absolute limit to create something better (than the current design) for the redesign.

  4. Joe

    Joe

    07 March 2008 @ 06:30PM #

    perhaps use a calender with this months features – i.e. teaching gigs etc and oh I dunno maybe get some flash involved – good luck – I’m still busting a gut trying to get mine sorted – and with everything else I’m doing i dunno where I’m gonna find the time.

  5. Amos

    Amos

    07 March 2008 @ 07:07PM #

    Lots going on there Elliot. I like it… I’d agree with johno about going whole hog with WordPress, or picking one CMS to run the entire joint. I think a lot depends on what the goal of the place will be, i.e,: highlighting your work, or your personal interests/writing. Of course there’s no reason you can’t do both, plus more, but I do think considering exactly what you’re trying to present to the world is an important consideration as it can dictate the structure and style.

    I will say I’m keen on the folks who pull everything in. Almost creating the site as a holistic Lifestream. This makes sense to me. It’s kinda how we operate on the web. Not in blocks of chronological weblog posts, but in chaotic patterns of activity. Capturing these behaviors seems to get closer to a true representation of our personalities than segemted posts. Of course lifestreams lack the requisite context, which seems to me to be the next place to take the buggers.

    Off the top of my head I think YongFook has done a bang up job of creating this type of site-stream, for lack of a better word. Joshua Blankenship also comes to mind. More of a traditional site, but segmented quite nicely into compartments of activity.

    So a few thoughts there. Really looking forward to seeing this all play out for you.

  6. Julian Schrader

    Julian Schrader

    07 March 2008 @ 07:13PM #

    The current design looks just georgeous — it will be very difficult to create something better!

    I’m curiously looking forward to what you’ll come up with!

  7. Byron Rode

    Byron Rode

    07 March 2008 @ 07:14PM #

    Hey Elliot, firstly congrats on the decision to move, its always a tough decision to make, but one that can be very rewarding if done correctly…

    Regarding this:

    Drastically change the ‘portfolio’ section so that there’s more of a focus on each project. This will be the biggest challenge, WP-wise, as I’d like to have each portfolio project as a post that – because of its category alone – gets pulled into the portfolio section.

    The templating power of WordPress goes above and beyond the average use of the engine, and if done right can pretty much do anything you want it to do.

    E.g. in the portfolio section of the site (be it a page, or post) you could create a template that, within the loop, checks for any posts that fall into a specific category, and if they are post them in the portfolio page.
    The trick that may be a little harder, although I am almost positive that there is a plugin for WordPress to hide specific posts (based on category) from the portfolio category from your front/blog page.

    Take a look here, Biolytix.co.za (Final Dev) and you can see the power of Wordpress in use. The entire site is WordPress based.

    If you need a hand or have any questions, you can contact me on my email address used for this comment :)

    Once again all the best for the future and looking forward to the redesign and restructure.

    Byron

  8. José Carlos

    José Carlos

    07 March 2008 @ 07:15PM #

    Are you planing in leaving this version of the site available? Something like a “layout archive”? This design is so great it should never really go away for good.
    It will be hard to create something that makes us forget this, but I’m sure you’ll get to it.

  9. Andi Farr

    Andi Farr

    07 March 2008 @ 07:31PM #

    I totally agree with all the points above which say that it will be unfortunate to see the current site sent to pasture. I can’t think of another site which fits so many things in, contains so much visual texture, yet remains so perfectly readable. As such, I have very few suggestions – although I understand well the challenge involved in trying to present your portfolio properly (it’s not a problem I’ve solved so far).

    In the end, I’m sure whatever you come up with will be a real eye-opener, and as much as I’ll be sad to see this layout retired, I will be even more anxious to see what you come up with.

    Best wishes, Andi

  10. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    07 March 2008 @ 08:24PM #

    Thanks for the input, guys!

    @ Johno: Thanks! I’m still quite fond of the header (and it seems a few other are too) so it might be one of the elements that makes it into the new design. It’s great to have you on here, by the way – I’m a huge iLT fan. :)

    @ Shane: I could just create sub-pages for each portfolio piece, but somehow I feel like it would be neater if I tied it into the main ‘post’ architecture. One reason would be that any new addition to the portfolio would appear in the RSS feed.

    @ Amos: Thanks for the YongFook link – I’d never seen that site before and that’s one of the nicest designed lifestreams I’ve seen yet.

    @ Byron – thanks! I may well take you up on that offer of a hand.

    @ José & Andi – Don’t worry, I’ll archive this version of the design; probably on a subdomain, like Shaun Inman does (see si9, si8, si7, etc. ).

  11. Josh Stodola

    Josh Stodola

    07 March 2008 @ 08:41PM #

    You hit the nail on the head when you said “pay more attention to styling forms”.

    Forms are the hardest things to style. Likewise, when I do come across a nicely styled form, I am more impressed with that than with anything else.

    Contrary to Johno, I’d like to see what you could come up with for a new header. Yes, the current one is fantastic, but you could do better, right?

    Looking forward to the revamp; I’m sure it will be spectacular!

  12. Ptah Dunbar

    Ptah Dunbar

    07 March 2008 @ 09:02PM #

    Elliot, you’ve really set the bar with this current design I can’t wait to see how your going to “top” this one! I’d also like to see the current header on the new redesign, that would be awesome!

    Again, I really liked the videos you made while redesigning Carsonified’s logo so how about doing that for this redesign?

    That way you’ll be including your readers in throughout the entire process, or whatever parts you choose.

    good luck!

  13. Cavan Riley

    Cavan Riley

    08 March 2008 @ 12:00AM #

    I agree with the people saying your site is beautiful as it is but if your going to redesign I would much rather see a whole new creation. Sure the cool header will no longer be around, but it would be much more interesting to see how you try to progress your design and make it better than this one. Plus, the grungy awesomeness that now is subdued.net is really my new top spot for grunge admiration (mostly cuz its still so new). Looking forward to your redesign, maybe you can get your spot back.

  14. Darin Bergen

    Darin Bergen

    08 March 2008 @ 01:46AM #

    Have fun on the redesign, I’m really looking forward to it. Speaking as someone who’s been redesigning my own site (horribly out of date as is) to run entirely on Wordpress, it’s not as bad as I expected.

    I agree with Byron Rode that all you need to do is assign a category to your portfolio posts. Then assign a custom template on your portfolio page and use query_posts(‘category_name=portfolio’) prior to the loop, and it’ll only pull up those posts. Handle them as you will. Then on your blog page, in another custom template, use query_posts(‘category_name=-portfolio’) before the loop to exclude those posts from the blog.

    Another solution that I haven’t used on my current design but am strongly considering is two WP installs – one for all the CMS aspects, and then another just for the blog (say in the /blog/ directory or whatever). This helps if you use a ton of post categories for different structural aspects of the pages.

    Overall, I think once you get into the mindset of using WP as a CMS you’ll find it’s pretty easy, and the actual design of your own site becomes the nightmare. Best of luck.

    Feel free to email me if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them from my experience.

  15. andrzejdzirba

    andrzejdzirba

    09 March 2008 @ 10:54PM #

    hi,

    all the best for our project and newely opened business. My oppinion is that one of the things you definitely should keep is meny semi-transparent objects – it’s eally cool to have them, and they enrich the reade experience significantly

    all the best

    andrzej dzirba

  16. Celso Soares

    Celso Soares

    10 March 2008 @ 12:33AM #

    I’m really looking forward to seeing the new design. I don’t think you should keep the header though, as someone suggested. It would be nicer to have something completely new and inspiring.

    And what’s this about you starting your own business? And what’s this Norway thing?

    PS:I think you should have a section with photos of naked girls. But that’s just me.

  17. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    10 March 2008 @ 08:49PM #

    @ Ptah Dunbar: Good idea about the videos! I hadn’t thought about that.

    @ Darin Bergen: Cheers; I may well take you up on your offer.

    @ Celso Soares: This is the Norway thing. :)

  18. Sam Wilson

    Sam Wilson

    10 March 2008 @ 10:25PM #

    Hi, since Expression Engine is about to come out with a new version (2.0), I was wondering if you had considered taking a look at Expression Engine? And if you have, what do you like about Wordpress versus EE.

    Thx!

  19. max weir

    max weir

    11 March 2008 @ 01:11PM #

    To me the speaking engagements and book reads are your most important features for the next version. I think you should keep ypur design to a “Elliot J” design and not try to cater for every users request and preference. Your current design is great and very well done, so IMO something that involves alot of photography would be pretty cool, some random bg images would be great and use flickr to feed them as well. Take a look at fantasy-interactive.com they have a temp holding page that changes the bg on refresh, that was what i was thinking. you take great photos so why not incorporate them more and make them more prominent.

  20. Kim Nguyen

    Kim Nguyen

    11 March 2008 @ 05:20PM #

    Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    If you want to incorporate a lifestream, I suggest you take a look at this blog – http://lifestreamblog.com/.

    For having Wordpress as a CMS, it can be done. Check out this website that a friend and I did – http://social.iciskaye.com. It was built using Wordpress. It’s important that you know how the site will be ran (i.e. what will be a post and what will be a page). If you need help let me know. BTW – you can put posts on a page w/o a plugin (i.e. Inline Posts Plugin).

  21. Stefan Alexandru

    Stefan Alexandru

    11 March 2008 @ 10:13PM #

    Don’t know if you remember me (we talked via e-mail on a css-menu subject) now.

    Your site is nice the way it is, but i know how it feels to have a nice design. I’ve been redesigning my blog for about a month, i don’t have problems regarding php / xhtml / css and general wp tags. The thing is new ideas allways come into my head and i must apply them, i can’t handle it. Here is my ideea on how your blog should look like.

    1. Clean (easy to read)
    2. Titles should pop into a readers eye, really quick. (different font of the post entry, try using a nice background for the title, floral decoration or something, just a thought)
    3. Scale the fonts, i wear glasses and i have my screen resolution at 1152*864 so it’s kinda hard for me to read.
    4. Contrast! The dark background on this current version really tires the eye, think about a nice contrast ratio: example: background: #f5f5f5 / font: #333.
    5. I love the header bar, it’s original and very pretty. And anyone who observes that, will know that it’s a kind of trademark of Elliot Jay Stocks.

    Anyway these are just ideas, hope you’ll make the right decision, i mean i know you will. Well, looking forward to see your new design. Good luck.

  22. Jermayn Parker

    Jermayn Parker

    12 March 2008 @ 07:26AM #

    I reckon that yeah do the changes you made mention of but keep most of the style/ design etc as its great and would be a pity to redesign just for the sake of redesigning….

  23. Gus Goodall

    Gus Goodall

    12 March 2008 @ 08:22PM #

    Good luck on your future venture Elliot for one so young you certainly have achieved a lot. Don’t overdo the new site matey, make it iconic put keep the fixed backgrounds then I’ll know you did it! Oh and form mail not outlook!!!

    All the Best

    Gus
    Senior Web Designer British Army

  24. rama

    rama

    13 March 2008 @ 09:28AM #

    Yeah, i seriously think that a lot of people have the capability to edit existing themes, but only a few that have original ideas like your top bar, i really liked it. And im sure the new design will be awesome.

  25. Luke

    Luke

    13 March 2008 @ 01:43PM #

    I’ve done the whole ‘Use Wordpress As a CMS’ thing a couple of times at work, and even use on my site, including having each ‘work’ as a post in a category called ‘work’ etc.

    I’d be happy to show you the code if you want mate :) drop me a line if you’re interested.
  26. rama

    rama

    14 March 2008 @ 09:23AM #

    hey, what if you put a section for reviewing other people’s blog or web?

  27. Anonymous

    Anonymous

    16 March 2008 @ 04:14PM #

    Please Elliot dont change the design of your site! Your site design is your trademark! :D

  28. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    19 March 2008 @ 05:30PM #

    @ Sam Wilson: I’ve recently heard some great things about Expression Engine (mainly from Andy), and some even greater things about the forthcoming version 2.0. However, for now, I think I’ll be sticking with Wordpress. Sure, it means getting my hands a little dirty with PHP, but I actually think that’s a fairly good idea, as it’s educational and the knowledge is transferable. Also, I’ve just fallen in love with Wordpress recently: digging beyond the surface reveals a very powerful CMS; especially once you get into all that custom field stuff. I’m working on some EE projects in the near future so I’m looking forward to trying it out and properly weighing up the two, but for the next version of this this site, I’m going to stick to WP.

    @ Stefan Alexandru: Thanks for the ideas; I think they’re all pretty good suggestions. Type legibility has been crying out for an improvement for some time.

    @ Jermayn Parker & Anonymous: Cheers – I’m glad you like the current design. But things will change, I’m afraid, and I’m not redesigning just for the sake of redesigning; the underlying information architecture needs restructuring and my focus in certain areas is certainly shifting, especially because I’ll soon be running my own business. Don’t worry, though: this version will be archived on a subdomain once the new site goes live.

  29. stefan alexandru

    stefan alexandru

    20 March 2008 @ 12:13AM #

    Thanks Elliot. One more thing. I’ve heard wordpress 2.5 themes will be slightly different from current themes, best advice: wait till 2.5 comes out. If the rumours are true, then you should relearn how wordpress creates the main display. If they’re not true, then you can rest easy. Can’t wait for wordpress 2.5 to come our.

    Take care Elliot.

    P.S.: Always checking back here, from time to time to read your blog, can’t wait to se your design.

  30. Benji

    Benji

    27 March 2008 @ 09:44PM #

    Are you really planning to use sIFR? i am not really a fan of this option considering is flash… i dont know what Matt uses but im just looking for an option since since this its giving my a hard time to implement in WP it wont show :(

  31. stefan alexandru

    stefan alexandru

    27 March 2008 @ 11:29PM #

    I’m not recommending the use of sIFR. It makes wordpress lag and doesn’t always work. I know there’s a plugin that creates images of any type of font from via js. Can’t quite remember how it’s called but i did found it in the official wordpress plugin directory. Check it out. I strongly recommend using the plugin that generates images. I work with wordpress a lot, i design themes and plugins from time to time (simple plugins, because i’m not a hardcore php programmer, i only know basic – medium stuff). Good luck with the theme elliot, looking forward to see it.

  32. stefan alexandru

    stefan alexandru

    28 March 2008 @ 12:13AM #

    Yup … that’s it. I’ve bookmarked it this time. I know what i was talking about, but forgot to bookmark it at that time. Have a nice one.

  33. Paul Johns

    Paul Johns

    30 March 2008 @ 07:46PM #

    Hey. I’m in the middle of a design, too, and something that really helped me take all of the guesswork out of using em based font sizes is this handy tool: http://riddle.pl/emcalc/.

    Enjoy!

  34. Benji

    Benji

    04 April 2008 @ 09:50PM #

    haha stefan alexandru!

  35. Benji

    Benji

    05 April 2008 @ 01:43AM #

    Sorry i was laughing that you got an alter ego…

  36. rama

    rama

    14 April 2008 @ 09:40AM #

    check out this site vikingkarwur.com , its a good example of blog and web designer portfolio page.. it blended in pretty well…

  37. rama

    rama

    21 April 2008 @ 11:24PM #

    oops sorry stefan.. the guy just did a revamp =(
    the old version was much better…

  38. Pat Dryburgh

    Pat Dryburgh

    10 June 2008 @ 11:39PM #

    Hey Elliot,

    My portfolio + blog is entirely powered by wordpress. The portfolio uses custom fields for the main images. You can check it out at www.atrickdesign.com.

    Good luck with the revisions!

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