Time passes by so fast. It's been about 3 months since my first post on my new blog. At that time, I just wanted to put a MVP out there, to be able to publish my posts. But I've also immediately promised that I'll make sure to release a self-made look for it as soon as I will find some time to create one.

And now, around 120 commits later, I'm very proud to present you the first design that I made completely by my self. You won't believe it, but a huge amount of decisions were made in this short time. I found out that blogging is a really great way to get something out there without needing to set up an additional environment (like it needs to be done for a coded project, for example). If something important comes to my mind, I just need to open iA Writer and let it flow.

When I moved to from Tumblr to GitHub Pages a few months ago, I did it because I was annoyed by how less the app actually cares about performance. If you take a look around, you'll notice that there are many other web developers or designers who care about this topic and therefore switched to a static deployment. Since I did that, I often heard and read that this method takes a price.

And yes, of course it does. It's not possible for me to create flexible algorithms for sorting posts or adding comments, but that's completely okay. For this site, I don't need all that stuff. And I think that's exactly what makes it appealing to visitors.

#Stackin' Blocks

Sometimes, the act of limiting creativity actually embraces the same. Do you remember Minecraft? The game where everything only consists of angled boxes mashed together to represent materials, animals or even tools or humans? I'm sure you do. I've spend a huge part of my childhood playing it and yeah, I sometimes still do (when I'm out of creativity and need to recharge1). πŸ“

Just ask yourself why so many adults and kids love this game and therefore bought over 20.000.000 copies although it's so easy to get a cracked version (not that I would recommend that, please keep supporting those Mojang guys and girls).

The fact that you only have square blocks available to create your own ideas leads to a higher effort which your brain needs to make to achieve what you want. Because some things from the real world or your mind can't be built in the same way in this game, you need to think more. And that's exactly what keeps you from getting bored quickly. It's the balance between the ease of creation (which comes with a huge range of different tools and materials) and the additional effort that makes the game not-too-easy, but also not-too-hard.

So how did we get here, exactly?

Oh, yeah. You're right. I originally just wanted to explain why it's not that bad to limit your own options. On one hand, you don't have that much ways to realize your thought, but on the other hand, you don't need to waste time deciding between different methods β€” you already made the decision for that in the beginning.

#Improvements

I didn't just create this new update because I was lonely hanging around at home. I actually wanted to finally introduce some neat features which I also usually implement when developing other websites and therefore don't want to miss on my personal one.

Besides that, I also wanted to do some things which I had in my mind for a long time (since I started my first blog in 2013). So please, go ahead and check them out:

#More "Leo", Less "Leonard Lamprecht"

I guess I literally wasted hundreds of hours thinking about how I should name my site. First, I wanted to use one of my old nicknames ("mindrun" for example), because they're easy to remember and some people already know them, so they could easily find it. But in the end, I just decided to officially call it "leo", since that is how my friends call me and how I also like to be called on the web.

Besides the fact that the name is very easy to spell, it's also a symbol for something strong, bold and wise β€” I'm talking of the lion. I actually don't know if this word is actively being used when talking about the lion in English, but in German, it definitely isn't. Therefore I also din't know about this from the beginning.

To cut a long story short: I thought it's way easier for people to just refer to me as "leo" instead of using my full name. But please don't take that the wrong way, I AM really proud of my full name. Every family has a really huge background of people who ran big efforts just to survive and start a family. They did everything they could to do exactly that2. That makes me really proud - and you should be too of yours.

I'm sure that many people will interpret that headline on top of this section as something like "Okay, he's not the guy I used to know anymore". But that's just wrong. Please don't take that too seriously, it's just an abbreviation - not a new brand or something like that.

#Fira? Fira!

If you're an active contributor to Mozilla's projects, or just know them pretty good, you'll probably also know about Fira.

You don't know about it? No problem! It's basically a new, open-source font which is now mainly used in Firefox OS. It's available in over 16 weights and I completely fell in love with every single one! What I especially like about it is that the letter l has such a nice curve3 at the bottom, which flows like the rounded bottom of the letter e.

It was originally designed by the typomaniac Erik Spiekermann in cooperation with the folks at Carrois Type Design and is now widely used in Mozilla's software palette.

Since I don't know that much about typography yet, this font really makes me look forward to my upcoming training as Mediengestalter (german for media designer), where I'll hopefully learn more about this beautiful form of communication. I'm definitely planning to put more effort into making sure that fonts which I use on the web are the right ones and also properly styled in terms of weight, size and kerning.

#Better feed

Since I released my first blog posts a few years ago, I always stood glued to RSS for providing a feed. Mostly because I didn't know of any other alternative and maybe also because the themes I've used didn't have the Atom feed url in their head tag yet (therefore I never really got to experiment with it).

But now, because the whole source code of my site is public and entirely editable through templates, I came across the feed.xml file from the default Jekyll theme and started searching for a precise explanation of the RSS format. The reason I did this was because I needed some information on how to format my post's meta-data for the feed.

Coming across different un-official documentation sites, I've noticed that there's not only RSS: There's also RSS 2 and Atom. After getting some knowledge about the differences of those two, I figured out that I like the last format more than both RSS versions. Part of the reason for this is because Atom fixed a lot of the design flaws of the old RSS standard. For example, the names of the keys in the old format haven't been chosen as carefully as in Atom (just to name a few):

RSSAtom
managingEditorauthor
guidid
lastBuildDateupdated
<rss><feed>

Things like that are important to me, because they make me feel like the people who thought out this format spent much of their time just to make it simpler and avoid confusion. And that kind of effort is always one I will value.

But of course that wasn't the only reason why I chose Atom (although it's a pretty big one). Some other cool things which really convinced me:

  • The id key doesn't need a isPermaLink attribute anymore, if it contains a permalink.
  • I felt like the image-element was really poorly designed in RSS, which was why I was really happy when I noticed that Atom introduced the logo- and icon-tags that simply contain the URL to the image - no width, height or other specifications.
  • Space for more information within the author tag. You're free to use <name>, <email> andΒ <uri> tags.

So in the End, I've decided to go with Atom. If you experience any troubles with this change, please go ahead and let me know about it, so that I can quickly fix it.

#What Else?

Apart from the changes you'll actually notice when visiting my site, I've also added some subtle ones. For most people, those might be not as important as the upper ones, but for me, they are.

#Semantic HTML

The last theme I used on this blog wasn't really optimized for this. It felt like it was created before HTML 5 and hadn't been updated since then. Because I am a web developer and very focused on creating semantically correct sites which can be easily interpreted by every software/device, I needed to change this.

Starting with the way my articles are displayed, I've created a completely new theme which doesn't entirely rely on divs anymore and I'm very happy with the result.

Sure, there are still some things like the footnotes which are generated directly by the markdown engine Jekyll uses to convert my output and therefore can't be changed without moving my site to a custom environment. But because I don't want to do so - since I enjoy GitHub Pages and the simple way how it wants you to publish content - I'll ignore this for now. I mean, it's not even incorrect. Those div tags are simply meant to represent a flow of content of any form (at least that's how I've interpreted W3C's explanation).

#Less Code

The re-design fortunately allowed me to rethink how this thing even works. I had to create new CSS files, a better HTML structure and was therefore able to start with my own methods when it comes to clean code. For example, I reduced the number of different SASS files and avoided using those funny variables (since I like keeping my SASS as similar to CSS as possible).

If you want to find out more about what I did there, just take a look at the source code - I don't want to waste your time here.

#Forgot something?

Yes! I planned another cool improvement for my site, but the time didn't come yet. Besides that fact, I couldn't wait for it before releasing the new update, please have mercy with me... πŸ˜…

As soon as it's there, I'll let you know about it.

Oh.

... and I banged my head on the table, yelled "FUCK THE WOOORLD!!" and changed my post's permalink root from /blog to /notes, which will make all existing links to my posts on the web completely useless.

#What I Learned from This

Before I finish this article (probably one of the longest I've ever written), I want to leave a few words about how I actually came to this point where I figured out how my new site will look and work:

Insecure? β€” Yeah, I guess that's what describes my design-technical situation before this release the best. I know that it's far from award winning, but I'm very proud of what I did with this update anyway. I finally managed to convert my thoughts into a working prototype. Before that, I discarded many designs which first appealed to me, but then turned out to be bad after some time.

But I think I found out what my problem was: I wanted to create in one flow, without a pause. But now I know, that this is exactly what design needs: Time. Because I tried so hard to make something great, the result wasn't quite fitting my expectations. Instead of doing that again, I just did a few things and then left the design some "time to breathe". Meanwhile I had enough time for myself to think about which change I wanted to apply next. And hell yeah β€” it worked!