In a similar manner to bricks and mortar businesses, websites are shop windows to our customers, our colleagues and the public.
Websites face out into the world, so every few years most will need some form of overhaul. This will likely be motivated by: business needs, underlying technology, visual appearance and how one feels about the site. For brochure or portfolio websites, that feeling of pride (or lack thereof) is most likely the strongest indication of whether the site should be improved.
Recently, I relaunched my own site for all of the reasons outlined above. At nearly six years old, the site had had a good run but it was time for change.
History of We Sort’s websites
Back in 2010, nine months after starting out, I named the business We Sort. Up to that point I’d simply been a freelancer working under my own name. However, I knew that I wanted some level of personal and professional separation. So I’d been seeking the right words as a business name for a while.
Finding a company name is part of another (future) post. But in relation to this post, as soon as I found my name I bought a domain name. wesort.com was taken at the time – though I do now own it – so I purchased wesort.co.uk instead. Every domain deserves some content, and thus the first version of my site was created with more than a nod to irony (follow the link to understand where the irony lays).
v1.wesort.co.uk: June 2010 to February 2011
Optimistically, I believed that that semi-joke of a site would exist for a few weeks and then be promptly replaced. But the reality of describing myself proved laborious, and it took until February for me to launch version two. This new site was different because it was descriptive and displayed some visual styling (limited as it was). Again, it was only intended as a short-term solution until a proper site could replace it.
v2.wesort.co.uk: February 2011 to March 2012
The third incarnation of my website was a step forward in a few ways. Firstly, it spread into a few pages with greater detail on what I offered and how I had done that with existing clients. Secondly, it was designed by Darren Wall as part of my visual identity. It had a stronger layout, refined colourways and consistent typography. Finally, from a technical perspective, it was built responsively.
The term responsive web design was coined two years earlier by Ethan Marcotte in his seminal article, with the premise that websites can (and should) adapt to screen size rather than having a fixed width. At the time this approach was still being debated by web professionals, but the benefits were as clear to me then as they are now. A single, responsive codebase elegantly achieves the goal of any website: providing visitors with a fast, functional and beautiful experience regardless of how they view it.
v3.wesort.co.uk: March 2012 to November 2017
The fourth and current version of my site once again builds on what preceded it.
This site is visually similar, as I was largely satisfied with the existing design. Typographically, the font has changed to Dante, to match printed materials. Generally type is slightly bigger to improve readability. (Lusitana is a close match to Dante, and was used previously on the website and continues to be used with Google Docs.) I still haven’t found a good way to incorporate the brand stamps, but hopefully that will come to me in the coming months.
From a technical perspective, the site is still built responsively with a mobile-first approach. However, the way the code is written is more consistent with current web standards. The previous version was somewhat embarrassing to me should other developers view the source. This was my primary motivation in rebuilding the site from scratch. Considering that a third of what I do is design and build websites, I knew this aspect of the site had to be better.
This new site is built on my favourite CMS (Content Management System) – chosen for its ease of use, speed, active developer community and portability. Statamic is a flat file CMS which means the entire site is a set of files. This differs from Wordpress, for example, which uses a MySQL database to store settings and content. As everything is stored as files, it fits neatly into my workflow using Git and has a single, tidy automatic backup solution.
The content of the site is more elaborate than I had previously attempted. A richer listing of projects across the about pages shows more of my experience directly with clients. The blog is now more than a scrapbook with written pieces, like this post here, expressing my wider thoughts on a variety of topics. Furthermore, everything in the site is optimised for search engines and social media. Most importantly, now that a CMS is in place I am able to update the site more regularly by focusing on the text and images – compared to previously where changes involved fiddly, technical steps.
Websites are never done.
They are an evolution created through iteration of what’s needed and what’s achievable practically at the time the site is launched.
If you’re not proud of your site, it is probably time you refreshed it or got a new one.