I just finished redesigning my site. It was a lot more work than I expected. After becoming interested in Swiss design, both philosophically and aesthetically, I was inspired by the personal websites of Rdio and Django designer Wilson Miner, former New York Times web designer Khoi Vinh, and an Argentinian designer.

So I took elements from all three and combined them with my own tastes for minimalism, grids, and readability. At first I was going to unabashedly copy Miner’s site since I liked it so much. But some of my friends said it was confusing at first glance. Although Miner’s layout is beautiful, it might through off short-attention-spanned web surfer who are used to conventional blog layouts. And users who don’t understand a site right away will bounce.

Compare old vs new. I reduced the header’s thickness and moved the navigation to the top. I got rid of italicized font and cut down on meta-data displayed for each post. A few dark lines also make it feel less white and empty.

I tried to implement this redesign with Django instead of WordPress for no reason other than wanting to play with the Python-based framework. Bad idea. Although I finished the Django app walkthrough, Django confused me with its project-app distinction, file hierarchy, and templating system. Having done Rails and feeling like RoR just clicked for me, Django was a frustrating experience. On top of that, live deployment on a LAMP stack was excruciating. Can someone explain to me why Django deals with static and media assets in this way? sudo a2enmod mod_python, right? But wait – I’m supposed to use mod_wsgi?

After making painstakingly slow progress over the course of a day, I gave up and came crawling back to WordPress. Despite the grumbling against it and its security flaws (why put sensitive files under the document root?), WordPress is used by so many sites ranging from The New York Times to TechCrunch because of a single overwhelming reason: it just works. Five-minute installation, production-hardened, no-sysadmin-required.

I’ve been using the Thematic theme for a long time now. I love it’s clean and simple design, but I wanted to fine-tune it. Unfortunately, I had to spend a couple of days extensively modifying the theme’s core code. I tried to do it with a child theme and hooks, actions, and filters, but it became ugly fast. So I just duplicated the theme and directly messed with it. The downside is this theme cannot be shipped; the upside is that it’s truly unique to me.