Tool kit

For the last few weeks, I’ve been hard at work on a new design for my website. I created the current “Comic Bubbles” design in way back in 2005, which makes it practically a fossil in Internet Years. I decided to throw away everything in the current design, and start from scratch; a new design (obviously), and most significantly an entirely new site structure, reducing the number of pages that I will need to maintain from around twelve in the current design, to just two.

At the start of the design process I also made the decision to eschew my usual write-everything-myself approach, and rely more on ready-made solutions. This has speeded up the development of my new design considerably, and has resulted in a lot less shouting, head scratching and angry flicking through my Javascript reference book.

The most important decision I made was to adopt the widely used JQuery Javascript Library, a fantastic set of tools that really eases the pain of creating complex, dynamic, cross-browser content. I found the initial foray into JQuery to be a bit daunting, but once I started to understand the basic paradigm, it has made locating and manipulating elements within the DOM far less painful than I’ve found it in the past, and has kept it’s promise of “Write Less, Do More”. I’m only a hobby programmer, with no formal training, so Javascript has always been a bit of a headache for me. Using JQuery has taken a great deal of stress out of the job, and made me attempt things that I would have previously considered too complex or time-consuming.

The second significant decision was to switch to HTML5, and adopt the HTML5 Boilerplate as the starting point for my pages. The Boilerplate contains a set of page templates created using web design best practices, which maximise browser compatibility, and encourage the use of good semantic design. The template is also designed to try and maximise loading and rendering speed, and has proved to be a very useful repository of ideas that have improved my own design practices and approach to page authoring. It has also helped me to make my new design mobile-friendly; without the Boilerplate as a starting point, I suspect it would have taken me considerably longer to get my new design running smoothly of iOS and Android mobile devices.

If you are starting work on a new website design project, I strongly recommend JQuery and the HTML5 Boilerplate to help get a solid design of the ground quickly, and relatively painlessly.

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