Technology Weblogging

I’ll take the dusty apple without the worm

‘You’ll have to excuse me if I seem focused on WordPress right now. This week if I’m not working the back end, adding in all sorts of new plugins and other general tweaking around; I’m working the front, creating several new looks for the Burningbird weblog–each as different from the others as possible.

Currently I’m playing with one look I’m calling “The Burningbird of Happiness”, and frankly having an enormous amount of fun. It’s colorful and very different from this look, and I rather like it. However, I fear that most people, used to the designs fostered by many of the popular weblogging tools, may find it a little, well, shall we say, unpolished? So much so, that I’m thinking of adjusting the titles for each look, just to set the expectations:

The Burningbird of Happiness (who flies outside the CSS Zen Garden)

Li’l Flame – the design guarateed to break TypePad (not the pages, the server)

Ode to Windows Hot Dog Stand (and don’t try this at home, kiddies)

The slightly off-center and irritating Missouri Green

To Ms. Moto: “Eat Pink and Die”

The one-too-many Margarita Look

The god-awful Clash of Colors

There’s something wonderfully liberating accepting the fact that you’re not known for your design acumen. You can, then, freely and happily break every rule of tasteful and elegant design and page layout. As long as the results are easily readable in most browsers on most systems, accessible, and validate, with a minimum of personal anguish to the more artistically sensitive among you, I’ll be happy. If it’s unpolished, at least it’s uniquely me.

Speaking of unpolished, I’ve heard this term used a lot with the WordPress administration pages. I’m not sure why, either. I don’t want to turn this site into a WordPress fandom site, but if WordPress administrative pages are considered ‘unpolished’ what will people think when they get to my pages? Perhaps what the problem is, I don’t understand the difference between ‘polished’ and ‘unpolished’.

I find that the WordPress administrative pages are easy to read and to navigate. They make good use of the space, and they’re clean and uncluttered. They load quickly and simply, and they provide enough space for me to add my tweaks, but not so much space that they’re wasting screen real estate. Frankly, what is so ‘unpolished’ about this?

Is it because the forms and writing isn’t set into miniscule format, and scrunched into a space that would work with the old 640×480 monitors? Is it because the text is black, plain, and easy to read?

Perhaps its the lack of graphics–Wordpress uses a minimum number of graphics. But without all those graphics, the page loads quickly and takes less resources.

In fact, WordPress has all the looks of an application designed to be highly functional and intuitively easy to understand. Aside from one small tweak to the CSS style sheet, to make some borders a tad darker, I find that the tool is very easy on eyes that can be tired at times, or perhaps not as good as they used to be when younger.

It’s odd, but when I first switched from Movable Type to WordPress, I also thought the interface was ‘unpolished’. Now, I’m not sure why, except for the fact that it doesn’t make extensive use of graphics, and the forms tend to fit the page, rather than leaving a great deal of white space.

Maybe that’s the problem: we’ve been looking at sites and styles that are so much alike that when we see something that’s ‘different’ we immediately equate the difference with being less somehow. The more conservative will point out failures in the design and attempt to create a ‘proper’ look; while even the most liberal of us, those who celebrate difference, will mentally ‘polish’ the image in their mind until they see it transformed into something ‘better’; discarding the unique bits along the way.

That’s not to say that a friendly suggestion and helpful hand is amiss–but doing so effectively rather requires one to step into the mind of those who we would help; to respect the essence and the truth of both the design and the designer. Maybe even realize that ‘better’, isn’t always better.

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