Today, I finally get to start using the new version of Minor Thoughts. I've been unhappy with my blogs for over a year now. I've been running three sites: Minor Thoughts for political discussions, a family blog for family news and updates, and DesertFlood for posts about programming, gadgets, or the tech community.
When I started working on this redesign two weeks ago, I had four goals: bring everything together, simplify things, make posts easier to find, and make the site better looking.
I was inspired by Gina Trapani's notes on short-form blogging.
If it’s a paragraph, it’s a post. Medium-sized content gets short shrift these days. Don’t go long. One or two paragraphs count. Then press publish.
Negotiate a comfort zone on two axes: personal and public, tech and everything else (feminism, musical theater, MMA, parenting, etc). 2001-era Scribbling.net was too personal, Lifehacker/Smarterware too tech. There’s something in the middle.
Simplify, simplify. No comments. (Maybe G+ or Disqus later on?) Use Markdown and Draft to write. No pages, no requiring an image every post. No categories, tags, footnotes, special post styles, pages. Virtually no plugins. Default WordPress installation with the most stripped-down theme possible.
Goal 1: Bring it all together
About a year after I started having three blogs, it stopped being fun. I didn't feel like any of the blogs fully represented who I am: the computer nerd who loves to read, enjoys watching sports, and likes to play armchair political analyst. My first goal with redesigning Minor Thoughts was to bring my blogs together, so that I could be fully "me" in just one place. Starting now, I'm going to feel free to talk about whatever's on my mind, whether or not it fits into what a specific "audience" might expect from me.
Minor Thoughts now has posts from both Minor Thoughts and DesertFlood. I also brought over pages from the family blog, so that everything related to me is here, in one place.
Goal 2: Simplify
I'm simplifying by ditching summaries. Now that I won't have to write post summaries, it should be much easier for me to get posts published. I'll probably also experiment with title-less posts. These will be quick asides, probably without tags or categories, that will be for stuff I'd normally only put on Twitter.
Goal 3: Make it easier to find
Gina is ditching her tags and categories entirely. I'm not going that far. I already tried that and didn't like it. My old design didn't show categories or tags for any posts. This kept the design simple, but I didn't like the way that it made it hard to find posts that were on the same topic.
My third goal for the redesign was to make the tags and categories visible for each post and to create indexes for each tag and each category, allowing me to browse through old posts. This used to be a multi-author site and I still enjoy reading Adam's old posts, so there's now also an author index.
The new site shows the post category at the top of each post and the post tags at the bottom of each post. This is a considered decision. While I am keeping my categories and tags, I'm also drastically simplifying them.
Categories are now for the 10,000 foot view of a what a post is. I'm using a simple rule of thumb: if I were to bring up a topic at the dinner table, how would you instinctively describe it? Am I discussing politics?, sports?, "Bible stuff"?, technology?, books? etc. This will allow you to quickly see the general topic or direction of a post and decide if you want to skip it or not.
I'm now using tags for sub-categorization of topics. This is hugely relevant to the Politics category, which still holds the majority of the blog's content. You'll now be able to browse by immigration policy, foreign policy, healthcare policy, etc.
Goal 4: Make the site better looking
I also just plain didn't like the old design. It had seemed like a good idea when I created it, but I never grew to love it. I like this new design much better. Goal achieved.