The Hannibal Blog’s (soon) new look

I’m driven to despair by the allegedly user-friendly advice available on WordPress about how to make sites look good (Themes, Headers, Widgets….). They should have a dictionary for Luddites, just to translate what all those words mean.

Here is what I’m trying to achieve:

At some point this summer, I’d like to change the look and feel of this site, to make it a “book site”, but with an active blog.

Aesthetically, I believe in sleek minimalism. This, in my opinion, is an unsurpassable book site.

One option is to get a web designer. But that seems over the top, given that I would want that designer to do the minimum (that’s what minimalism is, after all). And WordPress has so many themes and options available, my answer must already exist somewhere here.

If I stay with WordPress, I must choose a Theme. But the “filter” in the Themes Menu is beyond me.

Ideally, I’d get rid of all the junk on the right. As in: No side-bar at all.

So allow me to poll you:

Ideally, I’d also have no horizontal picture (apparently it’s called Header) at the top either. I’d love to have just the picture of my book jacket in the top right.

Depending on how you guys answer in the poll above, I’d especially love to banish the ugly Categories and Tags clouds to some dedicated “navigation” page. After all, who knows what Categories and Tags even are? I didn’t, when I started this blog. I wish I’d never started a single Category, and instead called them all Tags. (Changing it now, I believe, would break all incoming links.) I only use Tags as a simplified Index for myself (when, say, I want to see all the posts I’ve written about Socrates.)

Anyhoo, do weigh in, if you have opinions …

Stuff and clutter on web pages

Mostly, in this thread on stuff and clutter, I’m talking about actual, tangible stuff, stuff you can throw out or hit your toe against. But stuff can be non-material too, cluttering up our brains or … web pages. Mark Hurst is a usability thinker, and has this anecdote from a recent consulting trip to a company–let’s call it Acme–with a snazzy web site:

…Anyway. Acme had a problem: research showed that their website was completely, unforgivably, disastrously hard to use for their customers. And *ugly*, on top of that, as if it was spat from a template circa 1996. So I sat down with the executives, everyone with a stake in the online presence, to help them improve the business metrics by improving their website.

Here’s an excerpt of the meeting transcript, more or less.

Me: One thing customers complained about was the home page navigation. To quote one customer we talked to, “I can’t figure this thing out and I’m leaving right now.” I think it had something to do with the flaming chainsaw animation that follows the mouse pointer around the screen. Is it possible we could remove that?

VP Marketing: Oh right, the flaming chainsaw animation. I’d love to take that off the site, really I would, but I just think it’s so neat, and besides it aligns with our brand message of innovation here at Acme.

Me: But customers would shop more, and buy more, if it wasn’t there. Wouldn’t you like to reconsider that animation?

VP Marketing: Here in Marketing we have to adhere to our brand guidelines, and innovation is central to that, so I’m afraid the animation has to stay.

Me: OK – next up is the customer complaint about the 18-level-deep flying dynamic navigation sub-menus. Several customers said all the menus zipping around the screen made them dizzy.

VP Technology: I know what you’re referring to. That menu system took our technology team six months to code up, and I have to say it’s the most advanced implementation I’ve ever seen, really an awesome job.

Me: The technology is impressive, for sure… I mean, I’ve never seen 18 nested levels all flying in unison like that.

VP Technology: Thanks, man.

Me: Uhh – sure thing. But I’d just like to push back a little on this – the customers did say that the menus were confusing. How about a simpler menu, maybe just a few links to the top-level categories, and that’s it?

VP Technology: Listen, I’m all for simplicity and ease-of-use and all that, I hear you. I really get it. But I have to tell you, Web technology is moving fast, and if we don’t keep up, we’re going to look like Google or something. A bunch of blue links. Borrring.

Me: Allllright. Now we’ve covered the flaming chainsaw and the flying menus, let’s move on to the logo graphic. Some customers complained that they didn’t want to scroll down a full page just to get past the logo, the large stock photos, and the slogan.

VP Branding: What did they say about the color scheme? I’m just wondering, because the green and fuscia palette is really supposed to, you know, bring forth assocations of innovation and holistic thinking, all while blending in with the flames from the chainsaw.

Me: I think I have a plane to catch. (Exit conference door right)

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