This site has gone through many different looks and designs. I haven't kept count, but I'd be surprised if it was fewer than ten. So far, they have all either been off-the-shelf generic designs or ones I had created myself. For its tenth birthday, I decided to splurge and get eagereyes a complete makeover: a new theme and a real, custom logo.
I’ve tried my hand on a logo a few times in the past. I never got much feedback, but I know that they were all terrible. Here are a few samples; the white-on-orange text was part of the theme for a while many years ago (shortly before I switched to WordPress, I believe). The light bulb on the right was the feed avatar until a few days ago.
My wish list for the logo included that it be clever, whimsical, or both. After I showed logo designer Paige Kwon some of the logos of the competition, he observed that those tended to be quite angular (in particular Nathan Yau's and Andy Kirk’s), so it would make sense to go with rounder shapes. I liked that not just because of the contrast, but also because rounder shapes would seem friendlier and more fun.
So without further ado, meet Edgar the Eager Eye! Yeah, that’s totally what I’m calling him (after the computer in Electric Dreams, a tragically under-appreciated 1980s movie). I think the winky eye adds enough whimsy without being too in-your-face funnay. And Paige clearly succeeded on the rounded shapes front. Also, see that clever little thing in the pupil? See it? See it?
While perhaps obvious in hindsight, the path to this wasn’t nearly as direct as you might think. For most of the process, I held on to a different design that was based on one of my ideas, and I only really let go when we just had to make a decision. Of course, I only did that to teach Paige that you have to kill your clients’ own ideas immediately, or they’ll never consider your much better ones…
I’ve long wanted to turn this site into less of a blog and more of a resource. I’ve protested in the past when people have referred to it as a blog. I’ve kind of gotten soft lately and called it that myself – but no more!
When I started talking to Leslie Newman, who designed the new theme, she asked me all sorts of questions. What do you want? What is your goal? What do you expect from the new theme? It took me a while to figure out what the answers to all these ludicrous questions were; but they lead back to what I had wanted the site to be before I let the technology and my laziness decide.
What I was after was the following:
- Make the content more discoverable, especially the older content. With the bloggy themes, that was just impossible, things would scroll off the first page and never be seen again.
- Make the site more inviting. I want people to explore more of the articles. For that, it needs to look a bit more like a real website and not some cookie-cutter blog.
- Give it an identity. I had picked the WordPress TwentyFifteen theme when it came out because it was nice and minimal, and that time also new. It didn't appear that generic and boring to me at first, but it started to really bother me earlier this year.
I have quite a bit of content here, around 450
postings articles. That’s a lot of time invested. Andrew Gelman may write that in a week, but it’s a lot for me. And the old content doesn’t necessarily age all that much, at least most of it doesn’t.
What the new theme accomplishes, together with Leslie’s advice on landing pages and other things, is to surface more of the stuff that’s here and that is still worth exploring. I was actually surprised myself to see how many things I found that I had forgotten about and that were not even that bad.
The site is also much more distinctive and doesn't look like I just woke up and started a blog this morning. I hope that will inspire people to poke around and explore more.
I'm slowly replacing a number of postings that get a lot of traffic with more structured and updated pages. One of the most popular destinations here is my posting about pie charts from 2010. Not only is it missing links to the more recent stuff posted here, it also bases some of its advice on the idea that pie charts are read by angle – clearly not something I want to keep perpetuating.
So now there is an updated pie charts page that I will start pointing people to and that I hope will become the destination when people search. I don't want to remove the old posting, because it's interesting to me to see how things evolve. It's also important to keep things fresh and up to date, though, and not give people outdated information.
In a similar vein, I'm creating or updating pages and reworking some of the ones that are out of date or broken. Doing that with the new site structure, theme, and logo is a lot more fun (and it's easier to find my way around using the 10-year blog calendar), and I hope it's going to invite people to peruse the site more.