Category: Design 2.0

I must have a problem staying away from code for too long. After being on vacation last week, I decided to redo the CSS on this site over the weekend.

The main focus this time was keeping the design as simple as possible and ensuring the text is easy to read. The craziest design element is three little dots that divide articles.

For the colors, I used the Duck Duck Go Color Picker — literally search for “color picker”.

Photoshop Etiquette: A Guide to Discernible Web Design in Photoshop

Designers overlook it. Developers demand it. There’s always been a need for discernible web design in Photoshop. Nobody likes inheriting muddy PSDs, and Photoshop Etiquette’s purpose is to help you improve the clarity of yours.


Version 11.1

I realize that I was just writing about v10 four-and-a-half months ago. I liked it, but I haven’t done a ton of front-end work lately and I was itching to work on something. I started working on this probably six or seven weeks ago. It made its first public appearance on Dribble on July 14th. There’s a ton going on here, so I’m going to try and break it down a bit here.


When I finally had something I wanted to build, I started with the main navigation. My first thought was to do it in CSS. The only sticking point is the darker yellow shadow on the bottom. It’s not even that hard to do, just a bunch of dropshadows. The way I did it looks pretty horrible in Safari, though, and not much better in Chrome. I’m going to look into this again when I get a minute because it would be awsome for customization. I’d love to be able to put an option in the customizer that lets you pick the nav color.


So, I used Compass for this. Compass is the best reason for using SASS right now, in my opinion. Instead of maintaining your own list of mixins, which is likely to become out of date quickly, you can use Compass. It’s open source and used by tons of people.

And with SASS 3.2, there are some really cool things you can do with @media queries. For me, the following mixins made this theme easier to code and should make it much easier to maintain.

@mixin breakpoint($point) {
    @if $point == mid {
        @media (min-width: 800px) { @content; }
    @else if $point == large {
        @media (min-width: 1170px) { @content; }

@mixin retina() {
    only screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2),
    only screen and (   min--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2),
    only screen and (     -o-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2/1),
    only screen and (        min-device-pixel-ratio: 2),
    only screen and (                min-resolution: 192dpi),
    only screen and (                min-resolution: 2dppx) { @content; }

Post Formats

This theme supports Standard, Link, Image, Video, Audio, Quote, and Status formats. Links still link to some external site or article. Image, Video, and Audio posts display extra content above the post title. Quote and Status posts are pretty straight forward, but it’s worth noting that they don’t have titles.

I’m still managing these with the Crowd Favorite Post Formats plugin.


There are a couple of built in widgets. The biography widget, currently at the top of the sidebar, is available. It asks for an email address and will automatically pull your gravatar and profile information. The social icons are another widget that are part of this theme. Currently there are icons for Twitter, Dribbble, Forrst, Github, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, LastFM, Skype, Flickr, Vimeo, and WordPress. Theme Directory

I’m going to submit this to the Theme Directory. The only thing I haven’t quite figured out yet is how to handle the navigation on mobile. The problem is that you can’t reliably set more than one level of sub-menus right now. Since they expand out to the right, eventually stuff is being drawn outside the page. I have some ideas for this, so hopefully I can get that figured out in the next week and get this thing up for review.

Since there’s no good way of distributing themes with specific TypeKit typefaces, I added some Google Fonts fallbacks that can be enabled in the customizer.

Theme Customizer

There are a few things you can specify in the customizer. The copyright notice starts you with a format of “© {yyyy}”. I replace the “{yyyy}” pattern with the current year. Hopefully it’s not super confusing, but I’m not replacing any other pattern so “{yy}” isn’t going to get you the last two digits of the current year or anything.

Google Fonts can be enabled, as I mentioned previously.

The background image or color can also be specified. The default is what I have set here, but you can upload your own image or pick your own color too.


  • I stole the awesome ❮ and ❯ arrows from Chexee.
  • The Wisconsin glyph in the footer is from StateFace.
  • Retina, baby. The entire thing has been written to take advantage of a retina screen. And it’s nice.
  • There’s a bunch of stuff from _s in here. Take a look. That’s the place to start.
  • The current breakpoints are at 650px, 800px and 1170px.

  1. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I came up with this number. It seems unreasonable. But I’m pretty sure I counted at some point. 


Version 10 of this site is back to a minimal type design. I go back and forth between wanting to design fun stuff and wanting the design to get out of my way. Obviously, I’m back in the mode of wanting my writing to stand out and look as good as possible. I spent a decent amount of time looking at typefaces for this design, which I’ve never really put a whole lot of thought into — at least not from the beginning like this. I decided to go with Chaparral Pro for the headings (which is scary close to being a Serif face) and FF Meta Pro for the body type. Some of the smaller, uppercase headings are Helvetica. The download buttons like those on the Network Favicons post are also Helvetica. The typefaces are being provided by Typekit, naturally.

There’s still stuff that needs to be finished. I’ve got an entire list on a piece of 11×17 poster board in my apartment. The design is mostly finished. I need to look at the single pages of the portfolio again, but other than that I’m pretty happy with this. Most of the changes I need to make are administrative things, like figuring out how to track my short domain with Google Analytics.

It’s fully responsive. When it’s really small you lose the logo, but other than that it’s all there. A branding expert would probably tell me it’s important to put the logo in people’s faces on mobile as well, but it didn’t fit and I’m not really interested in pushing the content down any more than it already is. I’m using min-height along with the standard min-width for the media queries because of the height of the sidebar. The portfolio is always in “mobile” mode because I wanted to show thumbnails in the full width of the browser, which meant moving the sidebar.

This is the first project that I use LESS start to finish and it was a dream. First, if you have problems keeping your CSS organized like I usually do, LESS (or SASS) forces you to fix that — not in a way that’s more work, but just because of how nesting works. Second, apps like CodeKit1 automatically compile & compress your CSS and reload your browser window when you save. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to reload, the CSS just gets injected into the page.

I introduced link posts, which I introduced last week. The CF Post Format Plugin is awesome for managing post formats. I plan to use this to post some of the links that I find around that web that are particularly interesting.

I’m pretty happy with how this design has turned out, but I’d love to hear any thoughts or suggestions.

  1. In addition to compiling & compressing a huge list of languages including LESS, SASS, and CoffeeScript, CodeKit does syntax checking, lets you define frameworks (like the vendor prefix framework I use), and will compress images. It’s my favorite app for this sort of thing and definitely worth checking out.