Boris Müller

Interface & Interaction Design

 
 
 

 










 

Unrushed Update

esono.com receives the second update in 16 years

5. November 2018

Good news, everyone: after 16 years of table layouts, my personal website esono.com has a new and improved design!

Most of my readers will have noticed that Medium has featured my most recent essay Why Do All Websites Look the Same? (aka “On the visual weariness of the web”). The essay is currently getting a lot of attention and is sparking a lively debate! I obviously hit a nerve.

It is a bit weird (to say the least) to launch my new redesign amid this hubbub. I was working on the design for some months and had originally planned to launch it in September. But for some reasons, I did not make it.

But now the redesign is finally live! As I have just written about webdesign, I feel that I owe it to my audience to say a few things about the new esono.com. So here are a few thoughts about the design process:

Continuity

esono.com was initially launched in 2002. Since then, it has undergone a couple of changes – but these have been minor updates. I refined the navigation bar, switched to Camingo as my main font, attached a WordPress blog and added a couple of projects.

But essentially, esono.com stayed the way it was in 2002. Here is a screen shot from the initial design.

esono.com in 2002!
esono.com in 2002!

As you can see – the design did not change much. And while the site obviously felt dated in the last few years, it kept up well. At least it was not completely embarrassing.

But earlier this year I decided that it would be time for a real update. Not only was the code seriously dated, the layout and the quality of the images did not do justice to the projects. Furthermore, there is a current tendency to rediscover the open web and to host your own space for texts and projects. While I mainly use Medium to publish my essays, I always published them on esono.com as well.

My aim for the redesign was not a radical new approach but rather another design iteration that reflects the developments of the last few years. Larger screens give you more space, web fonts and web typography allows you to make designs more subtle, high-res displays give images a new quality. My objective was to create a more opulent version of the existing design language. And as a font, I wanted to use my beloved Dolly.

So while esono.com was rebuild from the ground up, the visual style is a continuation of the first ideas developed in 2002.

Skills

When I set out to redesign esono.com, I thought about just doing the design and get support for the technical implementation. Being a professor, I asked a couple of my students if they would be willing to do the HTML + CSS part of the redesign. I asked nicely and also offered some money – but I was politely informed that nobody in the right frame of mind would work on their professor’s web site. So after a few failed attempts to get support, I realised that I had to do this job on my own. Initially I was a bit annoyed – but then I decided to brush up on my tech skills and take this opportunity to actually do a bit of web development.

Not Mobile First

“You did a redesign? And it is not responsive???”.

Yup.

“Are you mad? It’s the standard! Everyone develops for mobile-first! Why isn’t esono.com responsive???”

Short answer: I can’t be bothered.

Longer answer: the redesign of esono.com is essentially a vanity project. I am not selling a product and I certainly don’t provide crucial information that needs to be accessed on a mobile phone. Yes, I have side gigs as a consultant – but I don’t think having a responsive web site is terribly important for my clients.

It was much more important for me to compose individual layouts for each page. I wanted to properly design the site and for this I needed to ignore the “container in container in container” rules of responsive design.

To be clear: I am convinced that it is possible to both have a refined layout on a big screen and a compact view on a small screen. But I strongly believe that these are two very different design challenges! A mobile version of esono.com that meets my standards would be a completely new design challenge. Maybe I’ll do it next year – who knows. For now, I have focused on the “classic” view.

Old Things

While I have removed the documentations of a couple of old projects, there are still a number of projects on esono.com that date back 15 to 20 years. Not all of them are state-of-the-art, but they are all somehow important in my personal biography.

I also feel that personal web sites should not only be about the newest and hottest stuff. They can be an archive as well. The Fast Faust poster is from the year 2000 – but it is still one of my favourite projects.

Outlook

In another 16 years, we will have the year 2034. If you consider my current update schedule, this is when you can expect another major update. I’ll keep you posted.