I started this blog a few years ago hoping to force myself to write, to blog, to document my thoughts and make myself a better storyteller. I’ve since learnt that blogging requires discipline. A lot of it.
Fast forward to today, having been inspired by the works of of Julie Zhuo, Oliver Emberton and Elle Luna who’re all great writers, blogging’s back on my list of new year resolutions.
And so, I set some time aside the last few days of 2014 to redesign danl.im for the upcoming year, in hope that having a more pleasant looking blog would motivate me to blog more often.
Before starting, I knew my limited knowledge of HTML and CSS wasn’t going to get me very far in terms of blog customisation, so I set out looking for a theme that would match what I was looking out for out of the box.
What you see now is largely the work of an awesome developer, Raam. He built the Independent Publisher theme for WordPress, from which I conveniently customised. If you’re looking for a great looking, content-centric WordPress theme, look no further . Stop what you’re doing and download his theme.
Back to the Redesign
This is the blog’s fourth iteration in as many years. For inspiration, I looked to successful blogging platforms available today. My notes are summarised below.
Medium really surprised me with how they merged lovely typography with beautifully laid out pages to give their readers an immersive reading experience.
Ghost amazed with speed, speed and more speed. Blog pages loaded lightning fast and with people having increasingly short attention spans nowadays, I knew speed was going to be a big one.
Svbtle was another one I liked because of how simple the pages looked and how the lack of clutter allowed readers to focus on reading.
With these notes and lessons I learnt from previous redesigns in mind, I decided to focus on designing for clarity and speed.
While researching, I chanced upon an article that did a really good job of explaining typographic clarity. Here’s an excerpt:
Typographic clarity comes in two flavors: legibility and readability. What’s the difference? Legibility is a function of typeface design. It’s an informal measure of how easy it is to distinguish one letter from another in a particular typeface. Readability, on the other hand, is dependent upon how the typeface is used. Readability is about typography. It is a gauge of how easily words, phrases and blocks of copy can be read.
To address legibility, I decided to go with a sans serif this time round to give the blog a cleaner and more modern edge. Ended up being really happy with the font of choice – Freight Sans Pro. I played around with weights and sizes for the blog headers and body text and really like how the font reads in different sizes.
Next up, readability. I used Pearsonified’s Golden Ratio Typography Calculator to determine the best line-height for optimal readability. Simple but brilliant tool. Just enter your desired font size, content width and desired characters per line and the tool churns out everything you need for supposedly perfect readability.
If you’re interested, the values I’m using are:
- Font Size – 19px
- Content Width – 700px
- Line Height – 29px
Let’s talk speed.
Silly me hosted danl.im on a server in the United States several years ago as I thought that most of my traffic would be coming from that region. However, after several years of unnecessarily long page load times and traffic data showing otherwise. I’ve decided to move to a server closer to home – Singapore.
I’m now happily hosting danl.im on a Digital Ocean plan that only costs me a fraction of what I used to pay, at $5/mo now. Setting up was extremely easy and if you’re reading this from Singapore, you’re probably getting lightning quick page load times. This for me, is extremely important. Especially on mobile devices. I’ve closed more pages not because of boring content, but because of slow page load times.
If you’re looking to set up a lightning fast self-hosted WordPress blog, I’d definitely recommend it. Use this referral code below to get $10 in credit.
With that said, I hope this inspires you to start blogging. I sincerely hope to continue writing through 2015. If you’ve made it this far, thank you. Thank you for reading.
Have a blessed 2015 everyone.