A new site?
For historical hosting-related reasons my personal sites were spread across two domains and three hostnames (www.xythian.com, photos.xythian.com, and notes.xythian.net). www.xythian.com was a purely static site generated ages ago by a bespoke template system written in Python. photos.xythian.com ran Singleshot 2 and had my public photos. notes.xythian.net was my WordPress-powered blog.
The new site consolidates the old static site, photos, and blog into one site (www.xythian.com) and I’ve put permanent redirects in to the old sites to map the old resources to their new homes.
I wanted to consolidate my hosting and simplify discovery for the content I publish.
Why host anything at all? I run my web presence on software I control rather than using application hosting services because I want to control it rather than be at the mercy of some company for my site.
What I publish has changed over the years — a lot of the casual sharing is now done via social networking sites which means less of that goes into the blog or photo site.
Design of the new site
Audience & Contents
Judging by my access logs, people appear to have one of three intents when visiting my site:
Seek. Seeking a solution to a technical problem or pictures of something in particular (actual size is a common entry point).
Follow. People following the notes, photos, or both. These people are mostly using feed readers.
Browse. Usually these folks got the address from someone (usually me) and are coming to see what’s here.
The new site should facilitate all of these uses. Canonical, stable URLs help get things indexed properly for Seekers. I plan to delegate site search to Google Custom Search once the site is indexed rather than running my own search. Most people came in via a major web search engine rather than using the old site’s search.
The two major types of content are still in seperate feeds (notes, photos) and they are redirected from the old homes of those feeds so followers should have a relatively transparent experience (although when the cut-over happens there may be some repeat posts).
Having a single new site in place of the multiple older sites should make discovery and navigation easier for browsers.
Devices and browsers
The new site (attempts to) uses HTML5 and CSS and make a single site that should lay out adequately on a variety of screen sizes. I tested on a collection of browsers I had handy and didn’t worry about exact pixel-perfect rendering everywhere.
Navigation is suppressed for printing using media selectors. The overwhelming majority of (non-crawler) traffic to my site uses modern browsers.
I updated a bunch of links from posts and pages — the Internet seems to decay. A lot of links scattered in the last several years of notes posts were no longer valid. Some of them I could update and some I just removed. Dismayingly, some of these links were from the last few months. I’m afraid a lot of people have forgotten (or, more likely, never learned) the lessons of from the past.
Of course, I changed almost all the URIs on my sites with this change. The consolidation of hostnames and domains that I wanted to do involved changing almost all of the URIs for everything. I thought about the design of the new site’s URIs and contents before I thought about the layout and other styling attributes.
I switched to a /YYYY/MM/slug from /YYYY/MM/DD/slug for the notes posts (matching the usual format of URLs used by the photos site). Notes and posts are still kept in their own trees (/notes/ and /photos/) because judging by access logs the audiences are nearly disjoint. I dropped the trailing “/” from the canonical version of these URLs because they’re not directories. All of the media and other static resources live under one of a few top-level directories so I can easily set the caching behavior on the lot of them.
The few “legacy” pages on the static site survived at nearly the same URL although a few of those are orphaned — they’re not linked from the new site, but search engines and other links still can direct traffic to them. These mostly were things I moved to the codebag github project but didn’t want to make a straight redirect since that would be too abrupt given the reorganization.
The new site has no support for comments. I am still considering if and how to handle comments. The options include using something like Disqus, rolling my own comment service, and not supporting comments directly on the site. Today most feedback about things I post comes via mail, IM, Facebook, or Twitter.
Combine this with the fact that ratio of legitimate comments to spam on the WordPress blog was vanishingly low. The other sites didn’t support comments — although the photo site did for a while. Support for comments is a lot of surface area without much benefit, unfortunately.
I may post an email address more prominently to provide a channel for feedback directly on the site.