27 August 2012

This site has always suffered from a lack of identity and a lack of purpose. Through the years I’ve tried — and failed — to remedy that by random redesigns that have no basis or purpose other than to try and reignite my passion for my little corner of the web.

Jammylammy started off as a place to put some of my photography — itself a passion that was ignited after attending an evening class in basic SLR techniques in 2001. Back then I saw this site as something of a playground, somewhere I could show off my photography and experiment with different methods of interaction and design. At one point this site had drag & drop navigation — imagine that!

But soon, the process of printing, scanning, reworking, saving & uploading my photography became tiresome, so I eventually stopped. My fun little design experiments also withered away as my personal time was increasingly occupied by other activities.

Then the ‘blogging revolution’ came along, with platforms such as Blogger and Moveable Type enabling anyone with a keyboard to publish quickly and easily to the web. This piqued my interest and I installed Moveable Type. I was somewhat taken with both the ability to publish content to the web and the ease at which you could customise that content. Yet I never invested any real time in generating good, quality content — at the time very few people were. Back then blogs were all about telling the world what your cat had for breakfast, and mine was no different. Part of me wishes I’d kept the drivel I wrote back then; part of me is thankful it’s evaporated into the ether for good.

Accompanying the drivel were occasional random, spur of the moment redesigns. This plays to the ease at which those blogging platforms let you re–skin content — back then the idea of content being separate from presentation was rather novel, especially for a personal site. Each redesign briefly reignited my passion for creating & personalising my own little area of the internet but, each time, the passion soon fizzled out.

This all left me very frustrated: designing a new look for my website was the easy bit; generating quality content for it — whatever shape that content took — was the hard bit.

For a time I thought quantity equalled quality. I went through spurts of posting lots of pointless little things to the site. They were nothing of any great quality, they weren’t unique and they offered no real value to anyone but me. I was going through the motions for the sake of keeping something alive; something that just wasn’t working for or representing me accurately. Sure, I posted things that related to my interests — sports, design, photography, technology — but anyone with a similar level of interest to mine would find no value in my content, given that their enthusiasm meant it was likely they had already read the pointless links I posted. I was often scared of voicing an opinion (unless writing about the position of England manager, it would seem!), especially on stories where I knew there was strong opinion either way.

I often posted things for posterity, a kind of bookmarking method to ensure that links I found interesting would not get lost over time. Too often, though, I was just posting for the sake of posting in an attempt to assuage my concerns that my site had no focus, no personality, no purpose.

I was kidding myself and I knew it. But, for periods that spanned months and years, I kept doing it. Just look at some of the drivel on here. That’s the result of me trying to create something I am not capable of. I’m no John Gruber or Jason Kottke. I don’t have the time to post interesting or unique things regularly and I certainly don’t write content anywhere close to their quality. But I was trying to. And failing.

So, whilst recently pondering ideas for the umpteenth redesign of this site, I decided to come clean and think about the content first: to let this site be what it is. I wanted a design that reflected the fact I don’t post often. I wanted something that worked well for short links and longer pieces (like this one). I wanted something simple — layout, colour, tone — simple, simple, simple.

The homepage will just be a list of posts. Gone is the notion that I have the capability or time to post all manner of things, Tumblr–esque, and the design reflects that. It’s a deliberately focused design that frees me from the shackles of feeling like I have to add content every day. I know — first world problem, right? I’m working on finalising the templates and hope to have the new look up & running in a couple of days. Here’s a sneak peak of what a post will look like.

I no longer feel that I have to post a crappy link to a football story that anyone who is interested in football in the first place has probably already read. I’ve stopped kidding myself that something posted to the site in a matter of minutes is going to be any good.

I want to create good, well written, well structured content. It could be an essay, could be a few lines. But it’ll all be me. There’ll still be the occasional photo — it’s why I started doing this, after all — but anything posted to this site now will have some meaning over & above just keeping the RSS feed alive.

This all begs the question of what to do with all the content I have so far. I could delete it all and start again. In fact, I’ve often thought of going through all my old posts and binning the ones that were arse. But I’ve always decided against it, for the same reasons I’ve kept some of my very earliest design work — it’s a yardstick of quality and personal progression. Looking back at some of the very first web designs I put together shows me how far I’ve come as a designer. I’m hoping that by keeping my old, awful content, I’ll be able to see similar progress in my writing. Starting now. I may even go back over some of the worst offenders and either critique or rewrite them — or both — but the original will remain.

So, this is the shifting of my site, from something that’s not me to something that is, something I can be proud of.

I know I don’t have any audience at all. But the one pair of eyes that will always be scanning this site belong to me. If, months down the line, I’m able to read something written by my hand and still think it’s good, I’ll be happy. If I can be proud of it — even if no other soul reads it — it’ll be mission accomplished.

Thanks for reading.

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