This month szafranek.net turns 14. That’s a respectful age for a website: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist when I launched this silly looking site back in 2003. It got its last major facelift in 2008, so by now it definitely looked venerable. Or at least old.
After I became a full time game programmer, szafranek.net suffered from neglect and served both as a reminder of my past, and a painful proof that I lost all credibility as a web developer. The final blow was delivered by Google, when in 2015 it started to penalize sites it considered not “mobile-friendly”.
Instead of following every reasonable person out there and moving my publication to Medium, Facebook or Twitter, I decided to keep the little personal homepage alive, like the year was 2003, not 2017. It’s more of a statement than a pragmatic decision, since handcrafting a redesign takes a huge amount of time, while convenient publishing platforms maintained by hundreds of well paid professionals are just a click away. Yet, I still believe that some of the most beautiful, wonderfully obscure and insightful things on the web can be found on personal websites. The dissolution of what was once called a “blogosphere” would be a terrible loss. Ironically, this sentiment seems to best expressed in a piece that was published on Medium.com.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
Why WordPress and not a static site generator? Nothing beats the speed of a well done static site. But, being a Luddite, I fancy the idea of allowing my visitors to search the site or leave a comment. I know, I’m still stuck in 2005, but I can’t help it.
I didn’t use any CSS pre-processors either, because their only enticing feature (at least for me), CSS variables, has been present in every browser for years. Well, except for IE/Edge, which started to support it just this January. It’s reassuring that some things never change. To satisfy IE users I ended up using a CSS post-processor, because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the convenience of CSS variables. But the overall time I had to spend to make my site work well in IE 11 was maybe 2 hours.
The biggest difference between the modern web and the old days is responsive design. But using good old-fashioned semantic markup and mobile-first approach makes it a breeze, given that all browsers worth mentioning support media queries. After all, any website with well written HTML already is mobile-friendly, so one only has to avoid writing layout rules that are too constraining.
While I did in fact spent an insane amount of time on this redesign, it mostly went where it should go: on creating high quality, retina-friendly graphics, polishing the layout and ensuring that the content looks and reads well; in other words, on design and not the futile fights with broken technology.
Now I can’t wait for another redesign. If I maintain my current cadence, it should be ready no later than by 2033!