Category: Web Design

Clearing the Cobwebs

Over the past few years, this website has regressed from an infrequently updated blog to a walking corpse full of outdated information, spaghetti code, and broken links. There are many reasons for the lack of attention but there’s no need to bore you with those excuses.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a completely overhauled design and structure that will more accurately reflect my current design philosophy and the way I would like this site to function. I’ll be moving away from a blog-centric home page and incorporating my tweets, side projects, and portfolio pieces more prominently. The blog will still stick around, but it won’t be the main focus of the site.

In the five years since I launched the current design of this site, the ways we build websites and the tools I use to do so have changed substantially. The new site I’m coding is still WordPress, but it will be mobile first and fully responsive. I’ll write more about this when the new design is live, but I felt this site could use a little jolt of electricity in the meantime.

Announcing: Ordered Thumbnails

Ordered Thumbnails Page on

I’ve written over a dozen WordPress plugins in the past 18 months, but the Ordered Thumbnails plugin is the first one that I’ve submitted to the official WordPress Plugin Directory. The plugin became available mid-afternoon today, but it’s already been downloaded over 70 times.

I’m not sure how the response compares to the rest of the plugins on the site, but I’m considering it a big success. After all, I wrote the plugin to solve a problem that I was having, so if other people find it helpful too, it’s just icing on the cake.

The one thing about writing an official plugin that surprised me is the amount of time it took to prepare the documentation. There was a bit of a learning curve in that I’ve never gone through the official plugin submission process, but writing the documentation for this plugin took almost as much time as writing the plugin itself!

Check out the archives of this site to see the plugin in action, or learn more about it on this site or on the official WordPress plugin page.

Polaroid Theme

It still needs some polish, but I think my new theme, Polaroid, can stand on its own at this point. Instead of working from the heavily modified templates of my old theme, I started with a fresh copy of the WordPress default template, making sure that I had widget capabilities for the sidebars and a few other spots. With the exception of the archives page sidebar, all of the sidebars on the site are WordPress widgets.

Eventually, I will be pulling the media section more fully into the WordPress template and convert the backend of those features into WordPress plugins. I also added a new plugin to spruce up the archives page: Compact Archives. This plugin allows you to create a neat block of date archives, similar to how’s archive page used to be structured.

Some pages remain mostly unstyled, including the links and media pages. There are also a few minor style issues with IE6/7, but Firefox and Safari users shouldn’t see anything out of place. Feedback is appreciated! Leave a comment and let me know what you think, good or bad.

A Little Late for Resolutions

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions; if it’s important enough to me, I don’t need a calendar switch to get started. That being said, some articles I’ve read recently have me feeling motivated to stop thinking and start doing things.

Work Out

My friend Joe recently blogged that he has been going to the gym this year and already noticing positive changes. I never really used the free gym when I was at Scranton, but I could definitely afford to join one now. Or maybe I could just run around the block a few times. Either way, I want to get more exercise than walking from my apartment to my car and back once or twice a day.

I’ve been feeling more drained every day I know the weight I’ve gained since college is partly to blame. It’s nothing Oprah-esque, but I’m sure I’d have more energy if I dropped a few. I’ve already been trying to eat less, but I need to make sure that what I eat is good for me. Since I’m such a lazy ass when it comes time to actually work out—right, Jason?—I think a paid gym membership might throw some financial motivation behind, you know, my health and all.

Read More Books

I read a tremendous amount of blogs, news, Wikipedia entries, and a cornucopia of random online articles. Trouble is that a large portion of that is trivial crap that I won’t remember the next day. Most of this stems from procrastinating something more useful. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with what I read online; it’s only that it prevents me from reading or doing more substantial (or productive) things.

I am going to start cutting down a half-hour to an hour of online time-wasting and try to read at least one book each month. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non or whether it maintains any credible hold on the term “literature.” I don’t care if it’s Dan Brown or Dante at this point.

Create More

I like to think of myself as creative, but I haven’t created much in my spare time lately. The last thing I want to do is allow my writing or coding skills to stagnate. I’d love to be able to write articles again like I did for the Scranton Student, but I just don’t have the time at this point. As I’ve been saying for years, I want to write more here. I think if I force myself to write at least once or twice a week it will develop into something of a habit.

In terms of creating websites, I want to design, code, and program more. At this point, I might focus on improving some of my existing sites, but I’d also like to seek out clients for professional projects. I need to focus on finishing projects, rather than a series of false starts.


In order to make all of the above even remotely possible, I need to organize myself. I could blame it on a hundred things beyond my control, but staying organized has never come easy to me. I think I’ve always battled clutter, but lately it seems to be winning. I want to work on scheduling my time better, but cleaning my room is priority one. I recently read a Lifehacker article that had a few great ideas for pilers. Already it’s helping me, but I need to take it further.

I know this might seem a little… much. But I don’t expect to accomplish all of this in a week or a month. Gradually, I want to make these changes part of my life, not some random things I might be trying. It’s going to take time, but I’m committed this time.

XSL Interpretation in Mozilla

I was working on an XSL template to parse an XML feed at work this week when I discovered a strange error. Everything worked perfectly in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox locally, but when I uploaded, Firefox stated that I had a “mime type declaration error” in my XSL file.

After an hour of experimenting with setting every possible mime type, content type, and syntax I found in online help forums and tutorials—and breaking the IE and Firefox interpretation in the process—we found a comment thread that suggested changing the “.xsl” extension on the XSL stylesheet to “.xml”. And everything was good in the world wide web.

Full-Time Design

A little over two weeks ago, I began working for the as a Jr. Web Designer. Obviously, it will take some time to adapt to my new position, but everyone I work with has been very friendly and helpful. I think that this job with this company is the best possible career step for me right now. Every moment that I’ve been there just feels right.

Whenever I’ve talked to friends or acquaintances in the design field, they told me that it took them six months, a year, or more to get hired. Over the past year or so, I doubted whether a web designer with an English degree was employable. I felt confident enough in my abilities, but felt that my lack of formal experience was going to kill my chances for full-time employment in web design. But my friends were right: it just takes time. Lots of it.

From when I found out I was hired almost a month ago, I’ve been happy. I’m excited that I’m getting paid to do something I enjoy; I’m relieved that my coworkers are as nice as they seemed when I first met them; and I’m looking forward to all of the possibilities that lie ahead.

Summer CSS Realign

I completely missed the Spring CSS Reboot and I wasn’t really interested in redesigning this site as the design was only three months old at the time. However, I do think that the design could use a realignment for the summer. Mostly, I just tweaked the banner and brightened up the page with some new colors, but I have a few more things that I’ll be adjusting over the next two weeks.

In addition to new colors, I’d also like to reorganize the archives page, make the media directory page somewhat useful, update the about section, and bring the movie lists into the site template. A bit too ambitious, perhaps, but definitely feasible. Comment and let me know if there are any other features/changes you’d like to see here. Thanks!

Not Homeless!

My landlord is selling my apartment building, so I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be living at my current location. However, I found out the other day that the new owner plans to continue renting the apartment to Kevin and I for the same amount of rent! In celebration, I finally uploaded some pictures of the apartment—exterior only, the inside needs spring cleaning—that I took in early November.

I also have a few design jobs going in addition to a full-time job that I’m working to pay the rent and other bills. So I’ve been busy; made obvious by my lack of posts. But I’m finally getting some good design work and decent income so I’m relatively happy. I could use a better full-time job, but I also could do a lot worse.

FYI: I briefly considered titling this post “!Homeless” but perished the thought.

Version 2: Dune Grass

The new version of is now officially live! I’ve taken to calling this site design the Dune Grass edition in deference to the Dune Grass tool I used in Photoshop to make the banner image. Dune Grass has been in the works for about two months, but as with all things on this site, it’s still a work in progress.

I think this new design is representative of my evolving sense of design goals. More often, I’m finding myself carefully measuring and planning my designs on paper and in Photoshop rather than just building them immediately in XHTML and CSS. I’m much more willing to design for aesthetics when I’m not worrying constantly about how to make it work in CSS; the worry that something won’t translate to XHTML never disappears, but it’s much less pronounced when I’m in Photoshop.

Enough with the theoretical. Dune Grass is the second major (custom) design for My first design was designed for WordPress 1.2 during the winter of 2005 and featured a snow theme that I liked, but never finished. Once I upgraded to WordPress 1.5, I was running—more or less—a default installation for the better part of a year. That’s all changing.

I think I’m finally starting to embrace this site as something permanent. For a while (or forever) I was changing domain names and hosts on a semiannual basis. feels different. It’s a nice and short domain name that seems like an extension of my real life and the center of my life on the web.

Let me know what you think about the design, good or bad. Judge it on the home page, as the other pages are still works in progress.