Projects About Tim Scott Blog Contact

Ground control to Major Tom...

More Posts

Spacefarer has been around for a few years now, and it was about time to renew this website of mine. The old one, designed back in 2015 with polish and iteration over the following couple of years, served its purpose during my studies. Looking back on it now, though, just highlighted how behind it really was. The technology behind web design has changed massively in that small space of time, and my site simply didn't take advantage of that. And perhaps the worst part, especially from an outsider's perspective, was that this site was purportedly put together by someone who claims to be a web designer. Yikes.

That old design was in the making for a while. When the time came that I needed an online portfolio for a project, I figured why not use this little thing I'd already been working on? It was originally designed to be a Tumblr blog layout - I must stress that I used it only to a minor extent - and it slowly built up from there. I had separate layouts for all the different post types that the blogging platform offered, and at the time, it seemed to do the job.

It never made the transition to Tumblr, though. Mainly because I stopped using it. I think it drew me because it was easy to throw together a theme for it, but I lost interest in actually using the platform, and so there was no real reason to finish off the design.

Thinking about it, the bright colours of the page's main body really don't sit well with that dark background. You know what they say about hindsight, though. You can also tell from this shot that I'd just learnt about the so-called 'golden ratio', supposedly the perfect way to partition a two-column layout. In reality, all it does is make your second column far, far too bulky - for information that only gets a limited amount of screen time, it seems senseless to use up such a large portion of your horizontal screen real estate for it. And this was back in the days before Flexbox was a usable standard, meaning it was cumbersome to put together and probably wouldn't have worked perfectly anyway. Getting several columns with equal heights was something many web designers struggled with until very recently. It did end up working after a lot of tomfoolery, but it was still a huge chunk of space taken for not a lot of gain.

Speaking of screen real estate, I still feel like it was a wise choice at the time to keep the page's main body constrained to the centre. Having text sprawled across a whole page doesn't make for great reading: why do you think newspapers tend to use several columns for their text? Maybe it wasn't the best solution, but it worked.

One last point: Source Sans. It's a good typeface, don't get me wrong, but with those colours? No chance.

The following month, this layout was adapted for use as a portfolio site. This was before the Spacefarer name had come about, and I was toying with a few different names. This was just one of them.

Gone was the second column, freeing up about 30% of the horizontal space for images. Other than that, the changes were relatively minor. The main difference is that the tabs now have vague titles - which kind of fit the science fiction theme, but give no clear indication of what they represent. This was a holdover from my truly ancient attempts at having a web presence, a feature that for some reason I thought needed a revival.

Needless to say, it was scrapped fairly quickly.

Another feature of this design was to split my work into several distinct categories. It would've turned out a bit lopsided, however, as 'graphic design' constitutes a vast number of disciplicines all on its own. In fact, typography itself is a facet of graphic design. And typography is hardly something I do enough of to warrant its own category anyway. Perhaps it's best we don't dwell on such things.

Last thing to mention: the transparent black background of the site header. I'm pretty sure that was baked into the header image. Apparently CSS transparency wasn't good enough back then, and efficiency went straight out the window.

It was about this time that we degree students were handed a brief to come up with our own corporate identity. There's a lot more information about it over in the Projects section, but in short, the brief also required us to create some kind of promotional item. Mine was a fictional interactive astronomy program-turned-edutainment game, and it was packaged in a big box.

If you're gonna do software, you need to include a CD or you're just wasting an opportunity.

This is where my website came into play, but with a little added twist. I took the design I'd made before, tweaked it once again, and added a neat little frontend to simulate a Windows 98 autoplay screen - an era-appropriate method of leading the viewer in. The disc was even set up such that the page would open automatically.

I do wonder if it might've been better to extend that stylistic choice to the site itself, but that didn't happen. Instead, my tutor got to see this beauty.

You'll notice that it's no longer constrained to a specific horizontal width. On a large screen such as mine, this highlights the problems with extremely long sentences. (Partly that you can write a whole paragraph, and it ends up being a single line once all's said and done.) Nevertheless, it was one step further in the experiment. Thinking back, maybe it's not the best idea to hand in an experiment within a final design. Nevertheless, this also went live on this very domain name around the same time.

Once again, it didn't take long to supplant this design with something new. This would be the most drastic change so far, even though it's still based on essentially the same code. It was all getting a bit Quake 2.

New colours. A new logo. Some major layout changes. While the influence can be seen, the new design for 2016 is still radically different from previous iterations. Returning to the horizontally-constrained style brought some readability back to the design, and a switch to Helvetica freshened things up a little.

At the time, it was great. And coupled with a super-simple (if somewhat featureless) content management system, Anchor, the site became easier than ever to keep updated. Say goodbye to diving into FTP just to fix a typo; everything was now fully editable and as functional as it needed to be. Due to the nature of the CMS, plus partly due to learning it while also designing for it, managing the site was still heavy on the manual labour: but having dynamic content at all was a huge step forward.

This wasn't the first time I'd used a CMS, by the way. But the less said about WordPress, the better.

Once again, it served its purpose. But, let's face it, it's a bit stodgy. Especially telling was my friend's reaction when I showed him my wasn't exactly positive. However, while it was time to ditch that design for my main site, it still lives on in certain places around the web. Places where a simple, static, easy-to-edit layout is desirable - such as GitHub Pages.

The state of the web had left my site behind. I was determined not to let it leave me behind, though.

So, it's taken a little while, but we're finally here. And I am super happy about it. So happy, in fact, that I completely forgot to make my site mobile-friendly...

Don't tell anyone that, though.

It's easy to say my old designs were dated. And they were, there's no denying that. But they're still light years ahead of what I was doing back in 2009 (much earlier than I thought!)


Anyway, I hope you like the new site, and I hope it's indicative of someone who knows what he's doing.

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash.