These web and typography tools have been useful to me of late:
Type-scale.com allows you generate proportionally-sized headings and body text created using a modular scale. Especially useful paired with fontjoy.com to quickly generate some type pairings, and then turn them into a usable hierarchy.
Poopy.life creates free, temporary WordPress installs to test the aforementioned type pairings in a live web environment. Since I’m voice typing, this originally came out as “live bat environment.” SO MUCH COOLER.
Trumpipsum.net generates Trump-flavored (ew, yikes) placeholder text, for use with the aforementioned type pairings in the live bat environment.
Because bats use their echolocation to find crunchy-tasty letterforms.
I’m experimenting with microblogging here on my own site rather than on one of the social media platforms. I’m using a combination of categories, post formats, the Parabola theme’s presentation page, and the Recent Posts Extended Widget to have microblog posts mingled with my regular posts, while keeping the spotlight on the regular posts. You know, because I put a lot of work into them. :)
More on this soon, probably in a regular, non-micro blog post.
Every once in awhile, a friend or acquaintance will read a bunch of my posts and say, “Hey, I was stalking your blog.” I always thought this was strange because my blog is public. If I didn’t want people to read it, it would be on my hard drive, not the internet. Then I started to wonder if the feeling that they were “stalking” my blog came from the design.
Instead of a design that says, “Hey, this is someone’s personal blog. Maybe they don’t totally realize this is online and anyone can read it?” I would like a design that says, “This is the website of a speculative fiction author and freelancer, and you can read what they have to say about some stuff.” These roles, along with enjoyment of blogging and web design, are why I have this website. Yet, it doesn’t do a good job of expressing them, for good reasons as well as bad ones.
Hint: they’re the same reasons. They boil down to the fact that, although I’ve been designing website for 20 years, I didn’t design this site myself because I needed to avoid waffling. And maybe even waffles.
What’s wrong with the current design? In some respects, not much. It’s readable, for sure, and with the exception of the subheadings, (H2, H3, H4, etc) I like the typography. I even like the “Bleached Landscape” color scheme, which I picked in defiance of my own attitude that if something isn’t dark-colored, it’s deeply uncool.
However, the design is also decidedly personal blog-like. It also has a slightly dated look to it, which honestly, is part of the reason I picked it. It reminds me of a nicely- designed Livejournal with some cool details. There’s nothing actually wrong with it because I don’t consider not following current trends to be a wrong. What matters is that it doesn’t match my current aesthetic well enough, and I didn’t design it myself (aside from some tweaks over the years, such as the background from the cover of Spirit Notes Fading).
There are plenty of pre-made WordPress themes I could choose from to change the blog vibe to something more professional, if that’s what I wanted to do. But since web and graphic design are two of the areas I do freelance work in, it would be preferable to have a website of my own design. And since I’m also a speculative fiction writer, that is something I would also like the design to express.
One question I’ve been wrestling with: to what extent do I want to adopt the common tokens of author websites, such as typewriter-style headings and bookish body text? Do I need to bludgeon visitors over the head with my absolute writerly-ness, when everyone else who has a blog is also a writer? Many fiction authors’ websites appear designed to convey that they aren’t just some blogger, but a real writer. A writer’s writer.
As far as I’m concerned, typography is the second step of a web or graphic design project, after brainstorming. I always aim to make the typography and layout do as much of the heavy lifting as possible before I start adding color or anything else that isn’t absolutely crucial. And that’s where I am now. It’s a bit of a background project at the moment, but since I look at typography the way other people look at cat pictures, it’s been on my mind.
You only get three typefaces per project. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. It’s the “Show don’t tell” of graphic design. Like any common and seemingly wise platitude, you can find a number of places where people break the rule, for good reasons and bad. I won’t be breaking the rule in the redesign because the rule will serve my purposes.
My three typefaces can say any number of things, on their own or in combination, by their sizes, spacing, positioning, coloring, bolding, italicizing, proselytizing, and jazzercising. Will they convey a mood that is academic, provocative, sarcastic, persuasive, informative, intellectual, surreal, silly, serious, dark, weird, perfectionist, or diy-to-a-fault?
Furthermore, am I correct in thinking I’m the things I think I am? And even if I am those things, do I want to express them in an on-the-nose sort of way, or do I want to put a twist on them? And in any case, how many of these things can even be expressed through typography?
And that’s the story of how typography can pave the path right into an existential swamp of anxiety.
Shortly after this, one of my readers informed me that I needed to post more.
“I’ll have you know that I added a new post yesterday,” I replied with a great deal of haughtiness, self-satisfied in the knowledge that this conversation was occurring the day after I had actually posted something.
“What? I didn’t know that.” He sounded surprised. I don’t know if that was because I’ve put out so few posts in 2015, or because he’s such a fervent and fanatical follower of this blog (for thrills like the alliterative spectacle you witnessed previously in this sentence) that he was shocked at having missed a post.
Or maybe, he has a room full of assorted elves and capuchin monkeys sitting in cubicles and refreshing blogs he likes. And now, one of those capuchin monkeys is going to have to go out and get a crappy retail job because her clever little fingers were nicking a soda when last Monday’s post went up.
He did say he tends to forget RSS readers exist.
In any case, I informed him of the various options available for following this blog.
Here’s what I told him:
And there’s another RSS icon on the sidebar, and another in the footer. Such excess!
1. Follow by RSS
Click any RSS icon to access the blog’s feed. Since I have Mozilla Firefox, when I do this I have the option to follow this blog from my browser with live bookmarks. Mozilla Thunderbird also has the capability to track RSS feeds.
You can copy and paste the feed’s address into the RSS reader of your choice. I’ve been using Feedly since the demise of Google Reader. You can paste the RSS feed directly into their search bar.
2. Follow by e-mail
No, it’s not just you. The follow-by-e-mail icon in the sidebar isn’t the easiest thing to find.
Click the e-mail icon on the sidebar to receive my posts directly in your e-mail. Although 2015 has been a light on posts so far, I’m aiming for three per week.
One of the trials of using WordPress for my site has been picking through the gazillions of available plugins to choose the best ones. I do my best to test all of them, so I can confirm that this will not make you sign up for a membership anywhere, and you can unsubscribe easily.
Someone with her own newsletter should have a better caption.
3. The Kris Bowser Newsletter
This exists mainly for those interested in receiving news of my fiction as I release it. To be honest, this is in the very early stages, and I’m not totally sure what other content I’d like to include in the newsletter. However, I plan on including links to at least a small amount of blog content.
4. Social Media
Posting links to my blog on social media tends to make me feel kind of spammy and awkward, so I haven’t done a lot of this. Generally, I only do so if there’s a post I’m particularly proud of, if a post sums up my current state of mind better than a status update would, or if I wrote something that I truly think the people who have followed or friended me would enjoy.
If anyone requests it, I’ll post about blog updates on Twitter and Facebook. Otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.
There’s a lot of pressure on the first blog post. If I post regulary, it will soon be relegated to the murky depths of my archive, but I can’t help feeling that this sets the tone for my whole blog. In fact, I’ve left up the default WordPress “Hello World” post, as well as my own test post, in the hopes that it would take some of the pressure off this post. Rather than jumping right in with fully-formed posts, I could make my blog evolve, like a diagram of prehistoric creatures crawling out of the sea and growing legs. I could even post dozens of test posts, single-celled nouns becoming the land-dwelling quadrupeds of complex sentences, with commas and everything.
But I’m not doing that. I’m jumping in. It’s not so much evolution, but rather something more akin to a toaster being invented, and the next day becoming sentient and taking over the world. This may have been too many metaphors, and they may not have worked. Like when your sentient toaster eats your English muffin and then vengefully electrocutes you because no one ever taught you not to battle your toaster with a piece of metal when it’s plugged in.
That’s never happened to me, by the way. I’m acting like I know what I’m talking about, but in reality, I’m making my blog on a mattress of lies.
Which is actually appropriate, because I write fiction. Specifically, I write sci-fi and fantasy. Speculative fiction, if you want to call it that. I’ve accumulated a collection of promising (to me, anyway), partially finished stories about magicians and travellers, thieves and ghost hunters, park rangers and bards. People who don’t have a handle on basic life stuff, like making telephone calls, or who want to build fires in places where they’re not allowed to, like a space station. And everyone in the world who knows more about writing and publishing than I do says I need to have a blog, if I would like to sell my fiction one day.
Anyway, my first website was something I had a lot of fun with. You’d know this if you saw it, because the whole thing was in Comic Sans. I’ve had a few websites and blogs since then, but they were always halted by my perfectionist tendencies. It would take me weeks to write a post like this. I would agonize over every sentence, which I have clearly not done here, as evidenced by the clumsy metaphors and the fact that I admitted to Comic Sans. Things only grew worse when I learned CSS and some basic Photoshop skills, because then I felt like I had the power to make things REALLY perfect.
I hope to create this website in the spirit of that first one.