Clearing out the website fridge

10 February 2014

During the middle of last year, I finally got round to a long-overdue overhaul of my website hosting, but for reasons of scope-limitation kept the content & appearance much the same. However I thought it was time to replace the student-orientated landing page with something something more in line with my professional career, and auditing the site it became apparent that much of it dated back to the mid-2000's. I finally decided to bite the bullet and do a refurbish. Given that it was around four years ago my Ph.D was formally granted, my original idea was to replace the Ph.D section with something more in line with my professional career, as opposed to the previous section that mainly discussed Ph.D projects I did not do. However in the end I felt that I wanted to keep this a personal site, even if it was with an eye on it being a potential show-case.

Sources of inertia

Aside from the two “news” sections, the content has remained stale because I worked on the basis that any new content would itself become stale before long. Another major source of inertia was a general reluctance to rework the website's structure, as I am something of a believer in persistent URLs, and in the past maintaining a set of HTTP redirects has proved to be a headache. Redoing section names would also require the redoing the menu graphics, and I am not even sure which program was used to create them, let alone how. Pretty sure I still had the original Gimp/Photoshop files and instructions somewhere, but finding them would be another issue.

The other part of the inertia is that some sections of this site have ended up being spun off into their own micro-site, the most obvious example being my d'Hondt PR calculator sub-section, and they have subsequently got the refurbishment attention. More often than not this is because they had some tie-in with other intentions, and as things progressed found it easier to keep them separate rather than combine them into one mega-site.

The changes

In the end I decided the best thing was to have a micro-site section that contained details of other side-projects I have been involved in, complete with pointers to the relevant websites. Yes it is basically a Mark-2 links page, but felt that is ticked the boxes of both relevance and resistance to ageing. Since I already have a separate domain I use for career-related emails, dry CV-like stuff could be pushed into its own micro-site and then linked to, although with the likes of LinkedIn around these days I probably will not bother. I also took the opportunity to clear a back-log of articles I had drafted but had not got round to finishing off and publishing.

The other sections

Although the life of the site is basically the the two “news” style sections, I wanted to avoid going down the single-paged Wordpress-style path, which meant sticking to my long-standing six-section structure. It is old fashioned, but any radical departure from this would need a from-scratch redesign, and I happen to still like the current one. With this in mind the existing sections are pretty much an ideal if dated fit:
The landing page, complete with a 1990's style banner advert that I made as part of a coursework a decade or so ago, and the text was likely not much younger. However felt that anything other than an update of the existing brief biography would not really work.
Tech vs. Misc
Originally the Tech section was meant to be a relatively small repository of technical notes, but it ended up morphing into technical article complement for my weblog section, the latter getting renamed to Misc for reasons I have long forgotten. I have decided to keep the technical/non-technical split, although as an exception I put career-related articles such as business procedures under non-technical.
Picture gallery
Picture galleries are very much out of fashion and I do wonder whether it is a good idea keeping some of the picture sets online given that most of them are 5-10 years ago and correspond to a different life-style. Nevertheless I decided to keep it, and add in three sections I had uploaded but not indexed.
Links pages are also pretty much out of fashion these days, as most people do a Google search rather than bookmarking links these days. Nevertheless decided to keep it because among all the link-rot is a few sites I had forgotten about.
The underlying problem is that if I was to drop a section or two, I am not sure what would take their place, and bringing micro-sites back in-house would likely need a two-level navigation structure rather than the current flat one.


At the end of the day this is all pass-time, so there are limits to how much time and money can be allocated to all this. As a result design & presentation decisions I took long ago are on the whole fairly optimal.