eventually this page will be more than just a placeholder page
in trying to make this more than just a place-holder, i have decided to list my goals for this site
my thoughts on these goals follow. i’d like to take a moment first to acknowledge that these are my opinions based on what little experience i have and both are likely to change at a moment’s notice.
i like the idea of a static site generator tool for my homepage on the internet. i want to be able to create content in my favourite text editor (hi vim!) and track changes to it and back it up using my favourite distributed version control system (hi git!). i’m also a really big fan of the separation of content and formatting that LaTeX espouses which is something i can do easily with the site generator handling the formatting and a simple markup language handling the content. what i’m not a big fan of is a lot of manually typing in opening and closing tags and escape sequences. enough with these fucking </ &;>’s!
those are the general motivations for a static site generator. specific requirements, which are likely to change, are:
i’ve also found some other ideas on site generators.
i’m looking into the following generators:
more to follow when i get around to reading up and maybe toying around with these beasts.
i’ve got a weird affinity for typography which i can’t really explain; weird because i’m in a technical field and we usually don’t care too much about how things look, only how well it works. it probably bit me in university when i first picked up LaTeX although i remember playing around with the fonts for pretty much all my assignments in grade school.
i’m still intrigued by typefaces but i’ve started to learn the value of minimalism in typeface selection; a single document does not need ten different typefaces which would most likely end up diverging attention away from the content. there’s also value to be earned by using different typefaces for different purposes; a typeface that is great for printed novels isn’t necessarily great for logos or on screen. i’ve put way too much time looking at different fonts for different purposes and i keep falling in love with fonts that aren’t right for the purpose at hand. here are a few examples:
with the advent of webfonts, i may get a chance to use Gentium at the expense of page loading time. at least users can choose to install it or disable the webfont. i expect i’ll have some amount of code or preformatted text in future content so i’ll have to find a fixed-width typeface that pairs well with Gentium if i were to use it. my choice of typeface for this page is more of a non-choice; the default font for landing pages here is Courier or another monospace face. i’d like to note that it does not make for easily readable text especially with the column width most of my wide screen, which brings me to my next point.
i’ve heard a rule of thumb, which my experience leads me to believe, that text blocks should only be about a dozen english words wide. much longer and it becomes difficult for the eye to track back to the beginning of the next line from the end of the current one. much shorter and the eye wants to track vertically instead of reading each individual line. it also makes it more difficult for word wrapping algorithms to do a decent job and leads to more raggedness and a higher chance of danglers. it may be a coincidence, but a happy one, that early text displays defaulted to 80 character columns. i think we can safely assume that an average english word is about five letters plus a space which gives as six letters per word times twelve words and we’re pretty close to the 80 character limit imposed by technology. with variable width fonts, it’s a little harder to determine the proper column width but i think it’s about 24 em (M height or the point size of the font).
navigation is another thing to consider when designing a page layout. with these hyper-linked documents, it’s important to consider how to get from point a to point b when you may or may not know where point b is. therefore, this site should have a navigation menu on every page. in english, the eye tracks from left to right and top to bottom so the most important content, the (site/page/article/post) title, should appear at the top left with the second most important information, the body text, appearing directly underneath. the least important information should be at the bottom right which, in this case, is occupied by copyright date for any reader brave enough to venture there. the navigation menu should play second fiddle to the body text but still be easily visible from the first load of the page so i think it belongs on the right side of the main column, below the masthead and roughly in line with the bottom of the article title or top of the first line of the body text. on narrow displays, i think the menu has to be relegated to below the body text or maybe in a hidden drop-down. i’ll have to play with that. i’ll also have to look into a navigation menu for individual pages assuming that i use proper section headings and such.
though i do appreciate good typography, i’m still an engineer at heart and my stem background and learning lead me to consider and possibly over-emphasize usability and precision. i think my usability focus is already partially addressed by the importance i’ve placed on navigation and readability. also related usability is my desire to make the site accessible from all kinds of devices and pixel densities. to achieve this, i intend to use only relative sizes for elements and fonts in css. throwing a spanner in the works, i also have come to favour grid-based designs, with every baseline lying on some integer multiple of some arbitrary line height and intend to use this here.
hey look! i’ve already got content. this is amazing.
for other content, there’s a list of the most recently updated ~town pages
all work and no pla y makes rob go some thing something so mething