Thinking About a Redesign and Trying to Get Unstuck

I want to redesign Perishable Press. The current design was released around a year ago, and has received numerous compliments and criticisms. Compliments tend to focus on the theme’s minimalist sensibilities, while criticism is generally directed at the design’s poor usability. Personally, I find the “grey-on-black” color scheme to be very inspiring. Others, however, have difficulties reading the content, and that’s not good.

So, throughout the course of the past year, the notion of yet another redesign has been slowly building momentum. Part of me could continue using the current theme for several more years with no complaints; yet another part of me is constantly dissatisfied with the status quo and established routine. These two parts have been doing battle, and on several occasions recently, some new design ideas have tried their best to spring forth, only to be shot down by the overwhelming critic within that sharply says, “no, that sucks — nowhere near as good as the current design..”

This process has made me realize one of the subtle downsides to a minimalist design: it’s difficult to go back to anything more complex. In producing this “dark” theme, my goal was to eliminate fluff, eradicate hype, and consolidate features. Thus the following page structure:

  • Title
  • Content
  • Menu

No subtitle, no sidebar clutter, no advertisements, no party badges — just good, clean minimalist design. Which is great until you try to improve upon it. And that’s precisely where I kept getting stuck. Rather than wiping the slate clean and completely forgetting about the single-column sentinel, I kept trying to improve upon it. Like, you know, trying to modify the width of the column, adding a sidebar, changing colors, text, and so on. But I kept getting stuck. The desire to redesign has been great, but apparently not great enough to do what is required in order to proceed.

At this point, I have put a lot of time and energy into thinking about how to improve the site. I have sketched countless design ideas, examined hundreds of inspiring sites, and even reached out to my Twitter followers for help. Doing these things were useful in that they eventually lead me to the inevitable realization that sacrifice is required to move forward. To get past my current state of design apathy, I have to break my attachment to the current design.

For the past several days, I have been dismantling my appreciation and fondness for the site’s current manifestation. It hasn’t been easy: denial, withdrawal, admission, acceptance — I feel like a recovering heroin addict or something. As I critique my own work, I have embraced observations such as the following:

  • Insufficient contrast between text and background
  • Insufficient search-engine optimization of site structure
  • More functionality needed in the comment area
  • Search results practically useless
  • Too difficult to find key content
  • Current design is boring, tedious
  • Site Archives are useless
  • Design is not welcoming

..and on and on. It’s like total design sacrifice — I am getting to where I actually hate the current design and can’t wait to change it. Without going into the psychology of it all, suffice it say that the experience itself is quite rewarding: “out with the old, in with the new,” as they say, somewhere, I’m sure. In other words, by giving up what you think is best for you (or your site), you are actually opening the doors to change and making way for something completely new and, hopefully, better.

Thus, after all that drama, I have finally arrived at a place where a fresh design for the site is possible, even anticipated. Behind the scenes, I am working diligently — even feverishly — on the next evolution of Perishable Press. At this point, all I can tell you is that it’s a complete detachment from the current “darker-and-more-minimal-than-thou” Perishable Theme. In subsequent articles, I will be sharing some of the ideas and methods involved with the planning and production of the new design, and look forward to hearing some of your thoughts on the art and science of redesign as well.