Ben Dodson

Freelance iOS, Apple Watch, and Apple TV Developer

BenDodson.com gets an update

The last time my website got a major upgrade was back on the 26th April 2009 when I moved from a self-built system to Wordpress (for my blog at least). Since then there have been a few minor design tweaks and a few page changes but the majority has stayed the same.

Today I’ve put live a big update that covers the design, content, and functionality of the site. The main reasons for a change were two-fold; to help me update the site more frequently and to ensure a better reading experience for visitors, regardless of device.

Design

The design changes are actually fairly minimal. I’ve put in a nicer font with more spacing and I’ve removed some unnecessary sidebars to make the site full width - it should be a lot more comfortable to read in a traditional browser. However, the biggest change is the introduction of a mobile stylesheet which still shows the full content of the site but rendered in a much nicer way. Needless to say, this has been optimised for iPhone but it should work on any mobile device.

Content

Managing the content on my site has always been a bit of a chore from a UX view as it caters to very different audiences. You might want to hire me, look at my apps, play with some of my projects, or simply read my blog. You might have come here looking for a Firefox extension, to read a post about the Apple TV, or because you want to see my portfolio. Regardless, I’ve done a slight reorganisation so that the main pieces of the site are all readily accessible. This was mainly done by separating my apps from my projects and restructuring the work section.

As more and more people have come to my site, the number of emails I have to deal with has increased dramatically. I’m always keen to hear from people and so I had my email addresses displayed loud and proud on my contact page. This hasn’t changed but I have introduced some new pages called “Guidelines” which might help you if your enquiry fits into a particular area. For example, if you’re contacting me about a contract position, you’ll be able to see my day rate and the projects I enjoy so that you can be sure I’m the right person for the job. Whilst I expect to receive significantly less enquiries, I’m hopeful that those I do receive (particularly for work) are more fruitful for both parties.

Finally, my blog has been updated so that I can now link to external sites that I find interesting and just add a comment to them (similar to the linked lists on Daring Fireball). Quite often I see an interesting topic that I’d like to comment on that is too big for Twitter but too small for a full blown blog post. Now that I can link to external stories more easily I should be able to keep the weblog posts more regular.

If you’re wondering about comments, I don’t allow them on my website and I haven’t done for over a year now. Keeping on top of moderation, etc, was providing too much of a hassle and I prefer the one-to-one contact of email or the public sharing of Twitter which ensures that I can actually reply (most people didn’t sign up for email alerts on comments). However, I do frequently update my posts to include any interesting comments people send to me so please do get in touch if you have something to add.

Functionality

This is where the biggest update has come. I’ve long been getting bored with Wordpress and have always found it a bit of a chore to put posts out. Also, the site was quite slow but the various caching plugins I found weren’t quite doing it for me. To that end, the entire site has been replaced with completely static HTML (aside from some of the project pages). I write all my blog posts in Markdown and these are now pushed through Jekyll to be converted to pure HTML. However the coolest bit (for me) is that I’m running a Dropbox instance on my server - this means that whenever I compile the site with Jekyll on one of my macs, all of the generated files are automatically synced to my server and then through a symlink to my web directory. In short, I can post entries more quickly and they will load much faster for you.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new site. If you find any problems please let me know.

One More Thing - I almost forgot! All of my code samples and snippets are now available on GitHub.

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