Canarybeck.com gets a minimalist facelift

As part of a longer term move towards a more minimalist and robust website design (eventually running on a self-hosted WordPress.org install), I’ve changed my blog’s theme to improve user experience. The new theme introduces several changes that I’ll be further adapting in the coming weeks, and offers a more simple and structured design that includes full screen featured images and a sliding panel sidebar.

I am getting many more new visitors than I did 6 months ago, so I am making these changes to improve both experiences: new and returning. I am choosing a fast loading and minimalist theme (Coherent) that displays only titles and excerpts on my front page. Because I tend to write long-form posts (over 2000 words) on varied subjects, many new visitors might feel overwhelmed by the demands I make on them on their first visit – they might hardly be familiar with me yet I’m asking them to invest 10-15 minutes on my site. Changing the layout from full posts to excerpts will enable my newer visitors to better appreciate the breadth of content available on my site, without needing to scroll through a long-form article that might not specifically interest them.

Front page changes

New visitors to my site tend to visit me through direct and search sources. Direct visitors (i.e. those that type my domain name into their browser bar) and search visitors (i.e. those that find my website in search) tend to be looking for more general content – which I’ve made more available on the front page. With this change, I’m hypothesising that these newer visitors will more easily see my varied content, which might spark their interest to return again (or even, subscribe).

Referral visitors (i.e. visitors that visit my website by clicking through from other websites) and social visitors (i.e. visitors that visit my website by clicking through social media stories) form another large group. These visitors are likely more interested in the full story to which their clicking through, so they’ll continue to see a long or short form post – as usual. If they then choose to visit the front page, they will see more of what brought them to the site in the first place.

Mail service and WordPress reader visitors are more accustomed to the breadth of topics I write about, and the depth I go into – because they already subscribe to my blog. They’ll also bypass the front page, so these changes will not affect them either.

Post and page changes

The new theme offers the opportunity to present full screen featured images, which with faster desktop connections is becoming more popular and accessible. I really like the impact a high quality image makes (on a site, page or post), and I’ll be favouring featured images in my future posts and pages wherever possible.

I love using pull quotes and now can align them left, right or centre.

Speed is still very important, so I’ll be optimising my images to reduce their file size. I am also reducing the number of widgets on my site to the absolute minimum. This will lower my page load time, which is especially important as Google favours faster sites, and more and more visitors are visiting web sites on mobile devices. Of course, the theme is 100% mobile adaptive.

I’ve also reduced the size of my typeface to be between 75 and 100 characters per line, which usability experts suggest increases reading speed while keeping scrolling at a minimum.

Getting around

I’m taking a risk on the sliding sidebar. My experience tells me that most visitors will miss it, which may result in fewer people seeing my evergreen content (e.g. my pages about me and that link to broad categories). With that said, I trust that visitors that take an interest will find what they seek, so I’m prepared to take the risk. What I do like about it, is that it’s ever-present as you scroll down the page. If you want to visit my front page – open the sliding side bar (labelled: “SHOW”) and choose the first option: “Home”.

Ultimately, I’m a writer, and I hope that this more minimalist theme will allow my writing to speak for itself. What do you think of my new theme? Let me know by liking this post and/or leaving your comments below. Thanks!

9 thoughts on “Canarybeck.com gets a minimalist facelift

  1. I like this theme better. In the past, when checking your website and scrolling down to see the latest four-five posts, the amount of widgets loaded slowed down my browser quite a bit. It was hard reaching far, to click on a post to read it (individual posts didn’t put that much load).

    Now, this is loading quite fast in my slow connection and old machine. I prefer this clean look not only because of loading speed (fast), but also because it’s very easy and comfortable to read. If someday I manage to learn how to make show/hide things in Blogger, I’ll apply this look too by simplifying my left columns.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy to hear about the loading speed. I think we vastly overestimate the patience that people have with our material, if they are ever forced to wait even 2+ seconds for something to load. And yes, freedom from distractions is important – clutter be gone! Thanks for letting me know.

      Like

  2. OK, I’ve given it some days and posts :P. I like the clean look. Loading has never been an issue for me, so in that aspect I cannot tell if this this better or not.
    The only thing that took me a while was to find the (hyper)links you put in the posts, they are not – as in almost all other blogs/sites I read – highlighted in some way or another, but only show up when actively moving the mouse over the text to see them getting highlighted.
    Since your posts are long and I read it on a big screen, I tend to scroll down with the arrow and not mouse – hence I missed the links and had to go back and move the mouse over to parts of text in which I hoped to spot a link.
    But overall, I love it!

    Like

    1. Thanks! Yes, the links aren’t as visible as they could be. For usability, I like blue links (old skool, like Google). I think the theme designers, in the interest of cleanliness, have made the links hover only so their off state is just like the text. I have CSS access, so I will probably change that there. Good suggestion!

      Like

      1. Hah, I love the old skool blue links too, but apparently they are not hip anymore!
        It’s not that I click them all, sometimes it is enough to just know it is there as some sort of back-up information, it often is just good to know there is a source where specific details (specially when you use figures and outcome of researches) come from.
        In my theme the links are not as highlighted as I wished, they only get a very thin underlining – so I manually make them bold. That’s okay with me, I do not put that many in a post :).

        Liked by 1 person

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