A (Very) Brief History of Unretrofied's Design

I haven't written anything meta about this site in a while, so I think I'm overdue to reminisce about its various design iterations. (That's a normal thing to do, right?)

If you like the sound of that, then read on, friend! If not, here's a 34-minute Ron Swanson supercut for you to enjoy instead. Actually you should just watch it either way. I can't top Swanson.

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For those of you who read this site solely in an RSS client and never click through to see my writing in its natural habitat, you may have missed a couple major redesigns in the last two months. Well, I say "major," but I haven't exactly been good at keeping track of version numbers.

Much like a trombone that ostensibly has seven slide positions but in practice has an infinitely variable range, there are particular "moments" in Unretrofied's design history that stand out to me but so many tweaks were made along the way that documenting specific versions seemed futile. I just [Joker voice] did things.

If you held a gun to my head and ordered me to assign some numbers anyway, here's how I'd do it:

Version 1.0
Unretrofied v1

Ah, this takes me back. I was so innocent back then, so naïve. This was my DF-wannabe phase. I still cringe a little, looking back at some of those early posts. By the way, the old site is still live if you want to, I dunno, click around on it or something.

Version 2.0
Unretrofied v2

This was my longest-lasting design by far. It was during this period that Unretrofied kind of started to take off, in terms of my writing ability and the amount of attention it received. I still love a lot of things about this design, particularly its newspaper-y aesthetic. As with many things in my life though, I needed to change it up after a while.

Version 3.0
Unretrofied v3

A short-lived but overall pleasant change from the previous iteration. Many of you will immediately note the resemblance to Shawn Blanc's site, something that earned me the internet version of a sideways glance from several people. I've been quite open about my reasons for the copycatting though.

As I've told everyone who has brought it up, it was an experiment I did while home alone one night, mainly to improve my CSS skills. Nothing more. I used Shawn's site as a template because I really like some of his design decisions, particularly the subtle ones people may not think about (link-list delineation, the transition animation that happens when you hover over links, etc).

This was never meant to be a permanent design. The only reason it stuck around for even a month was sheer laziness on my part. (Sorry Shawn!)

Version 4.0
Unretrofied v4

And now we come to the current version of Unretrofied, my favorite of the bunch. Some of the ideas I got from Shawn's site are still here, but I've mixed them with concepts from "v2.0" and ended up with something I'm pretty happy with.

I'd like to give a huge thanks to my internet buddy Sid O'Neill for helping me with several big CSS issues that were giving me trouble (read: things I broke while ignorantly tinkering). Most notably, the mobile versions of the site—at least on iPhone and iPad—are no longer broken the way they've always been in the past. In fact, this may be the most responsive the site has ever been.

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So there you have it, a brief history of my design iterations. I hope you enjoyed this little tour.

On Squarespace's New 'Logo' Feature

Earlier today, Squarespace announced a new feature called Squarespace Logo that allows users to create simple logos with some text, a tagline, and an icon. Pretty innocuous, right? Might even help a few people add a little personal touch to their site that they might not be able to create for themselves (or can't afford to have made by a professional).

But to a bunch of designers out there, this was a personal affront, a direct attack on their livelihoods. Do a simple Twitter search for 'squarespace logo' and you'll see this sort of thing:

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

The problem I see here is that these designers think that Squarespace is now in direct competition with them for their client base. On the contrary, I highly doubt this tool will affect the livelihood of any designer worth their salt.

If a person or company decides to make a logo with this tool and is happy with the result, then you can bet they were never going to hire you anyway. Maybe they're not interested in Building a Brand™, or maybe they just don't have the means to pay for a professional logo. Whatever the reason, the fact that they have tools to make this process easier for themselves is a good thing. Only a completely selfish person would think otherwise.

It's also pretty silly to say that these sorts of tools "devalue a profession". Professional photographers have been moaning for years about the rise of portable cameras and layman editing tools, but there's still a vibrant and necessary market for pro photographers. In the same vein, the advent of home video-editing tools hasn't done away with movie studios.

Maybe photographers and videographers and designers (and even writers!) will be made obsolete someday. Maybe. But I think that day is very far off in the future, and a designer scared of a tool that produces nothing more than a basic shape with some text is perhaps a designer not worth hiring to begin with.

So no, I don't think there's any cause for concern. Squarespace didn't kill the web designer market, and Squarespace Logo is not going to kill the field of icon design.

My Squarespace 6 Wish List

As you may know, Unretrofied is a site powered by Squarespace 6. There are a whole lot of things to like about the service, but it's certainly not without its faults. Considering the way Squarespace seems to be keeping the entire podcasting industry afloat with all those ad-spots and sign-up offers, it would appear that a lot of people are still switching to the service in droves.

I think it's only fair that they know what to expect after signing up, don't you? So what I've done below is write something of an open letter to Squarespace, asking them to fix these basic issues that have been lingering around for months and months.

Now, I should note that I have absolutely zero information about what the developers are working on behind the scenes. For all I know, they could already be ironing out at least some of the issues I'm about to list. This is just my list of complaints as it stands right now.