A few days ago the 5.0 version of this site went live. I’ve been hard at work redesigning and coding for the past few weeks, learning how to do all the things I wanted to do through simple CSS and html. It can be an incredibly frustrating experience at times- but when finally the pixels click into place, the target image floats properly left, it can feel like a momentous achievement.
Big changes include:
– everything is now within borders and wrappers
– the front page is laid out as a magazine
– it’s a calmer and more serious color scheme
– the header graphics from the Out of Ruins theme are back in the header
– haikyo pages get 900px width, to really showcase the ruins
If you spot anything working improperly, please let me know. I don’t know if I’ll be able to fix it, but it’s better to know 🙂
Each version of this site has been different, iterating as my interests and ideas of what it should be have evolved. Here’s a potted history of those evolutions:
version 1.0 – big red dot
This version got me started in blogging, around 2007, before I was heavily into haikyo and before I started posting my writings. I was inspired by my friend Canadian Mike to make a Japan-entertainment blog, with reviews of wacky products, bits of odd Japangrish, interesting people and structures. Back then getting 100 hits a day was an awesome achievement. Comments were a delight.
The site was branded big red dot, after the dot in the Japanese flag. Mike was kind enough to make me a logo incorporating it- which must have been galling for him because shortly after that I switched over to a self-titled blog and left his logo behind.
version 2.0 – self-titled
At this point (2008/2009) I decided I wanted to leverage my site to promote my writings, with the ultimate goal that I would sell my published books to a pre-built readership base. In publishing they call it your platform, and emphasize how important it is to do the leg-work of getting readers yourself. So, I started posting more stories. I continued with the Japan content but it took more of a back-seat, with haikyo coming in somewhere along the way.
Again Canadian Mike was responsible for my header image- clipped from his painting of Killin Jack attacking the last of the Bunnymen. It set me on a path of seeking out a spooky-ruiny-fantasy looking city-scape shot.
Here’s the full painting Mike did- I clipped the skyline and tinged it blue.
version 3.0 Out of Ruins
With version 3, which was fairly short-lived, I wanted to jettison the Japan content (which I felt was kind of frivolous and silly at the time) and replace it with a fiction magazine which would accept submissions from other writers and pay them if I published them. I registered my site with ralan.org, the main listing of online fiction magazines, and even published a handful of stories, paying a handful of writers $10 a pop.
At the same time I experimented with ads on the site, with roll-over graphics, and with a black theme. The tipping point came when it seemed that the site was so heavy it crashed for many people, and the number of writers sending me stories to publish fell off completely.
I also started adding ruins content from around the web- with photos and articles and sourced through Google or whatnot. I mostly stopped that though because I felt bad to have ads while at the same time using other people’s photos. Also it was just recycling content produced by other people, which felt a bit like surfing their hard work.
Here was the first appearance of the city roll-overs.
version 4.0 self-titled again
I left the outofruins design and moved back to a self-titled blog for several reasons: people told me the site was too heavy with images and ads and crashed a lot, I wanted to bring my name back to the fore as a tool for self-promotion, and I wanted to be free to put ‘frivolous’ Japan content back into the site.
I liked the brightness of this one. Why did I change it to the next one? I don’t know really. I guess I just got bored. Maybe the orange started to seem too cheery for a site about ruins and dark fiction…
This most recent was darker, though of course it had that yellow in it. I loved the Fictioner / Haikyoist cartoons SY made for me, so I built the site around their color scheme. I experimented with various widths, in an effort to keep a sidebar, but have wide post sizes as room for large haikyo photos.
In the end I decided it was too chaotic, still too bright for what the site was supposed to be about, and also not at all clear from a mere glance what it was all about.
This latest, you can see it all around. It incorporates the self-titling with the cityscape of Out of Ruins, with the magazine style that keeps haikyo or dark-fiction themed posts near the top so passers-by get an accurate idea of what the site is about. Down below though you can still find the fun Japan content and of course my writing news, reviews, and updates.
The header image may yet change, if I can find an artist who can give me something better / more evocative. It seems difficult though to get across the ideas of ruins and fantasy at the same time in one image. We’ll see though.
I like it for the clean design and layout, and also because I figured out how to have posts of varying widths. Now the haikyo posts have no sidebar, so the image can be very wide, while the regular posts remain narrower to the left.
I hope you’ll agree with me that the current style is the best 🙂