Redesigned Annie Machon's Blog
In April/May 2012 Asteroid did a project for Annie Machon. Moving her personal blog to a new server, redesigning the site in the process and making use of a different, more flexible back-end, namely WordPress. Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer for MI5, the UK Security Service, who resigned in 1996 to blow the whistle on the spies’ incompetence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Drawing on her varied experiences, she is now a media pundit, author, journalist, international tour and event organiser, political campaigner, and PR consultant.
Annie wanted to move away from using TypePad as the platform for her site. She also wanted to move the site to a new server, so this proved to be an excellent opportunity to not only install WordPress on the new server, but also to implement a brand-new, more user-friendly design, which brought Annie's site back into the 21st century.
We've chosen WordPress because it's open-source, easy to use, giving a somewhat similar experience to TypePad, so the learning curve is kept at a minimum; and also because it offers greater flexibility. We wanted to get rid of the vendor lock-in that is TypePad, and by moving to WordPress we got rid of that lock-in.
You see, TypePad requires you to run their software on their servers; it’s great if you quickly want to get a blog up and running, but lacking if you need anything more complicated. But because TypePad requires you to run on their servers, you can’t move to a different server easily. And it’s run by SAY Media, a US-based advertizing network, which means they probably have a corporate interest in keeping their blogging platform around. On the other hand, a WordPress site will run on any old bog-standard LAMP server, and you can modify it to do exactly what you want, while with TypePad you lack that flexibility.
For Annie I created the new design, and implemented it in the form of a WordPress theme. One goal we wanted to achieve with the new design is usability. Annie writes a lot of content on a whole array of different subjects, so the site's content should be easy to read, and easy to search through. Also, it should be easy to categorize information. All in all, we wanted to provide the visitors with a quick and easy way of getting at the information they wanted.
Another requirement was to keep the site recognizable to current visitors. In order to achieve that goal, I've kept the basic lay-out, and the way the information on the site is structured, the same as on the old site. We also added a more prominent search function, to enable visitors to easily search through the content, making it possible to quickly get at the content they want to read. Next up were performance enhancements, such as caching of pages. This was all pretty easy to implement in WordPress, and in our stress tests, we've found that the site responds a lot faster than it used to. Which is good, given the amount of traffic Annie's site generates.
Here's what Annie had to say on how this project went:
“Working with Sander Venema and Asteroid Interactive was a pleasure. He took the time to really understand what I was hoping to achieve with my new website, and had the skills to create not only a design I love, but also a very clean and elegant background system exactly suited to my way of working.”
All in all, it was a nice, fun project, and it was great fun working with Annie.