I had run sites using domain names that were either whimsical or related to projects. After closing EarthG.net I decided that there were several compelling reasons to launch a site under my own name. Unsurprisingly owenkelly.com was already taken (by an Irish mechanic and musician, as it happens). I therefore registered the domain name owenkelly.net on March 24, 2005.
From the very beginning the site had three parallel purposes. It was intended to serve as a single point on the web where people could find me; as a personal archive; and as a laboratory for my web design. I had begun working with WordPress at Arcada and I knew that it would not be possible to experiment meaningfully unless one had a large amount of content available to experiment with. I set out to provide myself with this content, while at the same time demonstrating to students how content such as this could be organised, and how WordPress themes could be developed.
I began by carrying on the Blake-inspired theme of both Gogonooza and EarthG. The site was subtitled Slouching Towards Golgonooza and borrowed imagery from William Blake’s depiction of Nabuchodonosor. This formed the basis of the first masthead for the site. I had also decided, for reasons I cannot remember, on the blue and yellow colour palette and the arrow shape where the colours meet that have both continued throughout the site’s various incarnations.
The initial site was a standard WordPress site with the logo and colours changed. The masthead changed fairly regularly in the first eighteen months. In 2006 I decided that the Bleakean imagery was not bright enough and replaced it.
I then decided that the typeface was too dull and should be more experimental.
These decisions were partly informed by classes that I was teaching. I used my site to pose questions, and sometimes responded to the answers I received. In 2007, while discussing typefaces, I attempted to demonstrate that it could be changed and its legibility improved without reverting to a standard face. While doing this I also reintroduced Nabuchodonosor with the image cropped and stretched very differently.
I had now moved beyond the standard WordPress installation and the site used a custom theme, with a dropdown menu built in css. I developed the menu during an advanced web design course. A page on the site now looked like this:
This incarnation of the site remained more or less the same for two years, until I bought an early netbook and became interested in designing for mobility. The netbook introduced me to screens that were 768 pixels tall, and this made me wonder why I was bothering to have an illustration at the top of the page at all. Deciding that it served no purpose, I removed it and so, by the summer of 2009, the measthead looked like this.
This version still had the dropdown css menu beneath it and in 2011 I decided to start from scratch again.
I used my site as an example when I led a course on using grids in web design. I undertook to rebuild the site during the course using a strict grid system, and in doing that I greatly simplified the menus and moved them into the masthead. The structure of the site was completed during the course, and I filled in the details slowly over the next year.
The result is the site as it stands at the moment. I shall explain the details of the grid system in a separate article.