Welcome to Civil War Memory’s 10th anniversary re-design. Now I know that the real anniversary won’t take place until November, but I decided to cheat a little and declare all of 2015 as marking this personal milestone. Over the years this site has completely transformed my professional life. It has generated an incredible amount of content, both on the blog and beyond. What better way to mark this anniversary than with a new design that highlights this content and attracts the kind of interest that will hopefully lead to new opportunities.
While Civil War Memory began strictly as a blog it quickly transformed into a larger portal, featuring all kinds of content from a relatively new book to a wide range of online and print publications to my availability as a speaker. In short, it became a place where I could share my passion for the study of history with the public.
In thinking about the re-design, I wanted a site that was attractive and easy to navigate. I am a huge fan of minimalist websites that feature only the essentials and offer readers as few options to exit the site as possible. The design had to be attractive, but not overshadow the content. I hope this design at least approaches this crucial balance.
Veteran readers will find the navigation of the site to be pretty much in line with previous iterations apart from a few places where I consolidated content. The images are all pulled from the Library of Congress’s Prints & Photographs Collection and I think they work really well as banner images as well as in other locations. I particularly like the Alfred Waud sketch that graces the posts section on the Home Page as well as the envelope cover used to highlight the newsletter subscription option.
Most visitors will go straight to the blog page. I spent a good deal of time thinking about the readers’ experience on this particular page. Posts are presented in a simple one-column layout – no sidebar. Scroll down the posts page. The background shifts from white to a light gray to easily delineate between posts and to break up the amount of white space that comes with a single-column layout . When reading individual posts the blog information (title, date and comments) are featured in the banner space along with a featured post image that replaces the default image if selected. For those of you who enjoy following comments, you can find them under the dropdown menu below ‘Blog.’ You can also find an ‘Archives’ page under the same dropdown menu as well as a link at the bottom of the page.
While I had certain design ideas going into this project my coding skills are quite limited. Over the years I’ve relied on various WordPress themes and skins, which I then tweaked to the best of my ability. When thinking about who I wanted to work with on the re-design I kept coming back to one name. Alex Mangini may have only recently graduated from high school, but he has been designing websites for five plus years. He’s got a great eye for design, functionality and conversion. I’ve used two of his WordPress themes in the past. It’s kind of funny to think that Alex likely responded to one of my many customer emails while sitting in his U.S. History class as a high school junior. We hit it off from the beginning. Alex’s enthusiasm and his willingness to listen alleviated all of my concerns about outsourcing this project and helped to make this a true collaboration. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final product.
Recently, Andrew Sullivan announced his retirement from blogging after fifteen years. While I was not a regular reader of The Daily Dish I’ve always appreciated the role Sullivan played early on in promoting blogging. A number of people have interpreted Sullivan’s announcement as signaling the death-knell of blogging. This is unfortunate given the care with which Sullivan framed why he decided to leave it behind. Such prognostications miss the fact that most successful bloggers have always been those who do it for personal reasons.
My blogging continues to enrich my life as a historian and as an educator. This is just another way of saying that after ten years I am not going anywhere.
Ultimately, what guided me through this project is the hope that this re-design will be a pleasure to read for each of you. With that in mind, feel free to share your thoughts about the new design. Alex and I put a lot of time into it.