Back in 2004 when I decided to come to China I immediately hit the blogs to get a “feel” for what life for expats was like there.
There were three blogs that immediately became my favourites, and have largely remained so in the nearly four years since.
That I’ve now had the privilege of (re)designing two of these sites is something, I don’t mind admitting, I’m a bit proud of.
Derrick’s site, Mask of China, which has gone from a blog to an online showcase of his amazing photography, was the first site my biz, Dao By Design, ever did. He was the one that took a chance on me and kicked off my transition from ESL teacher to full-time Web designer/developer.
And as of sometime late last night, The Peking Duck joins Derrick’s site in my now year-old portfolio.
In the time between the two, I’ve designed, migrated, implemented, or otherwise fiddled with nearly two dozen other sites (including my own little pieces of the Web: The Humanaught, Lost Laowai, Hao Hao Report, Dao By Design, Tip. Trick. Mod. and Your China Pal) – however, I can’t think of a project that had me as nervous as redesigning The Duck.
Richard, TPD’s creator and primary author, is a legend in the China blogsphere. With six years and 4,500+ posts in his archives, he routinely gets more than 100 comments per post – even on posts that barely reach a paragraph in length! Needless to say, a lot of folks were going to be looking at this design – folks that liked to speak their mind.
Add to it that his commenters tend to be some of the most opinionated and critical (alright, occasionally in a discerning way) folks cruising the China blogsphere (hell, I’m one of them), and well… you can likely see why I was a bit more apprehensive of the wave of feedback to come than say the comparatively anonymous consultant firm’s site I designed not long ago.
That said, Richard couldn’t have been a better person to work for. With the exception of just a few guiding principles, he virtually gave me full creative license.
My focus with the redesign was to freshen the overall look, bring it up to date, incorporate some of the things that have become standard blogware (social bookmarking links, gravatars, obvious rss links, etc.) in the years since the original design, and – perhaps most importantly – update the damn map.
Anyone that’s read The Duck knows that Richard has made several moves across Asia in the course of the blog’s life. However, the site’s map – which detailed Richard’s travels between Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore – hadn’t been updated to reflect his additional move to Taiwan and somewhat recent return to Beijing. As a reader, it had always bugged me, so was nice to be the one to finally draw in the lines.
On the technical side of things, the project also called for a migration from Movable Type to WordPress, a switch in the right direction in my books. Though MT once ruled the self-hosted blog world, there’s little argument that WordPress has (some time ago) usurped the seminary blog platform as the new king. When it comes to support, features, and scalability (through plugins, widgets, etc.), WP wins hands down.
Anyway, go take a look, and let me know what you think. If you notice any problems, please do let me know – before the piranhas in the duck pond get me. 🙂