New website goes live

Monday evening I made the new Peel, Inc.1 website live: This is the fourth major version of the website since the domain first appeared circa 1998. The first three versions can be found on the Way Back Machine (sans some stylesheets and images by the looks of it) and were released, roughly, in 1998, 2004, and 2006.

Unlike the prior versions, this one is not designed by me, but by a real designer: Peel, Inc.’s lead designer Jenny Polk. Hence why it looks so much better than all the prior ones. The original plan was for Jenny to design the page frameworks in a tool that would export sane HTML/CSS and hand it off to me to massage into the individual pages. I figured, it’s been 20-something years since the first WYSIWYG HTML tools, surely they’ve come leaps and bounds and do Smart Things. No, oh no. If anything they’ve gotten worse with the advent of CSS (no, Fireworks, I don’t want the whole page rendered into a bitmap and broken up into tiny separate images each within their own absolutely-positioned divs!). Instead she designed all the pages and handed me a PDF of what she wanted it to look like and I dove into vim to put it down into code. After getting past my issues with the CSS box model it went fairly smoothly.

There are still layout things that I’m not completely happy with. It would have been easiest to specify a “page size” in pixels and design everything to that. I hate websites like that, although now I realize why designers do it that way. Instead I designed what I really wanted: a fully-fluid design that scales decently with the window. It isn’t perfect, window sizes < 950 pixels wide don’t layout ideally and sizes > 1200 pixels wide look a little sparse, but it was the best I could do with my crappy CSS skills. With today’s screen sizes these seem like reasonable boundaries.

In the end I’m very happy with the new design. Jenny did an amazing job and it’s by far the most professional looking website the company has ever had. I’m 95% happy with my execution of her design. Maybe after a couple of months I’ll come back and give the CSS a fresh look to see if I can’t iron out that last 5%.

1 It’s become obvious that new coworkers and Seattle acquaintances don’t know the skinny on Peel, Inc. It’s my family’s printing/publishing business based out of Texas. I’m the not-so-humble IT guy who wrangles the 1s and 0s in whatever form they take and have for the past 20-something years. You never escape a family business.