Posted on December 6, 2011 by Colin

Layouts, Iterations & Fun Facts

New Layout

The sharp-eyed among you have probably noticed that I’ve changed up the look and feel of the site, in many cases making some difficult decisions, but doing so in exchange for better functionality and ease-of-use in the future.

My old design — which I lovingly built on top of a simple template from the early 2000′s — was getting more than a little cluttered, despite its minimalist veneer. The code was swiftly aging, the excessive amounts of plugins and hastily-written code I cobbled together to keep it functioning were starting to slow it down, and frankly I was just kind of bored with the look of it. My tastes have changed a bit since I first put it up.

So I decided to change it.

After a bit of personal back-and-forth with myself, I opted to snag something that is more future-proof this time, rather than opting for something old and simple that I would need to reconstruct (as is my usual habit).

Thankfully, I found a template that should serve me well until I do catch up in the development department and can build my own from scratch using the new methods that have become available. I like the look of it, the backend is solid (not a euphemism), and it elegantly handles a lot of the little issues I was having with the old site (trying resizing the window, for example, to see how it deals with small screens, like those found on tablets and smartphones).

I would like to note, though, that this new site design is still in its infancy, and I would love your input as to what could be done better. Does some aspect of the layout not make sense to you? Not finding something, or not finding it as easily as you should? I’d love any feedback you can provide, either in the comments, or in an email.

 

Retrospective

Since I’m in the process of updating the site, I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a retrospective on Exile Lifestyle and the iterations it’s gone through these past couple of years, since I started in way back in April of 2009.

Exile Lifestyle First Iteration

The first iteration was built on top of a popular theme at that time called Arthemia. I customized the colors and rearranged the boxes a bit, but at that point in time I had very little experience with PHP, and my options were a little limited because of my ignorance. My direction was also a little more winding and random: I looked to other popular blogs at the time to see how they managed things, so I included just about everything they did (for example, categories) even if they didn’t really do me any good, because I figured that’s just how this blogging thing worked.

Exile Lifestyle Second Iteration

The next iteration came into being about 6 months later, and was a bit more sophisticated. I had learned a bit of PHP, so I was able to take an uber-minimal theme called Modio and customize the hell out of it, using the underlying structure, but keeping little else (it did provide a great deal of inspiration for me, though…until I found this theme and the other offerings by Upstart Blogger, I was convinced all themes would look alike, just with different graphics along the top).

I stuck a photo of myself in the sidebar because I wanted to add some color to the otherwise duo-chromatic scheme, and because I wanted to hit people with an explanatory image right away (young guy on beach on his laptop = young guy able to work form anywhere…see what I did there?).

Exile LIfestyle Third Iteration

The next iteration came over a year after I started the blog, sometime around June of 2010. I had just gotten some rocking’ new photos taken while in New Zealand, so I revamped the site to make use of those snapshots and to integrate an even simpler setup, hoping to point people to the important stuff right away, without any distractions. I replaced the image in the sidebar with a white-backgrounded-businessy-traveler-looking pic of me.

 

Fun Facts

Some random info-tidbits about the site:

For the first two weeks of its existence, Exile Lifestyle was called ’3rd Education,’ the idea being that I had gone through my first two educational experiences (school and succeeding in the business world), so it was time to set out and get my third education…life experiences, cultural relativism and street wisdom. You know, travelish, non-standard-lifestyle stuff.

My newsletter, by the way, is still called 3rd Education.

In the first iteration of the site I played around with Google ads, but after having them up for 5 minutes I took them down and promised myself I’d figure out another way to make the site a business venture, not just a hobby.

The bird logo (affectionately called ‘birdo’) that has adorned the site since the second iteration of the site was actually a slightly-modified illustration I did for a client back in LA before their company went under (though I added the suit and tie later). They were a socially-conscious t-shirt venture, and I made several other sketches for them before they tanked, one of which is now being used on a t-shirt on I Have No Shirt. I call it Umlaut Tortoise.

You know the little picture of me that used to be in the bottom of the sidebar? I put it there as a joke, then ended up keeping it because it seemed to soften the edges of some of the more confrontational posts I would write with its strangeness. On most browsers, my eyes (the image of me, that is) would look right at the title of the most recent blog post on the home page. That was not a mistake, and getting it to work that way took longer than I would like to admit.

Shortly after starting up Exile Lifestyle, I started up a sub-site called ‘Buy This Thinger’ through which I intended to make money curating a collection of cool stuff and earning affiliate money through Amazon. This idea was reborn in Flashpack, a project that I started over a year ago, and recently resurrected as a Tumblr blog where I review things I own and document things I want. All of this is evidence that 1) I have a penchant for strange domain names, and 2) minimalists like stuff, we just choose what we own very carefully.

I published my first ebook, Personal Branding, about a month after starting Exile Lifestyle. Free ebooks weren’t so common (outside of marketing circles, at least) back then, so even at a mere 50 pages, that ebook spiked my traffic like crazy and at this point has been downloaded well over 100,000 times.

The first three bloggers I met (via email) were Cody McKibben, Corbett Barr and Chris Guillebeau. All had been doing their thing a bit longer than I had, so I learned a lot from the get-go just by watching them. Thanks guys!

I’ve written more than a few posts that have led to some really angry emails and comments, but the three top anger-inducers include one where I told people to burn their résumés, one where I ridiculed the Law of Attraction, and one where I made fun of the Pickup Artist Community. There was another post about how I love the gay community that led to a bit of a standoff in the comments, but the duo who were scuffling ended up co-writing a guest post a week later about how to have a productive debate, rather than just arguing (did I mention that I have the greatest readers ever?).

Curious about some other aspect of Exile Lifestyle’s history? Or perhaps there’s some tale you’re hoping I’ll relate? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email!