Building the New This

Subtraction LogoOkay, so fifteen months later, I’ve begun a major redesign for Subtraction.com. I’m pretty satisfied with the progress, though I admit it’s going slow enough that I’ll be surprised if it’s all done by Halloween. The new overhaul will maintain essentially the same information architecture that you see here from a site and page perspective, but I’ve made some usability improvements so that it will be easier to read, which has become increasingly important to me as I get older — I’ve started that inevitable old codger’s shift away from a young designer’s fascination with teeny, tiny text.

I’ve also got a mildly controversial color palette in mind that has so far received mixed reviews from the handful of confidants kind enough to give me their thoughts; I’ve considered taming the color palette, but what the heck, Web design is often too polite as it is. If folks really don’t like it, it will be easy enough to submit to the pressures of the group by swapping out style sheets. And, by the way, I’m also cleaning up a lot of the mess that discerning visitors may have noticed upon peeking at the code behind any of these pages in their current state — by the time it’s up and running, 99% of the pages in the redesign will validate XHTML 1.0 Strict.

Switching Editors

skEditAs always, I started out building the templates in BBEdit, but I read a few good things about skEdit, which is more of a Web developer’s text editor than the kind of serious programmer’s editing tool that BBEdit is. So on Saturday I started a 25-day free demo and so far I’m very enthusiastic about it. I’ve tried switching away from BBEdit in the past for coding pages, but the alternatives — like the well-regarded PageSpinner — all felt strange to me, partly because I ‘grew up’ on BBEdit.

This is what skEdit does exactly right: it combines that same no-nonsense sensibility from the only editor that I ever really knew with super-smart contextual affordances attuned to Web development; in short, it feels like a more focused version of BBEdit. To me, this is as shrewd an interaction strategy as any upstart software publisher could follow in looking to steal a bit of the market away from an industry giant like BBEdit. Plus, they were smart enough to adopt an icon that’s exceedingly attractive and easy on the eyes (courtesy of the prolific Jonathan Hicks) which, as someone who likes to patronize good design, means a lot to me.

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7 Comments

  1. I’m also in the middle of a redesign/recoding, and recently ponied up the upgrade fee for BBEdit 8. I had run into skEdit before and thought, “this will be interesting as it matures.” Of course, memory failed me and I ended up upgrading BBEdit instead.

    I’ve often thought that BBEdit, though bare-boned, always had an intimidating interface. Obviously, I adjusted, but what people described as “sleekness” in BBEdit’s interface always seemed to me as “sterile”–aeshetically pleasing in the same way vi or emacs might be. I don’t think function and aesthetics are mutually exclusive, nor do I think they’re necessarily equivalent, either.

    I’ll tell you one thing–the pseudo-tabbed interface on the new BBEdit is a godsend on my 12″ PowerBook when I don’t have the Cinema Display in front of me.

  2. I agree, BBEdit’s ascetic interface is a real detriment to my willingness to pay the nontrivial fee for the latest version. For many people, it’s a tool for making beautiful work, so it’s reasonable to expect it to be beautiful itself too, isn’t it? skEdit is definitely that, in my opinion. As a kind of analog to BBEdit’s pseudo-tabs, skEdit’s ‘sites’ drawer is also really helpful for managing multiple documents.

  3. First time howdy. Not sure where I came across your site here, but I am enamored, even with the color scheme. With your eye though, I look forward to see where you head with the next iteration.

    Enjoying skEdit now as well with your heads up. Thanks.

  4. I purchased skEdit some time ago, and have been very happy with this evolving tool, having previously been a fairly devoted BBEdit user.

    The author, Sean Kelly, is very responsive to user feedback, and releases quite regular betas, despite being in full-time study. There are a number of great new features coming, and a number of ways the app could be improved, e.g. strict syntax compliance, such that with HTML for instance, attributes can only be inserted as appropriate to a given element, such as only a single class reference for a DIV.

    On the topic of window management, I think that Sean’s publicly stated that he’s looking at some sort of tab metaphor, but the current version’s site manager does offer a semblance of open file management, in that the names of open files are emboldened in the list, and the toolbar includes a pop-up menu of open files. The coming version includes key commands to navigate your editing history (i.e. go to next/prev edited file.)

    In terms of aesthetics, I tend to think that Tag is a bit ‘prettier’ (!), but it’s not just a matter of icons (Mike Matas formerly of OmniGroup did Tag’s), there are other subtle aspects of the UI, but Tag is very immature, yet still impressive for a v1.x

    …somewhat naively, it’d be great if the authors of Tag and skEdit were to collaborate… hey, through in SubEthaEdit as well(!), to get the best aspects of these apps, and a bigger development team, but hey.

    Khoi, I think you’ve mentioned the upcoming TextMate, which sounds *very* promising, according to this write up (http://www.loudthinking.com/arc/000270.html), but the devil’s always in the details.