I just wrote an article about why I chose SVG and CSS rem in this blog’s latest redesign, an article in which I mentioned having divided my articles by season.
Visual hierarchy and relevant information
With any kind of interface, I like being able to visually scan the overall layout, like having a macro overview of the content that’s being displayed. That’s the main reason why I write single-line CSS rules: it helps visualize the selectors hierarchy rather than the properties of a single selector.
Anyway, I started by grouping my articles by year. But considering I’ve only been writing on this blog for 2 years, and that each year averages 15 posts, the information density was not high enough to quickly scan both the frequency of my writing and a particular article’s time period.
I could have divided my articles furthermore by month. But in that case, the information became both:
- irrelevant: there is no big difference in October and November for example
- too precise: I would have needed to include “empty” months, those during which I didn’t write anything
The natural compromise was to use seasons instead, which, combined with the yearly-based division, could convey a better overview of an article’s time period.
The added benefit was the opportunity to include colors in the interface, which strengthened the ability to visually scan the chronology. (I actually used 4 of Sketch’s default colors, to which I applied a 48% opacity).
Playing with Liquid templates
When looping through the articles, I have access to all the data I need, especially the date. It was just a matter of conditional tags that allowed me to extract, for each article, both the year and the season. This Stack Overflow answer helped a lot.
The resulting code is quite ugly. But it doesn’t matter because it works. I have no concern about my code’s performance because, after all, Jekyll is a static site generator. It just has to run once in a while, as long as the generated HTML is correct.
By the way, I used months and not particular ranges (like 21st of December - 21st of March) to decide which season an article belonged to. Winter overlapping 2 consecutive years would have been difficult to handle. Plus, this season division is just a visual aid.
Affix.js for scrolling purposes
I wanted, for each set of article currently displayed, to show the associated year-season information constantly. I used Bootstrap’s excellent Affix.js plugin in order to fix the relevant time period at the top of the viewport, until it reached the next time period.
I realized afterwards that I didn’t write during 2 seasons in 2012. Never noticed that before. So I guess this interface reached its objective, at least for me as a reader.