Blogging does not come so easy when duties appear that require a great deal of attention and time. One such this month has been the re-design of my monastery’s website. Our website is one the earlier monastic ones, begun in 1997 by Fr Wilfrid, now deceased, who taught himself enough HTML to get it going. After his death another senior monk took it on, amidst his other duties, and again Fr Gervase had time only to learn sufficient HTML to maintain the site and add new pages as needed. It became a huge website, with so much information and so eccentric a navigation system that you could get lost in it! But it was very regularly updated, and this was its great strength.
Well, HTML is still around but things have indeed moved on. CSS, HTML5, Web 2.0, Flash, the rise of internet typography have all changed the internet landscape into one of often stunning beauty and wonderful utility. So, since I had some idea of what was going on, it came to me to become webmaster, and to try to update our very 1997-looking website.
I now have huge respect for web designers. The hours it took me to learn relatively simple effects – this alone was sobering enough. Given that I had the advantage of a nifty piece of software to to the designing in (though not one of the famous expensive ones), it struck me that it could have taken many hours more. Modern web principles also have more than a theoretical role. They lead to time spent in design issues and tweaks: not too many different fonts, and websafe ones is possible; manipulating graphics to have a good effect without being so big or complex to take an age to load (our dire internet connection is, ironically, a good barometer); avoiding too much razzle-dazzle; text as king, message as purpose; aesthetics without excess; polish without secular, corporate flashiness; and the fact that so many people use tablets, requiring that that vertical scrolling be kept within reasonable bounds, and horizontal scrolling avoided totally if possible.
Anyway, part the first is up, with more content yet to be converted form the old site, or re-worked entirely. There have been some niggles, some necessary tweaks, some “dohs!” and even some occasional satisfaction. Our website is now, at least, very much 21st century, if not necessarily quite 2013. Please do have a look. If anything does not work, please let me know; if there is anything you would like to see on a site like ours, do tell me that too.