2009Q3 Grant Proposal: Improve the visual design of Perl websites

16 Comments
Name:

Jon Allen (JJ)

Email:

[hidden email]

Amount Requested:

USD 3,000

Synopsis

Produce a modern, visually appealing set of templates, stylesheets, and other assets that Perl website owners can easily use and adapt to achieve a stylish look and feel, regardless of the back-end technologies powering each individual site.

Benefits to the Perl Community

Presentation and visual design forms a strong and lasting impression on website visitors. Unfortunately, the 1990s style of many Perl websites simply reinforces the negative view that Perl is a legacy language.

Improving the appearance of Perl websites, especially if this features a more consistent brand identity across the *.perl.org portfolio, will benefit the Perl Community by promoting a more accurate and positive perception of Perl as a dynamic, modern language with a professional outlook that is well suited for new development.

Deliverables

A design toolkit and style guide which will be released under an open licence and made available both on CPAN and in a public repository.

Project Details

The design toolkit will consist of the following:

  • Reference HTML layout templates

    These would cover a number of typical layout types, such as 2-column, 3-column, blog style, full-page wiki, etc.

  • Style sheet

    Style definitions for HTML elements - lists, headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, code blocks, and so on.

  • Image library

    A set of logo images, banner templates, and UI controls.

  • Page assets

    Navigation bars, headers, dividers, boxes, pull-quotes, etc - standard page elements for use in a variety of sites.

  • Documentation

    Usage notes for the templates, example layouts, and instructions for customising the files.

  • Source files

    Where appropriate, files will be provided in bitmap, layered bitmap, and vector formats to allow editing, reuse, and future development.

Please note that this project does not aim to mandate a "one size fits all" layout.

Even though complete website templates will be included, it is equally important to support reuse, adaptation, and ongoing development. Inclusion of the design "source code" (e.g. vector and layered files as well has bitmaps) will enable the Perl community to modify the designs to suit individual requirements while still retaining a strong brand identity.

Project Schedule

I estimate that the project will take about 6 weeks to complete.

Week 1

Audit of Perl websites to establish which layout styles are most commonly used

Create a set of HTML templates for these layouts

Weeks 2-4

Produce the images, style sheets, and other page assets

Week 5

Documentation and testing

Week 6

Create mock-ups to show how existing sites can be re-branded using the toolkit

Packaging and distribution

Bio

I have been an active member of the Perl Community for many years, as a CPAN module author, regular speaker at technical meetings and conferences, writer for Perl.com and Linux User & Developer magazine, and member of Birmingham Perl Mongers.

In 2005 I set up the Perl documentation website http://perldoc.perl.org which has recently had a redesign in line with this proposal to improve the look of Perl websites.

I was one of the organisers of YAPC::Europe 2006, and joint organiser of the 2009 QA Hackathon in Birmingham (http://qa-hackathon.org).

At present I am working as a freelance web designer, Perl developer, and technical manager.

Some sample sites I have designed are listed below:

http://perldoc.perl.org
http://www.pennysarcade.co.uk
http://useaquila.com
http://perl.jonallen.info/cv

16 Comments

The old Perldoc was one of the best designed and easiest to use documentation websites I've ever used (I still haven't gotten used to the new one yet!). I hope this grant is funded, and I can't wait to see what JJ comes up with.

Two questions:

  1. Would the generated content have to be protected by TPF for any reason, or could they be released under an open source license? I run a very small Perl Mongers group, and I'd love our website to have a more polished look. The look could also be be stolen - err, borrowed - to improve our Ironman blogs too, as well as other Perl-related websites.
  2. If there is open source content to be had, any chance you could create more TPF-acceptable Perl logos? AFAIK, there's only the modern "Powered by Perl" onion logo and the O'Reilly camels. It'd be great to have some open source flare to decorate our blogs with (to say nothing of our at-$work website running Perl!). This would also be a valuable source of backlinks and general Perl promotion.

Hi Gaurav,

My intention is to make the designs open for use by anyone - PM groups, blogs, project sites, and so on.

However the onion logo is a trademark of TPF, so to use a design containing the onion you would need to read the usage guidelines and ask TPF for permission if necessary.

I will provide design variants both with and without the onion image.

As soon as I saw the proposal I said: "Yes, finally!"

I just finished reading the proposal and I must say I can't wait for it to be complete.

Go for it, JJ!

As a perl rookie, I've been curious to see how perl gets implemented as a web technology. Seeing a project like this, and having access to the template source code, would be a great benefit to curious beginners. It would give us a chance to see how perl can be used for something other than text formatting and data munging on our own boxes.


It sounds like a really good idea in my opinion.


Cheers.

While I appreciate the need to establish a brand identity, the one thing I see lacking from this proposal is the method by which you plan to establish what that identity is or should be.

While I agree you are the best guy for the job once the design starts, what are your plans BEFORE the design work starts.

Hi JJ!

As you remeber, we talked a bit about creating a new design for Perl sites during YAPC::Europe. If I understood you correctly then, you already have some perliminary designs as mock-ups/images/whatever.

If that's correct, I guess presenting them somewhere for the general public would be a good idea.

I have another comment, and please don't take this personal etc. You definitly are a better designer than most of us. But in my opinion, we don't need a good design, we need awesome^Wgrand design! And while you do are able to come up with nice-looking stuff, I'd still prefere if a professional designer / design company cooked up the basic design.

In my personal perfect world you would than take those screens and use them as the basis for all the cool things you're proposing. I'm not sure if this is what you're targeting with you're proposal, but I'd like to know if you would also consider this.

(At YAPC::Europe some members of Vienna.pm suggested taking some of our money to pay for one or more hopefully grand designs - this is not decided yet, but I guess we (Vienna.pm and maybe others) could come up with enough cash to get some designs...)

yeah!!!

Hi Adam,

To encourage website owners to use the new styles, it is important to deliver designs which can be used without having to change the overall structure of their existing sites.

Therefore during week 1 of the project, i.e. before the design work has started, I intend to research a sample of existing Perl websites to determine high-level requirements, e.g. navigation options, page layouts, and so on.

If you or any other site owners have any specific requirements, then (if the project is approved) please don't hesitate to email me.

Hi Thomas,

No offence taken, I completely understand your concern.

I'm sure with all proposals the grants committee considers both the benefit to the Perl community, and the ability of the applicant to complete the task.

All I can really say is that I do believe that I have the skills to deliver both the creative side and the technical work. If I had doubts on this I would not have submitted the proposal, I certainly don't want to see any of TPF's resources wasted.

How is this work different than Open Source Web Design?

I think your plan is a bit off. You can skip the week 1 audit. If existing Perl websites had any good design, no one would be interested in changing it. Start from scratch instead and don't worry about what things already look like.

I disagree that any redesign is going to magically make people change their mind about Perl. I know a lot of people hope that it would, but noone has any reason to think that it actually will. Very few newbies I encounter even bother to look at a Perl website.

I support this proposal and agree with the following points.

Gaurav: have the templates and such under a GPL or Creative Commons license.

Adam: The need for a "design review" or whatever to get something acceptable to those that really care.

I'm not sure I share the extent of Thomas' concern because I think we will probably get a decent product and like all open source projects we need to get to the first version. Then we can decide what needs to be changed.

Give him the money already!

But make sure that the maintainers of use.perl.org, perlmonks, perlmongers etc. are willing to implement the corporate design!

Hi there, I am supporting the main idea here - but I am really chiming in to note that there can be some additional benefits for the community if the designs are created in a way that can be reused in web frameworks as example design. I am thinking, of course, in particular about my Catalyst::Example::InstantCRUD - I've managed to get some not so bad looking design - but something professional, or perhaps just some more options for the user would be of much additional value. Another framework that could benefit from these designs are web form generators (like HTML::FormHandler) - they usually generate the HTML for the forms - and a CSS for nice layout would be great.

I really support this grant proposal and see it as a great benefit to the community.

However, I think TPF should

1) first order the new visual identity (colors, fonts, logo, templates for business cards & letterheads maybe?) guidelines from a professional designer.

2) publish it, take feedback from the community and require new improved version from the designer, based on this feedback,

3) make very clear and strong commitment, both internally and externally, to the new visual identity and publish it (including all templates etc in modifiable file formats)

Some new Perl sites and projects might start (copying the new TPF approved Perl design) from here, on their own.

4) After this making the PSD layouts - possibly even HTML templates for the typical Perl community web-site needs, and other things mentioned in the proposal - is something this grant should cover.


Steps 1-2 might as well done by JJ if he's qualified for the visual design job, but I think it should be done in a normal business relationship where it's clear who is client and (for example) TPF can return the designs and say "we're not satisfied and not going to pay you before these issues have been fixed".

Most important - together with having the best design - is that TPF can completely and fully commit to the new design (step 3) before making any new grants for working with the designs.

It (making the commitment) might be easier if you just order it first.

@brian d foy: actually, JJ didn't claim that his designs would magically change their minds.

And while it's quite possible that the newer programmers you talk to don't look at our Web sites, there's still the question of "why". Is it the nature of your training work which ensures that you meat a different type of beginning Perl programmer? Do they look at Perl web sites and find them unhelpful or ugly and just leave (thereby qualifying as "not looking at")? And how did you accumulate this data?

As we're working towards better understanding the perception problem, one thing which stands out over and over again is that people are looking at our Web sites and concluding that Perl must be dead because we're circa 1995 (heck, look how long it took TPF to get a blog). It's not the only problem and we can't guage this approach's relative merit against other solutions, but it's part of a broad spectrum approach to the perception issue we face.

Great to see a proposal like this. Very exciting. Though I agree 100% with @gnu's points about process.

Having done some thinking about the challenge, I would suggest something more along the lines of:

1. Define the objectives of the Perl ecosystem when it come to the "perception problem." This alone, might speak volumes about the design requirements.

2. Develop a "graphic standards" guide for Perl-related Web properties (and an editorial one too!).

3. Produce various example implementations of the graphic standards in action, which would be -- like this grant suggests -- a set of resources like templates, graphics, and so on.

But, like most Perl Web frameworks, the foundation should be the framework (not an implementation), which can then be implemented in any number of ways. Different implementations might make different choices, but the underlying foundation should keep things consistent from a visual standpoint, and also from an objectives standpoint.


Phillip.


About TPF

The Perl Foundation - supporting the Perl community since 2000. Find out more at www.perlfoundation.org.

Recent Comments

  • Phillip Smith: Great to see a proposal like this. Very exciting. Though read more
  • Ovid: @brian d foy: actually, JJ didn't claim that his designs read more
  • gnu: I really support this grant proposal and see it as read more
  • Zbigniew Lukasiak: Hi there, I am supporting the main idea here - read more
  • moritz Onken: Give him the money already! But make sure that the read more
  • gizmomathboy: I support this proposal and agree with the following points. read more
  • brian d foy: How is this work different than Open Source Web Design? read more
  • JJ: Hi Thomas, No offence taken, I completely understand your concern. read more
  • JJ: Hi Adam, To encourage website owners to use the new read more
  • Anonymous: yeah!!! read more

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Alberto Simões published on August 10, 2009 12:27 PM.

2009Q3 Grant Proposal: Corporate, Embedded, and Multi-user Perl on Windows was the previous entry in this blog.

2009Q3 Grant Proposal: wxPerl Documentation is the next entry in this blog.

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