April 16th, 2017 - the makeover
I hope you’re all doing well!
It’s time for my monthly update, yet again, and I am still sitting in the very same spot that hosted my last newsletter writing-session. That is I am sending you this out of Windhoek, Namibia once more, which has been my base for the last 5 weeks or so. During my days in South Africa and Botswana I was busy volunteering and traveling, so that now it’s time for me to catch up with MilesAstray and some of my freelance work. Evidently, nothing much is new in terms of travel, but I am giving MilesAstray a complete and tremendous makeover, which I would like to share with you.
Since the platform hosting my website is currently not really made to handle huge amounts of content like the kind I am creating, I was forced to make some changes. Not only did this lead to a whole new design, but also did it inspired in me a vast change of concept. What was originally birthed by desperation with an ever slower getting website editor and live site loading times, is now a change that I am extremely happy with and I feel that I’ve finally found a missing piece that I wasn’t even looking for.
Let me explain:
The bottom line of the new concept and the message that I want to convey is “photo journalism” rather than “travel blog”. This idea has been an undercurrent in the crafting of MilesAstray all along, but only now have I really realized what that means and how I can best implement it. In terms of layout, I am getting rid of all full screen pictures, full screen slideshows, pictures with overlapping texts, animations and the likes. I always thought them a nice tool to display my photos in the most prominent manner, but by now I feel that they are too much “in your face”. I am now using many more white spaces with black letters, which do not overlap my photos. The new look resembles more of an online newspaper or magazine style rather than a travel blog or destination guide like the Lonely Planet. It looks much more professional and neat and thereby conveys my message a lot better.
And what is this message? Put simply: experiences write narratives, not places.
It is something that I’ve been preaching for a long time – the destination itself doesn’t matter all that much. We might have preferences for certain cultures or landscapes, yet ultimately our feeling for a place or an era in our life comes down to the experience we live or suffer through there; maybe we write our narrative or maybe it writes us, but the writing is done with the ink of chance encounters and unforeseen coincidences, while the place is merely the page we write on. Following this train of thought, I finally figured out how to incorporate this notion in my country section: from now on every place or region within a respective country will be connected to a story; hence, the title will read like “Destination / Story”. The slash symbolizes that only with the story the place becomes meaningful. These stories are obviously based on my experience in a given place, shaped by my impressions, encounters and moments lived there; but they will carry a message that is a bit more universal, something I took away from it, which could be anything from the pondering of a deep philosophical question to the realization or observation of a quirky detail. In the spirit of photo journalism, there will be a neater combination of photos and texts in form of photo stories. Also, I incorporated the small photo stories I publish on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr throughout my pages.
It is an incredible amount of effort that went and still goes into this change, since I basically had to create almost all pages from scratch again (which is more than a hundred already). I am done with all the main pages that you find in the menu bar, such as home, photos, non-profits etc. (yes, these are actual links that will lead you to pages I would truly appreciate your feedback on). Furthermore I’m done with all the main photo categories, such as Favorites, People etc. Right now I am just getting started on the countries and it will take me awhile longer to finish that process. But to give you an idea, here’s a little comparison:
Unfinished country page (teaser or dummy):
Finished country page with regions:
If you find the time, please have a look at my new design and let me know your thoughts. Many of you complimented me on the old design, which I also truly liked and crafted with a lot of heart and thought over several months. Thus, it’s a bold move to give it a complete makeover, but I think you will really like the new layout and idea as much as I do. However, any criticism is more than welcome – lay it on me! Some of the pages might be lagging a bit at the moment, which will hopefully be resolved soon.
real life stuff
I was so busy working lately that I hardly got time for anything else, but I wake up in the mornings excited to get started on my work and I am passionate about it. Some little breaks in-between were filled with meeting some interesting characters and one special day in particular - the graduation of my friend Mongi, who I met many years ago in Germany. Here are some of the pictures:
That’s it for now. Namibia will have to put up with me a little longer and I’m uncertain about my next destination – but, like I said, the destination is just a destination.