The redesign

First version of my current website

I started this website back in 2019 when it, as can be seen above, only contained information regarding Ancient Egyptian. I had previously used an actual website hoster for my website, but grew somewhat annoyed at the relatively low amount of control I had over the server — namely none — which I why I recently switched over to an actual VPS (i. e. a virtual server) allowing me to have full control over the server. A down-side would, perhaps, be the fact that I was required to set up everything myself; yet I am unsure whether that could actually be called a down-side, as this taught me a great deal about how to set up and maintain a Linux server.

Additionally, I used to use website creation tools (called Homepage-Baukästen in German, literally translating to Homepage construction kits; the latter word has rather childish connotations, frequently referring to a box of bricks one might use as a child to build various rather unstable buildings bordering on modern art) as I was never a great fan of front-end design. Nevertheless, with the GDPR having been passed by the European Union back in 2018, I thought it would be a wise decision to ditch such tool-kits and, instead, start making my own websites from scratch again.

I was never fond of over-designed websites or those using a mobile first approach, as the latter frequently results in websites that, on the desktop at least, look as if they had been designed for people with -50 dioptres. Most modern websites are too bloated for their own good and I did not wish to follow in that path and I, hence, began putting my, admittedly very limited, HTML, CSS and PHP skills to the test to build my own website from scratch — something I hadn't done in years. The result can be seen above.

Indeed, I admit that it looks rather pathetic, but I designed it myself and I knew exactly what was under the bonnet, so to speak. The website stayed like this for a rather long time, seeing only minor improvements — such as an actual start page — until this month. I do not quite remember what pushed me to finally overhaul it, but I believe it was a combination of my starting to learn Ancient Greek — and wishing to have some information regarding it on my website — and a Portugese/Brazilian friend of mine frequently talking about websites and telling me how mine could be improved.

What has changed

Taking his advice and some ideas which I have had myself, I got to work and started playing around with various CSS variables and options. I began by editing the start page to include columns, added various width limits so that text would not span the entirety of one's screen and thus be rendered nigh unreadable on larger displays, embedding fonts, better mobile support, some typographical changes (Indented paragraphs, drop capitals, justified text) and, lastly, some minor design changes (changing the colours and adding a second line beneath <h2> headings). Let us briefly go through those things which I have changed one by one.

The fonts I have embedded are all Google fonts which I am hosting myself, so that, when you visit my site, your device will not be required to access Google's servers simply for some meagre fonts; this would also have required some additional information in my privacy policy, as embedding Google's fonts directly from their servers may or may not require a user's consent. Thus, I would highly recommend that you host the Google fonts yourself, so that users' devices are not required to access Google's servers. Information regarding self-hosting can be found on the Google Font official GitHub repository.

The columns were somewhat difficult. I quite enjoy the way they look on devices with larger screens — i. e. computers or even tablets —, but they looked abysmal on smartphones. When another friend of mine had heard about this, he recommended that I use CSS' @media functionality, also called media queries. Upon doing some research on that topic, I quickly discovered that I could simply target screens which have a width of below a certain number of pixels and, on those devices, simply set the width of the columns from either 33.33% (for the three-column layout) or 50% (for the two-column layout) to 100%, basically removing them entirely on smaller screens. To have this work, I was required to add a new meta tag to the head of every one of my HTML files, namely <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1">. Both these additions now allow mobile users to use my website without any issues — except the Ancient Egyptian portion of it

The typographical changes were, in my opinion, badly needed. As I will more fully explain later on, I am planning on having more things to actually read on this website and this, obviously, requires that reading things hereon not be a nightmare. Unfortunately, before the redesign, it was quite a nightmare indeed. To mitigate this, I defined a text-width of 800px — which I believe should not be too much —, indented paragraphs — which I much prefer over whitespace between paragraphs — and drop capitals — I have always found them to help greatly in the reading of texts. Additionally, all longer pieces of text are now justifed to help both with the æsthetics and reading.

Greek — and what else is to come

Most of the aforesaid changes, as I stated at the beginning of this text, were a result of me starting to learn Ancient Greek and my want of putting some information regarding this language onto my website. I modelled the Greek portion of my website after the Egyptian one; this is most evident in my inclusion of headings in both Greek and English (in that order), something I have been doing on this website with Ancient Greek since the beginning. The start-page of either language have a virtually identical greeting as well, namely Χαίρετε, ὦ φίλοι μου. (Hello, my friends) and jjwj m ḥtp ḫnms.w=j (Welcome in peace, my friends). This was done to re-create the æsthetics of the Ancient Egpytian portion whilst also modernising the design slightly; unfortunately, however, I am unable — or, perhaps, unwilling — to redesign the Ancient Egyptian part of my site, as it's the oldest part and thus very badly designed. Applying my redesign to every one of the .php files of the Ancient Egyptian portion would take an unduly amount of time, especially since I have stopped studying the language.

The Ancient Greek part, unlike the Ancient Egpytian one, is going to contain a lot of information and resources for studying the language and it will also contain a lot of information about my studying of it. It had always been a pain to write anything in Egyptian Hieroglpyhics on the web and I, thus, generally avoided adding many pieces of information, as doing so took a very long time. This is not problematic at all when it comes to Ancient Greek, luckily. Thus, the Ancient Greek part is going to become a small hub of useful information about various aspects of learning this language and will be the most frequently updated one of this entire site.

I am also planning of perhaps removing the blog as it is rather bloated and doesn't get used too frequently. I would much prefer to simply write my progress regarding my study of the language into the Ancient Greek portion of my website — which is where, I believe, it belongs anyway — instead (and I have already copied all my blog posts and put them into the Documents of the Greek part). When I finally do close it, it will go rather quietly with a note replacing the current link to my blog, simply stating that I am no longer maintaining it and most of the new information can be found in the Greek section of this site, instead. This is mainly because I have, thus far, been unable to find a blog that does only the bare minimum; even the rather minimalist software I am currently using is somewhat too bloated for my taste and does things I do not need at all.