This week saw the next phase in the incremental redesign of the Department For International Development‘s website. It’s a much airier, brighter look than before, and with a YouTube video front and centre, plus all those drop shadows, rounded corners and various JQuery effects, it feels bang up to date. There’s a new ‘top layer’ of public-friendly information, Fighting Poverty, which is very easy on the eye, without getting in the way of the more mundane operational stuff. They’ve struck an excellent balance, I think.
The changes to the parent site meant we had to revisit certain elements of the DFID Bloggers site, built and launched by Puffbox just a couple of months back; partly for visual consistency, but also because we’re feeding off the same CSS stylesheet. Everything’s more or less where it was before, but the colours have been brightened up a bit, and taking a lead from the parent site, we’re now optimised for 1024px-wide screens. We’ve also tweaked a few other things, but I doubt you’ll notice them.
(The parent site has repaid the compliment by giving front-page space to the Bloggers site – but before anyone mentions it: no, it isn’t automatically taking the latest item via RSS, they’re choosing which items they want to promote.)
On the Bloggers site at least, the switch on the night was remarkably pain-free: just a simple matter of changing from one WordPress theme to another, literally a single click and it’s done. I’ve always seen this as one of WordPress’s hidden strengths – and I’ve talked to one or two clients about making deliberate use of it. You can imagine a scenario where there are several versions of the same basic design, all stored as separate WP themes, for different situations and circumstances – as a crude example, a black-tinged ‘national mourning’ version. Deploying it would take seconds. Hey, can your big ugly CMS do that, I wonder?
The DFID team are taking an incremental approach to their web development – and good on them for it. There are further ‘structural changes and technical improvements’ planned for 2009, plus – all being well – some cool new functionality in the Bloggers site. Stay tuned.