new project: a personal wedding website, completely designed by moi

Woot! I have "hired" myself to work on a nice big project: a wedding site for my my fiancée and me. This might very well be the first piece of a real design portfolio.

The Framework

The date is set for June 4, 2011, and we want to have a website available for our friends and family. It will mainly be an information repository, with venue and transportation information, things to do that weekend (aside from the wedding!), photos, relationship stories, that sort of thing.

So I bought a domain for it, put it on a host that I already have, and I will be working on it in my free time. In fact, the work will probably occur at the expense of my other law school-related responsibilities, but that's no big deal...this is still productive and fun! If it wasn't this site, I would just be procrastinating in some other much lamer way.

I'm using the Wordpress platform as a content management system, and I'm planning on basically building a personalized theme from the ground up. Actually, using WP Framework as a base. I want to use all my own graphics, to showcase my design work.

The funniest thing about all of this is that I actually have very little idea of how to build a Wordpress theme, or how to cover all aspects of design for the website (icons, textures, page layouts, etc.). But I'm not worried, and rarely am in this sort of situation, because I'm very confident that I know how to learn how to build a wordpress theme, or how to do all the graphics work. It's really an amazing state of mind that we're all capable of, really, although only time will tell if I'm able to pull off these things well!

The Content

So, my fiancée and I have already done a bunch of brainstorming on the content, and we more or less have the outline done. I also pinged the hivemind over at Reddit and was given a bunch of great suggestions for website features. Aside from the things described above, there'll be an infrequently updated blog that will log all the major wedding preparation steps (e.g. venue booking, caterer booking, dresses/suits, wedding party), and we're going to design our own cartoony map of the town (think theme park map, or novelty map) to guide people around.

But our crowning idea, and this one we came up with ourselves, is going to be our registry. We're not really wild about getting stuff for our wedding, because we more or less have everything we need in terms of housewares. Anything extra that we receive will just be junk that ends up laying around/regifted/sold away. But what we do like is the idea of guests paying for pieces of our honeymoon. In other words, in lieu of physical things, they might pay for "a night at a hotel" or "a portion of our airfare." Now this will require a little bit of implementation, and it is the piece of the process that I'm most unfamiliar with. However, I think it also has the potential to be one of the coolest parts of the site.

What I'm imagining I'll set up is a mock storefront, in which money from guest "purchases" of the various honeymoon pieces end up in a Paypal account. I'm thinking of adding little thank-yous on the site to memorialize who bought what. For instance, if an aunt buys a tour boat ride, the page will return a permanent graphic describing her as the "owner" of that portion of the honeymoon. Afterwards, we could even take pictures during the boat trip to serve as a "thank you" note. But first, of course, is just the need to figure out the best way to do this.

The Design: The First Six Steps

Now, this portion has the potential to become the biggest stumbling block, because it's so open-ended. Worse, without at least a sense of the desired design, I can't really implement a WP theme in any satisfactory way. So I'm going to approach this systematically.

  • First, I'm going to mine the internet for basic theme layout ideas. This will be from both wedding-related and wedding-unrelated sites. The point is to figure out how we want information arranged, how extensive the header, how extensive the background etc.
  • Second, I will sketch, by hand, the layouts that are top candidates, and we will choose from them.
  • Third, I will go back to the internet for inspiration, and see what other people are doing in terms of design elements. Fonts, menus, icons, color schemes, and so on.
  • Fourth, I will sketch by hand, or in photoshop/illustrator if it's necessary, some alternative options.
  • Fifth, I will determine in more detail what the overall mood and style of the website will be. Will it have more of a sketchy, blueprint-like feel to it? Will it be a gradient-heavy, rounded corner, Web 2.0-like theme? Will it be more vector-based or photography-based? Again, this might require some additional research, but it'll also be something I'll be considering at at every step of the process.
  • Sixth, then, and only then, will I begin to consider exactly how I'm going to pull all this shit off!

But that's a future problem that I am laying the groundwork for now. I am excited!

Andrei Marks

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