Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
RoboLeg: this game would be PERFECT for mobile, and I’d...
Chris Kilgariff: Hey, This game needs to be a mobile phone...
Andrew: Just linked the book club to you, boosting your...
Look, I changed everything! I usually redesign my blog a bit at the start of every year, but this one is the first time I’ve built a completely new one from scratch in more than eight years. As is now tradition, I’ll give you a song to listen to while you snoop around.
It’s been like that for two years, and there were a six things I wanted to change:
I’ve always struggled with this – I like to be clear and descriptive, but most personal blog titles make me cringe. I also have a bad name for possessive apostrophes, so “Tom Francis’s Blog” is just painful. I used to avoid the issue by naming it something completely irrelevant, like ‘Ugly Fruit’ or at one point ‘Politics’. Then I avoided it by removing the name completely, so the last few iterations have had no title at all.
This time, I was determined to have one even if I immediately regretted it. After trying several I immediately regretted, I gave up and left it as the placeholder: “Tom Francis Regrets This Already”. I still regretted it, but neatly, the more I regretted it the more appropriate it became.
I looked at a lot of people’s personal sites to figure out how to improve mine, and it’s weird how many of them don’t explain who the hell the person is until you rummage around. In the spirit of explaining things to assholes, I really wanted to do a better job of that. The previous site did it in a few terse, reluctant words, so I tried to make it a bit friendlier this time.
I also think a lot of us are still under the impression that the ‘home page’ is where people arrive, and then they delve into the ‘post pages’ from there. In reality, most people discover sites when they’re linked to a particular page, so they’re more likely to see a particular post first. That’s why the new intro’s on every page.
Literally more than half of internet users are browsing from a mobile device now. And they vary wildly in resolution. I’ve never liked fixed-width designs, and I’ve never had one here, but previous versions all needed a resolution of at least 1024 pixels wide. They were basically useless on mobile phones.
Rather than make a separate mobile version, which’d scale badly to the huge middle ground between a Retina iMac and a first-gen smartphone, I’ve made the whole design resolution-agnostic. Try resizing the browser window – it should adapt all the way down to about 250 pixels wide, so it should be readable and usable on anything beyond a scientific calculator.
I’m also using Matt Wilcox’s Adaptive Images code to automatically resize images to your screen width before you download them, so smaller-res devices don’t download unnecessarily big images.
At the other end of the scale, it’s ridiculous how many sites look awful at 1920×1080. That’s by far the most common resolution now, and the internet at that res is a sad ocean of wasted space around unreadable text. I wanted to make sure everything expanded at high resolutions, and I particularly wanted big, sharp, colourful images. Most of the games I write about are gorgeous, and it always makes me sad to see them relegated to little thumbnails.
I realise not everyone uses an RSS reader – even Google, who make the best one, are basically abandoning it. I’m still keeping it, but I’ve now set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account that only ever post when I publish something here.
I think that’s it! Big thanks to Westley Knight, Jenn Frank and Graham Smith for testing and help. As ever, let me know in the comments if anything’s broken. If anyone’s interested in the stats, we’ve just passed 26,000 comments, this is roughly the 600th post (I deleted a few), and so far 1.4 million people have been here. Wow.
More Site Stuff
Magnus: Looks pretty damn great.
Ben Borthwick: Liking the new design - a minor thing though is I feel the main body text is slightly too big reading maximised at 1920x1080 resolution, although if I resize the browser window in any way (even if I have it the full size, just not "maximised" if that makes sense), it's fine.
kARL: 16 point font would be awesome, the text is huge and makes me feel like I'm blind as fuck.
Other than that great job. Here is to another year of great content.
Tom Francis: Cheers guys! Tweaked the font sizes for 1900 - how is it now?
Zeddy: I browse at 1920x1080 and this may be the only website I don't need to zoom in on.
Lack: Overall, I rather like it; the featured articles part especially. And the jacket in your profile shot, I could never pull off black leather, only shades of brown.
Only niggle, don't care for the drop shadow on the text at the top of the page. Looks a bit messy when combined with the gradient. Okay; I'll admit that that's perhaps pedantic point, even for me.
Mickiscoole: New design looks pretty damn awesome.
(Also, the Explaining Things to Assholes link in this article is broken)
Ben Borthwick: Much better! Cheers Tom - as kARL alluded to, I did at one point think I'd accidentally pressed the shortcut for some sort of Large Print accessibility mode! Much more comfortable now I think (and easier to tell the difference between headings and text.)
Definitely liking the more efficient (not sure if that's the right word?) use of the space too - your blog has always been the reason I've stuck with a three column theme for my own, and every year I get more jealous at how well you're able to tweak yours and it still works really well.
Tom Francis: Argh! I made that mistake I never make, of leaving out the http://. I promise I haven't believed www is sufficient since 1997. It actually happened because of the noobification of address bars: if you copy and paste the URL from an address bar, it 'helpfully' clips off the vital http:// to make it look cuter or something.
Matt: I love the comment submission button. Just throwing that out there.
TychoCelchuuu: It won't let me comment in Opera. It says "You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down."
TychoCelchuuu: Actually that one just worked. I only get the error trying to post comments on your resume, maybe.
TooNu: ooh shiny. Hi Tom, good job Tom. See you later Tom
Niall: Tom, thanks for keeping on RSS - it's my main method of keeping track of everything on t'internet so I'd hate to see it die!
On a design feedback front, the text in the comment boxes doesn't scale the same as the rest of the page, so right now I've made the page text small yet readable but the only way I can tell when I make a typo here is by the red line that Firefox inserts, because I can't actually make out individual letters. (Ironically, Firefox doesn't recognise Firefox as a cromulent word...)
Shaun: I like this new site. It's slick and cool and it's got a certain something about that makes it really feel like it belongs in 2013.
Micah: Wow. The dynamic resizing down to tiny width is freaking amazing. Seriously the best, fastest, most responsive implementation of that I've ever seen. Why is this not everywhere?
Otherwise, looks good. Regret nothing!
MartinJ: On Opera, Win7, 1680x1050:
Notice the "Continued". It's not a big issue, you can click on it just fine, but looks messy. Might wanna look into it :)
Matt: I just noticed that on mobile, the YouTube video for the level editor doesn't shrink with the rest of the site, so it doubles the actual width of the page.
Roy Gatsby: I love the Responsive design. What did you use to implement it?
A program or did you hard code the whole site?
Fin C: Is the title of this post a very obscure reference to HL2's "Welcome to City 17"?