I am Your CMS

These days, I no longer develop websites using a content management system. WordPress has become way too complicated for me. MODX is solid, but it is not a simple solution for small websites. I made a few projects with Kirby. Unfortunately the upgrade process is not automatic like WordPress. When I upgraded a client project from version 2 to version 3, I had to go through quite a bit of steps.

Another major problem with using the CMS is that once I hand over the sites, the clients would mess up the way I designed the sites. They added inline styles and changed fonts. The visual editors screwed up the markups. I still see this problem with the new Gutenberg editor in WordPress.

After giving up on using CMSs, I came to realize that I can offer my clients full support of their sites. For a few clients, I have designed, developed, and maintained the sites for them. I use nothing, but HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP to make the site easy to maintain and update. If they need to make updates once in a while, I can do so for hourly fees. They just drop me an email. If they update their website everyday, I am not the right designer for their project.

Because I do all the updates, I keep the markup clean. In addition, I have a copy of their website backup so they don’t have to worry about having their site hacked. Even if they were hacked, I can bright their site backup quickly. Our relationship becomes more like a partnership.

So if you have a need for a small website, I can help. Most projects will be less than $5,000. Let me be your designer, developer, and CMS. I will work with you to make your site fast, accessible, readable, and truly customized for your own brand. There will be no picking out templates like you do with other services.

Some Design Updates

Made the body text on this blog smaller and the leading a bit tighter. As I am writing longer posts these days, the body text needs to be smaller to improve readability.

On my professional portfolio, I swapped the body text from Roslindale Text, by David Jonathan Ross, to Frequenz, by Sebastian Losch. I kept Roslindale Display. I really love the contrast between a classic display face and a modern sans-serif body text.

I quietly switched out the wordmark for simplexpression. The new workmark is set in Roslindale. If you look closely, the first letter “s” and “ex” are set in Roslindale Italic. I had to make them a bit slanted because the “s” in Roslindale looks the same in normal and italic style. I wish the italic style is a bit different so I don’t have to make it slanted. For more of my logo design, check out my branding page.

I changed the typography for I Love Ngọc Lan as well. The new text face is Livvic, by Jacques Le Bailly and headers are set in Calistoga, by Yvonne Schuttler and Eben Sorkin. Just a bit of touching up the keep the sites stay fresh.

Thơ Hồ Xuân Hương

Tôi muốn đọc thơ Hồ Xuân Hương nhưng khi tìm đến trang Thi Viện thì chả muốn đọc. Cách thiết kế lộn xộn quá và trình bài không ưng ý nên tôi tự tạo ra một trang riêng gọn gàng hơn và dễ đọc hơn. Đặt biệt là chú trọng vào phông chữ cho nên tôi làm ra một trang để vào trong phần samples của nghệ thuật chữ Việt luôn. Chừng nào có dư một phút tôi sẽ mở lên đọc mấy bài thơ của Hồ Xuân Hương và học tiếng Việt luôn. Mời các bạn cùng đọc thơ của Hồ Xuân Hương.

Nếu bạn nào có ý khiến hay để tạo những trang web nho nhỏ hữu ích và để giới thiệu đến tiếng Việt của chúng ta thì liên lạc với tôi nhé. Không hứa trước nhưng có thời gian và cơ hội tôi sẽ làm.

Portfolio Site Updated

For a while I have wanted to include some logos I have designed on my portfolio website. I finally got around to put the branding page together. I also brought back the good old slideshows. I reset the type in Roslindale, by David Jonathan Ross, to experiment with its variable fonts, which David has released over the years for his Font of the Month Club. I am not sure when David will complete this typeface, but I am sure it will be a fantastic variable font system. Take a look at the homepage of Donnytruong.com.

The End of an Era for Personal Design

When Jeffrey Zeldman published “Another Blue Beanie Day” on his website, I noticed that he has switched his design to WordPress Twenty Twenty and my heart sank a little.

The man who brought us web standards has given up on designing his own site. I still remember being in awe to see his website sported a new design every few months. He inspired me to do the same with my own site, which I still do til this day. I have kept this blog so simple that it doesn’t take me much to whip up a new design. The changes here aren’t so drastic, but I do make the changes several times a year.

I hope Twenty Twenty is just temporary until he cooks up a new design. No pressure!

Personal Websites Matter

Laura Kalbag makes a convincing case for personal websites. Kalbag writes about freedom:

Personal sites give you the freedom to practice the design and development you care about, without the constraints of your boss’s bad business model or your manager’s questionable priorities. We can create accessible and inclusive sites that don’t exploit our visitors. We can experiment and play to work out what really matters to us. If we don’t like our personal site, we can start again from scratch, iterate, change, keep working to make it better.

Kalbag writes about design choice:

Your own personal website means you choose the design. Rather than sharing on a blogging platform like Medium, we can make our design reflect our content and our principles. We don’t need to have ads, paywalls or article limits imposed on us.

Kalbag writes about no tracking:

It does rather defeat the point of having a personal website, if you then hook it up to all the tracking mechanisms of Big Tech. Google Analytics? No thanks. Twitter follow button? I’d rather not. Facebook Like button? You must be joking. One of the benefits of having your own personal site is that you can make your personal site a tracking-free haven for your site’s visitors. All the personal websites I’ve shared here are tracking-free. Trust me, it’s not easy to find websites that value their visitors like this!

This is one of my favorite essays on 24 Ways this year.

Advising for Vietnamese Language

In the past few months, I have been fortunate to play a role in advising Vietnamese diacritical marks for a handful of typefaces. I just updated the advising page with a list of clients. Some typeface are commissioned; therefore, I could not show them. The two recent ones I am excited about are Fragen and Recursive Mono. The Recursive family is still in beta. I can’t wait to see the sans version supports Vietnamese.

On a related note, the traffic for Vietnamese Typography is decent. I don’t use Google Analytics tracking anymore, but Cloudflare keeps track of some analytics. In the past 30 days, there are 16,493 unique visitors, 241,918 total requests, and 12 GB total data served. The last one is a bit of a concern because I use so many typefaces on the site. The recommendation page alone has over 20 typefaces with Vietnamese subsets. Hopefully my hosting provider won’t shut down my sites.

What’s Up with MODX?

The law school runs on MODX for over ten years. We migrate from Evolution to Revolution. MODX is a solid content management system. The infrastructure is robust, flexible, and secured. And yet it has never gained as much traction as WordPress, Drupal, and other open-source CMS. The community remains small.

I have been a bit fearful and skeptical about the future of MODX because my career depends on it. Will it go away if it won’t grow? Whenever I run into issues, I can’t find the solution or support I needed. Even on Twitter, MODX is not too active.

MODX has not made any revolutionary update, but it does a good job of putting out releases that fixed security issues. For the law school site, that is perfectly fine since we don’t do anything crazy, but just maintaining the content. I still wish that MODX is getting more traction so that it doesn’t stay behind. I think what they really need is a Matt Mullenweg for MODX.

Triple Strength Merged With Sharp Innovations

I am surprised to learn that Triple Strength joined forces with Sharp Innovations in July this year. These two agency bring back so much memories for me.

When I finished in college around 2001, I wanted to work for a web design and development agency in Lancaster and Sharp Innovations was the only one in the area. Its web design was horrible, but I always impressed with its marketing strategy. Joseph Sharp, founder of Sharp Innovations, was a business savvy fellow. I went for an interview and talked with him, but I did not land the position. I don’t remember why it fell through. They probably never called me back.

One day, I found out about Triple Strength and applied for a web design position. When I came for the interview, I was a bit skeptical. The agency was in the middle of nowhere. When I rang the doorbell, all I could hear was a dog parking. As I was about to leave, Lance Dietrich, the founder, came out and greeted me. The studio turned out to be in his home’s basement. I ended up joining them as a part-time web designer. My main responsibility was taking the graphic designers’ Photoshop mockups and sliced them into webpages using Dreamweaver. Hùng Nguyễn was the creative director at the time with Pam, another graphic designer and Lance who was also doing graphic design.

I was with Triple Strength for a couple of months, but I loved the environment. It was a small, creative group. I didn’t know much about typography and I really didn’t have any design skills. Hùng taught me a bit about design here and there. They were going to offer me a full-time position, but the money was not right. I left for Vassar College. Later on when I needed references to apply for new jobs, they were always available for me.

Years later Lance sold Triple Strength to Hùng and now it had merged with Sharp Innovations. It is probably a good thing because Hùng can bring the level of design that Sharp never had. Even today, their web design portfolio is pretty average. I wish them all the success.

Demo for Web-Based Book

After releasing Professional Web Typography and Vietnamese Typography, I received a handful of inquiries expressing interests in using the web as a publishing platform. As a result, I decided to share the source code for Professional Web Typography. In the demo, you will get the front cover, the introduction page, and the history page. These three pages and the complete CSS file will help you get started creating your own web-based book. Because this is a demo, I have to change the typefaces from commercial to open source. I chose Source Sans Pro, by Paul D. Hunt, Source Serif Pro, by Frank Grießhammer, and Source Serif Pro, also by Hunt. I hope this demo will inspire you to create your own web-based book and share with the world.

If you supported my book, please download the files again to get the latest demo.