An obvious change between the two versions of the site is that the design is wider. The old version was 800px wide but the new one is fixed to 960px wide. From what I have read and observed, this is not overly large for the displays most people are using nowadays, although I haved checked to make sure the site is still usable on a smaller screen. If someone has a very small screen, they can disable the stylesheets and the information will flow in a single column that will fit on any width. At the moment that takes a little user know-how but I have plans to wrap it up in a style-switching button at the top of the page.
Webdesign-savvy readers may also have spotted that 960px is a common width because of the convenient way that number can be divided up into a wide range of columns based on multiples of 80 pixels. In turn, this means that the design can be framed round an implied grid, which helps hold disparate elements in a coherent whole. It is also the first site I have done for a long time based on a fixed-width layout. I like the idea of more fluid approaches but have had to concede that fixing the width allows for more control over how elements of a complex layout relate together.
Another factor in the overall look and feel is the use of subtle details, such as lines between list items and almost invisible drop shadows and textures behind certain parts of the page. Too much and it looks garish but a tiny dash here and there makes a world of difference between a design that feels flat and boxy and one that looks sophisticated. I expect that I will be adding some further refinements over the coming months but I am pleased with the standard I have already reached here.
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