An evolution, not a revolution

We’ve refreshed the look and feel of both the Piccalilli site and the brand so wrote up a little about that and the future of the platform.

As part of this site’s ongoing evolution to becoming a publisher, we’ve given the overall look and feel a little refresh, along with the brand. The chilli pepper — which was a lazy job by me — has gone, the colour palette has been reduced and the link between Piccalilli and Set Studio has been brought to people’s attention.

Here’s what the site looked like yesterday:

The Piccalilli homepage with a eggshell, yellow and cardinal pink colour palette, featuring the old chilli pepper brand

And today:

The Piccalilli homepage with a grey and cardinal pink colour palette, featuring a text only brand

What else has changed? permalink

We’ve generally “hardened” the UI by removing lots of shadows. To be fair, the look and feel was nearly half a decade old, so it had some artefacts of “trends” gone by that have been cleaned up.

Next up, we added the UI elements and author pages ready for guest authors to get paid to write articles for us. We’re not quite ready to invite guest authors yet, but we’re laying the foundations. Along with that, we’ve de-Andy’d the content to make it less me and more a publisher. This resulted in brand new homepage copy and about page copy.

How do we pay writers? A combination of things, but we’re also opening the doors to talk to companies about supporting the website with tasteful, privacy-honouring advertising. You can read about that on the about page.

Lastly, we’ve simplified the article view and the big ol’ call to action at the end has gone in favour of a much simpler footer.

What else is changing? permalink

We’re exploring some ideas for a new name. We’re not 100% convinced whether to do that. In fact, cast your vote here.

Regardless if there’s a new name or not, we will be embarking on a fresh redesign because we’re in a position to deliver it now. This iteration cycle, along with previous iterations such as re-platforming to Astro has put us in a really strong position for a redesign.

We’re not redesigning because we want a new look and feel, but rather, it’s to support exiting new additions such as an in-platform course system and an expanded, searchable, filterable links section.

Instead of just tacking these features on to the existing design, we’re going from the ground up to make sure everything is slick, accessible and user friendly while looking incredible too.

What’s with the relationship to Set Studio? permalink

I — Andy — no longer run Piccalilli on my own. It’s a whole company venture at Set Studio. We’re a design agency, but creating and maintaining a publishing platform that is geared towards high quality content and elevating voices in the tech community is something we all really want to do. A big thing for Set Studio is mixing client work with internal projects. That has delivered community content such as The ideal Viewport Doesn’t Exist and Be The Browser’s Mentor, Not Its Micromanager previously.

We also want to make Piccalilli work from a business perspective without creating a horrible user experience for readers. Those readers should always be prioritised and we believe we can do that while also creating a sustainable platform that survives and flourishes. It’s something that is rightly a concern for the community since big publishers and news media organisations are crumbling.

It’s all about taking ideas and refining them into something excellent permalink

A dotted line that starts as a very scruffy, messy circle. Over the course of three more circles, it gets neater and neater until it’s nearly perfect

The visual representation of how we do things at Set Studio

This iterative approach is how we work with clients at Set Studio. We don’t believe in complex big bang moments, but rather, operating in small, focused cycles.

Sure, there are larger projects such as redesigns, but those are also broken into smaller iterative projects. We’ve had unbelievable success with clients using this approach, so why not treat our own project like a client project too?

We feel like Piccalilli (or its new name) will have a much better future with an evolutionary approach, rather than a revolutionary approach. Heck, we’ve been doing this behind the scenes now since late 2023 when the site looked like this.

The Piccalilli homepage with a eggshell, yellow and cardinal pink colour palette, featuring the old chilli pepper brand and old content

The site was effectively in hibernation at this point, but we woke it up and started chipping away at the backlog of tech debt to get it into the position its in today, ready for much more exiting stuff down the line.

The focus has been very much “let’s mature the brand over time” and I think we’ve managed to do exactly that.

The future is bright for publishing permalink

I just want to wrap up by acknowledging other publishers in our industry. It’s great to see CSS-Tricks is slowing waking up again. It’s fantastic to see the excellent people at Frontend Master’s new Boost blog too. There’s been some really top-class content on there.

I always have to tip my hat to Smashing Magazine who have continued to do what they do so well and finally, the OGs, A List Apart, are publishing again too.

I hope all of these and Piccalilli can push each other along to bring people fantastic content and elevate up-and-coming writers too.