Why I Redesigned My Website Again

Longtime readers of rivendell.neocities.org will remember that it used to look like this.

I put a lot of TLC into that version of the site, getting it to look just so. In the end, it became kind of a pain in the butt to update, because it was so much custom HTML (I write most of my content in Markdown, which I then convert to HTML with a Ruby script).

But that wasn't why I changed it. The real issue was that I felt perpetually torn between making an LotR fansite and making a personal website. By calling the site Rivendell, and styling it all Lord-of-the-Ringsy, I felt pretty locked into the former, and I wasn't happy with that. What ended up happening was that I kept posting personal stuff but trying to shoehorn it into the LotR framework, and it always felt a bit wrong. The personal website and the LotR site were destined to fight, it seemed, and in the end, the personal site won. Now, I don't think I'll go back.

I'd set myself an impossible task, I think. An online portal to Rivendell? The Last Homely House of legend? The House of Elrond? What would that even mean? Was the goal to create a website that could replicate the feeling I get from Tolkien's books? Maybe not impossible—I like to think I came close with Cuio Edhellen—but not something I can sustain, creatively—nor something I want to be limited to.


One of the hardest things about this redesign was deciding which pages to group together in the navbar. The problem is, some pages seem to fit in multiple categories. Does the Langmaker archive go with archives, or languages? Does the lembas recipe go with the recipes, or the LotR stuff?

In the end, I made a list of all the pages on the site and shuffled them around in various configurations trying to see what would work. The first many permutations I tried were unsatisfying for a number of reasons. Either the categories were too broad to be useful for navigation, or there were so many of them that they overwhelmed the navbar, or there were some things that didn't seem to fit anywhere.

Finally I decided that I was trying to be too logical. The problem was that I was making up categories and then trying to fit things into them. So I made an effort to clear my mind of all preconceptions and just put things together that seemed to want to go together. Once I had groupings, then I'd label them.

The categories that emerged surprised me, for a couple reasons. First, it became apparent that the most important split, in my mind, was between things that had mystical significance and things that did not. And that split was perfectly clean: everything fell into exactly one of those categories, with no ambiguity.

What was more surprising, though, was that I could not think of a succinct label for either group. What's a word for things of mystical significance that fits in a nav link?

At first I tried the labels The Sacred and The Profane, but after browsing WordNet and some dictionaries, it became clear that those wouldn't do. In fact, all the religious terms referring to holy things were related to the act of consecration via a rite. There were no words I could find in English that referred to something that was sacred in and of itself, because of its inherent structure.

Curious. Very curious.

I was having even less luck with the antonym: what's a word for something that's inherently non-sacred? In the end, I went with hallows (a word sufficiently archaic and vague that I felt I could appropriate it) and a punny non-antonym (re)creations to describe things that I had created, or remixed, or that I thought were simply amusing.

I'm now thinking I may have to create a conlang in which there are adequate words for these concepts... >:D