For years now, Movable Type has had a powerful "Style Catcher" built in, which lets you browse a number of different style libraries all over the Internet, and then apply a style to your blog with just a click. It's really simple, but as a company that's always cared a lot about design, we wanted to give you more power, more personalization, and more control over the way your site looks. So behold, the Movable Type Design Assistant, a beta of a new tool designed to help you make beautiful sites, easily.
We started with a few of our most popular default styles, which cover a wide variety of visual looks, and which also offer a range of different choices for the number of columns of content you have on your site.
But what if you like one of the default styles and just need to make a few tweaks to it here and there? Or what if you want to start from a clean slate, working with a completely unstyled blog and adding in your own look and feel? The Design Assistant makes that easy, too.
Jim Ramsey, Movable Type's lead designer and someone who's done some great thinking about design in general has listened to a lot of feedback from the community, and knew that we could make this whole process easier. One of the first steps to making great design simple was his Universal Template Set concept. But everyone who uses Movable Type's default templates should have more tools -- not just to make the design process easier, but so that it's easy to learn how the whole system works while making a custom design.
We've already seen our Six Apart hackathons yield really innovative features like Action Streams or the first iPhone blogging interface, so it was easy for Jim to carry on that tradition to solve this design problem, putting together the Movable Type Design Assistant during the past few hackathons. The Assistant's as beautiful as the designs it creates, and it gives you the most intuitive way yet to select a style and layout as a starting point, and then to apply and preview modifications to a design using CSS -- all in real time, completely live. Once everything is exactly the way you like it, you can take the custom style and just copy-and-paste to apply it to your blog. There's even a handy "Learn More" area for you to find additional Movable Type design resources and our recommended reading list for learning and mastering stylesheets.
And this is just the beginning. In the coming weeks, the Design Assistant will be growing with new capabilities: More styles to start with, more layouts to choose from, easier ways to apply styles to your blog, and some great social sharing features to help you learn from, and benefit from, the incredibly generous and talented community of designers who use Movable Type.
We have released the tool under the GPL to encourage others to build on top of it. You can check it out of our code repository and make edits and improvements as you see fit. In the future we also hope to:
- improve compatibility with Internet Explorer 6 and 7
- include additional base styles to choose from
- package it as a plugin so that the process of applying custom styles can be completely automated
- include support for additional template sets so that users can more easily customize the style of sets like the Universal Template Set
If you are interested in helping, or have a question about how this works, or have found a bug, leave a note and let us know. We would love to hear from you!