Bold Feature Rundown

It’s been a month since I launched the redesign of Random Process, in the form of Bold. I’ve been massaging some rough spots since then, and there’s a big list of to-do’s still left in my OneNote notebook. Now, here are some more detailed thoughts when I went about creating this new design.

I don’t profess to be a graphics artist. My Photoshop skills are pretty meager. Yet at the same time, I’ve wanted to add some more character to my designs, which have traditionally been pretty dull. This time, I turned to a couple of interesting colors to liven things up. I really can’t say there was any technique in picking the shade of blue and orange. Nevertheless, I rather enjoy how they mix.

As you may have noticed, there are no sidebars, per se. Consequently, much of the miscellaneous content that took up that space in the past has essentially disappeared. This was intentional, with the reason being that there will eventually be a permanent homepage, which will contain the things that don’t quite fit in with the blog nature of this site.

The lack of sidebar(s) also puts the focus directly on the content. Because the homepage will be the portal to other forms of content, I can focus solely on the writing here. In that same vein, the blog index now shows full posts, instead of one feature and then excerpts only. This translates into less clicking and more reading.

The single column layout also gives me much more flexibility in presenting different types of posts in different ways. As photography is becoming a bigger part of my interests (and subsequently, a bigger part of the posts here), I felt confined by the approximately 500 pixel wide content areas I had to work with. I want to showcase larger images, and this new layout allows me to do that easily.

Of note, the archives section of the site has been completely redesigned. I used a fancy AJAX archives plugin in the past, but I wasn’t happy with the navigation, which was simply a giant list of dates and posts. Instead, I’ve created a table-like structure, where the user can select both year and month to drill down into the archives.

The same general format is used for the search and category pages as well, although I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to put on the side for the category version. Meanwhile, the search results page will throw up another search box if a lot of results are returned. I figure the user might want to refine their search if it happens that what they initially searched for returns too many results to go through easily.

Finally, to keep with the WordPress times (e.g. version 2.7.1), I’ve included support for threaded comments. The new comment function, wp_list_comments, is nice in that it eliminates a lot of code for the designer and surfaces so many classes with which one can modify the look of comments. Unfortunately, creating a custom callback to use a completely different HTML layout means all those useful classes, which identify things like odd/even posts, author responses, and more are lost. In addition, the function itself isn’t well documented on the Codex, so I had to reference other sources, and rip out my share of hair, fiddling to get things the way I wanted. I’m planning on writing a few tidbits for others in the same position. Even Otto’s excellent post didn’t quite do it.

I’m pretty happy with the design overall, and with this semester as horrifically busy as it is, there’s probably little time to make major changes even if I wanted to.

BlackBerry Precision Theme

If you’re itching for the new BlackBerry 9000, but rock a Pearl, Curve or 8800 instead, eVeek is providing a nice port of the Precision theme. Perhaps it’ll make the wait for the Bold just a bit more manageable. It now adorns my 8310 and I’m very happy with the design.

Theme Release Imminent

I apologize about the lack of real content here over the past few days. I’ve been busy with orchestra (our semester performance was this past Thursday), working on getting the new theme ready for public consumption, as promised, and playing with lots of new computer hardware (which I’ll certainly write about).

Release for the new theme should be tomorrow, barring any catastrophy with my hard drives…

Design Sacrifices

I think there’s a fine line that needs to be drawn between fancy and functionality. I’m a little guilty of crossing that line in my new design, the late stages of which you can find over here. When I was drawing up the plans for the new design, I threw in practically every fancy feature I had seen from around the web: instant search, sliding menus, stuff fading in and out, and cool little image popups (lightbox). A lot of it was just plain cool – and served very little purpose other than to grab your attention in hopefully a good, but perhaps a bad way as well.

It’s also co-op interview season at the University of Waterloo again, and at my interview for a web development position at the Bank of Montreal, I found myself being very hypocritical. As a response to the question ‘what are some characteristics of a poor web design’ I answered everything I was putting into my own web design, namely too much content hitting the user all at once and putting in flashy little apps just for the sake of having them. The idea is to use these little extensions to help in creating a more enjoyable and efficient browing session. If it’s there but serves no purpose other than to show off your skillz, it probably shouldn’t be.

So with that little revelation, I went through my little javascript folder and realized 250kb is waaayyy overkill. Of the features I’ve implemented (live search, sliding navigation and comment panes, live commenting and lightbox) the most useful is the live search. After that is probably live commenting. Lightbox I’ve decided to get rid of and perhaps I’ll replace the sliding panes with a simple show or hide with a few lines of js. Hopefully that’ll not only make my external scripts much smaller, but also remove some of the feature clutter that’s gathering.

Expect to see a fairly final version pop up here in the next day or two.

Hemmed Without The AJAX

Well, it seems like there have been quite a few problems with the Live Commenting and LiveSearch used in the Hemmed theme. As a result, I’ve decided to release a new revision of the theme with those features removed. I know I helped a couple people with manually removing it from the theme, but I think this’ll save both you and myself quite a bit of time. So for all of you who have been having problems with the AJAX/browser incompatibilities, try this new version out.

Hemmednoajax.zip

Update: It seems like some people are just seeing this post when they come to this site for the Hemmed theme and miss some of the more important info that should be ingested along with the theme. As a result, I’ll point you in the direction of the original post that contains all of the details that you should know before using this theme. Go have a gander here. Thanks.

[tags]wordpress themes[/tags]