NOTE: This blog post refers to a previous version of this blog which was developed under the CoETaIL domain.
Even a timeless work of art like the DeLorean needs an upgrade now and then. Without Mr. Fusion, how else could Doc generate the 1.21 Jigawatts of power?
It seems like all I’ve been doing for the last few months is tinkering, adjusting, modifying, overhauling, building and buying blog sites. There’s the revamped COETAIL blog, my classroom blog that has a new theme and the Digital Media blog I’ve built for one of the courses I’m teaching this semester. Then there’s my personal photography blog that is now live after a drawn out tinkering process.
For this site in particular, I’ve spent chunks of time over the last four weeks (has four weeks already gone by?!) painfully turning what was a generic WordPress blog page into something I find much more appealing. The Novelti theme caught my eye when I first looked at the new options for Course 3. In fact, I can’t say any of the others would have been much of a step up and worth the effort. As it turns out, the most appealing theme was also likely the most challenging and time-consuming to implement.
Immediately after loading in the theme and realizing my page looked nothing like the template, I knew I was in for a lot of work. By clicking through the Help link in the Novelti settings of my Dashboard, I could slowly figure out what all these new options actually meant. It turns out this theme is big on ‘Featured Images’. Here I thought the images I had embedded into all my blog posts would somehow automatically appear in the header slider, but NO. Featured Images are a whole other matter.
This then lead me to compfight (when it works) and the search for BIG, BAD Featured Images for my 12 previously-written posts. Yes, gotta get those Featured Images for ALL my posts. No shortcuts here. It also turns out that the theme is not so good at resizing and squeezing in photos that don’t fit the header dimensions. So, each photo had to be chosen so it could be cropped at precisely 1200 x 435 px and fill the header. Did you know if you’re a Mac user, you can do quite a lot using only Preview to edit and adjust photos? Well, I do now! It’s pretty handy if you don’t want to load up Lightroom, Photoshop or some other heavy software.
I like a lot of things about this theme (disregarding the leg work to get it to this point), which I will try to outline:
The boxed category names are right up at the top and easy to find. They also have a running post count, which is kind of neat. I was able to customize the colours of each of these boxes and used a tool that I’ve been wanting to try for a while: Kuler by Adobe. This is an awesome tool to find sets of colours that work well together based on different ‘rules’: Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complimentary, etc.
I picked a blue tone and it threw a bunch of monochromatic options at me, which I used for my current category boxes. This theme actually has a LOT of options to colour different sections and text, but I don’t want to get too crazy. Simple is best.
These are easily visible and accessible as the first widget of the sidebar on the right. I have them available on all page types. I figure most visitors to this site will be educators who are interested in EdTech, so keywords are essential to find things of interest. Notice they are also a blue tone!
Yes, these were absolutely brutal to deal with, but now that the work is done, I think these visual aids will really draw in people’s attention. The fold out post titles showing the date and number of comments is also an interesting visual, which is also blue, might I add.
I didn’t really want that giant header of sliding featured images, but from what I could tell, it was either this or a smaller sliding image header with the social media ‘counter’ beside it. I couldn’t imagine keeping a big scoreboard of ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs up’ in people’s faces as if to say, ‘Look how great my posts are!’ (In reality, it would just be a lot of zeroes.)
Featured Images also show up below in the list of previous blog posts. At this point I just decided to have one long list of posts drawing from all categories since there are only 12 at this point. It would be a bit pretentious to do otherwise.
Although there is still a lack of font choice, the default font for this theme works. It’s readable, clean and sans serif. I have a big thing about fonts. Don’t get me started on Times New Roman or Comic Sans. [Really, you’re going to write that document with the default font of Windows 3.1? REALLY??]
Two minor things I would like to be able to change are the header logo (HEISZ NATION, is a predefined pixel size that cannot be changed) and the background of the header area. It’s quite dark right now, almost black. I’m not sure what I think about that. Some sort of textured background in a lighter colour would be good, but the only option is to alter the colour rather than upload an image.
I also noticed the documents I embedded from Google Docs, for example, Course 2 AUP are not extending to the specified pixel length. They are flat as a pancake for some reason.
VISUAL DESIGN AND RSS READERS
As I was going through the blog redesign, my main thought was how many people actually visit websites these days? I have close to 100 feeds in Feedly at this point and rarely click though to the main website. Almost all the content I view through Feedly’s interface and never see the webpage or it’s layout or even many of the visual elements of the article I read. I actually like this. Get rid of all the distractions and show me the content. So, how many people are seeing and being influenced by a website’s visual appearance? I guess you visit websites first before adding them to RSS – and it’s more likely you’ll subscribe to a visually interesting website in the first place.