Major changes to blog

I have changed the look of and some of the underlying architecture supporting my blog. I had my reasons.

I was motivated to do this for a number of reasons but primarily I wanted to rationalise Home Pages and consolidate the domain – http://www.billmitchell.org – in the one place so that it is simultaneously my home page and blog address. That forced me to reconsider the code architecture that supported both the home page and blog.

I decided that this was the best option for me in terms of functionality and ease of maintenance.

My new blog (and home page) theme is one I constructed from a combination of the WordPress Twenty Ten theme and the yet to be released Twenty Eleven theme (coming in June 2011 I think). I then modified a lot of the styling and added several new functions. It makes the blog more functional in terms of editing and presentation etc. It is also a better code base on which to introduce new features such as reviewable comments etc. It is also more compliant with different browsers although IE still tries to run its own show in defiance of accepted Internet standards.

The header image for the blog is an Australian native tree – Callistemon formosus (aka Kingaroy Bottlebrush) which is found in all tropical and sub-tropical (frost-free areas) on the east coast of Australia. It grows to about 3 metres and has lemon-coloured flowering spikes (that look like bottle brushes) all year round. It is one of thousands of beautiful Australian native trees. More information on the Callistemon variety and all other varieties of our beautiful fauna is available from the Australian National Botanical Gardens.

Any comments welcome and appreciated. I will not, however, be easily persuaded to go back to my old theme which was robust and functional but built on a limited code base with minimal support for new functions.

I particularly would like to know if the new theme has introduced any new browsing problems for readers. I will fix them as soon as I know about them.

best wishes
bill

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    24 Responses to Major changes to blog

    1. FM says:

      Looks good to me via both Google reader and the usual means.

    2. Sergei says:

      Bill, could you please increase the font size of the main text and comments?

    3. Alex Heyworth says:

      Sergei, depending on your OS and browser, you should be able to do this yourself. I have the text for this blog set at 144% of the original, which makes it pretty easy to read. I could go larger if I wanted. (I am using Chrome and Windows 7)

    4. Alex Heyworth says:

      PS, Bill, the new setup looks good to me.

    5. Tom Hickey says:

      Nice overall. Agree with Sergei that the text is a bit small. While it is easily possible for readers to make it larger, usually it’s a better idea to make it easy for readers, especially new ones checking out the site for the first time. If the text size is an issue from your side, it’s OK, but I’d suggest a more readable size for accessibility.

    6. pebird says:

      “I then modified a lot of the styling and added several new … ”

      Someone has some time on their hands:) It looks very good.

    7. pebird says:

      For some comments, I wouldn’t mind the text being unreadable. Maybe a linguistic contextual engine mapped to comment rendering layer.

      Or a thumbs up thumbs down widget.

    8. Will Richardson says:

      Nice clean open look, a good deal more up to date and current.

    9. Dario says:

      In my opinion the best option to read is a black wallpaper and a white character. Few blogs have this option

    10. Will Richardson says:

      Just posted this on a local paper site article on employers saying job applicants haven’t got the right skills.

      http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/Jobseekers-warning-skills/story-12794596-detail/story.html?random=5515420

      “It’s the mass unemployment, stupid!

      That’s caused by running the economy too cold, taxes are too high, spending is too low.

      Nationally Private Households are paying off a mountain of debt as there’s a limit to how much interest private incomes can service, mortgages are 3 or more times income, companies debts are usually that level, Caterpillar’s is 14 times income, Goldman Sachs’s 50 times income.

      So people aren’t spending as much, but paying off debt or saving. Globally the economy is cooling so exports are unlikely to provide much stimulus, especially as everyone is trying to do the same thing.

      The only spender left standing is the public sector and government, given the spare unemployed labour and capital in the economy, there’s plenty of real economic resources to soak up that spending and provide full employment.

      A good way of maximising employment whilst providing far more stable prices than mass unemployment, is a Job Guarantee at Decent Living Minimum Wage.

      Think about it! The unemployed are paid by the state to seek jobs and do next to useless, humiliating and demeaning off the job training, a complete waste of money the government’s so carelessly run out of.

      Surely it’s better to get them to do some community and/or environmental work for that money, but give them the option of earning £300 a week?

      We have the freedom to do this in this country as we haven’t given up our Monetary Sovereignty to the ECB/EU madness. The only thing madder than that is not to use that power for public purpose to run out economy for the people who need to earn a living rather than those who can live off their capital wealth and yet demand higher and higher wages above their productivity whilst paying us less and less relative to our labour productivity.

      Modern Monetary Theory, Understanding Modern (Sovereign) Money explain this more thoroughly than I’ve managed to.”

    11. Min says:

      Lookin’ good, sennor! :)

    12. Hugo Heden says:

      Looks good!

      I agree that the font size of the comments is too small. This is especially a problem when printing the articles, since there is usually no way to adjust the font size for print-outs on most browsers (hmm.. as far as I know).

      The font size of the comments is really small when printed.

    13. Burk says:

      Looks great on Safari! But forget about “alternative” economic thinking.. how about correct economic thinking? Or empirically validated, sound macroeconomic theory and analysis …

    14. Barry says:

      Apart from the font being too small, the main problem is the width of the main section. It’s far too wide for comfortable reading. I’ve compared it to a dozen blogs and newspapers I read and it’s easily the widest. A lot more white space on the left please Bill.

    15. bill says:

      Dear All

      Thanks for the comments. I have increased the font size and changed the face to Times New Roman (which is the “newspaper” font”). There are still some cosmetic issues to sort out though from my perspective.

      best wishes
      bill

    16. I would suggest to lessen main column width or to use flexible-width template. Too wide column makes text harder to read and more difficult to understand.

      That was the problem (at least for me) with former design, and looks not enough improved in present form.

      I found not bad readability advice here: Web Typography: Column Widths

      Don’t make your column measures too long.

      As discussed above, long column widths are the bane of forums around the globe, but why?

      What happens when a line is too long is that we have difficulties finding the start of the next line because our eye has to travel too far.

      We read top to bottom as well as left to right, so we jump down a line back to the left hand side to start again when we reach the end of a line of text. Have you ever skipped a line when reading something and had to start over? Odds are that the column was too long. The delineation between the end of one line and the beginning of the next was not made clear enough by the designer.

      Another thing that happens when your column is too wide is that the even flow of left to right can be disrupted by the patterns set by the text. With insufficient leading, or line-spacing, we can tend to lose our place in the sentence by being distracted by the words in the lines above or below.

      and

      According to Robert Bringhurst in his Elements of Typographic Style, § 2.1.2, widely regarded as the Bible of typography:

      “Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters.

    17. bill says:

      Dear Vytautas Vakrina

      Thanks very much for the information. When I next get some time I will try to examine what it all means. The main width of my page is 1000px which is the width of most of the newspapers I read.

      The main column width I chose is to allow larger graphics to fit so they are readable. That was the constraint I was working to. If I make the column too narrow as you suggest then the graphs and tables that I publish will be too small (in my view).

      It would also give me backward compatibility problems because many of the graphs etc that I have in my database now (from earlier blogs) will break the design.

      But I take the point and will see what I can do about it.

      best wishes
      bill

    18. selise says:

      bill,

      i don’t know if this will suit you… but another option for figures and graphics is a clickable smaller version (sized to match your column width) that opens into a large overlay. here’s the one i’ve used (and like): http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/shadowbox-js/

      that should permit you to change page width (if that is what you want to do) while preserving backward compatibility with your old graphics.

    19. bill says:

      Dear All Font size and Width of Text Complainants

      I have increased the font size a little and am using Georgia font now. I think it is okay now.

      I have also increased the left and right hand margins of the column of text considerably.

      I hope that helps.

      Thanks for all your comments.

      best wishes
      bill
      ps Selise – I will look into your suggestion later.

    20. MichaelC says:

      Bill,

      Overall I like the more up-to-date look-and-feel of the blog layout.

      But could you add a “Print Friendly” button to facilitate proper printing of a blog or comments. (I use my e-mail subscription version to print out a blog).

      Also, a good feature is “Create .pdf version”.

      I believe there are wordpress add-ins to support both features.

      Since your blogs are mini-articles, printing and saving are more important than for the usual brief blog entries we see on the web. Saving a library of .pdf files in folders / directories on our hard drives would also make it easy for us to look up recursively cross-referenced blogs that you refer to.

      Keep up the good work.

    21. dave says:

      Minor quibble but it took me a little while to find the search box. Unless the scroll bar is at the top of the page I can’t see it. I used to use the one above the calendar which looks like it is still there but doesn’t function?

      Also I liked the old font.

    22. Stephan says:

      I like the new layout. The minor quibble I’ve — only as a matter of taste — is with the choice of the header image. Not that I don’t like the native Australian fauna but the image seems to me more appropriate for a site about the benefits of mediation and yoga lessons. I would have chosen a native huge crushing Australian wave.

    23. Vassilis Serafimakis says:

      Thumbs up; all in working order.

    24. Mary says:

      Great changes, but I suggest adding a link to Twitter with an invitation to follow you there for notification.

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