Further Yammerings About The Redesign

Terrible Minds Logo (Misc)

Well, all righty, then.

The dust has settled a little bit.

A little more behind this whole, “Hey! Holy crap! Surprise redesign in yo’ face!”

Yes, I was planning to have a redesign up and rocking for April. Thing is, what’s great about WordPress is that once you have your elements roughly in hand, it doesn’t take much to implement them. It holds up to the abuse. It was the same way with the first redesign last April — I expected to take weeks working on it, and then one day I just found myself blinking and saying, “Is it me, or is this fucker done cooking?”

I had this new look over at my “testing station” (another WordPress installation where I play with themes and plugins from time to time), and everything looked pretty rock solid. Not done, of course. The elements are like little scabs, and I can’t quit picking at ‘em.

Thing is, playing with it over at the testing station means, the more I implement there, the more I have to do here to mirror it.

Last night, I figured, “Hey, hell with it. Why wait?”

And I punted this sucker through the goalposts.

At which point, it caught fire and hit the crowd and exploded, burning them all beneath a blanket of napalm. Because the theme didn’t work. Hell, my admin pages didn’t work. Everything was broken. I panicked. Like, ready to evacuate my bowls and just turn my computer off to “make the bad software go away.” Even switching back to the old theme didn’t help completely — the site went back to looking and functioning just fine, but the admin panels were covered in the sticky fingers of fuckery most foul. As noted, it turns out that some plugins were causing some agita (Lifestream, a new “tag cloud” plug-in), and by dialing them back to “deactivate,” the admin pages once more came crawling into the light.

Why the redesign?

A Teensy-Weensy More Professional

Some writers will have a “front website,” and then a link to a blog which takes you WordPress or Blogger or what-not. With WordPress, though, I saw an opportunity to have my cake and eat it, too. While I liked the work I put into that front graphic with the cool links and the photo and the ink spatters and the skulls and the glowy bits and the OH MY GOD THERE’S TOO MUCH ON THE SCREEN, I figured having a more interactive and visually consistent experience was of value to both me and the readers of the site. Here, this theme gives me that up front. It gives a “loading dock,” so to speak, where you can go and throw whatever contraband you want into the back of your beater car: you want the blog? The photostream? You wanna see what I’m up to? Who the hell I even am? It’s all right there. Bold, clean, a hair on the minimal side.

The “portfolio,” a graphic version of my “What Has Chuck Written?” page, will go up eventually. It’ll take me a little while to wrangle those graphical elements into place. Not difficult, but it’ll be a bit of a slog. Those graphical elements are part of what I wanted, too — a clean place to highlight photography without necessarily requiring Flickr. I’ll still use the Flickr stream, mind. But I wanted the photos to come to the table with both barrels a-blazing; I don’t consider myself a photographer, just a hobbyist, but it’s part of who I am and what I like, and if this space is that, then they belong in this space.

This space, by the way, is a premium theme from Themeforest. For the most part, free themes cut it. The wealth of free, awesome WordPress goodness out there is amazing. That said, premium affords a few opportunities for someone like me, who isn’t really a codemonkey (I can turn a few knobs and pull a few levers, but that’s about it). Premium lets you contact the developer directly. Premium doesn’t require you to brand the theme with the theme creator’s info. Premium themes often come with higher-end doohickeys and thingamabobs and fizzletynuts (such as the easy slider on the front page). And any time the theme creator does an update, it’s free. This theme got an update a week or so ago that allowed new colors (dark, red, blue) and fixed a ton of little bugs.

C’mon, Though, Not That Goddamn Professional

Rick asks while weeping and pulling out great clumps of his mighty chest hair, “Where’s the comment about the witty doormats? Are you getting all soft on us, Wendig? Have you left us miscreants and deviants behind?”

Yes. Yes, I have. Please exit out the back.

… okay, no. That’s not it. The section with my little bio had to be pretty short, elsewise it looked weird, so I went with brevity. Since “witty doormats” are not actually in my wheelhouse, I figured it’d be best to provide more accurate information given the space allotted.

I have not gone all shiny and professional. I’ll still use profanity. I’ll still reference pornography. I’ll still hold cock fights (roosters, people, get your mind out of the poo jar) down in the subbasements. Wait, you didn’t know about the cock fights? You’ve been missing out. Last week, Big Red got taken down by Small Wonder. This week, Small Wonder fights Thundercomb. It’ll be quite a show!

What’s With The Look?

I wanted minimal, yet visual. I wanted clean typography that felt… well, for lack of a better term, that felt like “me.” The black on white helps me to achieve that.

The logo and elements are meant to imply “ink.” I like ink as a motif, because it’s applicable to me. Not just as a freelance penmonkey, but because in my youth, I was frequently covered in ink. Okay, not head-to-toe or anything, but I chewed on pens. When you chew on pens, pens bleed. They bleed on your hands, your pants, and occasionally in your mouth. I left pens in pockets frequently. Which means the pens bled, either when pen-tip touched pocket fabric, or when pants-with-pen-pocket went into the washer. Oops.

My mother still sends me hate mail for that one.

I also doodled frequently. Little margin doodles. Or I’d — as the logo suggests — color in the little unfilled bubbles that comprise certain letters (o, b, d, etc.). Finally, my handwriting is terrible. It’s like ink from an epileptic squid — sbbt, spurt, splash. It’s why I type. I’m messy. I was never a “color inside the lines” kid.

The design elements are meant in service to that. Not in a big, slapdown way. Again, I wanted something that skirted minimal. If I’m left to my devices, I’ll go overboard. I like a lot of design elements in play. I like to throw everything at the wall. Of course, that’s not really what you want in the end. It’s fun to play that way, but the end result needs to be something functional, elegant, and not overwrought.

Hopefully, I’ve achieved that.

I’m still not sure. It’ll take me a little while to roll this around in my mouth, see how it tastes.

For now, I’m hesitantly optimistic that this design is clean, readable, and bold without being gaudy.

Anything Not Working? Give A Shout!

I know a few things aren’t working for me, yet. I mentioned in the previous post that the “photos inside the post” don’t play right. I can get them centered (above), but if you go to, say, a previous post with images, you’ll see how the images don’t position properly. I can’t wrestle them into shape, not even in new posts. If anybody has any suggestions, I’ll take ‘em. Otherwise, I’ll go to the designer, see if he has any fixes.

Some stuff on the back-end is a hair wonky, too. But functional enough.

Is the gray text here readable enough? It is for me, I think. I can’t lie — the last site (light gray text on dark gray backdrop) hurt my eyes on long posts. Doesn’t seem to be the case here. But it isn’t about me, it’s about you. I need to know if you crazy little monkeys can read it. It could be a monitor issue. On my laptop, it’s a bit light. On the desktop monitors, it’s spot on. This could be rectified (rectum-fried?) by either darkening the font, which I’m a bit hesitant to do, or increasing the font size. (I have to find where in the css files this even is, though. I’m a css-noob.)

Rick called out that the comment information (re: Gravatar info) isn’t being saved. Anybody else having that experience? Erm, anybody know how to even address that? I don’t know how to make that work, honestly.

Taking other comments, questions, complaints, death threats, proposals of marriage, and Nigerian e-mail scams. Also: don’t be offended if I don’t automatically fix problems and suggestions. I’ll get to all this when I can.

[EDIT! Hey! I upped the font size and the font darkness a little without going full dark. The wife gives it a thumbs-up. Let's see how you crazy cats and kittens feel. Please comment when you get the chance!]


    • Put in a recent comments sidebar feed — thoughts? Mine are, I don’t much like it — it’s a context-free list. No actual comments listed. Maybe there’s a more robust plug-in available.

      Another weird goblin: my subscribe-to-comments plug-in is installed and active, but doesn’t appear to be working.

      – c.

  • The whole thing feels a bit more clean – it’s a nice facade to protect you from those looking to shut down your cockfights. Nicely done. If the boys in blue ask me about rooster throw-downs, I can say “Look, have you seen the man’s site? Does it look like the site maintained by a cockfighting mastermind? I didn’t think so either. Now get those citations out of my face.”

    • Joelle –

      I will be including that in my visual portfolio — at present, though, it’s weird. I don’t *have* any novel length fiction, at least not for public consumption? Should I reference the novel that’s repped by Stacia?

      – c.

  • Oh, and the icons don’t seem to be working. o_o And it won’t save my information so I have to enter it in each time!

    Finally, I’m cold and I’m out of milk. THESE ARE SERIOUS MATTERS!

  • Woot! Referenced TWICE motherfuckers! Ow, my chest-hair. I didn’t have much to begin with. Blood shall be my manly torso-forest now.

    I can read the white-on-gray text much easier now, though if you’ve actually changed the color or my eyes stopped sucking I don’t know. Still got the Gravatar problem, but that’s not a biggie. It was just nice to not have to type in my name – I mean, come on, I don’t like referencing me any more than the rest of you do.

    Love the redesign Chuck. Keep up the good work.

    • Rick:

      I love the smell of your chest hair. It’s like… a muskrat odor.

      I wish I could puzzle these comments out and why the Gravatar doesn’t populate.

      If anybody has help, scream is so the cheap seats can hear.

      – c.

  • I appreciate your candor.

    I fixed the fact that, for those not logged in, it was pulling a bogus graphic file int he code — now the default graphic is the little skull dude.

    Still not sure why it won’t auto-populate previous comment entry info (name, email, url). Something to do with cookies; WP generates three cookies in regards to that, one for name, one for email, one for url.

    But I can’t find in the css or PHP where that all falls apart.

    – c.

  • Love the redesign. It’s proven somewhere (what isn’t?) that dark text on a light background is easier to read (okay, I admit it, I have a bad memory for remember where I read stuff). Thank you, thank you.
    Clean, stylish, but still you.
    Btw I think this is the first time I comment. Thought it was time. :)

  • Well, well, well. Poking at a few things here and there: I know a lot of folks prefer this dark text / light background combo, but count me in the group that likes light on dark. (Not that it matters too terribly much!)

    I really like the minimal sidebar and the layout of the blog’s front page. And the logo… yeah, I dig it.

  • It’s going to be difficult keeping this virgin white website stain free.

    Now, I’m off to find a good rhyme for “cock sucker.”

    Goblin chucker? Crotch knuckler? Ass buckler?

  • @Kyle –

    Technically, I prefer the aesthetic of light text on dark.

    But, it just wasn’t working for my eyes so much. I’d proofread my blogs and start to get bleary-eyed.

    – c.

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