So I did something dumb this week. I've been thinking about how poorly my sites display on mobile (not dumb) and was playing around with Movable Type (marginally dumb) and accidentally clicked on a new theme (extra special dumb). This had the effect of blowing out all of the design templates and modules I had ever created (and replacing them with the default MT setup). Because I installed MT back in aught-two, all of that crap was custom. Sure, it was backed up, but restoring it would be a pain and hey, maybe I should take this opportunity to refresh the technology behind the blog. Lots of things have changed in the decade-plus since I cobbled this place together and I haven't been keeping up. It's the sort of thing I've been meaning to do for a while, but who has time to redesign a site from scratch? It turns out that accidentally resetting the design was just the kick in the arse I needed. So welcome to the 2016 edition of Kaedrin (He says, as if he's done anything in the past decade or so. For reference, here's a writeup of the first few designs and here's what the site looked like until this afternoon.)
The biggest benefit you'll see is that the site looks a lot better on Mobile devices. The layout now uses some rudimentary responsive design techniques - if you shrink your browser window, you'll see some things rearrange themselves (notably the right navigation). It's far from perfect, but still a large improvement over the table based layout that had been in place for so long. Lots of changes to typography and spacing, mostly to accommodate mobile, but also because of the prevalence of higher resolution screens. I tried to keep the visual design fairly consistent, but lots of things have unavoidably changed. There are also tons of behind-the-scenes improvements that you won't notice, but Google will.
Of course, a few hours of tweaking the default templates does not a complete redesign make. There's still a lot of stuff I'd like to tackle, and plenty of other considerations:
- Mobile still requires a lot of tweaking. The navigation at the top of the page does some funky things when the screen gets small, and frankly not all of that stuff is probably needed. Most of it is legacy content from the pre-blogging, turn-of-the-century timeframe and should mostly be jettisoned.
- Speaking of navigation, most blogs seem to have abandoned the stuff that's currently in my right navigation. This might be worth considering, so long as I can still provide a way to navigate (I do hate it when you can't find someone's archives or they rely exclusively on lazy-loading or something).
- Categories need a major overhaul. There's not much rhyme or reason to them, and many aren't complete (i.e. when I created a new one, I rarely went back and added legacy entries into the category). Because this is a generalist blog, a rigid categorization scheme is perhaps not ideal (unlike my beer blog, which has a well-thought-out and consistent categorization scheme). I should probably look into tags as well.
- Monthly and Category Archives are kinda minimalist now. I'm planning on updating them to include full entries.
- Breadcrumbs might not be necessary at this point, but I had them on the old site so they stay for now. Unfortunately, the default layout in MT puts them in a location that is mildly inconvenient. This might be the first thing to go.
- Archives are all using the same filename conventions as previously, so this redesign shouldn't break any links. That said, I'd like to figure out a way to at least update the individual entries to use a more descriptive filename. This would break old links though, so I'd have to figure out the Canonical linking strategy, and that's no fun.
- Visual design could certainly use some more work. I'm no artist, but I liked what was there before and I'd like to make some incremental improvements to this design as time goes on. The masthead needs some work, the footer is a mess, and the right nav could use some rethinking. Typography and spacing could use some tightening as well.
- CSS needs considerable cleanup. Everything appears functional right now, but it's a mess. That's partly because CSS is an inherent nightmare, but also because I'm out of practice and MT's default templates are bonkers.
- I tested the site in most modern browsers, but there will undoubtedly be a ton of tweaks needed in the near future. If you see anything dramatically wrong, please email or leave a comment.
- Expect tons of tiny, incremental changes over the next few months. This is the big bang change, everything else should barely be noticable.
There's probably lots of other stuff as well and this whole fiasco did get me thinking generally about the state of personal, generalist blogs (i.e. they're basically an anachronism at this point), but I'll leave that for later posts. For now, just enjoy the new design and mobile experience...
Update: I've been making some tweaks throughout the day. I'm going to put a running list in the Extended Entry, partly just so that I can make sure that works too.
A running list of tweaks:
- For some reason, some of the longer category filenames got screwed up and the links broke. This has been fixed.
- iPhone Safari horizontal scroll issue fixed. I think. It's still a little wonky and I hate margin: auto and width: auto and CSS.
- Statcounter added back in (no visual impact).
- Link to extended entry on main page now anchors to the extended section of the entry.
- Added a link to comments on main page (probably not the best location/design, but a good quick fix)...