Sunday, July 11, 2004

A View of the Future?

Been playing around with new blogging systems and a minor redesign of the blog, in anticipation of maybe moving the blog over to the domain. Or maybe not. I'm so slow and indifferent to the whole process, it's sad.

When Blogger "upgraded" to the new interface, I didn't really like it or care for it. I started to investigate Moveable Type, since the Blogcritics site uses that tool. It was a headache to set up, though, so I abandoned that idea.

Then, when MT announced their new pricing and product setup, that pretty much clinched it. Even though they've since moderated their initial program, it's still not appealing to move over to a system that may strand me with an old, abandoned product if I can't afford to start paying for it.

So, I looked into WordPress. That is one elegant and straight-forward blogging system. It set up on my domain host easily enough. But then I got into tweaking it to fit my needs on the domain and ran into trouble. Documentation is scarce and occasionally confusing. There's plenty of help on the support forums, but it's hit-and-miss; if you don't get the right answer right away, if you have to ask follow-up questions, you are out of luck. The crowd has moved on.

And then! Yes, there's more. My password stopped working, and I was locked out. Turns out that this is also a common problem, but not one addressed in a product fix yet. Being Open Source, who knows how long it'll be until that's repaired. I went into the Support Forums again and found a whole lot of answers, which are largely unclear and confusing. I'm still locked out for now.


It also meant learning PHP so I could tweak the index.php file, which was pretty daunting. I'm growing tired of learning new languages just to work with programs that are supposed to make my life easier! WordPress is without question a beautiful and subtle way to design a blog; ultimately, I'll end up there I'm sure. But it's more headache than I really want. Blogger is clunky, with too many click-throughs, both too many features and not the features I want, but I can work it well enough to get the job done. So, I'm still here and not really motivated to move along.

Sigh, again....

I had hoped to be able to do this blog's present design (with three columns, which is pretty much necessary for a link-heavy site like this, in my thinking) in WordPress with just CSS, which would be nice in terms of making easy changes to the underlying structure. But doing that (CSS only in WordPress) turns out to be a quest that many have made with mixed results. Most of them require tweakage on my part. Plus, learning about PHP, so I can adjust the index.php file to display how I want.

Plus, it looks like I'll have to hand-enter every single link myself, instead of doing some kind of bulk import! Shit on that.

So, I just reworked the present Blogspot design to be CSS-based, with the underlying index.html file being (mostly) pure structure and data. It's coming along nicely, too. I spent a couple of days experimenting and tweaking, since I sorta know HTML and CSS, and came up with something that's simpler to update when I need to. Not completely elegant, nor have I checked for validity, but it's coming along.

You can view the early beta version here. The URL is simple, which I wanted. I still opted to use tables for the underlying structure, but it's a simple, three-column table now. The outer columns are fixed-width, leaving the center (posting) column to expand with different resolutions and screen sizes. The design still feels cluttered, but maybe a bit less so now. Your comments are welcome.

I have alternate stylesheets now. Those of you who don't like white text on a black background (because you want to destroy your eyesight, I guess) now have a simple, "proper," stylesheet for yourself. Or, you can just look at the basic HTML structure (no formatting at all!). I think this can be adapted, minus the few graphics on the page, for PDA display, etc. We'll see. Once I move to, then I can use cookies to set the stylesheet preference for individual users! Whee!!

And, just for fun, I did a version with Hot Pink! on a black background. It's an eye-hurter, but I ended up with it by accident during some experimentation and decided to leave it available. Have a laugh. If you have any suggestions for other color combinations or layouts, give me your ideas and we'll see what happens. I'd like to try something else with black text / white type, but with narrow-border boxes around the categories labels and a narrow line down the inside margin alongside the links. Variable adjustment, drop-down lists for categories instead of loooooong lists?

I'll still likely go to WordPress, just for the extra features it offers, especially categories and search, and the CSS elegance. But it's been a headache since installation completed, when I wanted to customise it, then with the lockout, so that's on the backburner now.

Anyway, go to Half-Bakered's future home and look around. Play with the alternate stylesheets. Like I said, suggestions and opinions are welcomed.

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