on Feb 27, 2009
I’ve noticed that there is a really strong tradeoff between aesthetics and functionality in blog designs. The more striking or impressive a blog design looks, the harder it is to find the stuff you’re looking for. I sometimes browse WordPress themes to see what the hip crowd is up to. Invariably I’ll find something sexy, look at it closer, and realize that the thing would be either a chore to navigate or monstrous to maintain. (Note that I’m not shopping for themes for this site or anything. All of my stuff is homebrew, old-school, table-driven, and hardcoded to meet the various eccentricities of this site. I’m just browsing out of curiosity, and because a lot of them are really pretty to look at. I drive a tractor, but I like to walk around and look at the sportscars on occasion.)
- DMotR strips are 600px wide. Any new theme I adopted would have to give at least that much room to the main column.
- I learned a while ago what while the number of people running 800×600 is pretty small, the number of people who reduce their browser window is quite high. This, coupled with the rise of the eee PC and the tendency to install web browsers on anything not made entirely of wood means you can’t go much more than 800 wide without making the site a pain in the ass for a lot of visitors.
- The theme needs to be able to handle wider-than-600px posts without suffering a complete formatting failure. (An overwhelming majority of WordPress themes are built in such a way that the sidebar will go on a walkabout if you break the intended width in a given post. This is one of the reasons for my devotion to the ancient cult of the <table>.)
- Auto-width themes – which simply expand to fill all of the horizontal space – are miserable to read on really wide monitors. Also, tucking images into the text (like I do here in my videogame reviews) becomes unworkable or goofy looking.
It quickly becomes apparent that I don’t actually have much freedom at all in formatting the site. 800px wide. 600px for the content. The balance goes to sidebar and whatnot.
But I’m curious what other people like, or what looks good. (Go ahead and throw in a link to your own blog if it’s something that works for you. No need to be shy. I don’t mind a little self-promotion.) Seeing nice themes in action is really different than seeing them on the showroom floor at WordPress.org. Yes, I know functionality and performance trump visual fireworks – the appeal of which wanes quickly – but it’s natural to want a bit of both and I’m curious about what other people find appealing.
Also: I’m sure my spam defenses will throw a tantrum if people start posting links. Please be patient with the spam filter. It is stupid and has no taste. I’ll approve comments as soon as I can.
EDIT: Sorry for the completely not-related-to-the-topic-of-the-blog post. I have a column going up later today, if that appeases you.
EDIT2: I’m really surprised at the number of people who actually like the site design. I’ll have to be careful not to upset whatever accidental alchemy I have in place when I make my tweaks to the site. Which reminds me: It’s possible to use an animated .gif as a repeating background on a page, right?
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.