A few weeks ago I began the foolhardy task of mucking about with the theme on this site, much like a man throwing rocks at a wasp’s nest for his own amusement. I was carefully balancing a couple of time-sensitive projects. I figured the theme change would be a quick thing, that I could make sweeping changes to the behavior of the site at the cost of just an hour or so.
Three days and a multitude of complaints later I realized what I’d gotten myself into, but I didn’t have time to make it right. I patched it up a bit, reinstated the old theme as the default, and made a note to return to this particular dragon’s den when I actually had time to deal with the dragon.
At the root of my error was the failure to understand just how little freedom I have with the theme of this site. A new blog can put up any old theme they like, but once you have about three years of content behind the thing the site begins to get a little rigid. The following bullet list contains the lessons and wisdom I gleaned from the debacle:
- The main content area must be at least 600 pixels wide, or DMotR won’t fit. It can’t be wider than that or it will hose the formatting of hundreds of old posts where I have text wrapping around images.
- The sidebar has to be about 200 pixels wide, or parts of it will wrap and look stupid.
- While people are often running at gigantic screen resolutions, many do so with their web browser in a much smaller window. I can’t make the site wider than 900 pixels unless I want them to have a horizontal scrollbar. (I do not.)
- The sidebar has to go on the right, because a lot of people object to left-scrollbars, but almost nobody objects to right ones. I do not know why.
- The tiling background causes slowdowns for older machines, so the default theme can’t have a repeating background.
- Under no circumstances should you mess with your site theme unless you have the time to deal with it afterwards!
Taken together, all of this means I didn’t really have much freedom to change the site if I didn’t want to break things. The only major change I was able to keep was the navbar across the top. Which is cool. I guess.
I’ve hammered out the various difficulties. We now have three themes:
- Lawful Good: The default, with a white background.
- True Neutral: Exactly like Lawful good, except with a gradient background.
- Chaotic Evil: White-on-black version of the default theme. While this setup tends to scorch my delicate optic nerve, some people really prefer it.
All the themes should be the same in terms of spacing and functionality. I’m sure things will break, but I’ve got a three day weekend going so I should be able to attend to any required fixes, assuming the problems aren’t at some fundamental design level.
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