Time for an Update

Do not adjust your screen. I’m tweaking the settings to improve readability, functionality, and other fun words that end in “lity.”

I’ve moved all my stuff from my old to my new computer, and I’m planning on doing a lot more blogging, and I’m working at a mad pace to get my Mindcast shows uploaded. I’ve put it off for too long and disappointed my, heh, fans. It is awesome hearing that there are people elsewhere who miss listening to me go on about science into a microphone, and I’ve got a whole bunch of wonderful stuff with a spring and summer-load of interviews just waiting to go online. The first is done, available, and took more editing than the next few will, so expect to see a flood of episodes! But that’s not the update I really want to talk about here.

It is time to make this site look, operate, and feel better. I learned some php while tweaking the theme I chose to fit what I wanted with the blog, and so changing things around won’t be too difficult. However, since you are the people who will be reading it (or you’re just passing through), I would like to hear what suggestions you might have.

So here’s the problem – My blog is hard for people to read. Initially, I thought it would be different to try having a black background with white text, however, it is harder for our eyes to look at than black text on white. Of course, I had to have that image of my brain at the top, and I thought to have my spinal cord trail off down the page, as if the blog was displaying the thoughts coming out of my head. You know the brain’s cool, and its not going anywhere, but I think a highly visible spinal cord has got to go as well. It interferes with the text. Also, I read a comment elsewhere about my blog, crying out about the intense blue color of the side bars. Those need to be changed.

I realize that the “Most Commented” list on the left doesn’t order as I’d like it… each entry is mashed together, and I’m looking into that. I would also like to set it up so that you don’t have to enter any details if you are already logged in. I discovered, after making several comments myself, that while logged in, I didn’t have to fill anything out.

What else? I’m going to add a few more plugins to make everything run better and so that there are more features. Also, I’m going to try to see if there’s something I can do about the picture posting – there don’t seem to be as many positioning options for images as I’d like. I have to trick my blog into not putting text next to large pictures by making the picture an odd 570-pixel width to fit the space exactly. What else does my blog sorely need?

As for the layout of my site, there are a few things I would like to change. Although it doesn’t look like it, the sidebars don’t actually extend up to the top – that’s how the images fit together. I would like to put an image of myself (or an image that rotates each time you refresh the page) in the top left corner, which is not currently possible. (Unless I made it a permanent part of the header image.) Also, I would like the tools to extend up to the top right, or I could put a special item up there, like the calendar. (those kinds of moves are easy)

To do this, I may have to scrap the theme that I spent so much time tweaking at the turn of the last year, but that’s ok as long as I get something that really works. I’m currently browsing through the Theme section of the WordPress Codex, but if you know of any themes that look good to base the format off of, do drop me a comment if you please.

A couple of things I would like with a theme. I want a theme that fits (or I can tweak to fit, like I did with this one,) into 1024 pixels exactly. My new computer actually has 1920 pixels, almost annoyingly small pixels, but I’m really interested in making it fit for most people’s screens, but not be so small and scrunched as to prevent people from being able to read it comfortably. What kinds of screen resolutions are people using? I had originally planned to have an identical 800-pixel wide version of this layout for people with small screens, but, do very many people still have that size? I’d hate to make it hard to look at the site for some people, a resizing theme could fix that, or a second, smaller theme that people can switch to would work as well.
Many blogs, such as the Panda’s Thumb, for example, will resize for whatever screen you want. I’m not interested in this partly due to the fact that it would make it very difficult for me to align the brain picture and have it in the background of the blog as it is now. You see, the header image is only part of the brain picture, and I have another one that lines up precisely underneath it, to give the appearance of a single brain image that slips underneath the title of the most recent post. If you can find a re-sizing theme that will let me do that, please, drop a comment.

The layout and usability of the blog comes first, but the colors make it attractive. I’m personally fond of greens and blues, and reds can be nice for emphasis in my opinion. But the background just can’t be black anymore. I’m going to have to get rid of it and go with a light color. White is probably going to be it, but maybe something else will work, something unique?

What do you think?

Also, since the brain pictures started out with a photograph with a black background, I have to invert the colors to switch to white, and tweak the hue to get the blue brain color back. It might look something like this – just a rough sketch.

I thought at first to go with a familiar font to me – Palatino Linotype, which was what my old Aggie columns were printed in. This might also change. Everything’s up in the air! It’s so exciting!

There was another thought that had occurred to me. I could just submit myself to the growing collective known as the Seed Magazine Science Blogs. However, this may not work for me, because my blog is not just a blog. I host my podcast xml file here on this site, a guest list on the left that will be viewable soon, and other fun things such as the donate button, and who knows, I might add some other stuff that would conflict with the commercial goals of Seed Magazine. Besides, I wouldn’t have much control over the right sidebar, but I would certainly have format issues figured out – which is the other side of the same coin. However, they keep saying join us… resistance is futile. Maybe it is…

Well, Phil Plait is sticking it out with his WordPress blog, so I think for now, I’m here to stay. But Carl Zimmer moved… Ack!

During the week, if I can get enough progress on this done as I’d like, I’m going to add a theme or two and play around. Do take a look at the bottom right, where you can switch the themes. Let me know if you like anything you’re seeing. Until I get this all sorted out, I plan to leave this as a sticky, so everyone will see it.

Thanks for sticking it out during the white-on-black torture (with the blue line messing with your eyes), and hopefully with your help, I can make this blog not only look more useful and fun, but be it as well.

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Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

2 thoughts on “Time for an Update”

  1. The white on black doesn’t bother me, actually. I normally love that shade of blue, but somehow the combination of black and white with glaring blue on the edges has a pretty bad glare for me. Maybe if just the sidebar was a lighter color, it would work? Just a thought.

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  2. Hi Jennifer. (Don’t worry, I’ll have the Adrian Saint Interview coming up in the podcast lineup) I had thought that changing the font size and type could solve the problem of the white-on-black. Perhaps I shall experiment with that first. Yeah, the bright blue of the sides (and line down the page) might be a big part of it.

    I haven’t found any themes that I particularly like, so I think I shall try to tweak and experiment with this theme before I abandon it. Thanks for your input.

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