That Theme Thingy

1 Jul, '08

I’ve received a number of complaints who expressed their unhappiness with the current “magazine-style” theme the site is currently clothed in. The complaints ranged from “I don’t like it” to “I don’t understand it” and “It’s too complicated”.

Fair enough. Respecting your wishes, would you mind telling me what your objection is to this theme and indeed if you do like it and want to leave it as is.

I personally like it. It gives the site a more professional “non-bloggy” look and when you invest a few minutes investigating it, you will see that it is well categorised and easy enough to find the information you are seeking.

Some of you might have noticed that the “Featured Section” has changed into this sexy gliding thingy. What this houses are the last 7 “featured” articles, articles which I choose to feature at the top of the page. What follows at the bottom is the latest posts presented in a chronological format. I changed that from the original implementation which was one category on the left and another on the right. I couldn’t have the time to invest in finding out how to not display duplicate posts so that if a story is featured, it should not appear at the bottom section. I bought another theme which does show how to enable that functionality, but I didn’t have time to disassemble it yet. I might in the future.

At the very bottom of the page under the latest posts you will find links to other stories. These blocks of links (one on either side) are pulled from certain categories. At the moment, the left is showing stories which have been posted in the “Society & Culture” while the right shows “Politics & Government”.

So to sum up the construction of the page:

from the top,

  • the gliding panel shows the last 7 featured stories, you can click on any number below the pane and you will be taken directly to that story;
  • then we have the latest 6 posts chronologically (not by category)
  • and the bottom section shows links to stories belonging to certain categories.
  • The “sidebar” of course shows (from the top)

  • a featured video,
  • Google Adsense generated ads,
  • a list of recent comments, and
  • the latest M.Reports (which need to be desperately updated, I haven’t done one in a while!).

Maybe I should have entered this explanatory post immediately I changed the theme to let you know how the page is organised! Sorry about that. Anyway, your comments are most welcome.

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Comments (27)

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  1. Use a feed reader.

    (No, really. After all I care about your posts. I don’t think I’ve seen the home page of this blog since the day you announced the theme change)

  2. Grace says:

    Mahmood, I think I liked the previous one more. It was easier to access and find information. Plus the gliding system is too fast and rushes through each topic.

  3. M says:

    I like most of the new design except the gliding panel; I agree with Grace that it rushes through each post too fast so sometimes I miss a post thinking I have “seen” or read it before.

  4. mahmood says:

    Ah, thanks. That’s actually half the default speed and the transition. I’ve received a vociferous complaint about that previously so I halved it. It seems that I have to half the speed again.

    But did you know that if you click on any of the post numbers below the panel the gliding actually stops? Then if you go and press on another panel, it would just go to that post and stop again. To get it to start gliding again you would need to reload the page.

  5. mahmood says:

    ok, just adjusted the glider to wait 15 seconds before it goes to the next story. The glide itself has been delayed too to make it a little slower, by .5 seconds.

  6. haythoo says:

    you could install theme-switcher plugin, so visitor could move to the old theme…
    the old theme is much better than that. I think your site look like magazine now!

  7. John Smith says:

    The new theme does look more professional but it’s not as easy to navigate as the old blog. You have to remember to click on the number as soon as you arrive at the site to see what the latest news is. You also have to search for where you finished reading when you click to read the full story. Petty I know but when you’re like me and wander around the world reading the latest news it can be a bit annoying.
    Enjoy your site though !

  8. Abu Arron says:

    You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    The glider seems too slow to me, I can nearly read it twice while I’m waiting for the next item. But don’t lose any sleep over it, maybe I’m just an impatient……..

    Yep, you do need to keep the M.Reports up to date. You’re just a tease. Start them off, get us hooked, and then don’t bother anymore. Tsk, tsk.

  9. Salawi says:

    I like the theme & menues, but dislike the gliding panel. It looks like the one in NBA.com front page but without the pause button…. However, I’m sure Mahmood is a believer in the following quote “He who stops being better, stops being good”
    All the best.

  10. Redbelt says:

    People like it simple. They want to read, not figure out how to navigate. Regardless of the fact that it does classify things better.

  11. Sam says:

    I like

    – The overall professional look and the better contrast with a dark background and light text
    – Your well written articles/arguments & the interaction from your readers who leave comments

    I don’t like

    – How slow your site takes to load compared to other sites and blogs.
    – The rotating articles, I can’t stand websites with moving/animated content that your forced to have to chase
    – The main page has allot of info on it (too much in my opinion)especially the collumns on the right hand side.
    – Your blog isnt updated regularly enough. I check your blog every morning along with other news sites and I hate when there’s no activity on there. 😆

    My two fils!

  12. Magnus says:

    I really like the new look Mahmood, keep up the good work on writing and with the site 🙂

  13. Anonny says:

    Awww, Mahmood,

    It’s too busy. Too many elements a-clutter on one page. When people first bought Pagemaker and their own colour laser printers we got magazines that looked like this.

    I totally agree with the drive to improve, I would never ask you to go backward, but now that you know how to be complex I’m sure you’ll manage in pretty short order to be simple, refined and elegant. Please?

    I know I’m not a web-savvy blogger but I’ve worked in the art/design arena most of my life so I think I’ve made a valid point.

    I’m also sure that any woman who knows how to apply makeup well can tell you that less is more.

    Oh, and don’t drown out the ads! 😛

  14. H. says:

    Look here, scroll down to “Multiple loops in action”, and further down to “Not for multiple posts…”. I explains an example for deduplication.

    I imagine you’ll have to use the linked method in more than one place since you’ve got multiple loops scattered around.

    To me, featured content doesn’t work all the time, at least not with all the time with blogs. Personally I think that it ought to serve a singular current story of interest, otherwise it would seem a redundant ‘my picks’ list of posts, which is made even more redundant by running latest posts in split categories.

    I feel that the most thing that contributed to the confusion was that there is no single place to look at in order to find your latest post (which is central to keeping blog). Of course this is not a problem for feed readers. Nonetheless, if the user didn’t click through from a feed link, they wouldn’t know where to look (even if there headers saying ‘latest’ and ‘recent’).

    If you’re trying to gear your website towards a news looking one, then you ought to mimic the guardian‘s, at least structure wise.

  15. Sami says:

    I liked the original view. Sure this one looks more professional (for a magazine) not as a personal blog. Revert back to the previous theme PLEASE!, it’s much better and much faster to navigate through. Another thing, can you move that “Ads by Google” to the bottom of the right pannel. I hate to see it in front of me all the time. Next time I may see an Ad for John McCain there; I will have a heart attack!

    Best.

  16. Romster says:

    I find it very San Francisco-ish……borderline gay

  17. exclamation mark says:

    Well the previuos theme seems to be much more simpler in presenting information,,,

    In the current theme,,, things are a bit ” crowded ”

    Making it more simple makes it much faster in opening the page i.e if I wanted to get into the blog from somewhere else with a slow connection…

  18. Jeremy Bicha says:

    I either use a feed reader like Google Reader or go to http://mahmood.tv/2008/ . I find the 2008 page is similar to the old design. I prefer to read (or at least skim) everything my friend Mahmood writes, not have to sort through a dozen categories.

    I don’t want to be critical of the design, since I know a lot of work was put into it and there is a need to have a customized theme. However, I’m happy that there are easy workarounds for those of us who don’t find it as usable.

  19. mahmood says:

    Thanks Jeremy! I might add that link directly in a button for others to use too.

  20. billT says:

    I like it Mahmood. haythoo’s suggestion about using the theme-switcher plugin would give those who prefer the old thema an option. I modified the basic revolution theme for a sports site for some friends. http://bigbluerules,com The revolution theme is really easy to adapt.

  21. billT says:

    Woops I should turn the lights on http://bigbluerules.com

  22. Loki says:

    Get rid of ALL categories and replace it with one link called Categories. Which either has a slide out widget to reveal the categories or take you to a new page.

    That’s just MHO. Use a traffic analyzer to see how users navigate your site at the moment. If I were a betting man I would bet most people are interested in the latest developments on your home page. If that is the case, remove clutter, give the user what they want.

    As I said in my initial post about this. The new colour theme is IMHO is better. but fuctionality took a step back. BUT, your objective is good (ie making it look less like a blog) the bitch is that the blog layout is very functional to begin with!

    Clutter==bad

  23. mahmood says:

    I’ve added a “Switch View!” link above to take you straight to the standard blog chronological view. Hope this helps.

  24. Loki says:

    awesome!

  25. John Smith says:

    The “Switch View” is great. Thanks

  26. mahmood says:

    I’ve done some changes today (Fri 18 July 08) as you might have noticed. I hope that the changes makes your experience with the site much better.

    Do let me know your thoughts please.

  27. Jon says:

    Mahmood, as a fan of your site..

    Please keep it simple…. look at Google and you’ll see why it’s the number 1 search engine (hope it still is as I write). Google cannot get simpler than that. The rest is history.

    I personally have switched to your old mode (I found the new theme slightly overbearing in some ways). But anyhow it’s a matter of taste, I’m sure there are tons of those who like the new thing.

    Plus another thing. People (incl. myself) prefer the old theme as we’re used to it. I’m sure that if you had started off with that, most people might not like the old one if you had to introduce it.

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