Welcome to Kubrick

Yes, I've gone and changed the page design again - at long last, if I might add. I've been wanting something simpler for a while now, but work and other Real Life considerations made it tough to concentrate on a coherent design, so I picked up Michael's excellent Kubrick (which is one of the most polished site designs ever) and tried not to make too much of a mess of it.

My initial plans were to release the results as a generic PhpWiki theme, but as always, adding a new theme to PhpWiki is a not-quite-trivial endeavour, especially when you have a cold and a splitting headache. Also, this Wiki is not quite PhpWiki anymore, which means I ended up adding too much of my own stuff to make it difficult to simply drop into a generic PhpWiki install.

Still, I intend to make the template sources available in my CVS section for other brave souls to sanitize and commit to the main PhpWiki branch. In order to do that I'll have to finish the editing and diff templates, which still look like something out of Halloween.

A Note To Compulsive Commenters: before you start adding comments complaining that this doesn't look ok in IE, Opera or your pet obscure browser and suggesting fixes, I already know all about that. This is still a work in progress, and as such, it will be tweaked during the upcoming weeks to reinstate both browser compatibility and features.


This is all fine and good, but what were the reasons behind the design change? Well, it wasn't just a matter of boredom and being stuck at home with a cold (although that surely helped). I've actually been doing this slowly for over a month now (doing a new Fireworks page template to replace Michael's Photoshop layout, creating the Archives, etc.), and figured it was good enough to publish.

The main reasons for changing the layout were, well... Change. I wanted something essentially simpler, neater and with a "lighter" feel. Rounded corners were also a factor - I was a bit bored with the straight borders between page elements, and needed something to force me to make better use of empty space. Not only does it increase readability, it also makes for easier visual navigation.

Of course it looks a lot like the umpteen sites out there already using Kubrick, but as always, that is only a matter of time. This is, after all, a Wiki, and there will be a lot of subtle changes to accomodate Wiki features. And I'm likely to have a new design by next Summer (I have two unfinished ones already, one of which is likely to benefit from the major CSS purge that resulted from today's changes).

Actually, the layout itself required fairly little change. Looking back at previous designs, the overall page structure was sound (and studies like Eyetrack III showed that I had the right idea years back) , but the sidebar was too cluttered and there were far too many inline images and JavaScripted clutter.

Bit By Bit

But let's start from the top:

  • My Flash SiteHeaders (which use a bit of magic by Todd Dominey) are a great showcase for my burgeoning photo archive, so they were a keeper. But they needed a different width/height ratio, since there were very few photos that I could use as headers. The new, higher format will allow me to add even more photos to the rotation (and yes, the timings will be tweaked to ensure I don't use more bandwidth).
  • The navigation bar needed to be completely rethought and cleaned up. It still offers the same functionality, but it is now much cleaner (and I'll be changing it to a CSS-themed unordered list soon).
  • Archives (and another set of custom PhpWiki plugins) replaced the ugly "Last Posts" sections in the side bar, releasing acres of screen real estate that were being wasted on stuff most people wouldn't care about.
  • The bandwidth graph and weather image weren't that useful, at least not in that format. I intend to bring the weather image back in a slightly larger format and create some sort of site stats page later on, but I also wanted to reduce the amount of extra images to a minimum, so something had to go.
  • There was no point in having two sets of external links and adding the direct RSS links to them, so I merged the blogroll with the links section.

As to the other sections:

  • The photo section is currently being hacked to pieces. Since what I have in mind is fairly complex, I plan to redo that in two stages, first as a straight adaptation of Kubrick to the current navigation logic and then including Flickr-like "tagging" and better navigation. Update: Photos now have rounded frames (yes, I had the foresight to code for generic image frames a couple of years back - all it took was changing the master PNG...)
  • The CVS section will also be re-themed, but only after I get to grips with CVSTrac again and replace all the current table-based code with CSS-themed unordered lists.

Next Steps

Right now, I'll be fixing minor layout bugs in non-standard browsers (yes, I'm looking at you, Windows user) and grooming the CSS to ensure all of my content displays properly. Then I'll add back some of the JavaScript (LiveSearch, image teasers, etc.) and get started on converting some of my one hundred pre-selected photos into new SiteHeaders.

It should be a suitable form of entertainment until I get rid of this cold.