More on the Redesign

I was going to write up a big, really long, technical article about site structure/coding methods, etc. But I couldn’t be assed, so this’ll do for now.

To start off with, my basic goals for the redesign are:

  1. Make the site look prettier
  2. Make site more usable
  3. See what cool things I can add in

Not much to it, really. Well, there is, and I’ll try to explain in an “as-detailed-as-I-can-be-bothered” way.

The Bricks and Mortar.

The underlying foundations of the site are quite simple and are more or less the same as they always have been. This site is still powered by Textpattern (TXP), albeit a seriously hacked TXP install nowadays. Upgrading to the 1.0 release is going to be interesting.

In addition to the hacks, I use a dozen or so plugins – mostly of my own design and as yet unavailable, mostly because they only work with my hacks. A good example of this would be the dated archives system.

My site is split into distinct sections (more than are displayed publicly) and each of these sections has its own set of page/form templates. This allows me to do exactly what I want on a per section basis – rather than have a few defaults powering everything and all looking the same. My form list is scary long. For the curious, everything is XHTML 1.0 Transitional.

CSS files are stored as separate files out with the TXP system, along with all their associated images. I just find it easier to manage the styles this way.

Front Page (T)XP

One thing that I didn’t like too much about the default TXP method of listing articles, was that it didn’t easily allow for overview pages in a section. By that, I meant that I wanted (as an example_ to have a page that gave a few details about the section (such as the Blog) was about and how to find information.

Thanks to a modified version of Johan Nilsson’s glx_conditionals plugin, I can now have my front pages. The blog has a useful overview page (still in the works) that is far more useful than just a list of posts in reverse chronological order. Now, if I could just get the category-based listings working…

All sections will have something similar to this, once I get round to them.

Feedback Makes the World Go Around

As sort of noted here, I’ve been toying with the built-in comment system. Taking my queue from Mr. Hicks, I’ve implemented live textile previews. I’ve also added author highlighting and I’m planning on improving the textile parsing of comments. For the time being, I’ve removed Gravatars.

One thing that may or may not have been noticed is that comments are no longer simply tacked onto the end of an entry’s text. Instead, they are in a completely different part of the page. This was done via a hack and plugin combo. While I’ve still got them below the entries, the possibilities for this method are potentially great. How about comments in a sidebar beside the entry, rather than below it?

Useful Sidebars

One criticism I had for my last design was that the sidebar just displayed generic information, common across pretty much every page. Not now. The sidebar is relevant to the section if it is an “article list” page. If it is an entry, then the information is specific to that entry.

The entry information uses a plugin (I think – I can’t quite remember what I did) that acts a bit like a second txp:article tag.

By and large, these “useful sidebars” are working great – hopefully they’ll make the site a whole lot more usable and informative.

Wrapping Up

That’s all I want to go into for the moment – I’ve covered more than I planned to! I’ll save the rest for another day; Style choices and other things that I’m playing with would take forever to talk about just now. Especially as really only one section has been worked on.

Needless to say, I’d be most interested in hearing what your opinions are on the redesign so far!