(New) New Theme Notes

As threatened, I changed the theme I’m using for Whatever (this one is called “Fusion“) and then fiddled with it to get it to my liking. It is largely there at the moment — I like what I’m seeing in any event — and so while I may fiddle just a tiny bit more with it, I think by and large this is it, theme-wise, for a while. That said, a couple of quick notes:

1. I’ve checked the site with on Windows with Firefox/Chrome/Safari/IE 8, and it seems to render just fine with each of them, so I don’t anticipate any problems there. That said, when I checked it on my wife’s iPad I noticed that the text runs right up on the left margin. I don’t know why it renders that way or what I can do about it, but I will look into it. In the meantime, if the margin thing becomes annoying to you on the iPad, I’d suggest in the short term looking at the site through an RSS reader. That might help.

Update, 11:48am: regarding the left margin thing, I just switched the theme to “flexible” setting, which means it expands/contracts the layout to fill the space provided. This means you on Mac Safari/iPad/tiny laptops should now see a left margin. I’ll see how I like the flexible setting over the next day, and if it doesn’t drive me nuts, I’ll keep it.

2. The theme allows the owner the option of showing icons called “Gravatars” alongside the comments, and at the moment I’m allowing them and am inclined to keep them. When someone doesn’t already have a Gravatar set up, it procedurally generates one based on one’s e-mail (I think), so that explains the fractal-ly images. However, if you would like to customize your Gravatar as it appears here, you can go to the Gravatar site and make your own.

Gravatar is owned by Automattic, which also owns, so it’s not a completely unknown company, and it means that the Gravatar should work consistently across a whole bunch of sites with WordPress installed. Just make sure the e-mail you use to comment here is the same one you use for your Gravatar (you can create more than one, depending on how many e-mail accounts you use to make comments).

3. If you have additional feedback about the look/feel of the site I’m happy to hear it but be aware I’m constrained in what changes I can make by a) the restrictions WordPress has on those using their system (for reasons of load-balancing and/or not having the whole system brought down by viruses and bad coding) and b) my own questionable competence. At the moment, the only major (i.e., non-cosmetic) change I’m looking at is finding a way to bring back a “comment preview” button; if I can manage that I will let you know. Otherwise, as noted, we’re pretty much where we’re at for a while. I hope you like it.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

70 replies on “(New) New Theme Notes”

Technological pedantry warning: Automattic, Inc. owns, which is a separate entity from “WordPress, the software”. WordPress itself is a blogging platform that is free to obtain and free to modify (i.e., Open Source). Automattic could fold tomorrow (taking Whatever down with it, I guess) but since WordPress the software product is Open Source Software, it will continue to exist.

A small point, I know, but one that the branding between makes all the more confusing.

Hey cool, so now my leg, my mp3 and my mate (that’s a spanish word, not a british one, please pronounce correctly) lying in the beach should be here at my left.

Gravatar is a Good Idea, I love those standarizations across the web.

Hrm, it turns out I already have a WordPress account, but didn’t have a gravatar. Now I do. I was also able to adjust my display name to reflect the alias I usually use here instead of just having my log in name display, which is sort of neat. I approve.

Yay, the ‘View Comment’ is back at the bottom of the post, and when clicked, takes you to the first comment, not a blank for you to fill out. (I prefer reading comments first, to make sure that I’m not repeating someone else. Weird, huh?)

The comment box doesn’t feel quite right. FireFox 3.8/Win7/1440×900, the Name/Email/Website labels are to the right of the box (intentional?) but not right enough, so they appear to overlap the text boxes (the letters N, E, W and the asterisks for required). Also a bit too much padding in the comment box, for my taste at least…

Gravatars are interesting – will definitely leave it with the fractal, it’s quite cool :)

I like the new look. Very clean.

A note of interest only to me and my (200,000) co-workers – the Gravatars site seems to be blocked by our institutional web filters, giving us a small red “x” instead of people’s ‘tars. I look forward to checking out this feature when I get home.


Wow, that highlighted text color is subtle. I tried to select a line in a previous post so I could scroll it to the top of my screen and it looked like nothing happened. I thought you’d disabled marking or copying text (which makes sense for a professional wordsmith). But now I see it’s actually just highlighting in dark blue.

Nice. Like what you have done with the place….

Comments at bottom: yea
Comments take you to first comment not reply box: yea
Author comments highlighted for easy reference: yea
Author gravatar photo: rumpled, perfect
Number of comments: Can comments button show current number or replies/comments?
Once in comments time of original author post shows: would be nice to have next to date of post

Hidden watermark style photo of author that was visible behind author’s posts on old site format: missing & missed

Two oddities of note: on my browser (firefox 3.6.12 on WinXP), the labels for the comment entry fields overlap their fields a bit. That is, the “N” in Name, the “E” in Email, etc., overlay the actual entry field. Doesn’t seem to cause an issue, just odd to see.

Also, on the main page, your FilmCritic post displays a “Leave a comment…” link, even though you’ve disabled links in that post. It just takes you to that post’s perm-link page, it doesn’t actually show any comment entry fields.

I write these off as quirks of the theme, and don’t expect them to be (easily) fixable. I’m largely in agreement with Dragon@19. I like this theme quite a bit, and am happy to accept the odd quirk.

“Two oddities of note: on my browser (firefox 3.6.12 on WinXP), the labels for the comment entry fields overlap their fields a bit. That is, the “N” in Name, the “E” in Email, etc., overlay the actual entry field. Doesn’t seem to cause an issue, just odd to see.”
I’m getting the same effect (admittedly with essentially the same OS/browser combo) … I’m still set for the default 800×600 display (I’m for some weird reason not getting any younger), if that’s relevant.

With regard to the gravatars, they show fine for me. When I clicked on the comments link, my NoScript icon indicated some script sources weren’t permitted, including Gravatar. For those having problems with the gravatars, check whether NS permissions are involved.

Afternoon John,

A couple of things about the new theme.

On my machine the about and home menu tabs only show rounded corners in Firefox. In IE they show all black. In chrome they show a lighter background making them look square.

On a content rich site like yours, I personally prefer a fixed width site to control the width of the text lines. If your theme allows multiple sidebars adding a blank left sidebar of 20 to 30 pixels usually gives a pleasing “margin” on narrow screen resolutions.

Over all though, looking good.

I love the redesign and addition of Gravatars, but I’m not super in love with the non-fixed width content. On my screen, I like to keep the browser window nice and wide, but I don’t always like reading text that fills the whole screen? Call me cray-cray, but I prefer reading in columns that are taller than they are wide. But that might just be me. Do as you will.

Otherwise, welcome to the ’10s with the new layout. Much improved and I certainly don’t miss the 4 or 5 or whatever right hand columns.

You might want to get a bigger image for the header bar. With the fluid layout and a decently big monitor, the current picture looks kind of goofy just sitting in the middle like that.

Also, why the prominent calendar in the right nav? I know a lot of sites have these, but does anyone actually use them? It’s such an awkward way to navigate the archives.

I don’t know what kind of font you’re using, but it’s very hard to read. It almost looks like you’re using some kind of blurry font style where each letter is blurry instead of sharp and easy to read. I really like reading the comments here, but I might have to stop because the font is overpoweringly hard to read.

Let’s see if my Gravatar shows up. I’m expecting Kate Winslet. If I get a large blue alien, then it’s the wrong James Cameron movie. If I get a “quilting square”, then I’ll know it’s Mrs. Dr. Phil (grin)

In general, this new look appears pretty tailored and better than the last temporary one. Is this all the result of the next Speaker of the House’s edicts?

Dr. Phil


If you can edit the font stack for the text you can set Georgia and Times New Roman as fallbacks for the serif font. The current font stack is odd – it uses Cambria, Lucida Grande and Helvetica. Lucida Grande is Mac only (the Windows version is Lucida Sans).

For a serif font stack you’d probably want something like this (this is for the main post text):

div.postbody p {font-family: Cambria, Georgia, “Times New Roman”, serif;}

The sans-serif version would be something like:

div.postbody p {font-family: Calibri, “Lucida Grande”, “Lucida Sans”, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;}

As an aside I do web development using WP a lot – feel free to email me or post something here if there’s a question I can help with.

Strange that the link to the entry from the home page says “leave a comment” when comments are disabled. I guess it just checks to see if there are comments, and if not uses “leave a comment”. I’m guessing this is built into the mechanics of the theme, and beyond your ability to change, but that code should make two checks (“Are there comments?” and “Are comments permitted?”) and print one of ” comments”, “leave a comment”, or “see the entry”.

I like the Gravatar idea. Testing to see if my Gravatar appears even though my name is not my Gravatar username.

Also, using Firefox 3.6.12, the labels on the *Name, *Email, and Website boxes overlap into the boxes themselves. Maximizing the window does not fix the problem.

In case you care, on Win7 using Google Chrome, the Home and About buttons have corners that are not rounded. Also, the Whatever graphic has a white dotted line on the bottom and partially runs over the header tree pic even when the window is full screen.

Over all, though, it’s very readable. Gravatar’s are awesome :)

Beowuff – Hmm… Mac Chrome shows those as rounded and Win Chrome should (the rounding is done via CSS it should understand). What version of Chrome? (7.0 is current).

I just love that John keeps the calendar. It’s so old school.

Well, just came in to post that I like Gravatars, but it looks like everyone else does too. As a visitor, I find it makes it easier to keep track of regular posters and ongoing conversations when they’re available. Plus I like plastering my monkey everywhere.

I find a slight visual problem with the non-gradient background coloring of body text that sets apart a comment from the post author from a regular comment. The solid color runs to the header of the next comment and when that’s combined with the separation between the head and body gradients of the next comment it looks like the header belongs to the previous comment. It can be figured out since no other comment has any header n the bottom, but it is unexpected and takes a second to puzzle out.

I like the new layout… But then, I generally read in RSS and only click through on some posts.

I think I did a gravatar, back a while. Guess I’ll find out when this posts. ;-)

We used to be able to preview our comments before posting them. I’ve just been reading and nodding, not posting, lately, so this may have changed awhile ago.

It’s looking pretty good for me and the 23 other people in the world running Opera on XP. The only thing I dislike is the “WHATEVER Taunting the tauntable etc” bit interrupting a perfectly lovely banner with a huge white blob and the calendar underneath is pretty redundant considering you update nearly every day – but that’s just a matter of personal taste. Also, like many others I’m hoping the comment preview feature will make a comeback.

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