Playing With New Themes On the Site Today — Don’t Panic!

If things look weird and disorganized today here on Whatever it’s because I’m looking at new WordPress themes to see if there are any I like. If I find one I like, I may keep it, otherwise things will be back to normal soon enough. Either way, don’t worry, everything’s cool.

Update: I think I’m going to try out this new theme, called “Purpose,” from OrganicThemes. Let’s try it out for a while and see how it goes.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

93 replies on “Playing With New Themes On the Site Today — Don’t Panic!”

Too funny. You have already changed the theme a few times, so the comments end up being meaningless to those of us not checking in regularly. For instance,right now there is no art and a green/aqua banner….

Ok, but if you are experimenting with a new look, I propose it is high time for another face morph. Bonus points for incorporating a prosthetic feather duster/award.

I hope we’ll be getting the timestamp back along with the datestamp; since there aren’t any comment numbers, the timestamp is the easiest way to refer to a prior post. “Dave Branson @ June 3” doesn’t do it…. (I’d love to have numbers, but that may be too much trouble with wordpress)

I choose to retain my thinky bits because I may need them again, but you can have a thinky thought: This theme looks better under magnification than the old one.

The green header that stays at the top of the page even when I scroll is annoying – it takes up space even though the vast majority of the time I’m on the site I don’t need instant access to a mouse-over drop-down of the links on your sidebar, because I’m busy reading the content itself (posts and comments)

Looks okay. About the only thing I’d ding is the lack of a time stamp on posted comments. There is a date but no time. Having the time would make it easier to point to an earlier comment.

Current one, with a nearly screenful Chrome browser, the entry point to mainpage was hard to figure out where to start navigating and what had happened.

That said, after much screaming and panic amongst the minions, some rioting and fires, and the birth of a new religion, I took the plunge and scrolled down and lo there was light.

You might want to organize your nav-links if you’re keeping this one. You have one root (About) with a drop-down list that keeps going and going and going… >.<

Bad web design is bad… otherwise I like it. I've always been partial to wells for some reason.

Here’s the proof–the SJWs even need Scalzi’s permission to panic!

(…speaking of which, I’m in a burning building. Could you rescind the “no panic” edict for a few minutes? Just long enough for me to flee.)

I am visiting on an iOS device and the top menu bar (the part that says whatever and has the drop down, not the artwork) flashes in and out of existence. If I click the drop down options, the background color flashes on and off, off being white. When it is white, unclicked links do not show up because the text is white on white.

It can be pretty tough to get a layout to work on all browsers and platforms. If this menu problem is not unique to me (iOS is fairly consistent, so I’m guessing it’s all iOS users) it may be worth adjusting. I do not know if it is possible to request greater compatibility for the theme or not. A quick and dirty work around may be changing the unclicked link color to a nonwhite color so that it shows up when the menu flashes on mobile?

Flashing top bar aside, I do like the aesthetic of this one!

Follow up: this problem is only present on the main page with the artwork. Interior pages seem fine. For example: now that I am on this particular blog page, there is no artwork and the top bar is consistently present and green.

time to get an assistant to handle the menial labor for you now that you have that big contract. I think Brandon Sanderson has 2 assitance, GRRM has umpteen , and Rothfuss has atleast one. Kind of hurts your status that you don’t have an assistant. 1% ers need the little people to do menial labor for them.

I have another nitpicky question: currently, unfollowed links are almost exactly the same color as the plain text, such that I can’t tell if there’s a link there or not without hovering my mouse pointer over it. Is that just my (known to be slightly weird) color sense, or is that a problem for others, too? Can you turn the unfollowed links blue or some equally contrasting color, or will I have to try digging into my CSS again?

And I lied, I actually have two nitpicky questions. Is there any hope that the Blatheration sidebar can get back up to the 15 entries it used to be (or more! More is good!), rather than the 10 it is now?

I do think the new look is pretty classy looking, I must say.

So this new theme is doing something I’ve seen crop up a few times recently on other sites, and which causes me a significant problem: it’s not letting me zoom the page when viewing from my iPad. I don’t know what causes this — some side effect of a certain kind of responsive design maybe? I assume there is some theory behind designing the theme this way, but I find it frustrating and a poor accessibility choice.

I have vision problems that make reading smallish text difficult/tiring for me, so I really appreciated the generous font size the old theme rendered with on my iPad. I wouldn’t mind the smaller text in this theme if I could zoom in (cropping out the sidebar area), but it doesn’t respond to pinch-to-zoom or double-tap-to-zoom. I don’t usually use system-level screen magnification, and don’t think websites should assume that all people with vision problems will find that approach suitable for their needs.

Those same vision problems are why I do almost all my web reading on my iPad — it’s the biggest very-high-resolution screen I have, and therefore significantly less tiring for me to read on than any of my other options. So at this point, using my iPad’s system-level magnification is my only option for comfortably reading Whatever, which is kinda annoying given that this wasn’t the case in the past, and isn’t the case for sites that let me use the browser’s normal zoom function.

If you’re in contact with the theme designers, I’d be curious what their thoughts are on the accessibility trade-offs of this implementation.

(Btw, I’m also seeing the weird main page top nav bar behavior Jessica described. Invisible secret menu! Must be A Plot!)

On the positive side, the new theme looks more polished and up-to-date, I quite like seeing the beautiful OMW art in the banner, and the Big Idea sidebar widget is finally updating properly! Just the other day I was thinking of writing to you and asking if you knew that on the iPad, it would always just show the “Notes From Boys” entry from however long ago.

I’m not a fan of the green. I miss the pictures. Since I get to Whatever via RSS I hardly ever see the main Whatever page. I like that the comments seem to be more compact but still very readable. But that may just be faulty memory or an optical illusion.

It looks very mobile-friendly, but it’s a space-sucker on a desktop computer. The pages and font are pretty big, with lots of empty white space…my scrolling finger’s getting a workout. I might be zooming out to read now because 90% makes it easier to digest. The green banner following me all the way down as I scroll and stealing screen space is vaguely annoying, especially when viewing on a smaller window.

But change is good. I like the dividers between comments, the actually twittery-looking Twitter feed, the typeface, and the color scheme.

Wait, are people actually seeing a photo banner as of 6:30PM Eastern?

cuz all I’m getting is a green stripe that says “Whatever” on the left and “ABOUT” on the right, which has a drop-down menu of contact and bio info. (Which is then duplicated in the sidebar). I’m on this page, an interior one.

If I go direct to the main page, I get the gigantic OMW image, and the green header bar covers up whatever (heh) is the text on top of the screen. So there’s a ghostly image of a couple of lines of post peering through the green bar. Which is different than Jessica’s flashing, but probably related.

Cally: it’s not just you. I have pretty darn good color vision, and the unfollowed links color is very very close to the regular text color. It’s tough to see.

I’m using the latest flavor of Chrome on my Chromebook.

Ack ack ack please don’t keep the green bar at the top persistent! I cannot express how twitchy it makes me when only some of a webpage scrolls. I always feel like something is being hidden from me. I feel the same way when stuff lingers at the bottom of the screen.

I like being able to see full commenter names without weird line breaks in them though. Would prefer if they were bold so I can parse them sooner as not being part of the comment. Presumably I’d get used to that though.

And yes, with the window width I usually read this at (on my 13″ laptop), the sidebar takes up at least a third of the width.

Kudos on how the page does a -page.down- without hiding=skipping past an inch of text like so many websites do. Way cool, dude.
I could block it as an annoyance (like I do for the drudge report siren), but that horrid green bar is is taking away an inch of my _very_ valuable screen height. So? ;-p put that on top f’r to the left or right where I have blank screen space.
So that it will be on a part of my screen that I’ve been trained to never look at. Sigh. Or don’t.

I’m used to reading paper books where turning the page is a new page, not the new page with a picture of the cover taking up space.

Can I just add to the votes against the overlay thing at the top of the page? I would like to point out that after months and months of reading the blog, THIS is the thing that has forced me out of comment lurkdom. Personally, I think the person that invented top of page overlays should receive the Curse of Having Their Personal Email Being Provided to SpamBots So They Have to Get a New Email Address (but that’s just me).

Not a fan of the green stripe at the top. And hope that whatever you use, it’s ‘responsive’ for when I look at your place on a phone/pad. I like date/times on comments, so I can pick out new ones easy. Line spacing seems a bit wide on my laptop.

My favorite theme to use is Mantra, because it has lots of easy customization of things. I used it for John D Brown’s site (, which I maintain for him.(PM me for details about that place and my work there)

BTW, just finished the three “Old Man” series….really liked them….”Huzzah” !!

It certainly looks nice but since I, erhem, pop onto this site periodically during my working day and have people around me who can and do peer over my shoulder, as close to a graphics free page as possible is safest. However, if I were John, I would darn well want my work and associated graphics on display so I am not going to whine beyond making this comment and noting that like some of the other ‘change is scary’ folks above, I was comfortable with your previous design and find myself oddly on edge with the new design. I’m asking myself why I would be bothered by a change but there it is.

Do what you will; I’ll adapt – – (maybe?)

death to that green thing across the top. this is something that could drive me away from visiting the site daily, the way that “In which” drove me away from Charles Pierce on esquire.


I’m having the same problem. I don’t have particularly bad vision (just short-sighted) but I do need larger type and (ideally) centralised rather than off-set text to make websites readable for me without getting very fatigued very quickly. I also can’t zoom on my iPad, which is my primary computing device for accessibility reasons including the above and also some physical stuff. Zooming would provide both the larger text size and the centralisation so I hope it can be added to the theme.

The right side bar is way too wide for my taste. It bothers me because there are already rather large side margins, then the much wider sidebar means that the actual content is less than half the width of the screen. Once the sidebar content ends, there is a painful amount of white drowning out what text is left on the screen. Trying to read a straight line in an off center column in a sea of white is pretty headache enducing.

I hate the green bar. It takes up so much space on my laptop. Does it need to be there? We can always look at the address bar if we forget who you are.

I do like most of the new theme. I especially like the artwork currently at the top of the home page. But add me to the list of folks not keen on the floating green bar.

Well, that was odd. I just did a blockquote in a different thread, and the quote came out Really Really Large. Example:

This is a blockquote. I’m used to blockquotes being smaller and indented, not so much larger. I’m writing a lot here to make sure that we see how it wraps, too.

So, is it just something in my settings, or does the blockquote look extra-big to anyone else? I should note that in Preview, the blockquote is in a serif font that is similar in size to the san serif of the post.

Ditto here, Cally. Ditto the remarks about the large white space to the right. Almost half my laptop screen. It’s quite claustrophobic actually.

As others have already pointed out, the links are pretty hard to see on many devices — dark green is pretty close to mid-gray in colour space. I’d tweak the colors a bit.

I really dislike this theme; the always-in-view half-transparent bar at the top slows down scrolling _a lot_ for me; it gets noticeably stuttery and very non-smooth.

Please go back to having posts show up in black letters. For people with poor eyesight, the lower contrast of this lighter-colored lettering makes it very hard to read.

Yeah, the more I live with the persistent green bar at the top, the more I hate it. It’s always THERE, covering stuff up and slowing the scroll-down, making it jerky and stuttery ALL the time.

And that right column is still WHOA BOY too damn wide. Alllll that white space.

Also miss the timestamps on comments.

Also hate the lack of contrast between background, text, and links. Some of us are getting old and need more contrast, without having to turn our monitor brightness up so far that we get a migraine. Some of us are colorblind and I don’t know if it works for them. Colors need tweaking!

And obviously the iPad brigade is Most Unhappy.

The only post I didn’t find it annoying on is “Happy Puppies”, b/c SQUEE.

It’s not just iPad users. Zoom also does not work on my Android tablet. The light-colored type is more of a problem on my laptop than on the tablet. I really really miss the time stamps.

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