Heads Up: Changes and Updates Coming

Folks, it’s been literally years since I’ve updated the look and navigation of Whatever, and as a result the site is looking a little… dated, and also the functionality of the site is not current either for how people currently come to the site, or all the places they read the site — this site isn’t just being read on desktops like in the old (old old) days, it’s also being read on tablets and phones. That being the case, I’ll very soon be updating the site to a newer theme, which will give me better control over the look and feel of the site over a larger number of machines and browsers, and which (I think, anyway) will give the site a cleaner and more readable look without reducing its core functionality.

(That’s the plan, anyway, but if I mess it up I’ll have the current theme ready to bring back. Wheeee!)

In any event, this is just me letting you all know so that if you show up to the site and it looks different from what you’ve been used to and/or it’s in a state of questionable appearance while I fiddle with settings and code, you won’t panic. Don’t panic! It’s okay. It’ll work or it won’t, but in either case it’ll be done and dealt with in a few days. Sit tight until then. Thanks.

46 Comments on “Heads Up: Changes and Updates Coming”

  1. John, I love your photos, so please keep them, but I URGE you NOT to go along with the current fad of cluttering up sites with unnecessary pictures, logos, etc., that make it even harder to navigate on a small screen.

  2. Okay. Are we allowed to pre-emptively hate the changes, or do we need to wait until they’re actually implemented before starting with internet rage?

  3. “A new theme” implies that you are not leaving WordPress, so since it’s part of WordPress’ core functionality I need not worry. Nevertheless:
    Sometimes people update and concentrate on how to accommodate new ways of accessing them, without considering how the update will affect older methods that fewer people still use. I would be sad if your update killed RSS, which is how I receive your posts.

  4. I agree with AngieBoyter. I click to Whatever and the first thing it does is change the top picture. As if I have bandwidth to burn! I’m not exactly in the hinterlands but ISP’s are universal in their desire to provide as little as possible for the $. So far I like what I’m seeing.

  5. Don’t know if the current look is supposed to be final:
    Looks barely usable from here. Large black block with the article heading on the left side of the browser window that does not provide any useful content or improve the look. Need to increase font size to 150% to read.
    Comment box (email address) is broken, two overlapping text lines. Gray on white text is less than optimal.

    I am using a Windows 10 PC, Chrome, large browser window, could send you a screenshot if you’d like.

    Please keep working on the theme.

  6. Want suggestions?
    1. Keep with the RSS.
    2. As I come in, the site looks different — the picture is taking half the real estate. I can get rid of it, but that’s a whole lot.
    3. Editting of comments?

  7. Continue to enjoy the email updates and my erratic site visits, John. You are appreciated, regardless of format or medium. : )

  8. The two-column “Aperitive” theme looks terrible on my Mac laptop running Firefox. Fully half the browser window is blank most of the time, thus wasting the real estate. The Whatwitter widget doesn’t appear at all. I *guess* there isn’t anything in the “About” menu lower than “Site Disclaimer etc” but I am only guessing because trying to scroll there causes the right-hand column to scroll instead. The parenthetical that goes with the e-mail box in comments prints over the word “Email” rendering them only legible if you already know what they say.

    Keep fiddling! What I’m seeing now is a big step backwards. Blech.

  9. I sincerely hope that the “leaping cats” photo will continue to appear every once in a while. I gives me great joy every time I see it:-)

  10. Pie is good.
    The email address box below, however, is cluttered. The name and website boxes look good.

  11. You know, I was joking about unreasoning internet rage, but taking up half the screen with a title and logo does not seem optimal. Tons of wasted space on a desktop screen.

    Still readable, and the site content is still good. :)

  12. If you want feedback on the new look, here it is: Reading on a phone, the font seems a little small and/or too thin. It’s much more difficult to read than it was yesterday

  13. But that’s my point — it is broken, because it’s old enough that it doesn’t gracefully conform to how people read it. So, it has to be fixed.

  14. Please keep the highlighting, of some sort, for when you, John Scalzi, post in the comment thread. I appreciate being able to quickly pick out yours.

  15. “Oh God, no, he’s tablet-ifying his site” was my first thought when I saw the headline in my RSS feed, but… it’s actually… not bad. At least not the iteration I’m currently looking at.

    Do whatever works for you and the majority of your readers, but I’ll echo the “please don’t get rid of RSS” request others have made.

  16. John I’m going through the same process you are and my excellent Web designer is using the theme Oxygen, so you may want to check it out. (PS my site is also traditional bloggy style.)

  17. Another vote for the redesign reducing the functionality of the site compared to before.

  18. Not dated, but classic.

    Also if the whole half a page is a picture, is an example of the change, then it is waaaay harder to read at all.

  19. Ack, that black bar across the top makes me feel like I’ve got a hat pulled down too far over my eyes, and I keep wanting to brush it away so I can see. (I can actually see, but I wonder if a lighter color would be less overpowering?)

  20. …and by the top, I don’t mean the dark gray bar at the very tippy-top, with my loggin stuff, but rather the thicker black bar right under it with the hamburger menu, search icon, & so forth.

  21. You’re making LIVE changes in PRODUCTION?! Who signed off on this?? You’re supposed to make sure everything works in the QA environment first!

    jkjk live on, cowboy coder

  22. Reading in a browser on a laptop (always, for blogs). For me, the previous version was great, and this one looks awful at the moment.

    But if I’m going to freak out I can easily find more substantial things about which to freak out. I refrain from detailing them. Good luck with your experiments, and thanks for the warning.

  23. Probably a hopeless cause, but could there be an option to read the main feed without losing 1/3 to 1/2 of your screen to sidebars I never look at? I.e.have the main feed (like this article) take up the whole screen?

    (At the moment it is even worse, with only 1/3 of my screen actually doing anything useful.)

  24. Hi, John,
    I’m using JAWS (Jobs Access with Speech) and am having an impossible time navigating the site.

    I can’t locate any of the posts from the homepage.

    Worse still, clicking on the posts using the calendar gives me all of the info you usually encounter below the comment thread.

    I’m only able to comment now because I clicked on a random post in the “what so and so said” section.

    I can’t access the post and so don’t know how best to read the blog.

    Please advise; other visually impaired readers may be encountering the same accessibility issues.

  25. On an old Firefox (v. 56) and an old OS (Win 7), I’m seeing the entire left half of the screen statically dedicated to what used to be the post’s header image/title, with the text scrolling down the right half. On a 19-inch monitor, this is readable (if wasteful of space), but I don’t think I’d like it on even my bigger tablet. (I don’t internet on a phone, but I suspect it would be unreadable, unless the site is smart enough to sniff out the receiving-end environment.)

    And the “details” verification boxes seem to have some crowding issues.

  26. As a professional web dude who’s been building websites since the mid-’90s (but I think you knew that), a few things immediately stood out to me browsing on a laptop:

    1. The dropdown menu is very hard to read with the font in all bold. Might just want to title it “Menu” or something, otherwise users might think it’s just a box that pops up with your bio.

    2. The three-dot button for expanding/collapsing the text column is very unintuitive. I thought it would be a dropdown menu. And it took me a few seconds to locate the close button. Standard buttons for this would be a left-pointing arrow to expand, turning into a right-pointing arrow to collapse.

    3. I guess you don’t have to worry too much about brand recognition at this point. But the words “John Scalzi” are not on the page at all. I’m sure most visitors know where they are. But I also bet there’s a non-negligible number of visitors who end up here by clicking a link that have no idea what the site is or that you’re associated with it.

  27. Newest version of Firefox but Win 7 and I’m having the same experience as Russell above. Can’t see the Whatwitter section at all if it still exists.

  28. On Firefox 77 running on Linux, I get the split-screen effect as well. Moves the main part of the window–the part I pay attention to–out of the center of my window–where I look–and over to the right side. I think your photos deserve more prominence, but not at the cost of readability.

  29. Glad to wait until you work the kinks out, but I will say that losing half of the page to a graphic feels a tad wasteful, personally. It looks great on Chrome on my iPhone, but not as great on my PC’s version of Chrome. Otherwise, I’ll wait and see what develops.

  30. I am enjoying the comments very much, especially the ‘update in Production’ ones. Imagine if you used SAP instead of WordPress.

    I’m not too worried about the kinks in your hair, I mean blog. It was so dated (maybe I do mean your hair).

  31. Hey, If you are looking for a firm to partner with to handle theme design, there is a great group of folks in Willoughby, Ohio by the name of Blackbird Digital. Can’t say enough good things about them

  32. Aside from a “surprised, but okay” look I gave my phone, it looks good. I only view your blog from my phone and I had no problems whatsoever from viewing your site. But if you’re so inclined, be my guest. It’s your house :).

  33. How do we locate the search bar? I’m using the JAWS command for form fields and am getting nothing. :(

  34. I didn’t see this heads up post till I’d already complained about the changes. I don’t like changes. In a few years when I’m used to it, no doubt I will be complaining about the next changes. :)

    Also, the only change I think is actually counterproductive (and not just bad because change) is the icons on the right. When I’m reading the commentary, the icons have seemed to be part of people’s identities, so now it’s harder to recognize who I’m reading.