A Fresh Coat of Paint

It’s strange to think that I started this blog 4 years ago. I designed it myself in the summer of 2007 and started officially blogging on it in August during medical school orientation. I based the design on the Default WordPress theme, which was in-turn based on the venerable Kubrick theme. Last year, after many years of updates, WordPress finally retired its Default theme with the vision of creating a visually refreshed default theme, which they dubbed Twenty Ten. The idea was that WordPress developers should design a new theme every year.

It was about the same time that I began to notice some of the cruft in my own design. But my design had a personality to it that I liked. Plus, the design took a considerable amount of work on my part, and this was neither something I was willing to throw away haphazardly nor something I had time to recreate from scratch in a more modern fashion. And so the cruft lingered on and got even cruftier.

Encephalosponge New Design

Encephalosponge: New Design

A few months ago, a stunning theme called Duster appeared on WordPress.com. I knew this would be the theme that I based my next site design on. Little did I know that WordPress developers had the same idea, and they recently released their new default theme, Twenty Eleven, which is based on Duster. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visually refresh my site based on a WordPress default theme that I love. In the new design, I wanted to highlight some personal changes that I’ve gone through over the past 4 years, and I also addressed some things I learned along the way. The timing is right, too, since I am transitioning from medical school into residency.

Encephalosponge Old Design

Encephalosponge: Old Design

WordPress has changed a lot for the better over the past few years. I’ve been able to keep up with most of the major new features, but keeping up with new features can be a time-consuming job. Now using Child Themes, I can customize my WordPress theme without altering the original. When I created my last site design, I basically copied and altered all of Kubrick. This meant that when any fixes or upgrades were released, I had to do them manually, which usually meant they didn’t get done. With a Child Theme, the Parent is automatically kept up to date without messing up the customizations that you’ve made. Additionally, many WordPress themes now include easy ways to customize the theme’s background, header image, link color and fonts. This provides an easy way to make your site look unique without having to create an entire theme. By adopting a well-maintained theme, I will also get the benefit of having new WordPress features added without any additional work. These themes are also generally designed appropriately so that plug-ins work well and so that they work across multiple operating systems and browsers, including mobile browsers.

Over the past few years, I’ve embraced Free Software and the Creative Commons. With my old design, I used graphics and fonts that were licensed under restrictive copyright terms. This made redistributing my design impossible. I now use a free computer operating system, create graphics in a free graphics suite and choose images that are free to redistribute and remix. For my header image, I found a macro photo of some Brain Coral that I remixed to fit my color scheme. It doesn’t have as much personality as my previous design, but it works well with my new, more reserved one. It is also easily replaced if I come up with something better down the line. I also use Google’s Web Fonts project to bring my design to life with open-source typography and not embedding my non-traditional typography in images.

My final revisions are a work-in-progress. I am refining the content of this site to be my primary blog, but not my primary online point of contact. I set up my own site on Blackhall Family Sites, where I would like to host a more appropriate bio, contact page, and stream of personal news. I will continue to use this site for blogging about interesting topics and I will reserve that site for information about me. I would also like to continue to refine the content of this site to a more narrow set of topics and types of posts.

So as the content of this site undergoes revision, I thought it was a good time for it to get a good facelift as well. The archive isn’t going anywhere, but I thought everything could use a fresh coat of paint and a good buff to shine. Let me know how it looks.

Now Optimized for Linux Viewing

When I first designed this site, I was using Windows and MS Word full-time. The fonts I chose were Windows-centric. Since I had ubuntu-restricted-extras installed, which includes many Windows fonts, I didn’t notice any differences on Linux. However, after re-installing Ubuntu on my desktop, I decided to steer clear of ubuntu-restricted-extras and just installed Adobe Flash by itself. Therefore, I have recently updated my website to give preference to free Linux fonts if you have them installed. I’m not sure how many of them come standard with OpenOffice.org, but you may only need that installed to see the new fonts. If you’re not a Linux user, you’ll continue getting the same fonts as before. I’m not quite sure what Mac users see. I should look into that… Anyway, they’re not much different, but overall improved. I especially like the comments’ font.

Vanity

I should be a plastic surgeon because I just gave my website a wicked face lift. This is a design I’ve been working on for quite a while now. I started it last spring/summer when I was thinking about making a blog. By the time I actually got the site up and running, school had started, and I had no time to finish the work. I just figured I’d limp along on Kubrick (the default WordPress theme) until I was able to get my design looking the way I wanted it to look.

This design is (at least in most respects) one that was started from scratch. I borrowed selected bits of code from Kubrick and elsewhere, but I have a good enough understanding of how WordPress works (or how to learn when I don’t) that I was able to just figure out what I wanted things to look like and tell WordPress what to do.

Some highlights include:

  • The theme should be ready for WordPress 2.5 (as am I :)), with support for Gravatars.
  • “Regular posts” and “Asides” are now displayed differently. Many of my posts (categorized as Attention Deficit) are what I’d consider an Aside. They’re usually short, sweet, and off-topic, and they likely contain a link and very little input by me. Regular posts are generally supposed to contain more input by yours truly (although depending on my mood, this may or may not be true). This is an example of a “Regular Post”.
  • Fancy new graphics. They’re everywhere. I’m not an artist. Sorry about that.

And there’s a little more on the way. I’ll be adding ShareThis links to every post. More importantly, I’m going to be assessing the structure of categories on the site. Personally, now that “tags” have been implemented in WordPress, categories seem more like a “post type” to me. For example, an “aside” is a type of post (as explained earlier). A “rant” is another type of post, and so is “news”. A post is “tagged” with key words pertaining to the subject of the post. Some of my categories don’t seem to fit this structure, so I’ll be working on my organizational skills to keep this place as clutter-free and logical as possible. Thanks to blogs like LifeHacker and ifacethoughts, I’ve come to understand the importance of organization and productivity in my electronic life. Now if I could only figure out the IRL version :p.

Let me know what you think of the new design. Don’t be afraid to tell me it sucks. If enough people don’t like it, I may change it back or to something else. If you don’t like all or part of it, let me know what specifically bugs you. Sometimes I feel like the design is somewhat disconnected (maybe because of the 2 ways to display posts on the front page), so this may be something I need to work on in the future as well.

If for some reason you’re interested, the source files for this design will be available on the Colophon (definition).