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January 11, 2009


I've had good luck with Cutline 3-column. It has sidebars on both sides and has been quite stable. There's a very new release, 1.4 that I have no experience with, but 1.3 seems to work ok with WP 2.7, in spite of the cautions.

"Disciple" is a nice looking template very similar to this, compatible with 2.7.


This is also nice
you get it here -->
though it goes over the sandbox which you get here -->

You will have widgets to put anything you want in the bottom.

Keep it simple. The sidebars here are a maze of illegible small red print I've never paid any attention to.

A single sidebar and wide body for posts is generally best.

Just a side note -- if you guys ever feel the need or desire to use Drupal, I'd love to help. ;-)

AC - I've actually read that narrow bodies are easier to read. The reasoning is that you want to minimize the distance your eyes have to move from right to left when beginning a new line.

I had always found narrower columns easier to read (for you lawyers, I thought westlaw was easier to read than lexis), but never knew why. But this makes some sense.

if there are any former editors out there with the initials GF, feel free to weigh in. :)

I like the Sandbox for Wordpress, which is a bare bones template that you can easily modify to suit.

Click on my name to see one of the sites I've built with Sandbox

About width: I think there might be a somewhat wider field than we have now that would nonetheless not spill out onto the entire page, which might be a lot less readable. I also want to keep a lot of the sidebars: recent comments, archives, the section with Twitter and posting rules, Andy, etc. Categories might be less crucial, but then again other people might use them less than I do.

But I'm still thinking about templates. Hmm.

About width: I think there might be a somewhat wider field than we have now that would nonetheless not spill out onto the entire page, which might be a lot less readable.

Generally, I try to keep to a 55-60 character width and no more in layouts. I think there'ssome research that shows humans are comfortable when widths are in the 45-60 range because that's about as much a human is comfortable in taking in one glance or so.

While your content is great, this template is merely adequate. If you're already moving to WP, I'd consider a wider template on a better grid. I'd also suggest larger text would help - sure, there's a ton of content in the side bars but it's far too small to read. Have you done any analysis on what of the links generates clicks? I wonder if there's extraneous content you may want to consider pruning as well.
Have you considered hiring someone to build you a theme? A couple grand and you'd get exactly what you want AND something that's unique to you.

Open air for a fresh presentation, or Carrington for a more staid look

Also, check out http://dkilmer.zapto.org for an ObWi-specific template I started. The idea is to keep the basic look that people are familiar with, but polish it a little.

Yay. I'm so glad you're moving from Typepad.

As for templates, I have no preferences in particular ones, just some basic requirements for readability:

1. Wide central column
2. Main column white or very light background, black text
3. Side columns very light background, black text
4. No background pictures.

(and one wish)

5. Don't lose the kitten!

I am also for creating a wider centre by narrowing the blue sidebars. I would love a simple 'search for comments by user X' that is sortable (which I haven't managed in google).

I moved from Blogger to Wordpress a while ago and have never looked back.

I prefer a wider central column in order to reduce mouse scrolling. Or, is there something I don't know about scrolling? It's a constant hassle for me, since we're on this subject. I appreciate you asking for input on this. I love this blog!

I understand and appreciate the argument for narrower columns, but I also suspect it might be outdated. With the internet as a primary source of both informational and recreational reading, I believe people have become more used to scanning across longer lines. On TypePad vs. WordPress, I think the consensus is that WordPress is generally better/nicer, but at a cost in resource consumption.

FWIW, on my own site I run WordPress with a "fluid" two-column template that uses the full width of the screen.

If you do not want to deal with the coding, I really can not say enough good things about Sekimori.

I have not had one problem with my site since I paid her to put it together, and she specializes in dealing with morons like me who say things like "I am not sure what I want but I don't want it too different from how it is now but I want it to work."

I've actually read that narrow bodies are easier to read.

Finally, a decent explanation of my preference for slender women.

I like it a lot that the post/comment text is in the center of the window, and also that it's a relatively narrow column. It could be a little wider, probably, but keep it in the center. (Pretty please. :)

Also, I'm strongly with Jes in liking black print on light-colored backgrounds for both the central column and the side columns. A wide contrast in background colors is very hard on the eyes (especially aging eyes...?). I like the spacing of dkilmer's sample layout (it's a lot like this one, which I like), but the white/black contrast is hard to take.

Thanks for asking.

But Slarti, wider columns give you something you can really sink your teeth into.

Umm...we're talking about blog layouts, right?

BTW, if you don't have a tech person for this project, I'd be happy to offer what help I can. I've built a bunch of Wordpress sites in the last couple years.

david - I like that a lot. and obviously thanks for tinkering.

(Preliminary note: as far as I'm concerned, my aesthetic preferences carry no more weight than any other reader's. I somehow felt like I should say that.)

David -- thanks. I like it. I think it might be good to widen the central column somewhat, and I appreciate JanieM's point about black/white.

Until I looked at this, I hadn't really appreciated how much the layout here impedes the sidebars. With their itty bitty headers that aren't that distinct from the rest, on our current template they do just vanish. I think I'm so familiar with ObWi that this hadn't registered.

Is it a new bizarre sp4mbot or Typepad quirkiness that's replaying old comments? I see one of mine was mysteriously reposted a few minutes ago without my involvement.

General preferences are dark text on a light background.

Layout decisions should be considered in terms of what is the minimum size monitor that you are going to support without sideways scrolling. The current design works for 600 pixel wide screens. AFAIK some versions of the EEE PC are still being sold with monitors this wide, so there will be some use of the site by monitors that small.

You might also want to consider accessibility and review the theme in an accessibility tester such as the one at http://www.contentquality.com/

KCinDC: it was me, going through the spam file, looking for comments TypePad had mysteriously blocked. They used to appear with their old publication time and date, I think; now, apparently, with the time and date on which I let them out of the spam file.

You might also want to make a mobile friendly version. Here are two WP plugins that sense whether the browser is a mobile and modify the theme

lj! You're back! Yay!

(The people who can't comment nightmare continues to recede...)

Very odd: I thought I replied to KCinDC, saying: it was me, going through the spam file looking for stuff TypePad had mistakenly decided was spam. Apparently, it now gets the date/time stamp from the time I release it.

LJ - my new ipod touch says ur bril

Think ergonomic - what is easy to read. I, for one, hate white type on a dark background, or stuff that clutters up the page.

i thot bril was a trol

Yeah, white or off white background.

Please keep the ability to change text size. I use Google for my home page and I have 'text size' in the View part of the toolbar. It doesn't work on all websites/blogs. At my age I really appreciate that little feature. Some blogs I'd like to read-forget it. TAP is like that.

No crazy backgrounds.

Center column.

Preview function, absolutely imperative.

That's all my non geek brain can come up with. Thanks for asking.

editable comments (even if time limited, like Balloon Juice's) are supa-nice.

What cleek said about editable comments ala Balloon juice. Mucho gusto.

Also, count me in for a wider central column. I typically have the font size bumped up so the center column as it is now contains lines that are shorter than I'd like.

And a thousand thanks for moving off typepad. I really appreciate it.

Test. Typepad is refusing to let me post *anything* to the "Not The Night Of The Long Knives" thread, now.

"and I appreciate JanieM's point about black/white."

Under no circumstances ever use anything other than black type on very light background. White is likely best.

Doing otherwise is done only by folks completely ignorant of what's readable.

You probably want to retain three columns to keep so much stuff in. With greatest respect to Andy, I'd put his links under the top, where it currently clearly indicates that this is the blog of Andy Olmsted, which is misleading, and which more than one person has shown up here being so misled.

Put "Authors," in large type, with whatever contact info you wish to give, at the top of one of the sidebars. Put Von back on.

Put Andy's links under that.

Don't get fancy with typefaces.

General rule: keep it simple.

I'd like to see the categories kept.

"Please keep the ability to change text size."

Your browser does that, whatever browser you use.

Might I suggest this template? -- It appears to be the only one with "whimsical, crooked little houses."

I don't have any skin in the game re: templates. My only plea is try not to encumber the posting feature with too much in the way of javascript or other client side code. I lost the capability of posting to Balloon-Juice from home (older hardware -> older OS -> older browser -> js no worky) when John's new design went into production, and I suspect it was because of js issues.

The same thing happened with ObWings this weekend - preview/post stopped working. I hope this shift to WordPress will help, otherwise I won't be posting comments to this blog except very rarely (from my more modern machine/environment at work).


"The same thing happened with ObWings this weekend - preview/post stopped working."

I couldn't get it to work for a while, just now, again, either, but I finally realized that it wasn't just a case of needing to sign out, then in again, then again reset NoScript so that all scripts were running, and have AdBlock not blocking, but also to put text into the text box.


I also have experience building websites, including very complex ones using Wordpress. The only problem I see with david's design is that it takes a moment for one of the background images to load -- I'll look at the CSS after dinner to figure out what's going on.

David, as usual there are a couple issues in IE -- I think the sidebar fonts need to be a shade larger in proportion to the center, because I'm getting what I think of as "IE ant tracks".

I find that digby, for example, has a center column that is too narrow, especially once blockquotes are involved.

I have used the Thematic parent/child template system with success -- Thematic handles the widgeting, I can concentrate on design & layout issues.

*waves at hilzoy*

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that you probably want to export all of the blog posts and comment to the new installation. I've done it badly twice and screwed up the encoding. I'm sure some of the gurus can give some useful advice in that regard.

I'm not sure about the export, LJ. It would be nice, but probably only if there were a way to set up redirects from the old URLs to the new posts, so that all the existing links wouldn't be broken if the Typepad site goes away. But that's likely not possible because obsidianwings.blogs.com is always going to be pointing at a Typepad server, with all its limitations.

In any case, whether migration of old posts is happening or not, it's important not to let the Typepad blog fall into anyone else's hands. I've known people whose old Blogger URLs were taken over by sp4mmers after they moved their blogs to a real domain name.

"But that's likely not possible because obsidianwings.blogs.com is always going to be pointing at a Typepad server, with all its limitations."

In which case, I certainly hope there's a way to permanently close comments, or the place will become a cesspool of comment spam.

I'm going to talk technical here, so that everyone who knows what I'm talking about can chime in.

OK david, I figured out what the issue is.

The first thing is that the background PNGs, especially post-top, are too big -- that's too much DL time for something that conveys no information. At the very least they need to be JPGs (I know, I know) to reduce DL/server work.

The second thing is that you haven't always matched background and text colors, so the text isn't always visible until the final stage of the page rendering. For instance, in body background is dark gray and text is black, so nothing is readable before later specs are rendered. Either make background:gray and text:white for body then change it later, or make the body background blue-ish to start with to go with the black text.

"The only problem I see with david's design is that it takes a moment for one of the background images to load"

Yeah, everything is PNGs. Probably even some uncompressed ones. It's very much a thrown-together, proof-of-concept sort of thing.

If the mgmt decides to go with it, I'll clean it up to perfection :)

IMO, I think david kilmer has nearly completed this project.

Tweak it a little, work in some of the suggestions and such that Gary outlined (2:35 pm) and, odd, but for somebody who is big on the color blue and all of its shade I found david's sample almost too blue.


"I've actually read that narrow bodies are easier to read. The reasoning is that you want to minimize the distance your eyes have to move from right to left when beginning a new line."

Perhaps you and I are in the minority, publius, but I agree.

Another vote here for keeping the center column black-on-white text: and widening it up wouldn't hurt, either.

As for the skins, are the ones in publius' link the only choices? Or should we surf through all 543 of the WordPress templates?

Oh, and one more thing: if ObWings is going to be can we use the opportunity to upgrade/edit/cull the blogroll?

I only just now happened to notice Hilzoy's 12:35. Possibly that comment was also caught up in the filter for a while because it included the dreaded s-word?

Is there really a big problem with sp4m comments that actually include the word "sp4m"? With luck, that bizarre filter will soon be just another Typepad annoyance consigned to the dustbin of ObWi history.

Oh, shoot, my comments keep disappearing, after Typepad tells me they've posted, because they used the word "s p a m." Jeebus mfing @#$^%.

Anyway, I hope that if this URL is abandoned that comments can be permanently closed, or otherwise the comments will become totally s p a m infested.


I agree that your layout is a sound beginning, just needs streamlining (and going through that accessiblity site). One thing you might want to tweak is the way "Recent Comments" are displayed -- I like the fact that in our current version it's easy to parse the commenter's name from the title of the thread, because "on" is in a different color, we don't need "commented on" which just clutters up the reading space.

What widgets do you think they'll need? One thing I like about Thematic is that you can put widgets on either sidebar *or* at the bottom of the page. You can see an example I worked on here -- the look is not my doing, but giving it lots of functionality is.

Gang, will there be ads

Dr. S: I agree about the recent comments. We seem to have a lot of software brainpower here, so whatever template is chosen, we should put it through the wringer and make sure it's butt-kickingly good.

I am not sure what tack to take on the widgets. My first instinct is to minimize javascript (for users like LeftTurn), but it seems like WordPress is heading in a javascripty direction with that. Is it possible to do stuff with Thematic without getting too gung-ho with the scripting?

Simplicity of color (basic black on white) and format are essential. Other than that, suit yourself, I come here for the content and the company. Thanks for taking action, though, it sounds like this will be an improvement.

Purely on a merits basis [cough] I cast my vote for the "Crafty" template at the main post link :)

Is anyone other than me fond of the blue (not drastically dark like black, but more interesting than white)?

At this point, I'll settle for anything that lets us not have comment pagination, and doesn't keep signing me in as Moe. Tonight it has done that without my doing anything -- i.e., I'm signed in as hilzoy, and then somehow I become Moe. With my latest post, I specifically checked to make sure that when I was on TypePad's Dashboard page and clicked 'New Post' to start writing, I was logged in as hilzoy. That did not prevent the post from being by Moe. Just now I decided to check again -- having logged out as Moe and back in as hilzoy -- and lo! I had become Moe again.

hilzoy -- I like the blue a lot. But then I like everything blue, except the grass and the background to the text. ;)


Thematic (which is based on Sandbox, btw) is a widget-holder, it doesn't come with widgets itself. Keeping down the JS (which I agree needs to be a priority) means getting low-JS widgets, and that's a matter of looking at them.

What are you using in the mockup for recent comments?

Basically, they've got to have Akismet, but beyond that we can pick and choose.

hilzoy: I use a super-light blue as a default background myself, or sometimes a super-light beige/ivory -- it keeps the background from shimmering as much.

Is it just me or has the print suddenly become smaller, or harder to read, or the presentation different, in the "Post a comment" section?

I almost always hit the Preview button, and good thing, for I am finding many more typos, omissions and misspellings than normal (and I am sure I am not catching them all upon Preview.)

It could be just me, and a sign that my 1.50 reading prescription needs to be upgraded . . .

bedtime, I noticed that too. It's making my eyes cross.

But it's not universal.

If I copy and paste bits of text from posts into a Word document, most of them come through as Verdana 10 (which is my favorite font and the one I use for all everyday stuff).

But the 2nd Guantanamo post is coming through as Arial 10 (lord preserve us from Arial; I hate it) and the Night of the Long Knives one is coming through as Trebuchet, which I kind of like but which is still harder on the eyes (my gut reaction) than Verdana, which is nice and spread out. (No doubt someone has some actual knowledge about this stuff and could help us out here; I only know that I like what I like. ;)

Maybe hilzoy is playing around with fonts, or maybe Typepad has a font gremlin besides all its other annoying beasties.

Preserve us from Arial. I hate it.

bedtime -- I didn't even really take in that you were talking only about the "Post a comment" section. But maybe the two phenomena are related.

And ... bad editing; I didn't mean to repeat myself about Arial. Maybe I should get back to work now.

ObWiGuys: I sent an email to the yahoo address, let me know if it goes into the Bit Bucket.

Since I've clicked on there a few times today, I want to mention that I have always found cleek's blog very readable and easy on the eyes. It may have too much white space to some, but that's not an altogether bad thing versus overcrowdedness, which is taxing on the eyes.

JanieM: I didn't see this before, but: TypePad acquired a new editor over the weekend. Words fail. It does horrible and uncorrectable format things -- if any of you have been wondering why I can't keep to single or double or one and a half-space throughout, the answer is that whenever I paste in text from elsewhere, it imports all the formatting, and while I can change fonts, I can't change line spacing. I have managed some workarounds, but it's gruesome.

Fonts: I don't know much about fonts, and so have been guessing which to use, whenever it suddenly decides to render my post in e.g. Georgia 16 point bold. (This actually happened.)

hilzoy -- sorry to have been cranky. You're the one who deserves to be!

I was really just trying to slip in some font preferences. I don't know anything about fonts from a technical/artistic point of view, I just know that I find some harder and some easier on my eyes.

Good luck with your quest to wrestle Typepad into submission and then escape its clutches. It's nice -- and so ObWi-ish -- that there are knowledgeable people around who can help!

"...the answer is that whenever I paste in text from elsewhere, it imports all the formatting, and while I can change fonts, I can't change line spacing."

Paste it into a simple text editor, which will remove all formatting and font info, and copy and paste it from there. I'd think that should work.

(By "simple text editor," I mean, tautologically, one so simply that it handles only ASCII, and nothing more. I'd suggest Notepad if you were using Windows, but amn't sure what the Macintosh equivalent is these days.)

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