I’ve been trying to replace the site theme since 2015. I’ve also been trying to switch web host for a couple of years. Well, congratulations to me: I did both in four days.

Every hour I’ve had in the last few days has been plugged into this work, as well as many hours I didn’t have. The main changes:

  • At long last, HTTPS (self-certification). This has increasingly been causing problems in recent years. The most recent shock was the discovery that adding https sent Electron Dance readers to a place that was most definitely not Electron Dance.
  • Streamlined the design. Readers usually end up here via social media and not through browsing or RPS or Critical Distance. So I’ve pared things down: the front page no longer shows opening snippets. I admit I miss the suspense of the snippets building excitement but it’s probably for the best. It’s possible I’ll go even further and remove the little box at the bottom asking you to subscribe and check out the book. I’m not sure the new “Related” section below is doing much, either.
  • A proper featured section promoting the most recent pretty good pieces. I always had those little “featured posts” which were made entirely by hand and so I neglected to add more. I’d have preferred if it was randomized as before but this is the theme I’ve ended up with.

Some current problems with the new design.

  • When I first saw the theme, link highlighting was working. At some point it stopped. Without all the CSS surgery I’ve made, all of the links just look like normal text. But this surgery isn’t perfect and links don’t quite look right everywhere: the comments section on the side and on any WordPress “page” they look fugly.
  • A bunch of images are missing. They’re actually there, but the image URL on the site’s previous home doesn’t quite match the location here. This is all to do with how WordPress resizes images and renames the resized versions. I still don’t know what I did wrong but I think the fix is just to merge in the entire images folder from the old site. I’ll get onto that some time this week.
  • Embedded audio player doesn’t work. I have no idea why. The WordPress Jetpack plugin is supposed to handle that but it isn’t. So you have to click the link to the mp3 file to play any of the old podcasts.

Anyway, I’ll be interested to hear what the readers think. Originally I had this idea of picking out a few potential candidates and turning the decision over to all of you. Here was another option which was structurally very similar to what I’d lived with for over ten years:

And here’s one that I’d installed on a hidden test WordPress site several years ago. It attracted me but it was not attractive enough. I left it there with hope in my heart that I would one day finish the job of crafting a new look for the site:

The problem was the effort in getting from “activate theme” to making it look reasonable was hideous. Sorry, everyone, I went all autocratic and stole your vote. It’s quite in vogue.

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18 thoughts on “Everything Changes All At Once

  1. Okay, I’ve copied over the original image archive. This has fixed some problems… but not all! Apparently having http image references on a https website is causing some issues…

  2. Congrats on getting the shiny new look up and running! Looks nice.
    I assume the post title is a movie reference… if so: incredible film.

  3. Well this all looks fantastic Joel, great job.

    I know how difficult it can be to find good ‘off the shelf’ stuff, particularly stuff that you can then tweak to taste. There are so many rigid templates out there that are all but useless unless you’re happy to use them as is and that can be very disappointing. For me it’s been vector graphics and After Effects files, with a few website themes/plugins over the years.

    Looking at that Aplos theme, I think you did the right thing using this one! 🙂

  4. Thanks Gregg. There is a premium version of the theme but, considering the issues I had with link visibility (the CSS replaces link underlines with border-bottom *infinite screaming*) I wasn’t persuaded to upgrade. It looked lovely in the demo 🙂

    I was attracted to Aplos because it was very much like the old design, but a bit smarter. I do miss the front page of opening snippets but it doesn’t look as sexy as a grid of prompts, lusting for clicks. There was also another theme I had on a test WordPress install – since 2015 I think – that I was leaning towards but it didn’t quite convince. Maybe I’ll rustle up a picture before the old server is shut down.

    Electron Dance is, at least, in a usuable and non-eyesoreish state so I’m going to migrating my other domains like electrondrift and hammerport. I have 8 days to migrate before the old hosting is due for renewal. Yikes!

  5. Oh wow, good luck!

    Yeah I did see the links under ‘Every post ever’ and wondered what the hell was going on with that. Border-bottom. Crazy.

  6. I’ve got the links looking ok on posts but not on WordPress pages which is why Every Post Ever looks unwell. At some point I might replumb the entire theme and wipe out every border-bottom reference in the core theme files. It does mean I couldn’t update the theme in future but I’ve already made some changes, so that’s probably out of the question anyway.

    I’ve just added a screenshot from that test install to the post!

  7. The new theme looks good to me, Joel. Modern and streamlined! Good luck with the ongoing wordpress css palliative care.

    For some reason the two checkboxes in the comment reply form are wildly different sizes. I don’t know if it’s just me…

  8. Okay, thanks Shaun, it isn’t just you. But it’s going straight on the FIX THIS CRAP list!

    Emails are the best bit of this process, always wondering if you’re getting all your email when you switch servers… right, that’s the joelgoodwin domain sorted. 3 out of 6 domains migrated.

    If my calculations are correct, that means it’s time for bed.

  9. The new layout looks great! Congrats on the migration!

    I can’t help but notice that it makes long wall-of-text comments look even longer, thought. It’s like I’m prolix or something!

  10. This is a great-looking theme, Joel, I love it. As a site grows in years it becomes increasingly difficult to reliably switch themes without a ton of back-end work. Over time, though, the kinks tend to get ironed out and everything becomes smooth once more. I really love the new look, congratulations on it!

  11. Thanks Steerpike! I look forward to many nights performing php incantations and sacrificing CSS tags on my Altar of Satan.

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