Pretending to be a designer again

This must be at least the fourth time I’m starting to code a new blog theme. I’m not sure how long I’ve had this layout — +3 years in any case. (Can it be 6 years? An internet archive site showed this layout in a stored page from 2004… Whoooboy, high time then.)

First I started making a theme based on the blogging application I did for a University course.

Snippet of a portfolio layout for uni

Then I wanted to do something red…
A layout sketch

Next I started creating something around a nice photo of mine…
Collar with a smiley pin
(The pin is from my sister and I often wear it on my winter coat.)

Now I’m creating a theme around this colour palette I created at when I was planning the colour scheme for my apartment (back in 2007, sheesh).

I’m feeling this time I’m actually going to finish it. Thankfully, I have 2 more weeks of vacation left! The creation process is always very difficult for me because I can’t doodle, draw, or design the graphics, AT ALL.

Not just fresh – still moving!

Ugh, sometimes I hate cooking from fresh produce.

I was making a vegetable soup today with potatoes, carrots, peas… and I was planning on including a cauliflower, too. Once I started peeling it, I noticed several bright green caterpillars wriggling around. There were also a couple in cocoons. I thought, “alright, I’ll rinse them off and see how it looks.” Then I started noticing tiny little caterpillar toilet areas all around the nice white cauliflower… The whole thing flew quickly to the trash. Brrr.

Cabbages and those sorts are probably the worst: there are so many little nooks and crannies for bugs to hide in.

When my godson was younger, I used to look after my aunt’s kids (i.e. my godson and his sister) every summer. I’d also cook for them. One summer they had a little patch of vegetables in the yard so I was asked to make a salad with some home-grown lettuce and carrots. I tried to pick out the cleanest-looking lettuce but peeling away the layers uncovered a nice surprise: two or three slugs. (The thought still gives me shivers.) Slugs are even worse than caterpillars which are kinda cute (as long as they’re not cooked, seasoned, and on my plate).

Luckily I happened to have some frozen broccoli so I used that instead of the cauliflower. I know there can be all sorts of things hidden in packaged foods (mice, crickets, beetles, lizards… just to name but a few from recent news; I also once found a feather in a nut mix) but at least I didn’t see anything!

Layout hall of shame

Pull up a chair, or a recliner, this is going to be a long story. In a nutshell: new theme! In case you didn’t notice.

At last, a new theme for the blog! How I’ve missed the CSS and HTML tweaking! I haven’t worked on a layout in ages.

“Ages” also meant that I needed to brush up my knowledge and the code needed to be updated (HTML, CSS, as well as WP functions). And so started the process which I was determined to finish this time — from scratch: 1) created empty text files style.css, index.php, header.php, footer.php, sidebar.php, and functions.php. 2) typed <html><head></head><body> in the header.php and </body></html> in the footer.php.

Then I started digging through the WordPress Codex because I couldn’t remember the template tags — and, naturally, a lot had changed: functions were deprecated and nice new features were available, such as threaded comments and fancier image handling.

I also updated some of the code to HTML5 since the HTML validator noticed deprecated elements. I like using W3Schools as my HTML/CSS reference. For instance, <acronym> tag is now deprecated in favour of abbr and I wanted to clear all those out. Why did I use acronym, which needs more typing than abbr, to begin with, I have no idea…

As you may notice from my earlier post, I ended up using the nice (in my opinion) photo of my shirt collar and smiley pin that I had as a header in one of the unfinished themes. Even though I’m really bad at graphic design (or anything resembling it), I wanted some pictures in the layout.

The theme is by no means finished. I still have some tweaking and prettifying to do, but I wanted to publish this at last. It’s going to look weird for a while as I set up the widgets and things. I’m also going to browse my old posts to check which elements I’ve forgotten to style but hopefully everything looks more or less ok. I noticed I need to do some markup streamlining especially on my pages. (The headers are not logically tagged.)

While I was looking for some inspiration from my unfinished themes, I stumbled across files from my old layouts as well as pictures of some really old ones. I thought I’d put up a little Hall of Shame in honour of this historical day.

I got acquainted with HTML in an optional computer course (some pupils did crafts or PE; I was one of the few girls who chose computers) in junior high where we were taught to indent paragraphs with <li> tags. No, no <ul> or <ol> around it because that would’ve made an ugly bullet. Just the <li> with text. (I’m banging my forehead to the desk now.)

I would be curious to see how my HTML pages looked back then as I have no recollection. (Maybe I have something stored on a 3.5″ somewhere.) I do remember that I realised our teacher was bad, which led me to pick up a Microsoft Frontpage guidebook from a bargain bin. I didn’t buy it because of Frontpage which I did happen to have installed on a computer at some point and I actually used it sometimes, but because it was a basic guide to HTML (must’ve been HTML 3) with clear illustrations. And it knew about <blockquote>.

I don’t remember what I did (HTML- or otherwise) between junior high (~1998) and the first “blog” (~2004) but I do have a vague memory of a very simple homepage that I had in the small website space that came with the Internet connection. I believe the X-Files site was my first proper site. I don’t have it up at the moment because it got stuck in the middle of a re-design that I managed to destroy by uninstalling XAMPP. (Oh, the hours I had spent on making it!) The X-Files has been off the air for 8 years so maybe I won’t put the site up anymore. Not that I don’t love the show as much as I did; the collection part of that hobby of mine could easily be made into a new sub site.

My “blog” started as a launchpad for my different sites (about the X-Files, Stephen King, my alien and font collections etc.). I wasn’t even blogging, as such, only wrote a little about the updates and maybe about music I was listening to and things like that as a side note. Because it wasn’t blogging, I have no log of the status updates and asides; they could’ve been interesting to read (just for myself, that is).

I really liked iframes back then — and I still have them in Little Grey Men which I haven’t updated for a long time because I haven’t found any new alien items anywhere! I also liked image maps which I used in the first two menus seen below. Since I didn’t have much to say on my front page, this first one was probably just a simple table (gasp!) layout. I don’t think I knew any other way to align the content both horizontally and vertically in the browser window than put a table inside a table (contents of table cells could be aligned vertically). I did this in all of the first three layouts (even though you can’t see it in the pictures); the layout part of the site was small to accommodate 600×480 screens :D. I could say divs hadn’t been invented yet back then but I would be lying. I do honestly believe that I hadn’t discovered div’s yet and I didn’t know much about CSS — although just now I noticed that I was using style sheets already with this first layout. I’m quite surprised. (Then again, the very first layout(s) of which I have no record were most likely plain HTML with e.g. font styling in <font> tags, remember those? So, I had had practise.)

October '03 to January '04

Next came a brown theme with colours picked directly from HTML’s named colours (tan, steel blue, and antique white). I called this “Cafe Latte”.

January '04 to March '04

I had fewer elements to style then and therefore creating new layouts was faster (and I had more time and energy!), so this layout stayed up for only 3 months.

For some strange reason I kept using blue in my layouts even though I’ve never liked blue! (The “steel blue” is pretty nice, though.) The next one was based on a photo I’d taken at our summer cottage and now it did have an iframe plus a transparent scrollbar (available on IE only). This one survived for only 3 months, too… Here’s “From Dusk till Dawn”:

March '04 to May '04

At this point, around March ’04 I’d started writing longer entries instead of just update notices and so I started looking into different blogging platforms. My website was hosted in someone else’s (then known as Shirasade) domain for free and I think I couldn’t use MySQL for instance. I figured I wouldn’t be writing so much anyway and kept on “blogging” with plain ol’ Notepad and an FTP client. Or as I called it, “powered by coffee and noodles.”

I really like this next one, called “Scribble”. It featured some fancy underlining (whilst making a new design for my King site I’d discovered a way to do underlines with graphics) and an animated UFO in the header!

May '04 to June '04

Finally something pushed me over the edge and I decided to start using a blogging platform. I began with Greymatter and created a new layout, “Swirly”, for it (I’m shocked by the colour scheme, I didn’t remember this one!):

June '04 to September '04

(The screenshot is from the WordPress version because I didn’t have a picture of this layout. Luckily I had backups of the files so I installed WP1.2 on XAMPP and took a picture.)

Greymatter was soon replaced by WordPress because I started getting tired of the constant rebuilding of static pages.

I modified this to WordPress’s layout system when I started using WP in July 2004 (at a time just before templates and themes); WP was in version 1.2 back then. I kept the layout for a whole 4 months in total. I had used a drop shadow in most images, so they had the green background colour for a cleaner look. It was such fun to modify them to the next layout which had bright purple background instead:

September '04 to August '10

And now. Finally, after nearly 6 years I can present a new layout. To my defense, I haven’t been on a complete coding hiatus all this time because I’ve created several layouts for my “sub sites” (X-Files, Stephen King, alien collection, Ami (the dog), fonts…). And I also have been close to releasing new themes before. Apparently I had been nearly done with a design in 2005, only 7 months after releasing the purple one. I’d actually planned on finishing it in 2007 but never did. It must’ve been the design I’d created for my course work because I can remember fighting with some silly pixels — I just couldn’t get the building blocks looking the same (or at least similar enough) across browsers. It probably was structurally too complicated. Now that I look back at the design, I’m glad I didn’t finish it. The colours are… sheesh. Way too bright.

Without further ado (especially since there’s been plenty already), I present: “Not So Serious” (no reference to Batman intended). Dedicated to my late socks.

(Funnily, the colour scheme matches those boots… At the beginning of my vacation, I took a backup of the site to use as a sandbox on a local installation of WordPress and the boot post was the newest one then.)

Hope you like it! I think I do. At least it’s a change from the purple.