New Template (Reprise)

Yes, I've changed templates again. So sue me.

The last template, although bright and open, had problems that I found damned annoying. On the sly, I've been getting this new template set up. It had problems of its own, some of them problems I've never dealt with before. However, I managed to fix them with nary a hitch.

I'm no whiz at CSS (cascading style sheets), but I've worked with it before. In fact, I used it to control the typography on my web site before my web host went defunct. CSS has changed since then, but it's still familiar enough that I figured things out, and learned lots of new tricks.

Only one minor (and far less irritating problem) remains. I've not been able to get my mind around why it exists. Doesn't matter, though. I'm willing to tolerate it.

If I decide I want to, I can still get rid of the problem. What's the problem? Well, that's just it. This problem is a problem that I see. You can't. You'd have to be the blog owner to see it. Essentially, the easy solution doesn't work. So, if I feel the need to, I can get rid of it the hard way. But there is a solution.

In the end, I like this template much better. All the red in the previous template got on my nerves—something I hadn't noticed until after I'd been using it a while.

In the process, I've learned some things about online typography. Years ago I studied desktop publishing. I learned what does and does not make for good typographical design in printed documents. I've now learned what makes for good typographical design in online documents, and why there's a difference. In printed documents, serif fonts are often the best. They make reading easier. A brief example:

Chapter 1

AN UNEXPECTED PARTY

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: this was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

The above is a block of text in a serif font. With a serif font, the ends of the letters have little 'tails' on them. You see them at the tops and bottoms of upper-case Is and the tops and bottoms of lower-case Ms, at the tops and bottoms of upper-case Ts and at the tops of lower-case Ws.

Serifs are those horizontal lines. (And, rarely, they are vertical, as found at the ends of the crossbar on an upper-case T.) They make for easier reading in print because the horizontal lines help lead the eye along the line and help also to keep the eye on the same line. They help to prevent the eye from accidentally jumping from one line to the next, essentially. They don't do that very well online, however, because the serifs are such fine little lines that they can be difficult to see on a computer screen.

Chapter 1

AN UNEXPECTED PARTY

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: this was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

What you see above is a sans-serif font, sans being French for 'without.' Sans-serif fonts make for easier reading online. Fairly generous leading (the space between lines) also makes for easier reading online. Another factor is short sentences and short paragraphs.

That last point causes me to speculate that extended periods of online reading will not only lead to eye-strain and increased use of glasses/contacts/laser surgery—for near-sightedness, most likely—, but also to already shortened attention spans becoming ever shorter. And that last fact raises concerns, I think, about the possibility of externally induced ADD, attention deficit disorder.

To sum up this discussion of typography, the design of this new template should be easier to read than my original template. As before, you can still access the old blog, but it will remain on the original template.

Another change I've implemented is that the site now displays only the last three most recent posts on the front page, thus shortening the pages for this blog—important, I think, given that I often write long posts. If you've missed a post, browse the Recent Posts listing, which is near the top and to the right. This shows the last ten most recent posts. If you need to go back farther, browse the Archive, which is right next to it.

The graphic displaying my writing progress for the year has also been updated to reflect the graphical theme of this blog. It's also a much simpler design and less time-consuming to update. There is much about this new template that benefits the management of my time.

Another idea I've implemented can be seen under the "In Progress" subhead, which is found in the far right-hand column. This now shows if I'm researching, outlining, or writing a story. If I'm in the progress of writing the story, then it shows the current word count. I'm finding that outlining does, indeed, work best for me. Outlines are never set in stone, but they do give me a better sense of direction when I finally start writing. I think of them as a "provisional road map." They show me where to go, but detours are never ruled out unless they absolutely detract from the story. Once a story is finished, it will move down to the "Editing" subhead. When a story is finished and submitted to a market, it will then move to the "Submissions" subhead, and will show below the story title the market to which it's been submitted. The market shown will change as stories get rejected and then re-submitted to other markets. When a story is finally published, it will then move to the "Published" subhead. Having now come up with a workable system, I'm thinking of deleting the "2009 Stories" subhead. There seems no use for it now, to be honest. It seems a waste of screen real estate.

I'm not sure yet how I'll handle things once my stories start seeing publication. If you'll pardon the cliché, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Lastly, the sidebars have been reorganized in a way that I think makes better sense. The long list of web sites I'd linked to has now been broken into two: Writing Sites and Authors' Sites. With very few exceptions, the authors' sites linked to are those of authors who are still writing.

If you've any comments or suggestions regarding the new template/design, I would appreciate your sharing them.

3 comment(s):

monstro said...
November 08, 2009 2:32 PM

I really like this new template, and having seen the previous one, I can say that I like this one better. Not that I disliked the other one, but this one seems more... you. :)

Serif and sans serif fonts - it's fascinating why one works better on print and another on screen. It can't be just the size. I'm itching to find out more on this. :)

g d townshende said...
November 08, 2009 5:08 PM

No, it's not just the size of the font. The actual strokes of the letters of a serif font tend to vary in width. Take the letter O, for example. Both the upper- and lower-case Os tend to be wider on the sides and slimmer on the top and bottom. This variance of width of the strokes is true for all letters in a serif font. Sans-serif fonts, however, have a uniform width to their strokes, which makes them easier to see and distinguish from one another on screen. In a serif font, the lower-case S and the lower-case A could be easily confused, as an example. Just look at the word "as," and you can see why this is. When set in a sans-serif font, those letters are less likely to be confused.

monstro said...
November 09, 2009 2:36 PM

I understand that. What I don't understand, and would love to, is why it works differently on the screen and on print. On both cases, I use the same thing to read (my eyes :P), the distance from my eyes to the screen or to the book is similar, so... why the different behaviour? Fascinating. :D

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