You might notice things look a little different around here at the Rock. I’ve been making some changes, with the help of the awesome Ashley, and I’m almost completely finished. I’m curious to what you think of the new look.
I’ve blogged a little bit already about Thesis, which is the theme I’m using now. It’s more than just a theme, though. Thesis is more like a framework for WordPress. I haven’t completely taken full advantage of everything it can do, but having a super-flexible theme like this has made it WAY easier to implement a lot of these changes.
The background was a sample one I pulled from a Thesis tutorial about creating a custom background image in Thesis. I noticed they had one with a “rock” in it, so as a laugh, I put it in. And lo and behold…it totally matched my color scheme and look. I think it’s awesome.
The aforementioned Ashley designed me a great new header for the blog. It’s based upon a self-portrait I took about a year ago for my 52 Weeks project. I love the retro feel of the header. Those of you who are long-time Rockers will remember my old header used to have LOTS of photos of me…so going down to just one is a big improvement, I think.
I’m also experimenting with featured content – if you look in the sidebar, you’ll see links to some posts that I think are well worth checking out. They’re some of my most popular articles, and ones that I want to call attention to. This area still needs a little tweaking. Ashley has suggested that I add some hover text to the links in that section that explain a bit more about each post – doing that will require a little hacking on my part (I’m using a plugin to generate the list, and I’ll either have to create the list manually, or find (or write) a new plugin for the featured content).
Once I moved to Thesis, I suddenly had issues with the built-in WordPress search functionality. I have no idea why it stopped working (it definitely was Thesis-related, as the search worked great when I changed back to a default theme). Luckily, right when this happened, I noticed a cool think on Doni‘s blog for searching using this thing called Lijit. Since my goal in blogging life is apparently to copy every damn thing Doni does, I signed up to check out Lijit. And I’ve decided that it’s the most awesome thing on the planet. Well, at least as far as blog searching goes. I can’t recommend it enough to all you bloggers out there. Not only does it allow you to extend your searching beyond just your blog into other areas like your Flickr stream, Twitter, etc…but it gives you great analytics on just WHAT people are searching for on your blog. Super-mergatroid cool.
You will also notice at the at the bottom of every post is a set of thumbnails pointing to related content. This is generated using a service called Outbrain. I first became aware of Outbrain at Blog World Expo this fall, and it sounded pretty cool. Once I discovered that the Yet Another Related Posts plugin was hammering the crap out of the CPU on my webhost, I decided to move to an offsite solution. And Outbrain has turned out to be pretty cool. I’d love to hear what you think of it, as a reader. It also adds those little “star rating” things for each post, but I have no idea if anyone is using them.
I really want to know what you all think of the new look and feel. Obviously my main focus is making it easy for you, the reader, to find what you’re looking for and read it in an enjoyable way. What do you like about the changes? What don’t you like? What do you think I still need to do? Fire away in the comments.