A Tour of Cold Climate Gardening: What Changed on This Website and Why

– Posted in: About this site, Blogging Art and Practice

Boredom isn’t enough to motivate me to redecorate my walls or my website

“Why are you changing your design?” some of my children asked, as I was making preparations for the Big Day. I could have said, for the same reason many people re-paint their walls or buy a new dress: tired of the same old thing. But frankly, that doesn’t motivate me to redecorate my home or update my wardrobe. For me, increasing efficiency and usability was a far tastier “carrot” to compensate for the “stick” of a website overhaul.

My old design (or theme, as it’s called in WordPress circles) looked great, but wasn’t created with the most efficient code even at the time, and being old, couldn’t take advantage of the latest features of the WordPress software. Even worse, with certain operating systems running certain browsers (most notably Windows 2000 running IE), a lot of the type in the old design was so tiny it was illegible. Not good.

So late last fall I went theme shopping. I thought I wanted a three-column theme, so I could fill up a column on each side with tidbits of information (my beloved garden quotes), obligatory chiclets, and yes, a modest amount of advertising. (Aesthetically regrettable, but it does cover my expenses.) In my research I learned that some themes are more easily searched and catalogued by search engines because of the way they’re coded, and I saw a lot of gee-whiz commenting and archiving functions–which didn’t always work.

In the end I found myself most attracted to a two-column theme called Cutline. It was very easy to read and I liked the way photos and pull-quotes were styled. It had a very magazine-y look to it, which I thought was appropriate, since so many of my posts approach article length anyway. But how was a pack rat like me going to cope with a minimalist theme like Cutline?

As with any marriage of opposites, we both had to adapt.

I ditched some of my blog bling altogether. I tried to limit the sidebar to modules that would help people find information on the site or return for another visit. And I stuffed the rest of my clutter in the virtual closet. Did you find it, down in the footer? But Cutline had to do some changing, too. For one thing, I’m not the only one writing here, and sometimes people have missed that fact. I’ve had a contributors page for a long time, but no one ever visits it. So I changed Cutline so that when you are reading an individual post (click on any title on the front page), you will see information on the author of that post in the sidebar.

I also thought that sometimes my posts are so long that people might better print them out and read them while eating their breakfast cereal, or while waiting for an appointment. So I worked out a stylesheet that goes into effect for printing only. It’s not perfect, but at least you lose the sidebar and footer. In the File menu on your browser, choose Print Preview to see how it looks. (It’s a good way to read the essays, too.)

Date-based archives and category-based archives are now collected on their own Archives page, accessed from either the side or the top. In addition, down at the bottom there’s a third way to find what you want, through what are often called “tags,” but which I prefer to call keywords. This particular way of searching will be a lot more useful once more of the posts have keywords assigned to them. I was hoping to let my readers help assign keywords to the backlog by providing an inline tagger, but it doesn’t seem to working–at least not for me.

The part you all noticed first–the colors and and the photos–I changed last. I wasn’t sure I wanted to change the colors until I realized that Rick Anderson of Whispering Crane Institute had just changed his theme to Cutline, too. Granted, the man has good taste, but I didn’t want my site to look just like his, and I didn’t want to switch themes yet again, not after having invested so much time working on Cutline. Anyway, I always did like the color palette of my former theme; it has a botanical feel to it that goes well with my gardening focus. So I applied the colors of my old theme to my new theme, connecting the past to the future. Sort of like moving into a new house and painting it the colors of the old house, just so you feel more at home. See? I really just do not get home decorating.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

When dealing with frost it is always best to be paranoid. In the spring never think it is too late for one more frost to come. And in the fall never think it too early.

~Rundy in Frost

Comments on this entry are closed.

cyndy March 10, 2007, 4:40 pm

Hey! it looks great over here! nice design and i love the new header….(and i am one that does not always like change!)

Chan S. March 9, 2007, 10:10 pm

Applause! Love it.

M Sinclair Stevens (Texas) March 6, 2007, 11:13 pm

Wow! I love it. I haven’t done a redesign in years…Zanthan Gardens is looking as out-of-date as an old static homepage. This new design of yours looks so professional, so grown-up.

Rick Anderson March 6, 2007, 12:11 am

The place looks great. I am still considering going to a hosting site rather that using Wordpress.com, but right now I am comfortable where I am.

No return to Blogger for me. I really like the additional pages-it allows for a cleaner front page. I was getting a little wacky looking at all that stuff on my single Blogger page.

Good to see you take advantage of rotating banners, and the offset quotes-looks great.

I think that you’ll start to see a pullback from all the Blog bling, especially by serious bloggers. anyway thanks for the shout-out. I’ll try and stay on that cutting edge.

Anthony March 5, 2007, 11:37 am

I like the new design. Very professional and yet comfortable at the same time. Well done.

Kathy Purdy March 4, 2007, 11:37 pm

Bill, it looks fine in Opera but not in Firefox. Back to the drawing board.

Kathy Purdy March 4, 2007, 11:23 pm

My views on gardening are as far from “clean, neat and modern” as the east is from the west. I am a cottage gardener, just have to stuff and cram, and I will almost always take old-fashioned over modern. Spare, minimalist gardens leave me cold. But that was a good question to ask. I bet you have no trouble making small talk at parties.

Stuart March 4, 2007, 10:00 pm

It looks great Kathy. Very clean, neat and modern

Would this reflect your views on gardening as well?

Pam/Digging March 4, 2007, 8:06 pm

Your new design is very attractive, uncluttered and easy to read. I like it.

Carol March 4, 2007, 4:49 pm

I like the changes. You can tell you put a lot of thought and effort into it!

bill March 4, 2007, 3:52 pm

I really like it.

Looks there should be a new line between the gardening quote and the flickr photos at the bottom.

Mary Ann March 4, 2007, 1:18 pm

OK, so maybe I should switch to Cutline and then use my own photos , like you did for the banner or masthead? I love the new look and feel of your pages.