With the new year getting closer, I thought it was time to give LongCountdown.com a new look. Most people like to use the freely available themes you can get for the WordPress blogging platform. I, on the other hand, prefer to get my hands dirty and hack into the code.
Before I explain the changes, here’s a picture of what this site used to look like:
Wait! What’s that little baby doing there?
Firstly, some of you might be wondering why there’s a little image of Rikuto in the bottom-right corner of that screenshot. That’s a little bonus for IE7 users. No matter how you resize the window or scroll, Rikuto will always be watching you from the corner. I change the picture every now and then so you can watch him grow! Needless to say, Ricky is joining us in this new theme.
No more rounded corners and fewer Google ads
The main “article” area is exactly the same, but you’ll notice I’ve gone for a slightly more minimalistic look by using more white and scrapping the the rounded corners on all those yellow boxes. I still think the page looks crowded, but I did get rid of quite a lot. First to go was the Google Adsense skyscraper. I already have Google ads on the site, and thought the addition of a skyscraper was just too much.
Next was the PunkyMoods face that showed my mood. I found it quite amusing at first, but then changing it everyday became more of a chore than a pleasure. After that, I decided to scrap the whole middle column and make the other one much wider. Unfortunately, that meant losing my blogroll and categories list.
Sorry LongCountdown Blogrollees
Let me take a moment to apologise to those of you who were in my blogroll. Quite honestly, I didn’t like how WordPress handled the blogroll anyway, so thought it best to move all the links to the Sitemap page. If this means you see a drop in traffic, please let me know. Some of you are in the Top Commentators list, which I’ve made more prominent than before by moving it right up to the top of the sidebar.
Update: Dynamic blogroll for Japan Bloggers
I felt sorry for the Japan blogging community who lost their site-wide backlinks when I moved the blogroll. To make up for it, I’ve added a dynamic list of feeds imported from the blogs of JapanSoc users. If 70% or more of your blog is about Japan, register for JapanSoc, then contact me to get your blog’s feed included in the list.
Extended Live Archive on the Sitemap page
The Sitemap page is actually just the old Archives page, but since I’ve been blogging for well over a year, I needed a better way of organising the archives. Fortunately I found a plugin called Extended Live Archive for self-hosted WordPress blogs. It uses Ajax to squeeze all your articles into something manageable. (Note: If you want to use this plugin, make sure you get these modified files so you can include tag support in WordPress 2.3 or above).
The LongCountdown logo gets Japanified!
Other changes include a new logo (a red clock on a white background to represent my life counting down in Japan), a banner to promote JapanSoc, and a font change for the links in the sidebar. Here’s a picture of how it looks at the time of writing:
Mami loves it!
With all that done, I just hope my readers like it. At least my wife says it’s easier on the eyes, so as long as she’s happy, I’m happy!