Something different baked for …

This is the third year I’ve drawn the artwork for the Milton Keynes Gang Show Poster and Programme. You can see the 2012 Poster and Website I have done previously.

This year one of the major themes for the show is Gilbert & Sullivan hence the sailing galleon in the image. One of the other themes was going to be space (and time) at one point which is why the teaser 2013 poster (drawn before a script had been made up) was a stellar nursery with black hole.

I’m happy with the bold attractiveness of this poster, the text catches your eye and pulls you in. Also being so different looking to the last year poster in terms of colour but similar in terms of the elements use such as the Gang Show Shield, the Scout and Guide Logos it keeps a fresh feel for a show that hasn’t changed much over the last few years.

Making the Aberystwyth SSAGO Website

Many Moons ago the webmaster of a AberSSAGO asked me to redo their club website for them. Having a familiarity of the club through a good friend called AberMary (who many readers of this blog also know as Fearless Guider) I wanted the club to put its best foot forward so I thought “‘what the hey’ I could do with a bubbly and friendly piece to add to my portfolio” and got involved Continue reading Making the Aberystwyth SSAGO Website

Blog Design 3 and a bit

Hello to those previous few reading in RSS programs, I know there aren’t many of you but still you’re always welcome on the site, boot up your browser and drop by for a visit. If you’re viewing this post in a browser then you’re already looking at the improved site layout, it’s not a completely new layout but it certainly is easier to use than before and feels smoother on the eyes. Although, ironically, I have actually made the header image rougher, the sand it now grainy which changed the complete dynamic of the image, I applied this to the fire circle as well, hopefully I’ll find sometime to draw in some cooking equipment oneday…

Besides the cosmetic changes there are some usability improvements, I’ve tried to stick to as many intuitive practices as I can without making the site feel too corporate, which is what most tutorials on website design tend to do. I always try anything I add to the site first and if it works for me I keep it, what I’d really like to know is if it works for you. I’ve highlighted some of the noticeable changes below.

Design

I’ve always tried to treat this blog informally, trying out new styles without fear that a client will demand a refund or a potential employer will shun me. The transparency effect on the sidebars didn’t sit well and using a translucent image meant that if the site didn’t load quick enough then the background colour would just jump in a the end so I’m not using that effect any more. At least I know that the technique works for the most part and its potential limitations with current browser technology. Although nobody has mentioned it on here verbally its been mentioned that being too experimental has made using the site less enjoyable, as much as I have learned to date I’m going to start keeping my blog to a higher standard.

Twitter / Microblogging

I’ve added some asides, or microblog, to the sidebar. Mostly these will be one liners making updates to the site more frequent for you and more convenient for me as I won’t have to spend as much time making a substantial article. This is simply an import of my status updates on my twitter. As with all twitter updates these will be limited to the usual 140 characters which means a clean cut between my main and micro blogs.

Comments

I’m archiving the microblog encase Twitter changes its license or becomes a paid service, something although unlikely has happened in the past. With this new microblogging section the article layout is made a little bit ka-ka by the small content so I’ve just listed the date and text of each one and styled each mircopost like the comments beneath them making them a linear read. There is a new field on the comment form allowing you to subscribe be emailed about new comments on each blog post, similar to watching a topic on a forum.

Twavatars

With the new popularity of Twitter, and their gorgeous API I’ve plugged into a lot of their features. Now when you make a comment anywhere on my blog automatically either your Gravatar, which commenter’s on other blogs should already know about or use your Twitter Avatar (Twavatar) will be shown next to your comment.

Related/Recent posts

Having the ‘related posts’ out of the way in a posts sidebar for easy read through meant it didn’t get used much so its now between the article and the comment form, same thing for the recent posts sidebar block. Hopefully new visitors won’t forget to comment if they go to explore the older content.

Tweaks

  • Archive pages now show more posts so you can find what you’re looking for sooner.
  • Teasers are longer so you get a better feel of each post.
  • There is a links page for all the links in my sidebar, if yours is wrong or you’re not in there drop me a line.
  • Some of the custom coding is sleeker so the site loads faster.

Blog Design the Third

With the move to this new location I had hoped to get this envisioned theme up and running from the get go, however it took a little longer than I would like to get everything drawn just right and displayed just so.

There are still the odd things to tweak and the header image will grow; I’ll be putting more of my favourite things onto my little island. So far I’ve got, camping, Frisbee, UK and beaches/seaside I guess we’ll see just how much I can cram on there in time.

Continue reading Blog Design the Third

SSAGO Website, Phase II

If you set your way back machine for June 2006 you’ll see a stub about how I changed the SSAGO Messageboard to use phpBB and particularly the Categories Hierarchy modification. Well the rest of the site did follow shortly after but it didn’t sit well with those viewing in Internet Explorer because of their issue with list indentation, not to mention the design compromises embossed by democratic vote.

So a new layout was needed and whilst I was at it I wanted to deliver on my promise to provide a Content Management System for SSAGO News. Well I knew I couldn’t change the forum software again so I had to find something that someone had already developed an integration method for or one I could quickly bodge together myself.

I tried a Joomla! but it was far too complicated, I had to assume that the next Publicity Officer, whether this would be me re-elected at the Loughborough SSAGO Rally AGM or in Feb 2008. I went through a slew of them; I rejected Drupal for it’s unfriendly support community, e107 worked fine but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work along side phpBB and XOOPS was just too obscure. (Thank God for Open Source CMS.)

Then it dawned on me, WordPress. I’d been using WordPress as my blog software for 6 months or so and I loved it, I’d gotten quite close to the community and familiar with the code but I wasn’t sure how robust it would be with dozens of pages stored on it.

After a quick bit of research I found a code edit to accelerate the static page listings page which had exponentially gotten slower as I added more. (link) Next issue was user integration, there was a plugin with some minor code edits that I tried for a time but realised the author hadn’t updated it in almost a year, I tried working out what he had done and update it myself but decided that it would be quicker to start a fresh development cycle than catch up on an existing one.

So I had one WordPress blog working as the CMS and as the SSAGO News Article System. Hopefully the partnership will be a fruitful one.

New Blog II

As promised, it took me a while longer to get to grips with WordPress but once I did the whole thing unfurled before me. It’s so easy that I’ve even created my own little plugin for Tag display (not finalised yet but it works well enough for me. 😉 )

So what has been lost and what has been gained? I’ve currently lost the photo album facility and sidebar random image which is slightly annoying. I’ve gained the Post Tagging Facility, I’m sure Serendipity has its own version I just never used it, with WordPress its been as easy as 1,2,3 getting up and clouding away. I’ve also gained the ability to create multiple menu bars so the useful stuff is at the sides and the interesting but not entirely critical stuff can go at the bottom.

Overall I’m very satisfied with WordPress as a program, particularly as a programmer as I’m actually using PHP in templates and for functions as opposed to some program specific markup such as ‘smarty’ or the gobbledegook that phpBB uses.