Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grand Stream Dreams - Big Blog Update!

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you.

I have done some moderate updates to the Grand Stream Dreams blog template.

I had a couple of reasons for doing so...but overall, I want more than anything to convey a slightly more "professional" technology-themed blog.

The Anime Angle - Toned Down

I've seen some off-site comments made that the blog was a bit too "anime-heavy" and this might turn some more technology and software-related visitors off.

While I might personally disagree, I have been shifting my personal time away from the pursuit of all things anime. The anime industry in America is going through some major growing/shrinking pains. NewType magazine folded. There are a few outstanding anime series I want to finish collecting; AIR, Eureka Seven, the second season of Oh! My Goddess TV. Overall we just don't watch as much anime as we used to. I don't know if this is a shift in our family aging a bit or if our interests are changing.

I have no plans to give up the anime DVD's we have already invested in. We still love them. But instead of buying anime DVD's, we find we are picking up (a few) more traditional books as well a more manga titles now. Again, we have a handful of manga series we like and it is much more convenient to toss a small book into the day's bag than a DVD and laptop.

So the site update is more reflective of the changes in our personal lives.

Also, I have stripped almost all the anime website links from my sidebar. A few were still kicking around, many have gone by the wayside. The few that remained seemed to be shifting to a bit more of an "adult" flavor. I still enjoy the photography and graphic and figure-models, but I want to be sensitive to the wider audience. I'd feel bad if someone clicked through a link unawares and got a bit more eye-candy than they were expecting.

The Color Scheme

Previously, the color scheme was working off the tones and color palette from the picture of Lavie, Alvis, and Claus. It is still here, just lower down on the sidebar now.

The colors were very warm; oranges, browns, deep reds, and ivory.

I took those colors and ran with them for a long time. Presenting a gray title bar, light-blue background, and orange blog-title.

The more I looked at it, the warm tones were inviting, but didn't covey the calm-vibrancy I feel when I blog and visit the site. It just didn't seem "techie" the way I wanted it to.

While clicking around some graphic-art sites, I stumbled upon COLOURlovers :: Color Trends + Palettes. This is a really neat website where graphic artists present color palettes that work well together. (See also: Color Scheme Generator 2)

Browsing through the selections at COLORlovers, I settled on the Everyday Life palette. It contains a "True Teal" color which I decided to use as the field background, "With the breeze" a lighter color I used for the text-body backgrounds, "Muddy Footprints" which I went with for the minor heading text color, "Homemade Ice Cream" as my header-bar menu highlighting color, and "Caymen Twilight" which is the new color for the header.

I kept the pale-blue color I was using before for my sidebar background.

I wasn't planning on it, but really like the way the orange color of my blog title used on previous palette really pops with energy against the darker "Caymen Twilight" blue header color.

Overall I think it really does a better job capturing the vibrancy and coolness that I was wanting. Still inviting, but hopefully a bit more Pacific-island breezy.


Last night I nixed most of the anime-graphics on the sidebar. Cruising the Creative Commons I went looking for images that I could freely use and modify. My search eventually took me to EveryStockPhoto where I snagged some beautiful and harmonious images, along with that snappy-looking hard-drive image.

I kept the anime "family-portrait" of Claus, Alvis, and Lavie, but pushed it down further on the sidebar.

Instead I replaced it with an silhouetted image I have liked for a while by Tim Collins. This allowed me to add a bit more "bio" information about myself as well at the top. I wanted to capture a bit more of the essence of who I am and what I am about. And the blues work fairly nicely as well with the new theme.

I added a hard-drive image for my "Claus's PC Toolbox" link section. I think this conveys the intention of this section of links a bit better; technology. I hope it is iconic enough.

Since these images are always up at the top of the page, almost every visitor should see them and hopefully this will present a clearer message of what this blog is about...maybe.

I shifted the "Links" sidebar element to the left column. And added a boardwalk over a field of green. This might better convey a "path" to other locations better than the cool, but confusing vanship image I had before. One guy at work thought it was a fishing lure. Sheesh.

The "Daily Life in Japan" section is still there, but shifted a bit further down as well. Visitors might not be as interested in this if they land here for technology related posts. So it still here, but for my pleasure. I'm going to change the graphic eventually once I find one that conveys Japan in an honorable way.

I stripped out a few other banner-icons in the "Our Friends" element as well. Some software I didn't use anymore. Some sites I didn't visit. These that remain are still important to me. More may come.

I might work on the "Credits" section as well since I am leaving the anime theme behind a bit more.

I don't use a lot of images in my posts. I know the web is a visual place, but I want to use images for maximum impact. Plus working with images takes caution to ensure you give proper attribution, and it takes time to crop, resize, add drop-shadows, or perform advanced editing effects. Also, when I upload images from within Windows Live Writer, they act "funny" if I hyperlink them. Causes the body text to "jump" when hovered. If I add them post-posting in Blogger, that doesn't happen. I don't like the "jumpy" so it more work fine-tuning them.

However, I will work to try to add a few more graphics as time goes on, just because I know it helps add interest and impact to the post content.

Template Layout

I still like the three column layout I worked out quite a while ago. It seems to work well.

While making all these changes, I was pretty worried about blowing out the blog accidentally. Fortunately that didn't happen.

It seems to render great in Firefox 2 and Firefox 3. I think it looks even better in Opera, to be honest. I haven't had the patience to try to debug why Safari bombs out when installed on my XP Home system so I can't say how it looks to the few Mac users who stop on by. Same goes with Linux. I'm going to have to get Alvis to fire up her SAM Linux box and tell me how it looks.

I had a bit of a scare with Internet Explorer, though.

When I got done with all my edits and checked the rendering in IE7, my sidebar was only one column. The second column had gotten pushed below the first. All the other browsers displayed it correctly.

Oh Snap!

After almost an hour of picking though the template code to no avail, I had a brainstorm.

I reloaded various post-pages, individually, in IE7. They all rendered the page correctly in the three column format. When I went back to the homepage, it changed back to two-columns.

This told me what I needed.

Turns out that some forum thread quotes I had used in a recent post had some long-lines. IE was handing these lines in its own "special way" and that forced the third column under the second. Silly IE. I reformatted the font-size on those lines and now all is back well and good.


Opinions Welcome

I've captured the approval of Lavie and Alvis.

I'm pretty happy with the results.

Feel free to give me your opinions as well. I value them all.

This was a big change for me, so I didn't do it on a whim.

Hopefully, my fine friends and frequent visitors will still feel at home here, and new visitors will pick up on a slightly more "professional" vibe from the place...and come back for seconds.




Kent said...

Looks great!

Anonymous said...



and u


Therion Ravenwing said...

Congrats on the new look, it's great!
I read it every week, doesn't matter if it's "anime heavy" or "more professional" :)
Keep it up!

Jim said...

Well, I *loved* the anime theme. It gave your site a unique and easily recognizable identity. Anybody who would be put off by the theme probably wasn't reading your posts too closely anyway. Don't worry about being professional -- be yourself.

Michael said...

The new site design is great but the anime theme was a glimpse of the person behind the blog. It is rare that bloggers let their personality come through with images and design rather than just words. Like dooce's mastheads, visual messages can provide a glimpse of the real person doing the writing. Those of us that spend a lot of time on your website appreciate you sharing your personal side as well as the technical. Please keep the family picture!