A Makeover for Tonia’s Roots

by Tonia Kendrick on June 3, 2010 in And More,Technology

Regular visitors may have noticed that Tonia’s Roots got a new look today!  I hope you like it as much as I do.

Reasons for Redesigning

  • Although I really liked the old look, I was getting somewhat tired of it.
  • The footnote plug-in that I use was not playing well with the old theme and occasionally caused really weird output on the home page.
  • I wanted a cooler color scheme for summer (the old one was making me hot when I looked at it).

How I Did It

I’m somewhat comfortable playing around with colors and fonts in CSS, but when it comes to structural changes (moving a sidebar from one side to the other, for example), that is beyond my skill level.  I knew that there were WordPress frameworks available now that have a lot of customization capabilities, so I started checking them out.  Most have a fee, which I’m okay with, but then I found Atahualpa.  It’s a customizable WordPress framework that has well over 200 options.  And it’s free.  I decided to download it and take a look before I went with a premium theme.  With the aid of Firefox’s Web Developer Plug-In and the fabulous Atahualpa forums, I was able to make the new theme look pretty much exactly the way I wanted.

What’s Changed

Other than the color palette, not much is different.  A few things have moved around.  There is now a right sidebar on all but the Family Tree page.  The blog search and tag cloud have both moved over there.   A new Archives page contains the monthly archives that used to be available via drop-down menu in the left sidebar.  The left sidebar still holds the category menu, my twitter feed, and a cute new twitter icon courtesy of (MySiteMyWay), which can be clicked to follow me on Twitter.  The About page and the Family Tree page can be found on the top menu bar, instead of via tabs in the header image.  I’ve also moved the RSS feed subscription link to the top menu bar, which makes it much more visible than in its old position on the sidebar and I’ve added an email subscription link.

One of the changes I’m most excited about is the ability to include image thumbnails as part of the post excerpts on the home page.  A downloadable script is available that will let you do this, but it’s built right in to Atahualpa.

Previous Versions

This is actually the fourth redesign since I first launched Tonia’s Roots.

The first version was a straight-out-of-the-box (almost) TNG template.  I don’t have a screen shot of my own site, but here’s the template demo image:

TNG

This was okay and worked great for the first year.  But I started really wanting to add a blog to the site.  I had created a separate blog on Blogger and I would link back to this site, but I really wanted it all integrated.  I also wanted to use WordPress instead of Blogger.  Then I found someone who had created a CSS style sheet that could simulate the integration of WordPress and TNG.  This mashup didn’t work for me straight out of the box; I had to do some research to figure out how to fix the bugs and this is also when I learned how to customize CSS.  This version worked fine for about nine months, but every time there was a TNG upgrade, I had to do a lot of work on the integration.  Since I don’t write code, I sort of had to learn all over again every time, which was tiring.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an image of my WordPress-TNG mashup, but it was a really pretty soft blue with yellow accents.

Then, the TNG-Wordpress plug-in came out.  I was hesitant to use it at first, and frankly, it’s not perfect, but it is SO much easier to implement than the mashup.  I found a WordPress theme with a layout that I liked, and then used what I had learned about CSS to change the color scheme and personalize a few other things.

I’m still really proud of that version, but like I said, I was starting to get tired of it.  All of the above experiences led to the new Tonia’s Roots.

Tonia's Roots, genealogy

I will be futzing around with a few small details over the next few days.  If there are features you wish were here, or things you think would make this site easier to use, please let me know, via a comment below.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Warren June 3, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Looks REALLY nice! I’ve been thinking about moving from ‘blogspot’ to ‘WordPress’ but am a BIG chicken! Am afraid I’ll ruin all my hard work.

Reply

Tonia Kendrick June 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Mary, thanks so much for the kind words! You could always test out Wordpress, but keep your blogspot blog in place, in case you don’t like WP. That way you don’t have to worry about losing your work if something goes wrong.

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Ruth Stephens June 4, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Looks really nice, open and fresh. Kinda minimalist. I recently redid my site, too. I really like the theme that says, “Look at my research, not at my css!” I’m going to check out Atahualpa, too. For the future… :)

Have a great day!
Ruth
.-= Ruth Stephens´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: So tiny! =-.

Reply

Tonia Kendrick June 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Ruth, I like your new theme also! It’s very crisp and clean.

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Ruth Stephens June 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Mary, I agree with Tonia. Keep your Blogger site, but give Wordpress a try. I’ve been using it for years and I just love it! So versatile, you can do just about anything with it. I have mine set up as a blog AND a research site. Its my “everything” genealogy site. Wordpress is not difficult to learn and there are tons of nice folks online to help if you need it.

Have a great day!
Ruth Stephens
.-= Ruth Stephens´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: So tiny! =-.

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Charles Carter June 6, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Hi Tonya,
Like you, I am getting somewhat bored with my site as well and would like to integrate WP and TNG much like you did with your site. Is WP off your root and then TNG a subdirectory?

Did you ever get the WP-TNG plug-in to work? Thank you.

Kind regards,
-charles

Reply

Tonia Kendrick June 6, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Hi Charles,

I actually have WP and TNG set up two different ways as far as directory structure goes, and both work. On my live site (here), I have WP and TNG in independent folders off the root directory. I also have a test version that I run on a USB drive and it is set up with the TNG as a subdirectory of WP.

I do use the WP-TNG plug-in. It works fine for me, but I’ll add a few caveats. 1)It does make TNG run slower. I don’t think it is too bad, but ymmv. 2)Apparently there is a problem in getting the security to work so that one can use the same login for both WP and TNG. I don’t require logins, so that has never been an issue for me. 3)If you have Google maps enabled, the pins don’t show up – you just see the pin shadows. That’s why I don’t have Google maps enabled here. I’m hoping someone comes up with a solution for that, because I really like the map feature. 4)And, lastly, if you’ve already upgraded to TNG v. 8, you should be aware that the new image viewer (which used to be a separate mod) is not working well with the WP plug-in. I’m running v. 8 on my test site and it’s pulling my header and sidebar into the image viewer (in other words, the header and sidebar show up twice on the page). I have a query out on the TNG user list asking if it is possible to disable the image viewer. Until I’m able to do that, I won’t be upgrading this site to v. 8.

That sounds like a lot, but as you can see, it hasn’t stopped me from using the plug-in. I do really like it. It is so easy to set up and maintain.

Best of luck to you!

Tonia

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