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.
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.
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:
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.
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.