Over the weekend, I finally sat down and updated my blog theme. I have been using Kubrick (the old default WordPress theme) ever since I got this domain and migrated my blog from Blogger. So it’s been over 4 years without a theme change. Actually, that’s a lie – I did change the header image back in 2008 but that hardly counts. The funny thing is, I always intended to clean things up some more – only I never actually got around to it.
If Valve has openings, I think I would totally fit into their corporate culture. I already operate on their time, and I love all their games. I’m a shoe in!
While I was tinkering with the design, I discovered something rather interesting. Well, interesting to me at least. Chances are I might be the last WordPress user in the world to discover this, but I will tell you anyway. Did you know that you can actually preview how your blog will look in a new theme without actually activating it? All you need to do is to add the following to any URL:
Where templatedir is the name of the directory in /wp-content/themes/. You can then click on any link, move around and see how everything looks. For example, here is how my blog used to look under the old theme.
The nice thing about this little feature is the fact that it allows you to mess around with the theme on your live installation without actually affecting how the site looks for visitors. There is just no need to install a test blog, you just use the preview URL and do your thing.
The changes are not just superficial. I finally fixed my tags/categories mess, which was driving me crazy for like 2 years now. You see, when I moved to wordpress, categories was a new thing to me. I started using them the way you use tags these days. I would assign multiple categories to each post, and create new ones for just about anything. So in the past you could have seen a post filed under “programming, software engineering, web design, web 2.0, php, scripting, lamp, mysql”. I ended up with like a quintillion categories on the sidebar, and since I had so many of them, there was really no consistency to how I was using them. When WordPress finally got a tag feature few years ago, I realized I could make things much, much neater and easier if I consolidated a lot of my categories, or converted them to tags.
The way I now understand the category/tag distinction is that you ought to have a few general categories (like programming, entertainment, humor) that indicate general topics you will be talking about. Tags on the other hand, are for specific, narrow topics that you write about frequently. So for example if I was writing a post about doing something in Java I would file it under the programming category and tag it with Java.
This is precisely what I did. I sat there, merged all my categories, converted them to tags (and vice versa) and deleted just about anything that had fewer than 3 posts under it. Right now I have 15 categories (all of which have close to, or over a hundred posts) and few dozen tags and I’m pretty content with this setup. I could probably consolidate few more categories, but this will do for now.
Part of this effort was just me trying to have a better organization, but there was something else that also motivated me. You see, I sort of want to have custom headers for each category. So if you are reading about programming there would be some code there, if you are reading a movie review there would be something movie related, and so on. This could only work if I had a manageable number of categories and would refrain from filing posts under multiple ones. So this is sort of where I’m heading.
Anyways, how do you like the new design? Do you like the category-based-header idea? Does anything seem broken after the theme update? Let me know in the comments.