Nip ‘n Tuck

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I had the look of uttermost concentration. If I’d looked any more serious, I’d have looked constipated, and that wasn’t the look I was going for. Overall, I think I got it in balance – The raised eyebrow, the clenched jaw, the squinting eye, and the House M.D. theme running through my head. Yes, I was ready to operate, alright.

Time for an anaesthetic. This was essentially plastic surgery, but with lower risk of malpractice suits. With my brother, Lewin, by my side, I started weighing my options.

“This has got to go”, I said. Lewin nodded.

“It’s definitely cluttering the place. And I’m also concerned about the size. It really shouldn’t be that big”. Lewin nodded again.

“And I also want to do something about the color. Is this supposed to look this way? I don’t think so.” and… you guessed it. Lewin nodded again. He was on a nodding spree.

“So it’s settled. 30 mgs of epinephrene, stat.”

The nodding stopped. He had a whachatalkinabout look on his face.

“Scalpel.”, I said helpfully.

“Ok, bro. Are you trying to enact some weird operating table jargon? You’re not a surgeon. And this is NOT an operation. You are not Dr. Gregory House. And this is not a patient. You’re just redesigning your blog. That’s all.”

“Hey, I’m altering the looks… plastic surgery. I’m trimming the fat… liposuction. And I also have the House theme playing in my head. So quit stalling and give me an MRI.”

This went on for a while. You know how it is when brothers quarrel, particularly when one is trying to redesign his blog and the other is being interrupted in his study for some certification course. Hey, if he really wanted to study, he wouldn’t have nodded to my comments, right?

As some people know, I have been thinking about redesigning my blog for ages now. My old theme was ok, but after I put on my surgical gloves and toyed around with the code, it had more problems than Michael Jackson’s nose. It looked different on different computers, and in several instances, people started viewing nothing but the header. In some cases, it also took more time to load than a leaky water tank. It was Mani, the SEO analyst from The Daily SEO Blog who pointed this out to me first.

“Hey, Hammy. I saw your site. Looking good”

“Thanks. I was just toying around with fla…”

“It’s gotta go”

“What? Why??”

“It’s not SEO friendly. Plus, it looks different on different machines. And on some widescreen monitors, the layout gets screwed up so bad your visitors might start hurling furniture on their computers. And you know that’s not a good thing.”

“You’re right, man. I’ll do it. I’ll change my theme right away.”

This was nearly a year ago. I could have started working on it then, but I had a lot of other things to procrastinate first. This just had to wait. It’s not easy killing off a theme you ruined. It may be ruined, but it’s YOUR hard work that went in to it. So I decided to give my theme some time… I thought “Hey, I’ll just check out Google Analytics (GA) and see how people are actually uncomfortable. GA, for those of you who don’t know it, is an amazing tool that gives you a myriad of statistical information about your site’s visitors. I was optimistic that the errors in the theme doesn’t really matter. So I logged in to check how newcomers were reacting to the site…

Me: OK, GA. Show me what you can do

GA: You had 12 visitors yesterday. 31% of them stayed for an average of 1 minute, 3 seconds.

Me: OK. Fast readers… or slow surfers. But leave that for now. Tell me what happens to first time readers…

GA: Generally, they stare at the screen for 30-40 seconds

Me: Ok. That’s not bad

GA: Then they roll their eyes, arch their left eyebrow, and make a witty comment.

Me: ?? What??

GA: Then they push away from their machine, trip on the cord, and fall on their butts. And then they take a blood oath to never visit your site again.

Me: You can see all that?

GA: Sure I can. And I’ve been reading your articles too. Amusing, but rather repetitive these days. I’m sorry I wasted .02 seconds analyzing your last article.

You haven’t seen arrogance until you meet an arrogant computer algorithm. But I ignored GA. I also refused to come to terms with user comments on my theme too.

“Hey, I visited your site.. I gotta tell ya… It’s…”

“Oh yeah? You stink”

“Eh?”

<SLAM>

But you can’t keep ignoring the problem for ever… unless you’re George W Bush. So I finally decided to work on a new look for my site. After months of searching (occasionally interrupted by online games of ‘froggy’), I came across designdisease.com. Design Disease is not just a cool name. It’s a place where you see great theme designs. It’s where I saw the fervens theme. It looked great, worked well across browsers, machines, and geography. It was perfect. So I decided to tweak it.

Of course I had to tweak it. I’m an Engineer at heart… and incidentally by education. I took the code apart and guesstimated changes I wanted. And of course, I screwed it up. I may be an Engineer at heart, but I’m a management graduate now. I hadn’t even kept a backup of the changes that I had made. So there was no ‘undo’ action available, which basically left me clueless on what needed to be done. I had no choice but to follow the tried and tested Hammy bug-fixing routine.

  1. I downloaded another copy of the original theme from Design Disease
  2. I started comparing the code line by line to spot differences.
  3. When I found differences, I cleverly deduced “Hey, this must be something I did.”
  4. Within the identified area, I started looking for what I call boneheaded code. I did this by raising my left eyebrow and concentrating intently on the code.
  5. I ran wailing to Kel, the graphic designer, from Design Bug

I submitted my code to her and asked her for her help. Kel is an ardent believer of the philosophy – “Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for one day, unless he’s vegetarian. But teach a man to fish, and he’ll bug you for fishing tips every two days or so.”

I can’t be sure that’s the way the saying goes, but that’s certainly the way I went. I bugged the Design Bug designer about the bugs in my design. And it worked for me. With a barrelful of tips, hints, and suggestions from Kel, I finally got the bugs in check. At least I hope I did.

And here you go. This is the new look. Efficient (I hope), simple (I hope), compatible with most browsers (I hope), and good enough to keep me from bugging Kel for updates for a while (she hopes). If it isn’t, then it’s time for me to take the scalpel again.

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9 Responses

  1. roshny says:

    not bad. not bad. not at all bad.

  2. Binny V A says:

    It looks good. I remember the time I had to change my design – the visitors where telling me to change it for a year and a half before I managed to do it.

    I am seeing an empty space to the lower right corner of the site. Is that a political statement about the recession? If not, time to bug Kel again. Also, tell her I am sorry about pointing it out – the last thing I want to do is make trouble for a fellow web developer.

  3. sherrel says:

    Hey Hammy, I kinda linked the older design… it was brighter!!!

    Hey… I hope to see a blog on Iron Maiden show soon!!

  4. and teh design looks good. it is in fact, much better than your old one, which incidentally, i didnt like much.
    now dont ask me why didnt i tell you – I never thought about teh design being not so nice till i see this new suit. see, this is what you do to your poor blog readers – you hurl them into a blender with a mish-mash of colors and jelly/candy looking buttons that they are never able to say wht they didnt like or what they did like. Or did I say anything about the theme? ah, just forget it – it is too much to think.

    and re-designing your blog – it is not an easy task… especially if you are high on something and get the illusion that you can ‘design’ your blog template from ground up…

  5. Profile photo of hammy hammy says:

    @roshny:
    Going once, going twice, and frozen at ‘not bad’.
    Thank you

    @binny v a:
    The empty space is the final frontier. Gives me room to add junk, such as close-ups of the tip of my nose. So let Kel rest for a while more. She deserves it.

    @sherry:
    Sherry, sorry. I mean… Sorry, Sherry… which actually works out to be the same thing… not that it matters. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. The old design was driving some people crazy. I spent a lot of time on that, so I am also sad to see it go, but it’s time to let go…

    @anoop aka -xh-:
    Well, it’s ok that you didn’t tune me in on the secret that my old design sucked. Cos a lot of less polite readers did indeed point it out to me. I welcome constructive criticism, but if they moan about the new design, I plan to get a BB gun and go hunting.

  6. I liked the old one too πŸ˜€

    but this is also good πŸ˜€

  7. Vidya Sury says:

    I was attracted to the post title because of a fab book of the same name by Kathy Lette, which I enjoyed. It had me literally rolling around laughing, just like this post. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get hold of any of her other books..Sigh.

    Luckily, your blog is more accessible. Thanks for the brain chemical balance.

  8. Profile photo of hammy hammy says:

    @vidya:
    Hey, Vids. I’ve never read Kathy Lee. Will try and catch a hold of it, though.
    You’re welcome to the brain chemical balance. What are bloggers for anyway?
    πŸ˜‰

  1. February 14, 2009

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptOverall, I think I got it in balance – The raised eyebrow, the clenched jaw, the squinting eye, and the House M.D. theme running through my head. Yes, I was ready to operate, alright. Time for an anaesthetic. … […]

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