Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Obstacles to Designing This Blog

I have been using xanga for my blogging (I dislike how it displays my archives) and my browser's "open all in tabs" bookmark function to check other blogs for updates -- Blogspot gadgets handle these things much better. So I'm trying to design a blog here, but I've hit some problems, and blogger's help guides are shockingly unhelpful.

  1. The sidebars waste so much space with their giant margins. I zeroed out every value that the "edit HTML" page let me zero out and the margin still didn't go away. The sidebar text is so stupidly cramped! I can't sacrifice one column to give the other room because I need both the "Blog List" and "Archive" to be visible without scrolling.
  2. Need a color scheme, once I figure out where all the page elements are hidden.
  3. Need to find how the "Recent Comments" gadget limits the size of each snippet, and splice that code into the "Blogs List" gadget.
  4. Need to find a version of the twitter gadgets that (like the "Blogs List" gadget) compiles tweets from several different twitter feeds, and then figure out where I can put it that has enough room. An extra column running off the right side of the screen, maybe.
  5. The mandatory "Attribution" is superfluous. (Hell, it even duplicates a link from the toolbar up top.) Since users can't drag-and-drop rows and columns like they do gadgets, or adjust margins/padding/spacing/shadows on a similar easy diagram (ie, can't create new templates), there simply aren't enough to warrant "Attributions." I've tried moving the gadget somewhere less wasteful, but then a new one spawns and adds extra fields to the foot of the layout.
  6. The default "Profile" gadget has two separate links with the exact same URL, neither of which occupies the box's title ("About User")? Assuming I can uncramp the sidebar, definitely sticking my bio inside a simple text box instead.
  7. The point of the "Followers" gadget is to help people who like your blog find other people who like your blog? Blogger keeps telling me that it adds to my "Reading list," but half the reason I'm trying Blogspot at all is to track people's updates from my public front page.
  8. Why can't I "configure blog posts" to have the hour (or other mobile items) alongside the date (or other immobile items)? How come "Day, Month Date, Year" is listed twice -- shouldn't one entry reverse the order?
  9. The editor has options and effects I can't get to or see without posting at least one entry.
If I do adopt Blogspot, I am really going to miss the ability to indent text inside a post.


  1. 1) On the template designer, they have a width adjustment tab. Most of the templates I've used have an "Entire Blog" slider.


    3a)? but then dealing with comments isn't usually in my top ten concerns for my blog.

    4) ?

    5) I can't shake it either, but then I usually don't worry 'bout it. Is it more important than I'm thinking?

    6) Wow. That is terrible.

    7) & 8) ?

    9) That's believable

    Blogspot does have some problems. I've noticed all of the blogging services do (I still haven't figured out how to get rid of the border around pictures. Every time I remove them, they just come right back.). I wish I could tell you something positive about blogger, but all I can mention is that it pisses me off the least (watch as it removes the line breaks from this comment [Kidding. I finally licked that problem.]).

    3b) Not even in the Top 50.

    1. Yeah, I don't expect these things to be a high priority for these blogging sites. It's just that I'm leaving a site that already has the basics covered, and I expected more from Google.

      Assuming that "?" indicates "huh?" rather than *shrug*:

      1) Current (new) widths are about the minimum that will look any good, but it's also the most that I'm willing to expand my own browser, and I'd really like the site to be readable without filling somebody's 1024x768 monitor (which, if you're willing to lose one or the other column off the side of the browser, I suppose it already is). Changing page width also screws with the "Blogs List" gadget's interior spacing; I'll see if I can't find something new when I re-zero the html out (I'll let you know if I happen on a solution to picture borders along the way).

      2) Getting the "tabs" section to show up was maddening (the "labels" gadget shows up in the list of basic gadgets yet not in the results for an actual "labels" keyword search, even though the site is owned by a frickin' search engine) and I still don't know what some of the words on the "advanced" template design menu correspond to.

      3) The "Recent Comments" gadget lets you specify how many comments it holds, how much to quote from each comment, and the maximum height of the gadget. The "Blogs List" gadget in my left column, on the other hand, lists full title of each post and quotes a fixed amount of text (I've toggled the text "snippets" off for now) -- I'd like to be able to truncate long titles and reduce how much text it quotes.

      3a) I certainly don't feel any urgency to it, but I do try to respond to comments, and I'd rather not rely on email notifications to notice new ones. Plus, I figure the "recent comments" gadget helps give casual browsers an idea of what earlier blog posts are like (in lieu of, for example, the movie-review-like quotes down this guy's side: http://jrients.blogspot.com/ ). (I may also try the "Popular Posts" gadget once I've accrued more posts.)

      3b) Heheh.

      4) There's a (portuguese?) gadget that embeds a twitter feed into your blog (see left-hand column of http://www.ourbattletech.com/), but it only takes a single feed. I want to mesh several feeds into a single embed.

      5) Not important, just annoying. Google is changing the user interfaces on a bunch of its services, in ways that sometimes hinder use or obscure content, and this (along with the sidebar margins, advanced design menu, and updated blogger interface) are characteristic of those ways. Change can't always mean improvement, I guess.

      6) Yeah.

      7) Whenever I "try the updated blogger interface," it has a message telling me to add blogs to my "Reading List" by "following" them. It doesn't say how or why this is any better than the gadget currently filling my left column.

      8) Lemme illustrate: http://tinyurl.com/7fwr3ae

      8a) I want to move the stuff circled in red to where the red 'X' is. (Nevermind that my blog isn't displaying date & labels correctly (between post-title and post-body) *as it is*...)

      8b) Look at the date that's highlighted in the pull-down menu, and compare it to the date two lines down. The only difference is how single-digit dates are displayed, and since the menu uses the 'current' date to show off these formats, it's impossible to choose between these two for three weeks out of every month. (Being the 31st, they looked identical to me, so I proposed changing one to a "2012, February 5, Sunday" format.)

      9) I'm half wrong. User guides mislead me about options being attached directly to an actual post, but I still need a post to illustrate the "advanced" template design options, and to see certain gadgets work.